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Arts & Entertainment

Technique: Developing Speed

Tom Morello

Lesson time 9:02 min

Tom believes that you have to play slowly to learn to play fast. Learn the finger exercises he used to go from scribbling around on the guitar to confidently shredding.

Tom Morello
Teaches Electric Guitar
In 26 lessons, Grammy-winning musician Tom Morello will teach you the guitar techniques, rhythms, and riffs that define his signature style.


I've never heard of a soul who was naturally good at technique on the guitar. There are other abilities that may be intrinsic or that you can unlock with practice. That was the case with me. It took years and years and thousands of hours of practice to sort of unlock creative spirit on the guitar before I was finally able to break through. But without the relentless practice routine, I never would have got there. [MUSIC PLAYING] In the technique portion of my practice day, I spent the time exclusively doing mind-numbingly boring exercises that would allow my fingers to move around the neck in different ways when called upon to do so by inspiration and jamming later on. What set me on the path to these particular exercises that I'm going to show you, was I-- for a while I was taking guitar lessons at a small guitar shop in Highland Park, learning the occasional Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath song from the nice stoner teacher. But then one day he was sick. He was out sick. So I got to go the other room with a different guitar player. And he said, play something for me. So I went in there, and I went-- [PLAYING GUITAR] I was like trying to impress him with my shredding. And he's like, you want to play fast, right? I'm like, well, yeah, obviously. He's like, well, you're going about it all the wrong way. And let me help you out with that. So it happened to be a guy whose name is Michael Angelo, who is a-- one of the fastest guitar players on earth, who played in a band-- Nitro-- for a while, and is most famous for, like, playing guitar with four necks. And he plays them with, like, equal facility upside-- like a-- like a concert piano. It's pretty crazy. And he's super metal. And he was my teacher. He didn't have the accouterments on at that place, but he demonstrated in front of my face just how one could play at blazingly-- blazing speeds. And so I paid heed to what he told me. And what he told me was very surprising. He said in order to play fast and get command of the instrument, you must play super slow and in time. So he wrote out a little page of simple exercises that I've practiced thousands of hours, that allowed me to, you know-- eventually, I was, you know-- [PLAYING GUITAR] And how I got near that was by doing this. What he said was you set the metronome-- the first exercise that he showed me was this. Very simply, you're using your fourth, second, and third finger. You're going to do these little triplets on the highest two strings-- the E and B strings. [PLAYING GUITAR] Nothing more than that. And so you set the tempo to one in which you can play it absolutely perfectly 100 times in a row. So let's see if I got-- we'll start with, like, a 50 beats per minute. [SOUND OF METRONOME] [PLAYING GUITAR] Once you've done that, you just move the whole thing up one fret. [PLAYING GUITAR] You've done that 100 times-- one more for fret. [PLAYING GUITAR] And on-- onward up the n...

About the Instructor

Tom Morello is a two-time Grammy winner and one of Rolling Stone’s "greatest guitarists of all time." In his first online guitar class, the co-founder of Rage Against the Machine will teach you the riffs, rhythms, and solos that launched his career and sent his music to the top of the charts. Tom will share his approach to making music that challenges the status quo and teach you how to create your own musical style.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

showing me the steps it takes to create something, regardless of the level of my guitarist ability, that it can be and should be done.

I am a much Better Guitar Player after having started this Class! :D Thank You Tom Morello! See you on The Touring Circuit! :D Hoc Ly! :D

It made me believe in myself and that all of this was attainable.

Tom has a better pdf download than Carlos. While Tom may be a bit out of my style he has great ideas for building material and being confident.


Ernesto M.

This is possibly the most valuable advice I have ever received. I never was quite able to crack the speed code (I play with lots of feeling, but never really fast). I'm already making some progress!

A fellow student

Great lesson. Recommendations are to have an easily accessible Table of Contents somewhere so you can see how you are progressing/where you are and to be able to "like" or star favorite lessons so you can easily come back to that chapter at a later time. Good stuff though, glad I made the purchase.

Margaret M.

Question for Tom/serious musicians in the class: does this kind of practice schedule lead to arthritis or other finger/hand issues over time? (I recently hit 50, and I've found that just writing by hand for a few hours will produce numbness that can take days to go away.)

Margaret M.

This would drive a roommate insane. Great lesson, though. Talking about motor chunking would be helpful here, too--your brain is learning to program a series of gestures as a single act, so you want each component--and the timing between them--to be perfect.

Marc B.

Tell the truth: who bumped the metronome up to 95 after doing it at 50 only a few times? :) (I'm working on my patience, i promise.)


The key message here is that you have to play slowly with perfect sound and rhythm, before building speed. Improving speed is quite a journey for any guitar player and picking technique is also key to achive it. Practice always with a metronome or background drum!

Robert G.

I'm on it. Slow is good! I must say it works. I think my playing has improved. My accuracy for. Speed will build or evolve.


Heh- at 8:40 reminded me of the soundtrack to the film Koyannisquatsi- Phillip Glass I think.

Gilbert R.

I tell this to my students over an over. You gotta play is slow and in perfect time before you can play it fast. lol. It's great to play all your exercises with a clean tone as well.

Patrick M.

So to clarify, this took me a few minutes to figure out (I am a beginner). Tom is playing triplets for each beat @ 50BPM. So the first three notes are played before the next beat occurs on the metronome. I started slow with one note per beat until I could get that right, then two notes per beat, and then finally the triplet, all three notes per beat. This took me almost four or five days to get the timing right, but you will get it once that pinky and ring finger start to strengthen up. Also if you are struggling with the ring and pinky finger I suggest stretching. Tom stays on the 5th and 6th strings here, but moving up the fret to the low E string and A string will help stretch the ring and pinky finger and also help you to adjust your wrist for the correct alignment. This is one of the best exercises I have found and its very addicting. Thanks Tom!