I once got asked “How can I start playing like Jimmy Page?” As specific as this question is I was able to broadened the subject to make it more relateable: “How can I play lightning fast?”.
The simple solution: practice.
The expanded solution: Practice really, really, really slow.
Additional Materials Needed: Metronome.
Now why on earth would you want to practice something slow when you are trying to play it fast? It turns out this technique is actually derived from martial arts. The greatest martial artists practice their moves as slow as possible. This way their body moves fluidly. Not a single ounce of energy is wasted and each move is executed flawlessly. This is exactly what a musician or more particularly a guitarist needs to do.
Read through the music or tabs to get the basic notes under your fingers. Don’t spend too much time on this.
Set the Tempo
Now you need to get the actual tempo of the song. This is where you need the metronome. I personally use a cheap Korg that you can get at any local Music Store for about $20. If you have sheet music; set the tempo to what’s marked. If you have tablature it gets a little tricky depending on your metronome. Most have a setting that lets you “tap” the meter into it. Once figured out this feature it is relatively simple: listen to the music and just tap the button to the beat. The number will fluctuate for a few seconds until settling. Now that you got that number of beats per minute, say it’s 212. We’ll round this to a multiple of 5 and say it’s 210 beats. Now devide this by 2 and we’re at 105 beats per minute.
Practice at least 3(three) times at this tempo. If it feels too fast or you are struggling, bring it down 10 beats at a time until you feel more comfortable. Once in a good spot practice it a few times at that tempo. Each time you complete it bring it up 5 beats. Keep doing this until you reach the original tempo of 210. And you’re done! You can now play “lightning fast”! What this does it allow your fingers to gradually get use to the speed of the piece.
To get even better I’d recommend practicing even slower than half speed and for several more times until progressing up. At each progression play it an additional time. This could take hours depending on the piece but I will guarantee you that you will get better faster if done right.