Quick-Prepping Technique for Scales, Speed, and Solidity

“Quick-prepping” is a classical guitar practice technique for the right hand that allows you to clean up messy spots, smooth out scale passages, and speed up your playing.

As with all practice techniques, it’s a tool you can use to improve your pieces and technical execution.

You may find it tricky at first, but it will be one of your most useful tools to practice pieces and boost your classical guitar skills.

What is “Quick-Prepping”?

Quick-prepping is a form of “planting”. This is when you prepare your fingers on the string before you play it.

When you play one note, you simultaneously prepare the right hand finger for the next note by placing it on the string it will soon play.

The Benefits of Quick-Prepping

Quick-prepping requires that you fully understand the upcoming note, and which finger in the right hand will play that note.

Instead of reacting to the music as it comes, you constantly think ahead. This means that you more fully know your music. It also means that you know how to prepare for the upcoming note.

And it does this maintaining a slow tempo. The playing of one note and the preparation for the next happen at the same time. Your movements are very fast and deliberate, but there is plenty of space between one note and the next.

You play at top speed, but just for one note. To then speed up your overall playing, you only have to wait for less time between each note. This is much more effective than simply speeding up the movements overtime, because you maintain control and forethought throughout.

Quick-Prepping For Scales

To use quick-prepping for scales, immediately plant the next finger on the string it will play.

Using I and M alternation, this means that when I plays, M immediately prepares on the string for the next note. When M plays, I prepares.

The notes will usually be muted by this process. So it may seem counterintuitive to practice legato (smooth and connected) passages this way. However, by practicing using quick-prepping, you increase your precision and clarity.

When you want to play legato, simply continue the same movements as with the quick-prepping, but instead of planting the finger on the string, float above it.

This way, the preparation is nearly identical, and you also get the smooth, connected sound the music requires.

Quick-Prepping for Arpeggios

Quick-prepping is also used for arpeggios, though it’s more often called “planting”.

When one note plays, one or more upcoming notes are immediately prepared.

The same benefits and strategies apply to arpeggios as do scales.

You can use this concept to master a few common arpeggio patterns, and greatly improve your classical guitar playing.

How to Practice Quick-Prepping

The main point to remember in quick-prepping is that it is a practice technique. As such, be intentional and mindful at all times.

1. Start with open strings only, so you can focus all your attention on the right hand.

2. Using good technique (always), play one note, and immediately prepare the next, on the same string.

3. As you master one string, practice crossing strings using the same technique. If your thumb follows on the next string back (towards your face), it will immediately mute strings as you move up in pitch (towards the floor).

4. Once you master switching strings, introduce the left hand with a very simple pattern. Be sure to keep as much focus as possible on your right hand.

5. As you master simple left hand patterns, increase the complexity with scales or more complex digital patterns (such as playing 1324 or 1423 on each string, instead of 1234).

6. As you are able, introduce quick-prepping to scale passages in your pieces.

Good Luck!

Full disclosure: as with any new technique, this may be tricky at first. Don’t freak out. With time and practice, it does get easier.

If you find it extremely difficult, you likely haven’t ingrained your good fundamental technique and gotten used to thinking ahead yet. That’s okay. Just slow down, and return to it for a few minutes each day.

If you have trouble playing a passage in a piece of music with this technique, you probably still have confusion about the passage. Working through the passage using quick-prepping will clarify the issues, and smooth out many of the wrinkles.

So yes, it’s sometimes hard. But that’s when it’s most useful.

Good luck!

Allen Mathews

Hi, I’m Allen Mathews. 

I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
Click here for a sample formula.

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