Paganini’s Perpetual Motion for Better Lead Guitar Technique

Want to play better lead guitar?

One of the keys to playing better lead guitar is having good solid technique.  The better your guitar playing skills are, the wider your improvisational possibilities become.  And of course, the better your playing is, the faster you’ll learn your favourite songs note-for-note.

The most basic lead guitar technique is alternate picking.  Although alternate picking is often the very first technique guitarists learn, it usually becomes a stumbling block after a certain point.  Most guitar players are able to perform alternate picking competently on basic and intermediate level pieces, but the more challenging definitely live up to their name.

There are many proven and effective ways to improve your alternate picking­.  Our focus here today is on one of them.  If you are interested in learning more, I have written several books on the topic.  You can check them out here -> guitar technique courses.

In today’s tutorial we will look at a guitar arrangement for a violin piece written by Nicolo Paganini (1782-1840) called Perpetual Motion (Moto Perpetuo, Perpetuum Mobile).

Niccolo Paganini

Performing pieces that were originally composed for other instruments is a great way to:

  1. Add variety to practice sessions.
  2. Start you on your way to thinking about the bigger compositional picture beyond the guitar.
  3. Improve your guitar technique.
  4. Play better lead guitar.

Regardless of your skill level, you will gain lots from learning this piece.  However, the piece is a bit long and challenging for most guitar players.  In fact, in the accompanying sheet music, you will find an abridged version of the piece that is 5 pages long.

Perpetual Motion was originally notated as wall-to-wall sixteenth notes, but to simplify things, I’ve notated it as eighth notes in cut time.

Unless you are an advanced guitarist, don’t bother trying to memorize the whole piece the first time through.  You will need to break this piece down into small chunks if your goal is memorize it and perform it at a fast tempo.

Definitely practice this piece slow to start.  If you start to practice this piece faster than you can accurately play it, you will end up teaching yourself to make mistakes. Think about it like this:

If you keep making the same mistakes over and over, it means you are teaching yourself to actually make those mistakes!  Slow it down.  Practice the piece at a tempo that you can accurately play it.

Work with a metronome.  This will ensure that you not only improve your technique as you work on this piece, but you’ll also improve your sense of rhythm.

Keep an eye on your alternate picking.  To perform alternate picking you simply play the first note with a down-stroke and then strike the next note with an up-stroke.  That seems simple enough, but here’s the real key:

The key to alternate picking is to minimize wasted motion in your pick-hand.  The further you extend your pick beyond the string you’ve just picked, the further your pick has to travel in the opposite direction to play the next note.  So as you perform a down-stroke, extend the pick only as far as you need to produce the note, then you will be ready for the return up-stroke.

If this is a new concept to you, then you should start practicing alternate picking on open strings only.  This way you get to place all of your focus on your pick-hand and the pick.  Once you feel comfortable with this you can add some fingers.

Now here is your link for the PDF guitar tab sheet music for Paganini’s Perpetual Motion.

Have fun!  And oh yeah, if you want to check out some really cool alternate picking exercises, you’ll definitely want to check out my guitar hanon course called—Mega Chops: Scale Mastery Beyond Hanon.

Guitar Technique Course - Guitar Hanon - Mega Chops: Scale Mastery Beyond Hanon

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