Do you want to be a better guitarist? These common techniques broaden your horizons and make your playing sound more interesting!
It is no lie that as guitar players we aspire to improve our skills on daily basis. We want to be able to reach the standard of playing where we can play our favorite songs with ease! As well as, playing tricky licks!
What are the guitar skills to learn? There are various techniques you can use that every guitar technique adds a Unique Dynamic to your playing style, and helps to play different styles. These include,
- Vibrato (Bends & Slides)
- Legato (Hammer-ons & Pull-offs)
- Finger Picking
- Flat Picking
- Alternative Picking
- Sweep Picking
- Economy Picking
- Hybrid Picking
- Pinched Harmonics
- Natural Harmonics
- Dive Bombing & Shimmers
- Percussive (Muting & Slapping)
In this article, we go over the most important guitar skills that level up your playing and give you a brief description of how they are used…It would be annoying when you have so many musical ideas in your head, but you can’t express them on the fretboard, right? Using the correct technique is indispensable if you want to play those tricky licks!
1. Vibrato (Bends & Slides)
Vibrato is a picking technique used aggressively in blues and more suitably in jazz and classical styles. Vibrato It works by shaking the string whereby the vibrato effect is created. Sometime you can bend the string, to alter the pitch, or shake the string and maintain the current pitch. Overall, vibrato adds a-lot of depth and character to your playing and ultimately makes you sound more interesting!
- Blues Vibrato (bending the string) – The blues vibrato is always accompanied by a bend. This technique works by pushing or pulling the string until you reach the next note (either tone or semi tone) and then as the string is bent you will add the vibrato effect.
- Classical Vibrato (slide into the note) – The classic vibrato is slightly different as you do not bend the note. The aim is to make the sound fluctuate up, down, left, right, or in a circular motion while maintaining the original pitch. Sometime you can also slide into the note to add more dynamic.
Usually, you would use the left hand (for right handed players) to hold the note whilst the strumming hand plucks the string. Then, use your left hand to push the strings up (or down) to create a new note. Note that your finger must remain on the fret during the bend; otherwise, the sound will be interrupted. The remaining fingers are used to support the bend. You can bend with 1 or 2 fingers (index finger or/and middle finger), but to create a clean bending sound, bend with all 3 fingers: index, middle, and ring fingers. Many guitarists worldwide often use the ring finger to bend the strings, while the index and middle fingers help support force.
Vibrato is often used when playing long notes. Play a single note and use your left hand to move steadily and continuously up or down to make the note vibrate. You can also push the string left or right, or in a circular motion. Just make sure it is within sequence of the style of music you are playing.
2. Legato (Hammer-ons & Pull-offs)
Legato is a musical term that refers to playing consecutive notes in a continuous motion, whereby all the notes are connected. Basically, each note rings into the next note being played.
Each instrument has a different approach to legato, and the legato performance achieved is at different levels. With a wind instrument, such as a flute, to create the legato, the player needs to use a single breath to play all the notes. On a keyboard instrument like a piano, the notes can become seamless when the player moves the hands skillfully while simultaneously using the pedal when switching notes. With the guitar, legato is formed when the player combines the hammer-on and pull-off skillfully when moving between the frets, limiting the picking movement. Usually, the guitar player’s right hand only needs to pluck the first note, then use the hammer-on or pull-off with the left hand to play the next note.
Playing the legato pieces on the guitar skillfully requires constant practice. When practicing legato, pay attention to the following points:
- Seal off the strings that are not playing to create a clean sound
- Use the picking hand to pick the first of every note when switching strings
- The sound of each note must be steady, not muted abruptly.
- High action can make this technique hard.
- use a metronome while practicing.
Hammers-ons are used when going from low notes to higher notes, whilst pull-offs are used when going from high notes to low notes.
Tapping is a guitar technique that is an integral part of playing guitar solos which is basically made from hammer-ons and pull-offs. This technique is quite fascinating as it creates a very unique and noticeable sound which can add a nice dynamic to your songs. It can be used to extend arpeggios giving you access to notes that you could not otherwise reach.
It works by using your fingers to press down directly on the strings suing your picking hand. When tapping, the player uses the tip of his index finger or middle finger to hit the fretboard.
To get a clear tone you would hit the fretboard quite hard with the tip of your finger, and almost bend the string as you release. This will give you a clear pull-off effect, making your tapping sound more pronounced.
Guitar players can tap with one right hand or both hands (two-hand tapping is also called the Emmett Chapman technique). When tapping, act firmly and accurately to the position of the key to be tapped. The index and middle finger are two commonly used fingers for tap.
However, you can still tap with all 4 fingers. To do this, you need to practice a lot and often because it is quite difficult. But nothing a regular practice session cannot overcome. Paying attention to keeping the beat, and practicing with a clean sound before switching to distortion.
5. Finger Picking
Finger picking is a technique more common used with acoustic and bass guitar. It involves plucking the strings directly with the fingertips or fingernails. However, some people will get pick that attach to their fingers.
6. Alternative Picking
Alternate picking is a familiar term for electric guitar players. It is a guitar technique that involves individually picking every notes in a strict DOWN/UP sequence.
This technique is used a-lot in metal where it is used with high distortion and gain. However, alternative picking can be used in other genres and even on acoustic guitars.
Mastering alternative picking is something that many guitar players aspire to achieve. However, it is not something that can be achieved overnight. Proficient shredding requires a harmonious combination of picking techniques and also knowledge of music theories. So our advice is not to rush. Practice patiently, regularly, and correctly. And most of all, keep being inspired, learn from those you admire.
7. Economy Picking
Economy picking is a guitar picking technique designed to maximize picking efficiency by combining alternate picking and sweep picking.
This picking technique is an extension of alternate picking but combined with the sweep picking method so that when you play up and down scales you are always making use of inside picking.
Inside picking is more beneficial because the direction of the pick follows the direction which you are travelling. Overall, making it easier and a more efficient way swapping through the strings.
8. Flat Picking
9. Hybrid Picking
10. Sweep picking
Sweep picking is an advanced technique used in guitar solos, especially in rock, fusion, and jazz. This was traditionally a violin technique, which the guitar community adopted for picking through arpeggios and intervals.
Unlike the alternate picking technique, the sweep picking technique involves the right-hand to pick through the strings in a single direction. The right hand plucks the strings down or up as if you were playing a chord at slow speed instead of plucking each note individually. The notes should be separate while playing, avoiding the overlapping sounds like when playing chords. Therefore, it is crucial to have each note clearly marked.
Generally, up-picked notes are weaker than down-picked notes. That is also a difficult thing you have to overcome – keep each note sound clear and equal in volume. Also, hammer-on and pull-off are two techniques that often come with sweep picking as you get to high E string. You also need to practice mute strings and get your hands to move evenly. Once you practice those two techniques well, you can avoid generating unwanted string noise for a cleaner sound.
11. Pinched Harmonics
Pinched harmonic is a technique that produces a chiming sound, making the music more colourful and more melodic.
To perform pinched harmonics, pick handling is the most important. You should hold the pick deeply, only to reveal about 2 to 3 mm at the top of the pick. The pick should be tilted about 45 degrees above the string. As soon as the pick is hit, touch the skin on the finger of the pick handle on the string quickly. At this time, the sound of a pinched harmonic will appear.
The pick point on a string affects the pitch of the harmonic note. You must pick the right point on the strings to create a harmonic sound. Therefore, you need to choose the correct pick position to produce the desired sound. Applying vibrato on the strings after performing the pinched harmonic note will also make the harmonic sound more pronounced.
12. Natural Harmonics
This is the simplest and easiest harmonic technique to play. Natural harmonics can be performed in the 5th, 7th, 12th, 17th, and 19th frets. To play natural harmonics, gently place your finger on the fret wire of the aforementioned fret, then strike the string.
The emitted sound will sound like a bell’s but at a higher pitch. The release must be done quickly after picking. Remember that you must place your finger above the fret wire, not near the fret’s center, to create a beautiful harmonic sound. For example, if you use the harmonic on fret 12, the hand’s place should be right next to the fret wire separating fret 12 and 13.
13. Dive Bombs & Whammy Shimmers
The dive-bomb is a guitar technique in which the player depresses or extends the tremolo bar or the whammy bar to rapidly adjust the note’s pitch. This technique had its name because it could create sounds that were perceived to be similar to the sound of a bomb dropping. Jimi Hendrix was one of the most popular and founders of this technique.
Many newcomers wonder if a dive bomb could only be produced with a lock nut harp or anything like the Floyd Rose device. In fact, this is not mandatory. However, if you do it sometimes without a locking mechanism or a floating bridge, you will encounter tuning problems. Another note is that you only need to use the right amount of gain or distortion. Neither sound is too clean nor too bluesy is a good option for a perfect dive bomb.
14. Percussive Playing (Muting & Slapping)
The scale is a set of musical notes written according to a certain rule (people will not talk about 1 or 2 notes but about all the notes in a scale). Scales are the foundation for generating a piece of music. In other words, a piece of music is made up of a certain scale.
There are five basic types of scales:
- Major scale: The major scale has 7 notes
- Minor scale: The minor scale has 7 notes
- Diatonic scale: The 7-note scale contains the major scale and minor scale
- Chromatic scale: The scale consists of notes separated by half steps
- Pentatonic scale: The pentatonic scale has only 5 notes
The root note of the scale determines the name of the scale. Example: A Major scale starting with C will be the C major scale. The major scale starting with D will be D minor scale.
Scales are not just for lead players but also any genre. The scale effects include analyzing songs, designing melodies, creating a solo to pass a harmonic loop, and creating different colors. The scale belongs to the normative and practical music theory that obliges everyone who plays the guitar to learn.
Arpeggios are simply understood as a chord that is spread out into a series of musical notes. At this time, the notes on a chord are played continuously in succession instead of playing simultaneously as a normal chord. Arpeggios can be likened to a technique to enhance a chord’s beauty by playing individual notes in full color.
In music, a chord is a combination of three or more notes played together. Depending on the purpose and play style, the chord can be played together (block chord) or broken chord (arpeggios). The most common chord is a 3-note chord (triads). The triad chord is made up of the root note, the 3rd note, and the 5th note. For example, when you look for the C chord, you will have the base note C, the 3rd note E, and the 5th note will be G. From the general principles of each chord, we can easily infer the structure of the chords we need.
Some of the basic, common chord types are major/minor triads, 7th chords. In jazz and blues music, more complex structures are used.
When listening to a song, you feel excited, happy, happy, or sad, sad, that is because the notes are arranged in a certain mode to create a characteristic sound.
Although a concept can be a headache for novices, a mode is simply reordering notes on a major scale. However, it is the rearrangement that affects the melody of the song and the audience’s feelings. When the instruments play in the same mode, they will blend, creating the song’s unique vibe.
There are seven types of modes derived from the major scale:
- Aeolian / Natrual Minor Scale
When you play music, you often hear terms like improvising or jam. Both of these refer to an unstructured and completely random way of playing music. The main idea is to be creative discover new vibes which will later transform into a structured song.
Personal spontaneity must be based on the ability to feel the rhythm, quickly process harmonics, quickly visualize, adjust tones and sounds. All the information you get is harmony, drum or bass rhythm, and song structure. You need to bring in your own musical color and mindset to give the song something new.
Practicing improvisation is one of the exercises that all artists have to go through, whether practical or personal. Practice with a backing track. Also, learn about music theory and analysis and solo sentences from famous artists. You can also often listen to jazz or blues, two music genres using many improvisations, to get more ideas for yourself.
We’ve encapsulated common and essential skills for every guitarist in this post. Hope you have found something useful for your playing. Now, let’s rock on! Remember to like and share if you liked this post!