10 Simple Guitar Techniques You Can Start Learning Now
June 18, 1967, an exciting young guitarist named Jimi Hendrix became a legend.
It was the most electrifying thing audiences had ever heard. He harnessed the power of feedback like no one before. He played solos with his teeth.
Then, he ended his set at the Monterey Pop Festival by setting his guitar on fire and then breaking it in half.
Everyone who witnessed it was mesmerized.
But it probably wouldn’t have been nearly as legendary if Jimi wasn’t also a skilled guitarist.
You might dream of capturing a crowd’s attention with Hendrix-like stage antics. But unless you actually have the technical prowess to bend the guitar to your will, it doesn’t matter how many guitars you light on fire.
Mastering the guitar takes time, and everyone has a different opinion of where to start.
If you’re a complete beginner with dreams of a guitar god, here are the guitar techniques you need to master.
Learn Your Scales!
Mastering basic techniques takes discipline, and fair warning: discipline can be boring.
Very few beginning guitarists want to practice scales. But knowing where the right notes are is necessary to writing great solos.
The best place to start is the pentatonic scale. This five-note scale is easy to play, but its possibilities are endless. To hear exactly how powerful the pentatonic scale is, listen to the guitar solo in a little song called “Stairway to Heaven.”
Practice your scales in different positions all the way up and down the neck. This is maybe the most important guitar techniques to become a master guitarist.
If you’ve practice guitar at all, you’ve probably learned some chords.
Strumming a chord is nice and all, but if you want to add some variety to your playing, introduce arpeggios.
An arpeggio is a “broken chord.” This means you play the notes of the chord individually. For a great example, look back to the intro of “Stairway to Heaven.”
Get used to the feeling of playing one string at a time, maintaining your rhythm while you do.
Usually, when you start playing arpeggios, you will move up and down between adjacent strings.
To give your arpeggios some more punch, learn string skipping arpeggios.
For example, when you arpeggiate up a G chord, instead of playing up and down the strings in order, play E, G, A, B, D, high e. This is also great for fingerpicking on acoustic guitar.
This won’t only make your compositions more interesting. It will also build muscle memory of where the strings are.
Find some string skipping exercises online to work into your daily practice.
Bend Those Notes
To really make your guitar sing, it’s not enough to just play a note at the fret.
For wailing guitar solos, you’re going to need to learn bends.
Bends are one of the most celebrated guitar techniques in the rock and roll canon. They come in a few flavors.
Single Note Bend
Fret the note and pluck the string. Use your finger to push the string toward the ceiling until it reaches the desired note.
This is easiest to do on the bottom three strings.
A unity bend is where you fret a note on a higher string and bend a lower note up to meet it.
Try this: fret the B string at the tenth fret with your index finger. Fret the G string at the twelfth fret with your ring finger. Pluck both strings and push only your ring finger towards the ceiling until it reaches the same note.
Pre-bend and Release
In a pre-bend, you bend the note before you pluck the string. Then, you let the string come back to a neutral position. This is especially popular in country guitar.
This is one the more advanced guitar techniques. You’ll need to feel where the right note is without hearing it. Don’t worry–this will come with time.
Hammer Ons, Pull Offs, and Trills
The hammer on and pull off are the dynamic duo of lead guitar techniques. They are very easy to execute, but can add a great dynamic to your playing.
For a hammer on, pluck the string. While the string is still ringing out, “hammer” your finger onto the fret you want.
To execute a pull off, simply pull your string off of the string. Drag your finger towards the floor–don’t just lift it off of the string.
Quickly hammer on and pull off between two frets to create a trill.
Slides are simpler than most guitar techniques, but they are a powerful tool for your solos.
It’s pretty self-explanatory. Fret a note and pluck the string. Slide up (or down) to another fret.
Easy as that.
Vary Your Chord Voicings
You see that chord chart poster on your wall? While those voicings are great when you’re first learning guitar, if you rely on them for too long, it can make your playing sound stale.
Learn different voicings for each chord. Practice learning inversions.
Different voicings also make it easier to move from one chord to the next. Optimize your chord shapes to make your playing more fluid.
Learn to Love Power Chords
If you want to play punk, rock, and metal, that chord chart isn’t going to help much.
You need to master the power chord.
The power chord, also called the fifth chord, is simple, but it’s powerful. Many bands find huge success without playing much else (case in point).
Most chords are built on three notes, which we call the root, third, and fifth. In C Major, these notes are C, E, and G.
In a power chord, you only play the root and the fifth.
For an in-depth review of power chords, look here.
Vary Your Strumming Patterns
Many beginners learn one or two go-to strumming patterns that they use for every song.
Obviously, this doesn’t make for exciting playing.
Learn some different strumming patterns to add variety to your songwriting. You can find hundreds of great lessons to learn new strumming patterns on YouTube.
Do you really want to take your guitar playing to the next level?
Two-handed tapping is one of those guitar techniques that is easy to start, but can be used to create advanced compositions.
Instead of plucking the string with a pick, perform a hammer on with your picking hand. You can use your tapping hand to perform many of these other techniques.
Tapping can be used to play fast lead lines or complex arpeggios.
Master These Guitar Techniques and Rock On!
Practicing these guitar techniques might not be the most fun thing in the world.
But once you master them, you can create licks and riffs so exciting, the only way to top it is setting your guitar on fire.
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