by George Loveridge | 4,5 / 5,0 | Approximate reading time: 5 Minutes
right hand techniques

Right Hand Techniques: Why they Shouldn't be Overlooked  ·  Source: Gearnews


Hammer-ons, pull-offs, and bends are all well and good for playing guitar. However, when it comes to right-hand techniques, there’s a lot more to it than basic strumming. If you’re wanting to change things or generally tighten up your playing, then this shortlist could be for you. 


Right-Hand Techniques: Why they Shouldn’t be Overlooked

When it comes to fast or sophisticated playing, most of us think of improving the skills and dexterity in our left hand. You’d be right for thinking this. What you do with the strumming hand is equally as important as the other. Let’s look at some different techniques with varying advantages.

Palm Muting

Arguably, the perfect place to start when looking at right-hand techniques. Palm muting adds a degree of class and control to your playing. The technique refers to a section of a player’s palm touching the strings in order to create dynamic and rhythmic contrast.

Personally, I lean towards resting my strumming hand on the bridge of the guitar. Next, you want to pick just behind or over the bridge pickup. Ideally, you want to place a small section of your palm on the strings.

How do you know if you’re doing it right?

If you apply too much pressure and try to play something, you will have a very dull and totally muted sound. However, if you get the sweet spot, then you’ll have added a dark edge to your playing. Survivor’sEye Of The Tiger‘ showcases this right-hand technique in all of its glory.

Right Hand Techniques

Right Hand Techniques: Resting your hand on the bridge · Source: Fender


Next up is a right hand technique that doesn’t require your pick! Fingerstyle guitar playing is one of the most advanced and prestigious ways of playing. Don’t worry though! It can be just as effective at a beginner level. Fingerstyle playing can be used on all types of music. From 6/8 ballads or your usual 4/4 rock songs.


For this example, we’re going to look at REM’sEverybody Hurts‘. Before we continue, remember! This piece is in a 6/8 time signature, six beats to a bar. The verse has a distinct simplistic chord progression from D to G major.

Whilst fretting a standard D major chord with the left hand, you’ll be using your thumb, index, middle and ring finger in your right hand. Hence, fingerstyle. Each of those fingers, and thumb, adopts one string respectively. In this instance, from the D – high E string over the D major. When we change to G major, you’d change to all except the A string. Play each note one after a time, rather than all at once.

Looks simple enough, right? Rest assured, that if you whip this out in front of your unsuspecting bandmates, they’ll think you’re a pro.

Right Hand Techniques

Right Hand Techniques: Everybody Hurts · Source: Drew James

Hybrid Picking

Moving up the ranks, this is guaranteed to cause some head-scratching. Pioneered by the likes of Eddy Cochran and Carl Perkins, hybrid picking captures a timeless rockabilly feel.

We refer to this right-hand technique as hybrid picking, as we combine the use of our fingers and pick together in the right hand. Thus, making it easier to switch between strings while playing melodies and solos. Useful for playing counter melodies in chords too, ‘Mystery Train‘ by Elvis utilises hybrid picking between the E and A chords in the intro.

Moreover, in a bid to capture his rockabilly youth, George Harison used this technique in the solo of ‘All My Loving’. Based around an A major chord, Harrison uses hybrid picking to play bass notes, major thirds, and fifths at the same time! It’s a lot to get your head around. However, when executed properly, it sounds killer.

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Alternate Picking

Having gone over the complexities of hybrid picking, our next right-hand technique is a great way to improve the precision of your playing.

Alternate picking can be used when playing simple melodies and riffs across different strings. For example, playing through a Blues scale. You’d start on the route note with a down pick, then play the next with an up pick.

This technique encourages precise picking, and most of the time it will help you play your favourite riffs faster and more effectively.

Right Hand Techniques

Right-Hand Techniques: Alternate Picking · Source: Gearnews

Down Picking: Right-Hand Techniques

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Surely, simple, down picks are hardly worth thinking about. They’re a go-to technique? Yes. However…

Often overlooked as a device at all, down-picking can ergonomically improve your playing. Just look at James Hetfield, Metalica’s frontman. Metalica’s songs range from 46 to 220 bpm! Moreover, Hetfield uses down-picking everywhere. Fast phrases and hulking riffs can still be achieved with the simplest of techniques.

Add this right-hand technique to your practice schedule and you’ll be amazed at what you’re capable of.

Master of Puppets has one of the fastest riffs in rock history, all played using down picks.

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We hope that you enjoyed our rundown of some effective devices for the right hand! Over time, you’ll definitely notice a difference in your playing. With your fingerstyle playing being ready for campfire jams, and hybrid picking gearing you up for any rockabilly revival. You’ll be sorted.

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One response to “Right-Hand Techniques for Improving as a Guitarist”

    Nathanael says:

    Perhaps it would be better described as “picking hand” techniques, since a significant minority of players use their right hand on the fingerboard.

    It’s like describing the June solstice as the “summer solstice” in Australia.

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