Leaning the basics of your instrument are all well and good, but are you stuck for where to go next? We have you covered with these top 5 guitar techniques to practice. It’s time to purify your playing!
Top 5 Guitar Techniques – Essential skills you need to know!
Like anything in life, the right techniques will undoubtedly help you. Whether it’s taking out the trash or sweep-picking, techniques will open the door to mastering that skill. A well-rehearsed guitar technique can help you on your guitar-playing journey…
Guitar Technique #1 – Strumming Patterns
An efficient strumming pattern will purify your playing. Now, I know that you may associate strumming patterns with generic pop songs, and less rock and roll? But even the heaviest of chord progressions have a well-sorted strumming pattern. What do I mean by a strumming pattern? Take ‘This Boy‘ by The Beatles. You can hear the rich jangle from George’s Gretsch County Gentleman a mile away thanks to the strumming pattern. It provides rhythm and style.
How can we use one? Take a few simple chords, let’s use Am, C, G and D. Nice open chords. When you’re starting out playing a progression, you’ll probably play these chords with four down strums, otherwise known as crotchet beats. Effective enough, but now we need to look at purifying your playing by adding your strumming pattern.
As we can see from the score above, we now have a different rhythm. A series of crotchets and semi-quavers. Otherwise, we can translate that musical jargon to DDUDDU. Moreover, in guitar TAB, the letter D refers to a down stroke, and a U refers to an upstroke with the strumming hand. Why don’t you have a go? It always helps to say aloud when starting out with strumming patterns. In this instance, you’d say, ‘down down up, down down up’. Once you’ve mastered this easy technique you’ll be one step closer to mastering your instrument and purifying your playing.
If you’re after that distinctive sound from, ‘This Boy’, couple this strumming pattern with an appropriate Gretsch. Oh look, here’s an appropriate Gretsch…
Guitar Technique #2 – Hammer-Ons
This is more like it, something a bit heavier! Hammer-ons go hand in hand with pull-offs, but more on those later. With this technique, you’ll easily fool your friends into thinking you’re a guitar god. Furthermore, they add class and sophistication to your existing licks and can level up your improvisation skills! Unsure of what they sound like? Let’s take a listen to the opening bars of Black Sabbath’s platinum award-winning, ‘Paranoid‘. Instantly, we can hear Mr Iommi using hammer-ons to achieve this iconic riff.
To demonstrate, in this riff we start on the D string on the 7th fret, hold that down with your index finger. Here comes the hammer-on! Now, pick that note, and just after place your ring finger on the 9th fret of the same string with some vigour. Thus creating a hammer-on. Repeat this again on the G string below. Altogether, you’ve started to learn this key technique to purify your playing! Moreover, you’re on track to learning one of the most iconic guitar riffs in rock history!
Guitar Technique #3 – Pull-Offs
Here, we’re sticking with the classic rock theme. Angus Young uses pull-offs in AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’ guitar intro. Following the imposing E, D and A chords, Angus proceeds to utilise pull-offs as a way to create a killer but simple guitar riff. In English, a pull-off is a hammer-on in reverse. Or visa versa.
In this case, we pull off from the 3rd fret on the high E string. Meaning, we pick the note once, release that note with force, and we’re left with an open string. Likewise on the B string, again on the third fret. The riff then concludes with a kick-ass bend on the G string. Furthermore, you can use pull-offs in your blues scales when improvising, just by releasing one note that is higher in pitch than the note that you wish to end up on. Like the Paranoid riff from earlier in reverse.
As aforementioned, hammer-ons and pull-offs work hand in hand, but both are just as important for purifying your playing.
Guitar Technique #4 – Vibrato
Following our other techniques, vibrato is arguably one of the most important skills on our list of top 5 guitar techniques. Unlike the others, however, we’re going to focus on a generic example, rather than a classic riff. Vibrato is the rapid, but slight, movement of a note on a stringed instrument. Where a bend changes the pitch of a note by a semi-tone or a tone, vibrato is only a slight modulation of pitch.
With this example, we can see a simple phrase, that features some of that sweet vibrato. We can see this with the wiggly line on the score. The way we’d go about playing this is by shaking your finger on the fret up and down very quickly, but only enough to alter the pitch, rather than changing it. This is a great way to purify your playing as vibrato will provide a nice end to your own licks and riffs. Furthermore, you can add it to your existing repertoire of cool riffs to add just a little bit more elegance.
Guitar Technique #5 – Alternate Picking
Metallica fans, look away now! Historically, the heaviest and fastest riffs have all been carried out with some demanding down-picks. But, did you know that alternate picking is still an option for purifying your playing? What’s more, you’ll be improving picking accuracy altogether.
Similar to a strumming pattern, we need to alternate the picking hand or the direction of picking. Above is the A Blues scale, something familiar and an easy set of notes to start your alternate picking journey with. Simply play through the notes of the scale, starting on a down pick, and then switch to an up pick on the next note. Therefore alternating. Proceed to play up and down the scale until you’re more comfortable. Why not try playing a bit faster? Really test yourself!
Top 5 Guitar Techniques
We hope you approve of our choice of top 5 guitar techniques! These skills will hopefully enhance your playing and riffs that before you may have struggled with. With a few rehearsals, you’ll be well on your way to rocking out like a pro.