As a beginner guitar player, you probably begin playing simple chord progressions of songs you know and like. But at some point, beginners want to learn how to solo and play lead guitar. That leads to learning scales and arpeggios as the next thing to learn. But it is the mastering of guitar techniques, not scales, that can make your playing shine. This article list 25 important guitar techniques that every guitar player should know.
25+ Guitar techniques
Check out the guitar techniques section of my Music Symbols article where I have more to say on the following guitar techniques. Expect to see articles in the upcoming months on every technique listed and more in-depth coverage of each technique and embellishment for guitarists.
Single, double, & multi-note embellishments
There are only two guitar techniques that involve a single note:
Here are 8 two-note techniques:
- Hammer-On: Played by striking a note and then hammering onto a higher-pitched note to sound the second note.
- Pull-Off: is when you play one note and then pull off to sound a second note.
- Trill: Similar to a tremolo but with two notes involving repeated hammer-ons and pull-offs.
- Mordent: This is a specific trill that involves a single sequence of a hammer-on and pull-off for the note above your principle note (upper mordent). A lower mordent involves a pull-off and then hammer on to and from the note below the target note. So a single HOPO or POHO.
- String Bends: when you pluck a note then push or pull the string to sound a higher pitch note.
- Slides (Portamento): tends to be a slow slide where you hear the individual notes between the first note and final note.
- Slides (Glissando): is a quicker slide than portamento where you do not hear the individual notes between the first and last note.
- Double-stops \ guitar dyads: This is basically playing 2 notes simultaneously or maybe individually if done in sequences or alternating simultaneous and individual picking (intervals).
Here are 3 multi-note embellishments:
- Arpeggio: Playing a chord as single notes typically in the order of the chord construction, in thirds.
- Tapping: a hammer-on technique but where you use your picking hand to hammer-on any note on a string.
- Gruppetto \ Turn: This is a 4-note riff in the pattern of target note + upper neighboring note + lower neighboring note + target note. Or you could reverse the upper and lower notes. You can also opt to start with the neighboring note vs principle note.
Percussive guitar techniques
Use these techniques to add rhythmical interest to your playing.
- Ghost-Note: a dead note as the result of muting the string plucked.
- Palm Mute: using your palm to slightly mute the notes/strings being played.
- Rake: 2 or more dead or ghost notes before your target note.
- Pickscrape: scraping the pick on the wound strings, strings E thru G.
- Golpe: tapping the guitar body after playing a chord.
- Pop or Snap: pulling a string away from the body and letting it “snap” or “pop” back.
- Slap: Using the thumb or palm to slap the bass strings.
Here are some other guitar techniques that may interest you.
- Sustain: Allowing a note, interval, or chord to ring out for 2 or more measures. Think “feedback”.
- Rip: a fast lick of 32nd notes or faster.
- Sul ponticello: means to play the strings at or very near the bridge of the guitar.
- Sul tasto: this technique involves playing the strings over the fingerboard.
- Use of silence: By stopping all playing, it can have a strong effect when you start again. Contrast this technique with sustained notes.
Bonus: Distortions of tempo or meter – This is easier said than done, but you deliberately play phrases in contrast to the time signature and tempo. Try deliberately speeding up or slowing down but with a different emphasis of accented beats that the time signature indicates.
So I believe that is 26 guitar techniques but the last one is kind of advanced so you can leave that one off your list until you are ready for it. The one you want to work on mastering right away is vibrato. That one technique really helped me “figure out” playing lead guitar.