Guitar Techniques: 8 Tricks Which Make You Sound Amazing

Want to learn some awesome guitar techniques? You’re in the right place!

guitar techniquesIn this free guitar lesson you will learn:

  • 18 guitar tricks that will enhance your musicality and phrasing.
  • Guitar fundamentals such as; hammer-ons and pull-offs, string bending, sliding, fingerpicking, tapping & harmonics.
  • The no1 secret to playing guitar fast.

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1) Guitar Techniques: Hammer-ons & Pull-offs

Hammer-ons and pull-offs are a great technique for creating fluidity in your guitar playing.

To play a hammer-on you quite simply hammer your finger tip onto a string in order to produce a note, rather than pluck it with a guitar pick.

A pull-off is the reverse: when you produce a note by lifting your finger off the string.

Here’s a video of Andy playing the open E minor pentatonic scale using hammer-ons and pull-offs.


Here’s the tab:

learning to play guitar

Not sure how to read tab? Check out this article: How To Read Guitar Tabs

If you’re a more advanced student, you might want to try using a closed position scale.

2) Guitar Techniques: Sliding

Sliding is exactly what it sounds like: playing a note then sliding your finger over to a higher or lower note.

To learn more about sliding technique, watch this video:

It’s important to be careful when sliding, not to ‘under-shoot’ or ‘over-shoot’ ie. slide too little or too far.

Make sure you end up at the fret you were heading for.

Sliding with chords

Sliding doesn’t just have to be done with single notes. It can also be done with chords.

If you’re an intermediate player, you might want to try sliding with barre chords.

Want to learn barre chords? Check out this article: Barre Chords: The Ultimate Guide

Download our lead guitar cheat-sheet to make things easier

It can be disorientating for guitarists to understand which scales work with which keys.

With this in mind, we created a cheat-sheet; a key and scale-finder that you can use again and again.

Sliding with a slide

Sliding is also sometimes done with something called a bottleneck or fingerslide and is very popular in styles like blues and country.

This is something you might want to try if you’re a more advanced student.

Check out this article if you’re interested in learning to play with a slide: 5 Essential Slide Guitar Lessons For Intermediate Guitarists

guitar techniques

3) Guitar Techniques: Vibrato

Vibrato is used to add character to your single note lines.

You can do this by simply pushing the string you’re fretting gently but quickly up and down while its ringing out.

To learn how to do this, watch this video:

You can also do vibrato using a whammy bar if your guitar has one. Just gently but quickly push the bar in and out as your note rings.

guitar techniques

Another slighly quirkier way to play vibrato is to press down the string behind the nut of the guitar.

Check out this video from Total Guitar to see how it’s done:

4) Guitar Techniques: Double-stops

A double-stop is where a guitarist plays two notes together, producing a short, sharp stabbing sound. They’re ideal for blues and old-style rock ‘n’ roll.

To play a double-stop we simply need to strum two notes together such as in this example:

guitar techniques

This exercise is based upon the A minor pentatonic or A blues scale.

5) Guitar Techniques: Arpeggios

An arpeggio is when we separate the notes of a chord out rather than playing them all in one strum.

This often gives us a jangly sound.

To play a basic arpeggio, simply pick a chord (preferably an ordinary open position chord) and try separating the notes out.

You can do them in order at first, but as you get more adventurous, you might want to try mixing the order of the notes about a bit.

To learn more about guitar arpeggios, go here: Guitar Arpeggios: The Ultimate Guide

6) Guitar Techniques: String Bending

String bending is what that sound is in a blues where it sounds like a note is being stretched.

It’s popular in a lot of other styles too.

To do a string bend we don’t merely press the string against the fret. We bend it as well, changing the pitch of the note.

To learn how to string bend, watch this video:

Here’s a tab of some bends you could try.

The ‘1/2’ instruction means that we’re bending the note by a half-step.

This means the note should end up sounding like it’s one fret higher than it is.


7) Guitar Techniques: Finger-picking

This one is great for acoustic guitarists. Done right, it can sound like a whole flurry of different notes coming at us at once.

To finger-pick, we pluck the guitar strings using our fingers rather than a guitar pick.

For more information on finger-picking, check out this article: Fingerstyle Guitar Lessons – 5 Easy Ways To Sound Amazing

8) Guitar Techniques: Pick Slides

If you’ve ever noticed that whooshing, scraping sound on a hair metal record, that’s usually the sound of a guitarist sliding the edge of their pick down the strings.

This technique is fairly self-explanatory, but it’s best to use the edge of the pick and to slide it down one or more of the wound strings on the guitar to get that cool scraping sound.

The non-wound strings will be a bit too smooth.

To learn how to do this killer guitar technique, watch this video:

9) Guitar Techniques: String Slapping

This is a technique that’s more popular on bass than on guitar.

To ‘slap’ a string we simply hit it with the bony part of the thumb instead of picking it with a pick.

10) Guitar techniques: Dead Notes

You know that ‘chaka chaka’ sound you sometimes hear guitarists play? Especially with a load of wah-wah effect on the guitar?

What they’re playing there is called ‘dead notes’.

To play dead notes, all we do is mute the strings of the guitar with our fretting hand and strum them with our strumming hand, producing a purely percussive and ‘dead’ sound rather than actual notes.

It’s a very simple technique, but it can be quite effective.

Sometimes, dead notes are added in amongst a bucnh of ordinary notes or chords to provide a bit of variation.

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11) Guitar Techniques: Fast Alternate Picking

Ever heard a very fast burst of notes on the guitar? More than likely, you’ve just heard some very fast alternate picking.

Alternate picking is how we should practice all our scales. It simply means alternating between down and upstrokes of the pick when playing notes, not just using all down strokes (or all up strokes for that matter).

One of the advantages of alternate picking is that it allows us to play faster.

To learn how to alternate pick, watch this video:

For a more in-depth look at alternate picking, check out this article: Alternate Picking

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12) Guitar Techniques: Palm Muting

Palm muting is a great way to make your playing sound ‘huge’.

It allows you to control the dynamics of your playing without having any volume, tone or effect settings.

To palm mute, you simply bring the palm of your strumming hand very slightly onto the strings, so as to dampen or mute them slightly.

You can use this technique for both single notes and chords. It sounds great with power chords.

Want to learn power chords? Check out this article: How To Play Guitar Power Chords

13) Guitar Techniques: Tapping

Tapping is a lot like hammer-ons and pull-offs, except it uses the fingertips of the picking hand rather than the fretting hand.

It is often combined with hammer-ons and pull-offs such as in this video of Andy tapping an A minor arpeggio:

Here’s the tab if you’d like to try it:

guitar techniques

14) Guitar Techniques: Alternate Chord Voicings

Ever heard a familiar sounding chord sequence but somehow the guitarist is making those chords sound different?

It’s likely they’re using alternate chord voicings.

As a guitarist, you are by no means limited to just one way of doing a chord.

For example, here’s a set of different voicings for the D major chord:

guitar techniques

If you have several bars of D in a row, try changing the voicing to add variety.

To learn this chord in more detail, go here:

15) Guitar Techniques: Natural Harmonics

Harmonics are very pure notes that give us a bell or chime-like sound.

To play a basic harmonic, go to the twelfth fret on any string and, rather than fretting the note down, simply touch it very lightly and pick it with the pick.

This should give you a harmonic.

It’s important to be directly over the fretwire, NOT over the wood bit in between where we’d normally fret a note.

guitar techniques

The string should NOT be touching either the fret or the fretboard either. Just your fingertip.

You can also produce harmonics at the fifth, seventh and sometimes ninth frets, but the twelfth fret is the easiest and best place to start.

16) Guitar Techniques: Pinched Harmonics

Also called ‘artificial harmonics’, there’s a couple of different ways to pinch harmonics.

We’ll look at the most precise way first.

If we get a harmonic at the twelfth fret, then if we fret our string at the first fret this will shift our harmonic up by one fret as well: to the thirteenth fret.

But how are we going to play that harmonic if our other hand is busy fretting a note?

Answer: we need to pinch it.

We do this by holding the pick between our thumb and second finger and touching the string with our index finger just over the thirteenth fret.

That way, when we pick, we get our harmonic.

If you want to see pinched harmonics in action, Nils Lofgren is an absolute master of them!

Check out his solo at around 2.59 to see some awesome pinched harmonics:

Nils uses a thumb pick, thus making it easier for him to pinch those harmonics as he doesn’t have to grip the pick with his thumb and second finger.

The other, perhaps much more common way to pinch harmonics is much less precise and involves simply catching the string with the edge of the thumb as you pick the string.

We don’t usually bring our picking hand over to the fretboard for this sort of pinched harmonic, rather we keep it in the normal picking position.

For this reason, we don’t have useful markers to show us where the harmonic is, so we have to guess/learn where they are.

These sort of pinched harmonics sound great with a load of distortion on them and as such, are sometimes called “screamers”.

17) Guitar Techniques: Body Slapping

This is strictly an acoustic guitar technique. Slap the body of a solid-body guitar and you’re in for disappointment!

Hitting the guitar may seem easy (and perhaps tempting if you’re a frustrated beginner), but hitting it in such a way that it sounds musical is a bit more of a challenge.

An absolute master of body-slapping is Andy McKee.

In this piece, he combines body slapping with a number of the other techniques we’ve looked at here such as string slapping, tapping, finger-picking and harmonics:

NB: This is a VERY advanced piece. Please don’t expect to be able to learn something like this in five minutes!

Notice how the front bit of the guitar body (known as ‘the table’) produces a deep bass drum-esque sound, whereas the edge of the guitar body produces a higher more woodblock-esque sound?

You don’t have to play anything as complicated as Andy Mckee to incorporate body slapping into your playing. Try something simple first. Perhaps add the odd percussive sound into some of the empty space in a song.

18) Guitar Techniques: Chromatic Speed

Chromatic speed is often what you’re hearing when you hear a very fast burst of notes from a guitarist.

To play chromatic speed, you first need a solid grasp of alternate picking.

Here’s a tab:

guitar techniques

The idea is to play an exercise, such as this as fast as possible.

The trick is to first alternate pick on an open string as fast as you possibly can and then try and play the exercise at that speed, seeing if your other hand can keep up.

This can be very tricky and is definitely an advanced technique.

At first, you may find yourself playing a lot of unintentional deadnotes, but eventually, with practice, your fretting hand will catch up with your picking hand.

If you struggle to do the whole exercise in one go, try just sticking to the first four notes until you get the hang of the technique.

We call this ‘chromatic speed’ because you’ll notice it isn’t using scale patterns, rather it’s using notes that are all directly next to each other.

When played slowly, this doesn’t sound very musical at all, but when played quickly, and in contrast to slower more scale oriented playing, it can be very effective.

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