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Why Good Technique is the Most Important Part of Learning the Guitar.

By Jon, published on 20/02/2018 Blog > Music > Guitar > Top Tips to Build Your Guitar Technique

Playing guitar, whatever your musical style may be (whether it’s blues, rock, funk, reggae, hard rock, metal, country, etc.) requires that you’ve learned the guitar basics. It means that you’ve mastered things like handling a pick, placing your hands on the fretboard, and identifying different power chords, barre chords, and aspects of music theory.

Each style has its own techniques and it is impossible to avoid learning them if you want to improve your guitar playing.

However, more importantly, a guitar player needs good technique for a more fundamental reason. If your technique – your posture, your hand movements – are not good, then you will only get so far. A day will come, when your technique will hold you back.

Sure, you’ll be able to play your major scale, a bit of rhythm guitar, and the occasional guitar solos. But the longer you go in your guitar course with attending to your poor technique, the more work you will have to do to correct it when you have to.

For the beginner guitar player, this is really the thing that you need to remember. Knowing how to play the guitar well, rather than just decently, all comes down to this.

Technique Produces Consistency Across Styles

If there’s anything that’s the same across all of the different styles of guitar, it’s technique.

Whether you’re trying to learn the techniques of a virtuoso and play like Satriani, learn a smooth style like Richie Havens with open tunings and barre chords, or learn basic lines to really bring out the emotion in your playing, technique is a key part of learning to play the guitar.

But how do you learn how to play guitar well? How do you improve your technique?

And after all, just what is technique anyway? It’s the ability to create the proper notes and produce the sounds you want – efficiently, tirelessly, and comfortably. 

Why Improve your Guitar Technique ?

Improving your basic guitar technique will give you more confidence in yourself and your abilities, and you’ll also be better able to master your instrument and play anything you like.

You ain’t going very far with your fingerstyle if you don’t attend to your technique – to the position of your index finger and all the others. You’ll only stall with chord progressions if you don’t have the barre chord technique correct. And blues guitar and other guitar tricks will remain just dreams if you don’t get your picking up to scratch.

Improving your guitar technique means acquiring good habits by focusing on the small details.

And what are those?

It could mean improving your seated posture, the way you hold the guitar or place your fingers on its neck, or even improving the muscles in your arms. In your first guitar lesson, you might find that you tense up a lot when you play songs. Your guitar teacher will have to train you to sit correctly when you are playing – to ensure you have the best guitar technique you can have.

By focusing on these details, you’ll be able to distinguish yourself from other guitarists and move on to the next level.

How do You Improve your Technique?

The benefits of improving your guitar technique are clear:

  • A new fluidity when you play and move your fingers over the fretboard. This will be incredibly useful when you move onto the more complex lines of jazz guitar and rock guitar.
  • Being able to play at increased speed. Some guitar licks are really very quick (as in, over ten notes a second!) – and if you haven’t nailed your technique during guitar practice, there is no chance you are reaching those speeds.
  • Better transitions between chords and sequences, avoiding jerky sounds. When moving from one guitar chord to another, beginners often pause. You don’t want this. But if you have been comfortable with your open chords, this shouldn’t last for too long.
  • A more comfortable position when playing. You want good form and use of muscles without any tension in your body whilst you are playing the guitar. If something hurts, you’re doing something wrong.

The Different Techniques

In the world of guitar you will hear of many different techniques.

Depending on your style and skill you could focus on:

  • Legato – linking together a certain number of chromatic notes with hammer-ons and pull-offs instead of picking. This gives a nice smooth sound to your blues licks and to other guitar solos.
  • String-skipping or jumping between strings. This is a right-hand technique – either in complex rock riffs or in songs, played with a pick, that might otherwise be played with fingerstyle guitar techniques
  • Strumming patterns. Every chord progression demands a different strumming pattern – and you’ll have to learn how to read these rhythms on tablature, hear the rhythms through your own ear training, and to get the flexibility of your right hand.
  • Vibrato – The sound that gives individual notes their beautiful sound
  • Licks – single-note melodic lines. These lines make up guitar solos. But players like Clapton and Hendrix would have hundreds of different licks that they could make into different solos.
  • Fingerpicking – playing with the fingers of your right hand. People who play acoustic guitar will know well about this.
  • Tapping – playing with both hands as if you were playing notes on a piano.

    Van Halen, a guitarist with incredible technique. Want to learn guitar like Van Halen? It’s all about technique.

A Good Posture to Improve your Guitar Technique

You may already know this, but learning guitar requires regular practice.

Whether you’re learning to play with a teacher in private guitar lessons or at a music school – or all by yourself in front of your computer with the help of some online guitar software, online guitar lessons, and your webcam – practice is the key.

It will help you improve your skills and develop habits that you’ll retain throughout your life.

But good posture is the only way to ensure that you’ll want to keep playing throughout your life. Because you ain’t going to want to play your favorite songs if it makes your uncomfortable. Obviously.

Make Yourself Comfortable

To improve your guitar technique, you must be comfortable when you play.

Find yourself a comfortable chair where you can position yourself, and make sure that you have enough space to hold and play your guitar properly. This’ll be your new guitar chair.

The most important thing is to have a good seat where you can sit properly and not unnecessarily tire your back. You’re not going to be headbanging and dancing around the room when you are just practicing your guitar music.

Don’t choose a chair with an armrest, as you will not have the space to move and play properly. Armrests will also make it necessary to lean forward on the guitar and give you bad habits.

Hold Your Guitar Properly

Learning to hold your guitar properly is key is you want to improve your technique and learn the main and basic chords for guitar.

If you are right handed, make sure that you hold the guitar so that your right hand lies between the bridge and the sound hole.

Your left hand should support the neck.

Someone learning the classical guitar. A classical guitar should be played on the other knee!

Hug your guitar to your body and hold it so that the smallest strings (the ones with the highest pitch) are at the bottom. Make sure that the body of the guitar sits snugly against your stomach and torso.

The guitar should rest on the same leg as the hand with which you’re picking the strings (right hand, right leg, for example).

Different guitar players have different postures – but they should really all roughly be similar. You don’t want to be strumming the guitar too far down the guitar neck – for example.

If you play the classical guitar, you’ll probably have been told by your guitar instructor about the specific classical technique. If you’re right-handed, you’ll have the guitar sat on your left knee – ideally raised by a footstool.

Tune your Guitar

It’s impossible to play your guitar properly and improve your technique without also tuning it. Any beginner guitar lessons will cover this – but, if they don’t, you’ll find free guitar lessons online that will show you how to do this.

Before practicing, beginning a class or performing, you need to tune your guitar to get the proper sound – unless you want the songs to sound totally out of tune.

Playing on an untuned guitar could easily ruin your practice and make learning all but impossible.

Decide on your tuning method, you could use a tuning fork, an electric tuner, an online tuner, the adjacent strings technique, or even an app on your smartphone. The important thing is that you know how to tune a guitar.

Learning to Use a Pick

To achieve perfect technique, you need to learn to use your pick – or plectrum – properly, and thereby avoid any bad habits or achy muscles.

Take it between your thumb and index finger, or your thumb and ring finger – and practice your up and down alternate picking movement.

Work on the Basics to Improve Your Guitar Technique

Work on the Transitions between Notes and Chords

To achieve a clean, smooth style of playing the guitar, practice your notes and chords until each string plays with the same sound and intensity.

For the notes, a solid foundation of your technique will come through practising different scales – the blues scale, the pentatonic, or the major scale. This is a simple exercise that will improve your dexterity and your knowledge of the fretboard.

With chords, begin with the major chords, ie those that fall between the first and third string. Besides C and E, other important chords are F, G, A, and D, and the minor chords.

Practicing transitions between these chords is not something limited to guitar lessons for beginners. As the chord shapes become more complex, you are going to have more to practice – as you’ll move into different parts of the guitar and its fret board.

And it’s worth knowing that you can play a major chord – say a C major, but really any chord – in many different places all over the fretboard.

Practice Using a Metronome

To make sure you have a regular and even rhythm when you play, use a metronome. It’s one of the standard tools and equipment that any good guitarist should have.

The metronome will make you play each note properly and improve your sense of rhythm when playing guitar.

But it also works as a crucial tool in the guitar method of speeding up your playing. Guitar teachers and other professionals use this a lot to gradually build up the speed of a particular lick or passage. Because if you speed up very gradually, you don’t notice you are speeding up!

Develop Your Music Knowledge whilst Training Your Technique.

If you’re taking guitar lessons with a teacher or at a music school, you will surely be shown guitar tabs with the basic ranges and chords that you need to know.

If you’ve decided to learn guitar on your own, begin by learning the major, minor, and major seventh chords. Then you can graduate to the pentatonic scale. This scale is popular with rock and blues musicians and uses five notes.

By practicing your scales regularly, you will improve your dexterity and transitions – but also your musicality.

Want a little practice? Choose a scale and include it in a piece you’re working on. Practice it in order, out of order, and by skipping every other note.

Learn a Few Guitar Songs…

…but we wouldn’t recommend starting with difficult songs or the famous jam track, ‘Stairway to Heaven.’

It is important to learn some easy songs with basic (and repetitive) guitar chords. The Beatles, Nirvana, and Oasis are all great candidates for some first songs.

Learn them and your practice will become much more enjoyable. Don’t just learn a simple riff, but try to learn the whole song. Learning the whole song will help you better understand the composition of the music, and it will also help improve your playing and endurance.

Find a guitar solo that you like too – and keep practising that until you get it. If you can read music, you will be able to find many famous solos on guitar online.

Create a Routine

Regular Practice.

It’s important to play regularly in order to improve your technique.

In fact, it’s better to play for 10 to 15 minutes every day, than to practice for three hours once a week.

You’ll not only improve your playing, but you’ll also increase your muscle memory, which is key to achieving fluid playing.

If possible, you should play at least four or five times a week in order to improve your dexterity. Try to pick a specific time every day and dedicate it to practicing your guitar. If you’re struggling to find the time, rest assured that there is no such thing as a bad time. You could practice after work, during your lunch break, or before breakfast.

You should also keep the practice routine as diverse as possible – from playing through a first song to practising improvisation, arpeggios and scale exercises, and some chord work.

Always Warm Up

Just like with sports, it’s important to warm up. One of the best guitar tips that we can give you is that warming up is one of the most important things you can do.

Make yourself comfortable and begin with a few exercises to warm up your fingers. Try some notes from an easy scale.

Anything that can be easily repeated is a great way to warm up, so don’t hesitate! This will help your technique at the same time.

Combine work and pleasure

To stay motivated, make sure that you’re also working on pieces and riffs that you enjoy.

Begin with your scales, and then move on to something that you like.

Don’t forget to take breaks during your guitar playing sessions.

A man on a guitar-shaped boat. You can have fun with your guitar too!

Alternate between ‘work’ (playing ranges or exercises) and ‘fun’ practice sessions to stay motivated as you learn.

This will ensure that you know how to place your fingers for barred chords or to play an arpeggio.

Make it a challenge

To improve your guitar playing technique, you must always keep moving forward. Identifying a goal is a good way to do so, but make sure that it’s achievable.

It’s pointless to try to learn a ‘pull-off’ or a ‘hammer-on’ if you don’t know the more basic techniques.

Otherwise, you could always take classes, but you’ll need to find guitar lessons near you.

Set yourself a small challenge every week and work regularly to achieve it. Make a note of your progress so that you can appreciate the work that you are doing!

Working on your technique will not be something that you regret in the long run! So, even though it feels like a little dull for the beginner – remember to think ahead to the future.

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