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 basics of guitar and mastered things like handling a pick, how to place your fingers for a chord, and how to play an arpeggio.
Each style has its own techniques and it is impossible to avoid learning them if you want to improve your guitar playing.
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 barred chords, or learn basic techniques 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.
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.
Improving your guitar technique means acquiring good habits by focussing 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.
By focusing on these details, you’ll be able to distinguish yourself from other guitarists and move on to the next level.
The benefits of improving your guitar technique are clear:
In the world of guitar you will hear of many different techniques.
Depending on your style and skill you could focus on:
The father of guitar tapping: Eddie Van Helen
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 software and your webcam, practice is the key.
It will help you improve your skills and develop habits that you’ll retain throughout your life.
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.
The most important thing is to have a good seat where you can sit properly and not unnecessarily tire your back.
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.
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.
Learn the right hand postures to play the guitar!
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).
It’s impossible to play your guitar properly and improve your technique without also tuning it.
Before practicing, beginning a class or performing, you need to tune your guitar to get the proper sound.
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.
To achieve perfect technique, you need to learn to use your pick properly, and thereby avoid any bad habits or achey muscles.
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.
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 there are also minor chords.
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.
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.
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.
…but we wouldn’t recommend starting with difficult songs or the famous jam track, ‘Stairway to Heaven.’
Wayne Campbell playing “Stairway to Heaven” (from the movie, “Wayne’s World”)
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.
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.
Just like with sports, it’s important to warm up.
Make yourself comfortable and begin with a few exercises to warm up your fingers. Try some notes from an easy range.
Anything that can be easily repeated is a great way to warm up, so don’t hesitate!
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.
Relax with your guitar!
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.
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 wo