If you're an intermediate or advanced guitar player, you're probably looking for something besides standard video lessons to take your playing to the next level. When used in combination with lessons, taking time to focus specifically on techniques is a great way to develop your skills as a guitarist. In this list, we'll take you through some of the most useful advanced guitar techniques to learn.
Six Advanced Guitar Techniques to Try Today
1. Sweep Picking
Sweep picking is a tough technique to master, but it's a worthwhile way to start adding incredible flair to your playing. If you've heard rock or metal songs that involve what sounds like an impossibly fast flurry of notes, chances are good that you've heard a guitarist use sweep picking. This technique involves sweeping your pick across the strings while individually fretting the notes in an arpeggio. However, it's a lot different from simply strumming -- any strings you don't play are being muted. Most people tend to see sweep picking as a technique unique to shredders, but it's also been used in other genres.
Notably, Ritchie Black has used the technique while playing with Deep Purple, and country star Chet Atkins has used it in his work, too. This technique has even been used in jazz -- the above video illustrates how to incorporate it while playing jazz electric guitar. Check out the below video aimed at beginners if you want to start to learn how to sweep pick.
If you're looking to learn sweep picking and other great lead guitar techniques, you may find that sites like Guitar Tricks can help you achieve your goal. Guitar Tricks is the most comprehensive site for guitar lessons that we've found. You can take classes at any level, and there's plenty of material to challenge even experienced players. Guitar Tricks offers a la carte video lessons on different guitar techniques, including sweep picking. These lessons can be a refreshing break from lessons you usually take, and they can be a great way to expand your repertoire or songwriting capabilities.
2. Two-Hand Tapping
Two-handed tapping is a mesmerizing technique that was largely popularized by Eddie Van Halen. It involves using both your left and right hands on the neck of the guitar to tap out a lead or an embellishment. Two-handed tapping is a tough skill to master, but it works well on both acoustic and electric guitar. This video lesson shows you how to begin using the technique on an acoustic guitar.
The beauty of this hand-tapping technique is that it can be used minimally and still make a considerable impact on your music. For instance, in a rock solo, two-handed tapping can be used to expand a solo and take the song in a new direction. In acoustic music, it works well as an intro, outro, or bridge. (And if you're incredibly coordinated, you may be able to sing over a pattern, too.) This hand-tapping technique is especially visually impressive, and it's a great way to wow an audience.
In themselves, these techniques aren't necessarily only for advanced players -- many intermediate players begin incorporating them as well. However, every advanced player can incorporate them into their repertoire. A hammer-on involves playing a note without picking it by effectively "hammering" your finger onto a fret. For example, if you pick a note on an open string and then press down a fret as that note is sounding, you'll hear the pitch go up. A pull-off is the opposite. If you play a note and then remove your finger from a fret, you'll hear the pitch go down.
Both of these techniques are used in guitar playing across genres. Hammer-ons and pull-offs can add life to any fingerpicking pattern, and they add fluidity to lead guitar solos. Best of all, these techniques can be used at almost any level of playing. Even fairly new players can start incorporating the occasional hammer-on or pull-off, and advanced players can incorporate frequent, faster hammer-ons and pull-offs to add nuance and life to any piece. This video guide to acoustic guitar pull-offs can help you perfect your pull-off technique.
If you're looking to start playing guitar or want to get better, Fender Play is a great place to start. This music site isn't necessarily geared toward advanced players, but it does introduce even the newest guitar player to useful techniques like hammer-ons and pull-offs. With this site, you can learn on an acoustic or electric guitar, and you choose a genre path that teaches songs and techniques relevant to your chosen genre. Fender Play is also one of the most affordable sites out there, which makes it a great site to pick if you aren't sure how long you want to stick with the guitar.
4. Whammy Bar Flutter
The whammy bar (also called a tremolo bar or a vibrato arm) can be used to add vibrato to notes or chords. And while the mechanics of using vibrato aren't necessarily advanced, knowing just when to use it (and how much to use) is a somewhat advanced skill. The flutter is a technique that can add a distinctively dramatic touch to your playing. The "flutter" is a very rapid, almost sputtering pitch effect. It's tough to describe, but this video illustrates it well.
To do a flutter, you'll need to rotate your vibrato arm backward so it's pointing away from your guitar's neck. Then, as soon as you play a note, you'll need to sweep your hand down the vibrato arm (starting at the base and moving toward the end). Then, you'll need to flick your hand off of the end. If you're using flutter as part of a solo, this technique will take some time to coordinate. But if you want to add some surprising sound effects to your music, this is a great way to do so.
Keep in mind that this is just one of many ways to use your guitar's vibrato arm. Metal and hard rock tend to make good use of "dive-bombing," which involves suddenly depressing the whammy bar to drop the pitch. The bar is also a great way to add pitch bends to certain notes in a solo, although you can use it to add pitch variation in almost any genre.
5. Alternate Picking
Versatility is important as a guitar player, and alternate picking is a great way to develop versatility. Many players only use downstrokes when picking notes, but alternating your picking involves using both upstrokes and downstrokes. It may sound simple enough, but if you've learned to play guitar using only downstrokes, it can be tough to learn to play with both downstrokes and upstrokes.
But why is this technique important? By alternating up and down strokes, your leads will sound more articulate. And if speed is a goal, playing this way can make you a lot faster, too.
If you're new to guitar, the best way to master this skill is to make sure that you start alternating your picking from the start. And if you have some experience, start by playing familiar scales while alternating your picking. Chances are good that you'll like the way you sound and continue playing this way. If you want to see this technique in action, check out this helpful tutorial teaching you how to play while alternating up and down strokes.
6. Hybrid Picking
If you have a decent grasp on most guitar techniques, you're likely familiar with Flatpicking and fingerpicking. But hybrid picking lets you bring these techniques together in a way that sounds surprisingly good. Hybrid picking means that you're playing the lower strings with a pick and the higher strings with your fingers. This type of picking is commonly seen in country music, but it's a useful skill that can be applied to many different genres, and you can use it on electric guitar and acoustic. In this video lesson, Nashville guitarist Daniel Donato shows you how to begin mastering this useful technique.
If you're looking to learn this and other guitar techniques, Justin Guitar is a great place to start. This site is designed to help you improve your guitar playing ability in a supportive community. Justin Guitar offers lessons divided into modules as many sites do, but it also offers forums, workshops, and masterclasses to help you keep yourself challenged. There's even a free membership option that lets you try it out before you commit.
Guitar playing is a rewarding journey that sometimes comes with some sticking points. If you're feeling stuck or aren't sure what you want to learn next, checking out some new techniques will make you a better player in no time. And whether you just learn a few new skills or decide to embark on a whole new guitar lesson program, we're confident that you'll be happy you took that first step. What did you think of our list? Did we leave out anything important? Please let us know in the comments, and don't forget to share if you found it helpful!