Essential Playing Techniques
Welcome to a little mini-series addressing the all-important area of technique. Amps and fancy gear can only make you sound so good! The rest/most of it is in the hands! There are four techniques I went into here: vibrato, bends, slides and hammer-ons/pull-offs. These four techniques are the most important, common, expressive, and unique only to stringed instruments, and they give us our soul as guitarists! I’ve done each as it’s own video to make browsing easier. Have at it.
Technique #1: Vibrato
Vibrato is the regular pulsing (shaking) of a pitch. With the exception of classical vibrato (where is goes above and below) it consists of raising the original pitch and returning it to center. Vibrato can be done with the fingers or the wrist, the wrist being a more stable, preferred method in my opinion.
Technique #2: Bending
Bending is kick arse! Seriously though, SUPER expressive technique to have under the belt, and one of the hardest to get used to–that’s why we’re starting early! Like vibrato, bends can be done with the fingers or the wrist, the wrist being preferred for it’s control. Keep your thumb over the neck with a closed grip (think Hendrix’ style) and pivot your vibrato from that grip between the thumb and base of the first finger. Support the weight of the bend by using several fingers if at all possible. Study this video closely. Always know where the bend is going–what pitch are you bending to? Start with a half-step (single fret) bend, then move to a whole step.
Technique #3: Slides
What’s a slide? I dunno. HA! Just kidding! A slide is a technique that’s used to articulate a note. A good example would be moving between two different notes on the same string by picking the first note and sliding to the second without picking it. Slides can be done either by pivoting or position-shifting. Yeah, just watch the video and you’ll see what I mean.
Technique #4: Hammer-ons/Pull-offs
Hammer-ons and pull-offs are very handy, expressive techniques for guitarists, and some of the easier techniques to get down. The idea is similar to a slide: you’re playing two notes, picking the first and either hammering-on or pulling-off into the second without picking it.
A basic hammer-on is preformed by picking the first note and “hammering” into a note on a higher fret on the same string. Hammer-ons can also be done without a note prior, hammering directly into the desired fret.
A pull off is done by “pulling-off” a fretted note to a note at a fret underneath it. The second note has to be fretted beforehand of course so this technique requires two fretting fingers to perform.
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