By Mitch Rice
If you were to look at the most popular and sensational songs, there’s always something an element or two that makes them dynamic and constantly evolving. Guitarists use a variety of tricks to bring this dynamic nature to their music.
Whether you play acoustic guitar or an electric guitar, these tricks will help you bring more energy and motion to your music as well. Here is our list of the best tricks every guitarist should know.
Sliding has been one of the most popular tricks used by guitarists. It’s very easy to learn and it adds a ton of dynamic to the music. It’s often used to start and guitar solos as it can create a smooth transition between chords to guitar solos or guitar solo to vocals.
When playing a sliding note, you start off on one fret and slide your finger to another fret. If you want to create a building sound, you slide your finger down, for example, from the 1st to the 5th fret. If you want to do the opposite, you slide your finger up, for example, from the 5th fret to the 1st fret.
Palm-muting is a technique in which you use the bottom end of your palm to muffle some or all string while strumming or plucking. Palm-muting has been widely used in rock music but is now making its appearance in other music genres as well.
When you’re playing a certain chord, you lightly rest your palm near the saddle of the guitar. This muffles the amplitude of the sound, giving a heavy tone and effect altogether. It can be great to direct your audience’s focus on the lyrics and build tension for a powerful solo.
Alternate picking is definitely a method you must learn if you want to start playing faster leads. When you opt for continuous downward picking, you are forced to bring your hand back to rest above the string before you pick again. In alternate picking, you down pick, up pick and then down pick again. This will significantly increase your speed and efficiency at playing leads.
If you are just starting out with alternate picking, you might face difficulty getting used to it. But with time, you will be able to get a good grip and picking would become far easier than before. Whether you play rock or folk music, alternate picking could help build a smoother flow between each note you pick and is worth pursuing as a practice.
String bending is yet another popular trick used by guitarists of many genres. You’ll find this being used heavily in rock, country, folk and even blues. As the name suggests, the sound effect is created by bending the strings of your guitar.
Let’s say you want to bend the note on the 4th fret of your A string. You place your finger there and then as you pick the string, push the string up towards its neighboring strings. You could bend on either side, but bending it up creates a stronger effect than bending it down. String bending is often used as fillers to extend notes or create ripples in harmony itself.
Vibrato is yet another technique that’s popular among a number of genres. While it’s used a lot in rock, it is also evident in jazz and R&B. Vibrato is an attempt to replicate the human voice, creating unsteady notes that sound mellifluous and attractive to the audience.
When playing vibrato, your fret finger must move up and down vigorously to create a ripple effect. So if you were to play the note on the 4th fret of the A string, you would push the string and then down and up continuously till the note fades away. Perfecting a vibrato might not take much time for regular guitarists.
Volume swells are a very creative way of building tension or filling space in a song. Interstellar’s soundtrack is a great example of this effect and while that may not be from a guitar, the concept stays the same.
In this trick, you play a chord by down strumming it and as you bring your hand down, you continue till you reach the volume knob on your electric guitar. As you reach the knob, you gently increase the volume. Just like sliding, you can use this to build tension, without changing a note. However, this is only something you can do on an electric guitar.
As you continue to progress with your mastery of the guitar, you must continue to look for more ways and techniques to create unique and captivating music. There are many other tricks and techniques that suit very specific genres and could be useful for you. Incorporate these tricks in your music and you’ll surely see the difference in the impact your music has on your audience.