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Introduction to guitar techniques

Updated: Feb 24, 2020

In this article we would like to introduce some essential guitar techniques for you to know. These concepts can really add life, style, and creativity to your guitar playing. They are fun to use and throw in here and there as you can use them to express yourself as

a guitarist and artist.


Vibrato is a technique to used to make the sound of a note waiver. I can sound similar to the sound a singer might make while holding out a long note. To produce the vibrato on the guitar you press a note with the left hand, pluck the string with the right hand, and then slightly move the left had up and down or left and right while the note is ringing. The motion of the left hand will slightly bend the string in and out of tune to produce the desired vibrato. Vibrato is a matter of style and taste. Different players produce different vibratos, and yours should be unique to you. Don’t worry if it is hard at first, because you will get better and vibratos change over time.

Palm mute notes and chords

Palm muting is a technique that produces a percussive sound by touching the string or strings of the guitar with the palm of your right hand. Do not try to use the whole palm of your hand to mute the strings, rather use the meat of your palm just under the pinky finger. You can use this technique in various ways and styles. One purpose of this technique is to control the duration that a chord or note is heard.

Staccato notes and chords

Playing staccato means to play notes or chords in very short duration. Staccato notes and chords played in sequence should be played and separated by short distances of silent space. Each of the notes should be heard clearly and separately. In order to achieve this sound, the fretting hand should learn to press and release the notes and chords very quickly. Releasing the notes and chords with the left hand and using the right to palm mute to stop the strings from vibrating will produce staccato sounds.


Legato sounds are long and connected. Legato sounds are heard when notes and chords seem to connect from one to the other without any silence or space between. Legato can be achieved by using multiple techniques such as slide, hammer on, pull offs. Usually legato sounds are heard when playing a sequence of notes very fast.

Alternate Picking

Alternate picking is a technique used to streamline your picking. It can improve speed and balance and help to increase player mobility throughout the guitar neck. It does have some limitations, but the benefits outweigh the limits. Alternate picking is simple, just alternate picking your melodies with down stokes and up strokes. Down up Down up etc… You can also practice the same melodies alternating Up Down Up Down. When you change the beginning stroke from a Down stroke to an Upstroke it will help to foster a sense of control in your picking hand. 

Hammer on

A hammer on is a technique that gives you two notes for one stroke. A good way to practice the hammer on technique is by playing the pentatonic scale. Fret the first note with your index finger, then pick that string with your picking hand, and as the note is ringing, quickly hammer the third or fourth finger on your fretting hand to the next note in the scale. you can repeat the technique with all the strings using the pentatonic scale.

Pull off

The pull off technique also gives you two notes for one stroke. The pentatonic scale is a good scale to use when practicing the pull off technique. Start by placing the little finger of your fretting hand on the thin E string. At the same time place the index finger of your fretting hand on next note of the pentatonic scale underneath the little finger (on the same string). When you are ready pick the note, you should hear the note your little finger is fretting. After you hear the little finger’s note for a short duration, use the little finger to pull the string and release. You should hear the note being fretted by your index finger. It might sound confusing at first, but just pull the little finger away and pull the string with it, when the little finger releases the string the note pressed by the index finger will be heard. Basically, the little finger used to fret the first note, is then used to pull the string and in effect it strums the second note.


A slide is another technique that allows two notes for one stroke. The slide technique produces a continuous sound while moving from one note to another.  The sound heard is either a short continuous rise in pitch stopping at a specific note, or a short continuous fall in pitch stopping at a specific note. Just press a note, pluck the string, and while keeping the string pressed, slide the note forward or backward to the next note. Usually guitar players slide between two notes that belong to the same scale.

Bending strings

Bending strings is another technique that produces a continuous sound while moving from one note to another. Usually you will bend a string to make one note sound like the note a whole step higher. It is helpful to play the note a whole step up before you practice bending the string so that you know how it should sound before you bend. To bend the strings, fret the note using your third finger while placing the first and second fingers behind on the same string. When you are ready pick the note and use your three fingers to bend the string until it sounds like the note a whole step up. Thumb placement of the fretting hand on the guitar neck can really affect the difficulty of bending strings. The thumb should provide stability either by gripping the top ridge of the guitar neck or bracing just behind the top ridge. The thumb should not float or be below the center line of the guitar neck.

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