10 Easy Guitar Techniques Every Beginner Should Know
This article covers guitar techniques that every beginning guitar player needs to learn, how best to implement them into your playing, and some cool ways to intertwine multiple techniques in your music.
Learning how to play the guitar is an amazing journey.
It can seem daunting at times—learning your first chords, scales, and songs can feel like you are far from being the skilled guitarist you dream to be.
That is where learning some simple guitar-playing techniques comes in.
Several cool guitar techniques are easy to pick up and help you learn songs, chords, and scales more easily.
So let’s look at ten guitar techniques that are easy for beginners.
1. Proper hand positioning
Hand positioning is one of the most important guitar techniques every beginner should know. Knowing the correct hand position helps you play the guitar more easily and efficiently. If you don’t learn how to hold your fretting hand the right way in the beginning, it can take years to break the habit later on.
Remember a few things when positioning your hands on the guitar: Where your thumb and index finger should be and how to hold the strings down with your other fingers. If you are playing guitar in an open position, place your thumb on the back of the neck near where the next chord or note is to be played.
2. Picking techniques
There are many ways to hold a guitar pick. The style of music you play often dictates how you hold your pick. In general, you should hold your pick downward towards the body of your guitar.
This is one of the most commonly used picking techniques. With this method, the guitar player alternates between upstrokes and downstrokes. This technique is used in all genres of music and is a great starting point for the beginning guitarist.
Folk and classical music often use this technique. Tremolo picking involves rapidly picking one note multiple times in quick succession. It can be difficult to master but sounds great once you get it down.
Play arpeggios quickly and efficiently using sweep picking. It is one of the go-to guitar techniques for Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Yngwie Malmsteen.
A favorite of metal bands worldwide, triple or speed picking, is simply adding a third stroke to the alternate picking method. Triple picking is one of the cool guitar techniques every rock or metal player should learn.
This style is common in genres such as Bluegrass, Flamenco, and Classical. Instead of a guitar pick, you use the fingers on your strumming hand to pluck the individual notes that your fretting hand is holding.
This gives the chords you are playing complete voice, depth and clarity. Finger-picking can be tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it, you can bring more life to your music.
Playing with no pick is less common. However, many acoustic guitarists prefer this method. To play this style, you hold your thumb and index finger tightly together, with the nail on your index finger slightly protruding, forming a guitar pick.
3. Palm muting
There is probably no more famous technique in Rock and Roll, Metal, and even Blues music than the palm mute. It’s one of the basic guitar techniques that are easy to learn and adds a lot of depth to your guitar playing.
To palm mute, you take the palm of your hand on the pinky finger side and rest it just above the bridge on the desired string or strings. The more pressure you put on the strings, the more mute effect you get.
The closer your palm is to the bridge, the deeper the sound. This is how you get that chunky metal sound with overdrive or distortion.
You can mute with the fingers on your fretting hand as well. Hold your finger lightly on the strings at the top of the fretboard towards the headstock, then strum the guitar.
4. Hammer-ons & pull-offs
This technique is common in musical styles ranging from Jazz to Metal. Guitarists like John Mayer, Joe Pass, and Chuck Berry are masters of this versatile and easy-to-learn method.
These are two basic techniques that every guitarist should know—using your fretting hand to strike or “hammer” the string to play a hammer-on. The desired note plays without using your picking hand.
Pull-offs are the opposite. Using your fretting hand, pluck the string while letting go or “pulling off” of the note. This drops or raises to the next note you’re holding on the same string.
Both of these guitar techniques add complexity and depth to your guitar playing. Some great examples of these techniques in action are the songs “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room’ by John Mayer and “Trapeze Swinger’ by Iron & Wine.
5. Guitar sliding
This guitar technique, not to be confused with slide guitar, is a fun way to make songs more dynamic. You hear this technique in almost every genre, especially Jazz. You can use it with single notes and chords too.
To utilize this technique, slide your hand or finger to the next note without letting go of the strings. For instance, starting with a G major chord and sliding up into an A chord without breaking contact with the strings.
Professional guitarists often use harmonics to tune the guitar – but we also can use them in music. The high-pitched, ringing tone can add a touch of brightness or darkness to any song.
Performing a harmonic is easy, even for the novice guitar player. When you look at your fretboard, there is usually a series of inlays starting with the third fret. Harmonics can resonate by gently placing a finger of your fretting hand across the string or strings above these inlays and strumming or plucking the desired strings.
The easiest harmonics to play are the 5th, 7th, and 12th frets.
7. Augmenting chords
You become familiar with different chords when first learning to play the guitar. It’s easy to take these chords as gospel when first starting. But remember that you can augment any chord to better suit your song.
Don’t be afraid to change a C minor into an augmented G chord. The freedom of augmenting chords can help the budding songwriter find that missing piece and get past writer’s block.
8. Dropped, open, and other tunings
There are many more tuning arrangements than the standard E on guitar. The first alternate tuning you may learn as a beginning guitarist is dropped D. This tuning presents itself in many styles of music. However, it is most common in Hard Rock and Metal arrangements.
Another popular choice is open tuning. Artists such as Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and Barry Gibb are well known for using this tuning, and major label bands, including Pearl Jam. There are also modal and instrumental tunings, among others.
Utilizing these tunings requires learning guitar playing techniques specific to the tuning arrangement.
9. String bending
Guitar masters of the past and present use string bending to spice up their musical arrangements on guitar. Blues, Jazz, Rock, and Metal guitarists implement this technique in their songs. It can even be heard in classical arrangements.
String bending is when you hold a note or chord and either push the strings up towards you on the neck or pull them away. This gives the guitarist more range in notes and tone on the fly.
Regarding basic guitar techniques, vibrato is an absolute must for any guitarist to learn. This technique is similar to string bending with much smaller movements. By holding the note and moving the finger repeatedly on the fretboard, you can slightly change the sound and make the note quiver to the listener.
It takes practice to master the vibrato. String bending is easier to learn for the beginner. However, once you add this to your repertoire, you can play in a much more dynamic fashion in no time.
Guitar techniques takeaways.
Testing these guitar techniques is the best way to determine which works best for your goal. As a guitarist, you may incorporate them into your music in one way or another.
If you are frustrated or having trouble learning a certain technique, put it on the shelf and move on to another. By the time you come back to it, you likely won’t be struggling anymore.
Are you interested in taking your guitar playing to the next level? Then download the Simply Guitar app and start learning today!