Guitar playing techniques

The guitar is truly a great instrument. Not only that it is very practical, but it also gives you tons of possibilities when it comes to playing.

Many people think that playing the guitar is all about learning a couple of chords and strumming the strings. Only the guitarists know how far this is from the truth.

Now, don’t get me wrong, in the beginning, you will probably stick to the chords. This is simply because first, you need to learn the basic stuff, such as the notes, chord positions, elemental music theory, etc. Also, you need to acquire the motor skills for playing – to automate chord changing, to learn how to pick the right strings and overall, to get the basic “feel” for playing. After that, you will slowly start to add new techniques to your playing arsenal.

If you are unsure about any of these techniques, I would advise you to ask your guitar teacher to help you. If you are wanting London guitar lessons, then find us at Guitar Tuition East London

Ok, so let’s see some of the most widely used playing techniques.


This is probably the first technique that you will learn, as it is a very simple one. When you play a note, all you have to do is to gently move the sting up and down while still holding the note. This technique is used for single-note licks.

However, if your guitar has a whammy bar, you can apply vibrato even to chords. After you play the chord, you should just push the whammy bar up and down.

Hammer-on / Pull-of

This is a more complex technique than the previous one. In order to use it, you’ll need to “separate” your hands. This means being able not to play simultaneously with both hands. Believe me, it sounds simpler than it actually is.

The point is to play a note without picking the string. In the case of hammer-on, you produce a note just by pressing the string. Of course, in order to achieve this, you have to press the string harder and faster than usual. One of the best examples of frequent usage of a hammer-on is the song Schism by Tool.

Pull-off is the opposite of a hammer-on. In other words, you play a note by moving the finger off the string. However, when you do this, you can’t just lift your finger, as you won’t produce any sound this way. What you should do, is pick the string while you are moving your finger. Like in the case of hammer-on, you have to move your finger fast.


This technique is used in practically every guitar solo. It is very similar to the vibrato, but in this case, you can bend the string slowly. Also, by doing so, you are actually changing the pitch of the string. It all depends on how high you bend the sting; you can bend it to the half of the note and even the whole note.

So, if you, for example, play the A note and want to go to the B note, you can just press the string at the right fret but you can also bend the A note until you reach the B note.


Muting is mostly used by guitarists who play the electric guitar. When you add the distortion to your tone, it sounds pretty loud and aggressive. If there is a part of a song that needs to be quiet and calmer, you can put the right side of your palm on the strings and thus, mute the strings. You do this with your strumming hand.

Of course, you will still hear every note you play but it will be suppressed, which is great for building the dynamic of a song.

A similar technique is the so-called dead notes. In this case, you completely mute the strings with your left hand (if you are right-handed and vice versa) and when you strum the strings you’ll get that “chaka chaka” sound. The guitarist that often uses this technique is Tom Morello. For example, you can hear it in a song called Born of a broken man.

Pick slides

This technique is present in a lot of rock songs. It is very noisy and aggressive and is usually used when you want to emphasize some parts of a song. The good news is that this is a very simple technique to perform. All you need to do is to slide down the strings with the edge of your guitar pick.


When you start playing the guitar, you should always keep in mind that the beginning is always the hardest part. If you remain persistent, you will learn the basic stuff in no time. After that, you can start to apply these techniques and make your playing more interesting.

Article by Guitar Tuition East London, a London guitar school in England who offer extensive acoustic and London electric guitar lessons to adults and children. Ranging from beginners to advanced guitar players who are interested in performing, songwriting and improvising. With the most important ingredient, a passion for playing the guitar.


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