Electric Guitar Tips And Tricks | 17 Critical Tricks To Learn
In this lesson, you will learn all of the coolest electric guitar tips and tricks that the pros use that will magnify your guitar playing, no matter what your skill level is. As a guitar player you should always be on the lookout for guitar tips, tricks, and anything that will enhance your knowledge.
If you ever wondered why you are stuck in a guitar-players rut it is because you keep doing the same things over and over, it’s time to change that!
With only 5 minutes of practice per day you can expect to achieve awesome results. Anyhow! Here are the top electric guitar tips and tricks that will make the biggest difference in your playing.
Guitar Trick and Tip #1 – Vibrato
Your guitar playing would sound dead without vibrato and you might even get people saying “He’s got no feeling!” I’m sure you have heard that a million times. While you shouldn’t worry about what other people have to say, having a good vibrato and having your own unique vibrato is what will make you stand out from other guitar players.
If you want to improve on this, the exercise is very simple. All you need to do is to bend the strings in a way that sounds good to your ear.
Another good exercise is whenever you are playing your favourite songs or solos don’t bend them like the record, bend them in your own way.
Bending it in the exact same way as the record is ok if it is an aggressive bend as it will make your vibrato shakier but it’s a good idea to develop your own style.
If you want some inspiration, I highly recommend that you check out Marty Friedman’s solos. Or if you REALLY want to challenge your self check out how this guy plays the Tornado of Souls solo and try to emulate it.
Guitar Trick and Tip #2 – Utilizing the Whammy Bar
Whammy bars (also known as a tremolo arm) are very heavily used to give your guitar a nice vibrato without having to bend the strings. Whammy bars are commonly used in heavy metal guitar to create a “dive bomb” kind of effect.
If you listen to bands like Pantera and Metallica you will find a lot of heavy whammy effects. Listen to songs such as “The Thing That Should Not Be” or “The Art Of Shredding” to get an idea of what a whammy bar can sound like. The most important thing is to experiment with it yourself to find what sound you like the most.
This tool can be tricky at first like a wah pedal, but a good trick to do is to practice guitar songs from your favourite guitarists to get a idea of how to use a whammy bar.
Guitar Trick and Tip #3 – Bending Behind the Nut
This is not a very common technique but can be heard by guitar players such as Randy Rhoads in the song “Shot In The Dark”. To implement this technique, simply play a string (preferably an open string) then push down on the string behind the nut and you should hear a change in pitch. Don’t be afraid of breaking the string! As long as you don’t press down with all your might you should be fine.
You might go out of tune as a result, but a cool trick you can do is to do the same thing but push down on the string between your bridge and tail piece (this depends on what type of guitar you have).
Guitar Trick and Tip #4 – Classic Pick Scraping
Possibly the most loved technique and the most common as a beginner guitarist is the good old pick scrap. Start by grabbing the side of your pick and move it up or down the neck depending on the sound that you want to accomplish. This is use in a wide range of heavy metal songs, such as Ozzy Osbournes “Crazy Train”.
Pick scraping is almost a traditional technique in guitar playing that gives you a slightly distinctive sound. Though this technique is not used for long variations or multiple times as it can very easily sound overused.
Guitar Trick and Tip #5 – Guitar Pull-Offs and Hammer-Ons
Guitar pull-offs and hammer-ons are also one of the most popular techniques used in all style of guitar playing, usually used for fast sections. This technique can be heard in wide range of styles such as blues, rock, heavy metal, and more.
A lot of the classic blues licks that you have heard use hammer-ons to give it a certain effect. The sound is quite different when you hit the string twice instead of once and just hammering it on.
To do this technique all you need to do is to hit the string on any fret (besides the last fret because you won’t have anything to hammer anything onto) then simply use your next finger to land onto the next fret.
The reverse works for a hammer-on. Hit the string then remove the finger that is Infront of the other. If you need a more visual demonstration then check out this video
Guitar Trick and Tip #6 – The Wah Pedal
Want to give your guitar that Jimmi Hendrix effect or Kirk Hammett effect? This is one of the most popular guitar pedals used by guitarists all over the globe. It can be quite tricky to use as it requires some multi-tasking as well as pressing on the pedal at the right moment. You will need a bit of practice to get it down, but it's well worth the effort.
Some people refer to the wah pedal as the “mistake eliminator” as people accuse other guitarists of using a wah pedal to cover their mistakes. Kirk Hammett is a very popular target for this sort of joke.
Guitar Trick and Tip #7 – The Palm Muting Technique
Want to make your guitar sound heavy as hell? Palm muting is a MUST and is used pretty in every style of music. Palm muting is also used to mute other strings. Sloppy guitar playing is a very common problem, and the cause is ringing strings.
Having your palm to mute strings while you are playing other strings will keep them from ringing out, thus making a cleaner sound.
In order to play this technique, simply put your palm lightly over the bridge of your guitar and hit the strings. Depending on the sound you want you can press harder or lighter. The harder you press the more muted your strings will be and vice-versa.
A great example of palm muting is Metallica’s song “Sad but True”. If this song had no palm muting what so ever, it would not sound as heavy as it does nor as good.
Guitar Trick and Tip #8 – The Pickup Switch Trick
If you have heard Randy Rhoads play Crazy Train live in 1981, you will hear that Randy uses the switch to toggle between the bridge and the neck pickup. This is a somewhat uncommon guitar trick that can give a cool cutting off effect.
The trick is simple, move the switch in either the up or down position. One trick you can do is to completely turn the volume off of one pickup to mute it and it will give it a more muted effect. You might find that the toggling between 2 modes sounds slower by doing this.
Check out this video to see what I mean by toggling the pickup switch also known as a toggle switch or 3-way switch.
Guitar Trick and Tip #9 – String Bending
It’s no surprise that this guitar trick is on the list, as it is used also in every style of music. Simply play a string then push it up or down to bend it. Careful though, as if you bend the string too much it might make your guitar go out of tune. If you constantly bend around the 22nd fret on the high ‘E’ string you will find that your string is prone to break more.
String breakage on the high ‘E’ string is the most common as it is the thinnest string on the electric guitar. The cause of this usually is a sharp bridge, that’s why roller bridges are popular to combat this. You will notice, most of the time that your strings will break at the bridge.
When bending the string make sure you use your wrist and not your fingers as it will make it much easier to bend and will make your bends sound much better.
Guitar Trick and Tip #10 – Hammering-On Behind the Fret
If you already know how to do hammer-ons on your guitar then there is one cool trick that you can do. While you are hammering onto a fret, start lifting the same string that your finger is on.
For example, if your index finger is on the 5th fret and you are hammering onto the 7th fret with your ring finger, then use your picking / strumming hand to lift the string behind your index finger.
You might have a hard time lifting the string up as it will pressed down on the fretboard but with a bit of gripping practice you will be able to get it down in no time.
I’d say this is a very uncommon technique and I have own heard Randy Rhoads use it in his guitar playing.
Guitar Trick and Tip #11 – Pinch Harmonics
Pinch harmonics are widely used in music. They are also a very overused guitar technique. You may have heard of guitar players like Zakk Wylde that use this technique as part of their signature sound. Pinch harmonics are heavily used in heavy metal and rock.
This technique is also common on a song like “Crazy Train” where the technique is used on the main riff instead of hitting certain notes. Doing this can give your sound a bit of flavour.
If you want to achieve this sound pick a guitar note like the 2nd fret of the low ‘E’ string and lightly place your finger on the metal part of the fret itself and then bend down. You should get a squeal-like sound effect.
Guitar Trick and Tip #11 – Using Your Guitar As A Drum
One thing you will see many street performers or buskers do is to play in a style where they slap their acoustic guitar. This guitar trick isn’t used in styles such as heavy metal, rock, blues, or country but it is used heavily with acoustic guitars.
Guitar Trick and Tip #11 – Change Your Guitar Pickups
If you are using the pickups that originally came with your guitar, you can change them to get a more tailored sound for a specific genre. For example, if you like playing heavy metal it is a great idea to buy either Seymour Duncan or EMG pickups.
There are pickups that are more tailored for other genres. You can buy pickups for blues, country, rock, etc. The great news is that you don’t need to pay someone to change them for you, it’s a very simple process. You just need to buy a soldering kit and get some solder, then de-solder the old pickups and solder in the new ones. There are many guides that you can find on this.
Guitar Trick and Tip #12 – Tapping
Perhaps one of the most used techniques in metal, and one that gives you a more distinctive guitar sound. Tapping is quite simple to do; all you need to do is use your index finger on your picking hand then hit the fret and pull it off.
Usually what happens is that a guitar player will hit a guitar string then hammer onto the next fret, then use their picking hand to hit the fret they want to tap and pull off. You can hear this technique in solos such as Crazy Train, where Randy Rhoads taps the very first section of the solo.
There is also multi-finger tapping which is quite more advanced, this is used by very technical and versatile guitarists and takes a ton of practice. Chris Broderick here shows an epic demonstration of what multi-finger tapping can sound like.
Guitar Trick and Tip #13 – Legato
Legato is one of the easier techniques to learn on guitar because it doesn’t require much picking. Legato is just a series of hammer-ons. Simply start by picking one notes then hammer onto multiple other notes. Steve Vai has an excellent tutorial here on legato and how you can use it.
Guitar Trick and Tip #14 – The Alternate Picking Trick
I can’t imagine learning to play guitar fast without first learning how to play alternate picking. The concept is very simple to understand and is also easy to implement. All it requires is that you move your pick up and then down, that’s literally it.
Doing fast runs on the guitar is usually achieved by utilizing alternate picking but there are other ways of course. There are many alternate picking guitar exercises that you can do, such as playing chromatic scales.
To do this exercise start by playing one fret, then the second fret, then the third fret, then the fourth fret and then go to the next string and repeat the process until you are up to the other end of the fretboard.
As you can tell this exercise is done in groups of four because the chromatic scale is four notes per string.
Check out Michael Angelo Batio showing an awesome demonstration of alternate picking:
Guitar Trick and Tip #15 – Buy Strap Locks
There is a good chance that sometime in the future when you are playing guitar that your strap will fall down. This is a somewhat common problem, but the best way to combat this problem is to use strap locks. By having a locking mechanism, it ensures that your guitar strap never falls off. Traditional straps are somewhat secure but you will find that on the ends of the strap the material starts to soften up and there isn’t really much that you can do about it.
Guitar Trick and Tip #16 – Tune the Lazy Way!
One cool trick that you can use if your guitar tuning is too sharp is to simply bend the string very hard. When you turn on your tuner and hit a string, and then notice that it's too sharp just bend the string a bit harder and watch it go back in tune.
On the other hand, if the guitar is too flat then you will have to use the tuning pegs to get it back in tune. If you have a guitar where the pegs are on both sides of the head stock, this might be a pain for you to lift your arm and turn the peg, then turn it the opposite way.
Guitar Trick and Tip #17 – Reduce the Chance Of Your String Breaking
One very easy thing that you can do to reduce the chance of your strings breaking at the bridge is simply to get some smooth sand paper (about 800 grit) and file the slot where your string sits.
Make sure to sand all rough edges as when you bend your string they will come in contact with those edges, making the string slightly weaker every time.
So that is it for electric guitar tips and tricks. There are A LOT more guitar tricks that I could teach you but it would turn into a book! Don’t forget to keep practicing. If you want to learn more about the guitar and learn how to improve your phrasing and such, there are a lot more blog posts here at TheMusicGig that you can learn from.