5 Essential Guitar Techniques Every Guitarist Must Know

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Here are 5 essential tips and useful guitar techniques that every guitarist really needs to know. Including how to play A Minor Pentatonic Scale, how to palm mute and more thanks to the good people at MGR Music Tuition!

essential guitar techniques

Here are 5 essential guitar tips and some essential guitar techniques for beginners to get you started on your journey to rock stardom!

If you are new to playing rock guitar, things might seem a little daunting. There are so many things to learn and many new words, phrases and techniques which at this stage might seem alien to you as a new player. So in this lesson we are going to look at 5 tips and techniques all guitarists should know.

These tips on guitar will cover a range of essential guitar techniques from riff-based techniques to some simple lead guitar phrases like how to play the A Minor Pentatonic Scale that you can get started with.

In this lesson we will explain all of the guitar techniques in an easy to read format. There is also a video that demonstrates each of the techniques along with a backing track with the lead guitar taken out so you can test the lead guitar ideas yourself over the riffs. You can watch that below.

All parts of this guitar tips for beginners lesson are played at 148bpm.

1. How To Play A Minor Pentatonic Scale

For all the lead licks in this video we are using a scale known as the Minor Pentatonic scale. This is a 5-note scale repeated across various octaves and positions across the neck. We are playing this scale in the key of A Minor (Meaning we start on the A note of the Low E string, which is our 5th fret).

This scale can be moved to any key without changing the layout of the notes, but for this video we are basing it all around the first 2 shapes in A Minor. This is how you play an A Minor Scale.

Shape 1

how to play minor pentatonic scale shape 1

Shape 2

how to play minor pentatonic scale shape 2

2. How To Palm Mute

The main riff in this short track also doubles as the backing for the lead guitar parts too. In this riff we are going explore a technique that is a mainstay in rock and metal guitar riff playing - palm muting.

Palm muting is a technique which involves using the palm of the picking hand to dampen the strings at the point they leave the bridge. If you have a guitar with a two-piece bridge (Similar to that seen on a Les Paul) your palm will need to connect with the string contact on the saddles rather than the tailpiece end.

If your guitar is a Strat style (Like a Floyd Rose or vintage tremolo unit) then you will place your palm when the strings come out of the bridge.

Using the palm in this way will add a dampened sound to the notes, commonly known in rock and metal as a “chug”.

To play the riff we use an A power chord to start and the note duration is a quarter note (a whole beat). This is then followed by 6 palm muted open A strings played as consecutive eighth notes on the “2 & 3 & 4 &” beats of the bar.

The second bar contains more palm muted eighth notes on the A string on the “1 & 2” before switching to a G chord. The G chord is played on the “&” of the second beat, the “&” of the third beat and the fourth beat. You’ll notice in the transcription that the chord is broken up. Don’t worry too much about accurately recreating this. The general vibe you’re going for is that of a “low high low” split of the chord.

The third bar is exactly the same as the first bar with the A power chord and the final bar is straight palm muted eighth notes over an arpeggiated chord sequence using two chords. The first chord is a D note (5th fret) on the A string and an F# (4th fret) on the D string, coupled with an open G string. The second chord shape maintains the G and F# notes but the D note on the A string now becomes an E (7th fret).

how to palm mute

3. Hammer Ons - How To Hammer On A String

The hammer on is a guitar technique from the legato family. Legato is a musical term meaning to “tie together” which is what we are doing with this technique.

As you start to work on hammer ons you will build up strength in your fretting hand fingers.
A hammer on is played by picking a note and “hammering on” to the next note with another finger. The action of hammering onto the next note will actually put more energy into the string and therefore make the second note also sound.

In the example I’ve kept the hammer-ons between the 5th and 7th frets of the G and D strings.

how to do hammer ons guitar

4. Pull Offs - How To Pull Off A Guitar String

A pull off is the reverse of a hammer on. Instead of starting with a lower note and hammering onto a higher note, we are now working from the higher note back. You will want to put both fingers in place ready then pick the higher note before “pulling off” to the lower finger.

If you just lift the finger up, the second note will note ring clear. It might sound quiet or muffled. To help the second note ring clear, give the pull off finger a slight downward flick as you take it off the string. This will essential re-pick the note with a fretting hand finger and give the string more energy.

Much like hammer ons, the aim is to get both notes consistent in volume. Take your time working on this and focus on getting the slight flick motion working. Try not to over flick the note as this will bend the note out of pitch.

how to do pull offs guitar string

5. How To Slide On A Guitar String

Slides are also a member of the legato family but are multi directional. A slide can go up or down in pitch.

Slides are played by picking a note, maintaining the fretting hand pressure and sliding the finger to your target note.

When working on slides, try not to apply too much pressure as this will cause your finger to drag. You also want to be mindful of not applying enough pressure as this can cause the note to drop off before you arrive at your target note.

In the video example, the slides to the 9th fret on the G are shown as not having a starting point. Slides can be used as a way to start a phrase without having a committed start point, you would just “slide into” a target note.

As these slides lead into 8th fret notes on the B string, I would recommend keeping these slides tight and maybe only starting 2 frets lower just to maintain the speedy feel.

how to slide on a guitar

About the Author & MGR Music

Leigh Fuge is a professional guitar player and tutor from Swansea in South Wales and a guitar writer having written and produced content for Guitar Magazine and many other high profile guitar publications and websites.

If you enjoyed this article and video, don’t forget to check out PMTVUK on Youtube for more guitar lesson videos.

Professional guidance can make all the difference to your development. Head over to mgrmusic.com and find a great teacher in your local area today. We have a great network of teachers around your local PMT stores including the ones in London, Nottingham and Portsmouth.

2 Comments on “5 Essential Guitar Techniques Every Guitarist Must Know”

  • Mike Parkin
    21st October 2019

    Very good video very informative, concise and easy to understand look forward to many more hopefully

    • Lee Glynn
      23rd October 2019

      We're glad you like it Mike!

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