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Essential Electric Guitar Techniques

To put these electric guitar techniques to use, you need an amp or effects pedal that can beef up your tone with some gain or distortion. This is more a rock orientated lesson, as the other lessons in the rhythm guitar section cover more general techniques.

Below are some "quick fix" techniques that you can inject into your own riffs as and when you need.

Electric Guitar Techniques - Open Position Powerchords

Open position chords are often the first chords you learn, but with distortion or gain, you'll find major or minor chords (and their modifications) can sound kind of muddy. This is because the note responsible for the chord being major or minor (the 3rd) is not as harmonically stable as the other more neutral tones.

To get cleaner sounding, more defined open chords you can use open power chords that block out the 3rd. Below are the 4 open position chords with the major or minor note omitted...

open power chord shapes

The X marks the blocked out string that would usually be there for a regular major or minor chord. The result is smoother and clearer sounding chord changes...

Click to hear

Floating chord shapes

Another common electric guitar technique is to start in a regular chord shape and move part of that shape up (or down) the fretboard, in scale.

If you start with an A power chord, for example, you can keep the open root note string of A the same while you move part of the shape around and experiment with maybe just two strings up the fretboard...

Very simple, but effective, and by grounding the root note while you're moving around the fretboard, you're creating a very different sounding progression to the usual moving everything in unison.

Click to hear

You're free then to add some lead guitar fills within that key - good if you're the only guitarist in the band or just practicing on your own!

Electric Guitar Techniques - Mixing it Up

Rhythm guitar and rock aren't all about big power chords and chunky riffs. You should also consider the use of single notes, single strings to create a harmony through your progressions.

Simple lead guitar fills between the chords can act as melodic links between the chords.

Take a listen to the sample below and take note of how the single string phrases link up the powerchords...

Click to hear

So try and play around with simple lead guitar fills to liven up your riffs (and use alternate picking for the single-string parts!). There aren't really any "rules" for that, apart from perhaps knowing your scales so it'll all fit into a particular key. However, don't be afraid to venture outside regular scales - move around the fretboard and inject some interesting rhythms. The single string phrases can add some "groove" as mini-interludes, just like in the example above.

Electric Guitar Techniques - Double Stop Powerchords

This is crossing over into lead guitar, but this style of playing would be a useful addition to those fills we've been talking about.

The most basic chord possible, a power chord, consists of the root and fifth notes. If you barre your fingers vertically across just two strings as shown in the diagram below, you get a sharp, punchy playing effect that really compliments rock and blues styles...

So you would almost play this like a lead guitar riff, using all your fingers where necessary but fretting two strings instead of one.

Click to hear

Index and ring fingers are most commonly used for such riffs, you just have to make sure you don't hit 3 strings by accident by learning to apply the right amount of fretting pressure.

More Intricate Playing Techniques

The examples above have all been very defined ways of playing, but there are ways to get more intricate with your distorted riffs without sounding like a wall of noise.

Arpeggios can be used (a method of playing each note in a chord separately) and this will be covered more in the lead guitar section, but in the example below you'll see how simple arpeggios can fit into a riff nicely.

Click to hear

The use of actual chords in that example is minimal. Instead, to create a different musical effect we've used simple arpeggios and one-string-at-a-time playing to get the harmony across.

Hope you had fun... and learned something!

So there are some classic electric guitar techniques for you to experiment around with. Hope you got something valuable out of this!

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