The ultimate electric guitar technique set up guide – Part 2

What is the right electric guitar technique? Part 2: Playing Rhythm and Scales

Click here to read Part 1 of The Ultimate Electric Guitar Technique Set Up Guide first!

This is highly important for everything else of what I lay out here to work.

Let us start with some rhythm guitar things.

STRUMMING

The only thing I really want to point out here is that your arm has to be in a constant up and down motion, like the hand of a metronome. Always up – down – up – down to the beat.

It does not matter if you strum the strings or not – your arm keeps moving.

The only difference then between a strummed chord and a not strummed chord is the decision to lower your hand to the guitar so that you touch the strings or not.

In the video to this article is a good demonstration for this.

Picking Chords

For this to work really effortlessly it’s very helpful to learn the basics of sweep picking.

You don’t need to do sweep picking fast, but if you understand the principle and you can apply it decently, it will make picking chords in a single not fashion, much easier.

You can read about it a little further down in this article.

For me it all started to come together once I have gotten used to sweep picking.

Playing Clean Guitar was not an intimidating monster anymore.

Another important tenant is to learn how to control the motions of your picking hand.

That means trying to avoid excess motions and becoming really precise.

Practice a lot of inside picking (picking one each on two neighbor strings) while watching your picking hand closely and try to focus on efficiency and tension.

Tremolo Picking

Here I have something quite genius for you that I learned through the Breakthrough Guitar Lessons by Tom Hess.*

Literally had a big breakthrough thanks to this:

If you struggle to get your tremolo picking faster, practice it in short bursts, instead of playing as long as possible.

Two notes, up to 8 or even 16 notes bursts is all a valid exercise to improve your tremolo picking.

You simply put on a metronome and try to squeeze your chose amount of notes in between two beets.

This has helped me a lot to speed my tremolo picking up and get it to 800 notes per minute (16th notes at 200 bpm).

Palm Muting

For further reading head over to my article about string noise muting.

We can go on about all the technical things but there really is not that much to say.

You let the side of your hand rest on the guitar strings while strumming.

Done.

The part where it gets interesting is trying to achieve consistency with every mute and gain control over how much exactly you want to apply pressure on the strings for each stroke.

Especially since you will most likely not palm mute for a long time non-stop, but probably you have one open stroke for emphasis, then some palm muted strokes (just 2 or 3 sometimes) and then an open stroke again and palm muting again.

So those two sections after each open stroke should sound exactly the same.

It is not necessarily the amount of pressure that you apply to the strings, although that is an important factor.

What is also important is how much of the actively ringing string coming from the bridge part is covered by your hand.

It can be just a little bit, like a millimeter or it can go up to several centimeters of in-contact-string-length.

A great way to train this is to record your rhythm guitar playing on two tracks with different takes and then listen to one track panned all to the right and the other all panned to the left.

That will quickly point out the inconsistencies.

Electric Guitar Technique: Lead Guitar Playing

Playing Scales: Pentatonics

I really want to work against anyone who advocates for using the fingers that happen to be in position for the next fret.

What I mean by that is for example using the middle and the pinky finger for two notes, just because they happen to be free and “responsible” for that particular fret.

If you go by the idea of having one finger dedicated to every note in a fret, per scale.

Example:

2nd position, minor pentatonic.

Pentatonic scale for demonstrating the right electric guitar technique
Minor pentatonic scale – 2nd position

Imagine playing this scale shape starting on the 8th fret.

Common knowledge would say “ok start with the middle finger in the 8th fret, then pinky finger for the 10th fret,…” and so on.

I strong advocate against that.

Because with that approach you have zero flexibility and you are using the weakest finger combinations possible.

Nothing against training for stronger fingers but the combination Middle-Pinky will ALWAYS be weaker than the combination Index-Ring finger.

What I would do instead is get used to small position shifts, they are not that hard, and always use the strongest finger combination available.

In this case if you just play the scale from bottom to top, you would start with the index finger on the 8th fret, then ring finger for the 10th fret.

Now a small position shift to the 7th fret with the index finger and you use the pinky finger for the 10th fret.

For more example watch the video that comes along with this article.

Diatonic Scales

Here it finally gets REALLY interesting, because this will probably go against everything you have heard so far.

We will talk about a quite new way of FRETTING that is inspired by cello players, AND a new way of picking.

Fretting first.

Because I mentioned it first. Duh.

If you don’t now what diatonic scales are, read this article. And this one.

And anyway, read ALL articles I publish. They are very good.

I will introduce you to something magical that is called the 3-NOTES-PER-STRING-System.

The name is quite literally saying what it means.

You take a scale and you spread it out over the whole guitar neck with 3 notes on each string.

Here is a Major Scale in 3NPS:

Scale diagram major scale three notes per string

The first dot on the bottom left is a C if you start it on the 8th fret.

Now you start counting:

C D E

F G A

B C D

E F G

Simple idea right?

There are a LOT of reasons that you will encounter down the road that make this system simply beautiful.

It is easy to speed this up, it is compatible with everything else you will want to play, very easy to handle all over the fretboard.

“But how do I play that wide stretch there?”

I know this question will come up.

Here is how:

You do it like cello players. That is where I observed it with musicians, other than guitarist apply a similar technique.

Imagine all your fingers are lined up on neighbor frets.

Index finger on the 9th, middle finger on the 10th, ring finger on the 11th and pinky on the 12th.

Now all you do is don’t change any hand position but just move your index finger to the 8th fret. Voilà.

You now have the right position to play the wide fingering in 3NPS.

If you followed my posture advice, this should feel very easy for you.

I will go more into depth about the other positions and how to use this to play fast, in another next article soon.

If you don’t want to miss this, better get on the Email list!

Enough about fretting for now, let’s talk about picking this.

I promised you something going against the grain, right?

This is actually the complete opposite of going AGAINST the grain because you will pretty much always go WITH the grain:

Heard of alternating picking?

Good.

Now forget about it again.

A term coined by Tom Hess (I believe, if I am wrong, send me an Email, don’t want to steal somebody’s accolades) is:

DIRECTIONAL PICKING.

This is taking the best of alternating picking and “economy picking”.

The idea is again very straightforward:

You let the pick ALWAYS travel the shortest way to the next note, disregarding if you just made an up- or downstroke.

Here is a classical scale sequence to demonstrate this idea:

Scale sequence tablature and standard notation 3 notes per string major scale

That little bracket facing downwards means downstroke, that V means upstroke.

There is a lot of (invalid) criticism for this type of picking, if you want to be really informed about it, I suggest you simply try it for yourself for a few weeks.

It helped hundreds of guitar players, if not thousands by now.

I promise you, if you combine 3-notes-per-string scales with directional picking…

You will never want to go back, it’s that good.

In the next article we will talk about Arpeggios and Sweep Picking and then in the article after that we will talk about PHRASING! (THE most important thing and the most fun thing about guitar, if you ask me).

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