Musical Equipment – Electric guitars guide
I’ve covered the most common techniques used in lead playing, and those are the ones you absolutely have to master when learning how to play electric guitar as a solo instrument, but there are other, more advanced techniques that you might like to look at as well. I must warn you that these can take a lot of practice to get to grips with, and their applications are more limited than the techniques discussed above, but they will set you apart from other guitarists if you do take the time to master them. The first of these is tapping. Tapping is an extension of the legato technique looked at earlier, but this time you use fingers of the right hand to hammer-on, or ‘tap’, notes that the left hand can’t reach. In its simplest form only one right hand finger is used, and often it just taps repeating three or four note patterns at very fast speeds. This technique does produce some very impressive results, and with a little practice it’s actually quite easy to master.
This simple, one finger, tapping technique is just the beginning though. Taken to it’s logical extreme you can use all four fingers of your right hand to tap, in what’s called ‘8 finger tapping’. In practice, 8 finger tapping often uses only 7 fingers, as the first finger of the right hand keeps hold of the pick to allow easy transition between techniques. Using this technique enables players to play things that would otherwise be impossible, like full scale single string legato runs, large intervals, and very fast arpeggios. The principles of right hand tapping are the same as those for left hand hammer-ons and pull-offs. As I’m sure you’ll appreciate, to get really good at this will take a long time, and a lot of practice and, with its limited application, only players who are really serious about learning how to play electric guitar tend to worry about it.
Another advanced technique, one with perhaps more application, and certainly more common, is sweep picking. Sweep picking is used as a more efficient way of moving the pick from one string to another, particularly when you are only playing one note on each string, such as when playing arpeggios. The technique itself is quite simple, but it takes a lot of practice to master it. It involves playing successive strings using all downstrokes, or all upstrokes, depending on which direction you are going, in a ‘sweeping’ motion, similar to strumming. The key is in maintaining control of the timing of each note played with the picking hand, whilst making sure only one note at a time is being heard by careful muting with the fretting hand. Once mastered, this technique will allow you to play amazingly fast arpeggios with ease, but when done badly it can sound terrible, so you really have to practice this technique before attempting to use it in your playing. It can also be used when playing scales or runs when changing between strings – in this case it is often called ‘economy picking’. When learning how to play electric guitar as a lead instrument many people leave sweep picking till late on, as it is very hard to master, but I would advise anyone who is serious about their playing to try and tackle it early on, for precisely the same reason. It’s definitely a technique worth having.