Learn How to Play Electric Guitar
Learning how to play electric guitar can be a challenging, yet very rewarding thing to do. It can be fairly easy to pick up the basics, though, and actually, with the right guidance, you could be playing some of your favourite songs in next to no time. To fully master the instrument, however, can take years of practice and dedication; indeed, it can take an entire lifetime. How far you want to take it is up to you. In this article, I’m going to discuss some of the key things you’ll have to know if you want to learn how to play electric guitar, and cover some of the techniques that are used by professional guitarists.
The electric guitar is a very versatile instrument, and it can be heard in many different styles of music. Whatever the type of music, though, broadly speaking the electric guitar will usually fulfill one of two roles – either that of an accompaniment or rhythm instrument or that of a solo or lead instrument. First of all, then, I’ll explain briefly how to play electric guitar effectively as a rhythm instrument, to accompany a solo voice or lead instrument.
The rhythm guitar forms part of the rhythm section of a band, usually along with the drums and bass guitar. The role of the rhythm section is to provide a backing over which the lead instruments or voices can be played or sung. Because of this, it is very important for all instruments in the rhythm section to play together in perfect time, in order to keep a steady tempo to what is being played. If you hear a band with a good, tight, rhythm section, it’s a sure sign that they are very competent musicians, whereas one of the biggest giveaways of an amateur band is sloppy timing amongst its rhythm players. To achieve good timing when learning how to play electric guitar you should always use a metronome when practicing. This will make you sound much more professional when you come to play in a band.
You’ll find that in a lot of music, the role of the rhythm guitar is primarily to play chords in a rhythmic pattern so, for this reason, learning as many chords as possible, and being able to change between them fluently is an essential part of learning how to play electric guitar. You’ll need to learn different strumming patterns and rhythms as well as the chords themselves, but strumming is not the only way chords can be played. Individual notes of the chord can also be picked, one at a time, either with the fingers or a pick, as arpeggios, or broken chords. This is another very common thing to hear rhythm guitarists playing. It is a lot more difficult than simply strumming in time, so will require a lot of practice. Care should be taken to play all the notes cleanly and evenly, and in time, in order to sound professional.
But there is more to rhythm guitar than just chords and arpeggios. Another common type of rhythm guitar playing involves the use of power chords, particularly in rock music. A power chord is basically a two-note chord containing just the root note and the perfect fifth. Sometimes the octave is added to fatten it up, and there are variations whereby the fifth may be diminished or augmented for example. Power chords are usually played with some amount of distortion and are often moved around the neck in quite fast sequences. It is best to play power chords using down strokes and palm muting to keep it sounding tight. Anyone learning how to play electric guitar should spend time practicing power chords cleanly and rhythmically, in time to a metronome, as a lot of guitar music relies heavily upon their use.
Another important aspect of playing rhythm guitar is learning how to play riffs. A riff is a repeating melodic pattern, chord progression, or refrain which makes up the basis of a composition. Although they can be used in any genre of music, they most commonly appear in rock music. They can be very simple – just a few repeated notes – or very complex and fast, as might be heard on heavy metal records. They can be one of the most technical sides to rhythm guitar playing and, therefore, it’s important that you get to grips with playing riffs early on when learning how to play electric guitar, so that you become comfortable and confident incorporating them into your playing.
So that explains a bit about rhythm guitar, but what about electric guitar as a solo or lead instrument. Thanks to the vast array of sounds, and the expressive timbre that the electric guitar possesses, it is perfectly suited to this role. Learning how to play electric guitar as a lead instrument is one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling aspects of guitar learning, as it allows you to truly express yourself as a musician. Mastering lead guitar, though, will require you to become proficient in a number of specialist techniques, as well as gaining a thorough knowledge of scales and theory. Let’s take a brief look at some of these techniques.
Most of the time, lead guitar consists of single note melodies, runs, and licks, so it is vital when learning how to play electric guitar as a solo instrument, to master the art of picking correctly. In order to pick cleanly and accurately, you should hold your pick close to the tip, so that only a small part of it touches the strings. This will give you more control when you pick. Try to keep all movements as small as possible, and don’t allow your picking hand to become tense. The actual motion for picking should come from the wrist, not the elbow or fingers. As with all guitar practice, picking should be practiced with a metronome, and you should pay attention to the dynamics of the notes as well – try to play all notes at consistent velocities.