The guitar is an amazing instrument capable of a range of sounds and musical textures on its own. Paired with someone who knows how to play, and who has a few guitar tricks under his belt, the guitar becomes a formidable musical force. Here are some of the coolest guitar tricks around. Add a few to your arsenal for maximum musical effect.
Here’s a basic tuning trick. Most guitar players probably use electronic or digital tuners these days, but for those times when you find yourself needing to tune without a digital tuner on hand, instead of the standard method of fretting the fifth fret and tuning to the open string (fourth fret/open on the third string), try tuning with harmonics instead. The sound is more pure and easier to hear once you get used to it. Take a look at the illustration below to see how to tune using this method. All you have to do to make a harmonic is place your finger lightly on a string and lift your finger away just as you pluck the string. Tune this way similar to the way you tune using the standard method.
Harmonics are always a great way to spruce up solos and have been used stylistically by numerous players, including Ace Frehley of KISS and, to a much greater degree, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top. Listen to the opening of the song “Barracuda” by Heart to hear twelfth fret harmonics between the chugging opening riff (achieved by placing one finger lightly on top of all of the strings at the twelfth fret and lifting it as you strum). Check out the notation for the opening riff of “Barracuda” and note the diamond heads on the notes at the twelfth fret. These indicate the harmonics. There are two types of harmonics, natural (those produced by simply tapping a string to produce the note) and pinched (squeezing the note out by flicking your pick against the string to force the harmonic note).
Tapping notes with your strumming hand (or using fingers or pick) while still playing notes with your normal fretboard hand is a trick brought to major attention by Eddie Van Halen in the 70s and has since been used by an army of rock and metal musicians. While this way of playing is primarily for show, it does facilitate the ability to play more notes and can give the impression of virtuosity once you’ve mastered that.
Octave skipping and tremolo picking are two guitar techniques that can make your playing sound more advanced than it really is. Tremolo picking involves picking a series of notes (each note gets at least two picks) as quickly and smoothly as possible. Moved around the neck of the guitar, tremolo picking can make even the simplest group of notes sound like a complex solo. Octave skipping (or string skipping) is a neat technique that involves playing on non-adjacent strings. This is a killer trick you can use in solos or even rhythmically to add some color to your playing. The concept is simple, but the results produced are very complex sounding.
There are way too many techniques and tricks to put into one article, and it seems new tricks are being developed every day. One thing is certain, adding a few of these moves to your bag of tricks can take your playing to another level.