5 Techniques to Level Up Your Playing

Published on 25 November 2020

There's been plenty of time for practice this year and we've spent countless hours catching up with our favourite online teachers learning some new tricks. It doesn't matter how long you've been playing, there's always an area that you can improve. If you can't think of one, even better - that means it's time to move onto something new. Now, learning your favourite tracks is always a great shout but sometimes it helps to stick to technique alone and really focus on trying something different. So, we've put together 5 techniques from some of our favourite online teachers that are seriously fun and can totally transform your playing. Let's dive in, shall we?

Hybrid Picking

Straight off the bat, we're going country on y'all! This isn't an easy one to learn but as soon as you get it dialled in, muscle memory takes over and you'll be rocking. Hybrid picking is prominent in country music as you'll hear from Corey in this lesson but it can be applied to a load of different musical styles and is a great way to step up strength and precision in your picking hand. It's widely used in metal and shred playing for lightning-fast licks so don't worry, it ain't all about the twang. This lesson breaks it down step by step to show you how to build up speed and movement over time. Have a go and don't worry, it gets easier - we promise. 

Vibrato & Bends

This next tip comes from Mr Blues Power himself, the man, the myth, the legend, Jared James Nichols. The dude is a straight up master in blues-rock and was good enough to share some of his techniques with us when he visited our Glasgow store last year. We figured there was no one better to teach you about the art of expressive playing using vibrato and bends. This technique is a massive part of what makes JJN stand out from the crowd and by pairing them with his fingerpicking technique, the control over each note allows him to really make his axe sing. In this video, he discusses how he uses vibrato to break up his solos and to add a new dimension to his riffs. Get plugged in and practising, that type of feel doesn't come easily but once you spend some time working on your vibrato it'll become an essential part of your playing that you can put your own spin and style on. 

Gallop Picking 

Who better to learn machine gun riffs from than the brain behind Solar guitars!? Ola Englund is as metal as they come and his tutorial videos are a great resource for learning the heavier side of the guitar. Gallop Picking is an absolutely key metal technique that's rampant throughout the genre (and many of its seemingly endless subgenres!). This sounds as though it should be easy but trust us - unless you have forearms like Arnie, or indeed James Hetfield, it's pretty tough - and even tougher to nail consistently throughout a full track. Gallop Picking takes a ton of time and dedication but it's one of the most powerful, driving and totally brutal techniques you can learn. Go on, embrace your inner metalhead and have a spin, we'd LOVE to hear how you get on with this one!


Okay, taking things way back from Gallop Picking, we're going to look at a really cool acoustic technique with Molly Tuttle. Molly is a killer when it comes to acoustic picking but this one is a little different so we reckoned it'd be fun for you to try out. Clawhammer was adapted from banjo playing and adds a really interesting rhythm to your playing, particularly for solo players who want to add an extra voice to their acoustic. Much like Gallop Picking (believe it or not...), this technique is one that won't come naturally but once you get into the swing of it can be applied to almost anything. This isn't a type of playing we often see so if you get it locked in it'll really help you stand out. The key is in creating a rhythm between your strumming fingers and thumb which will feel a little odd at first. Stick with it though, this is a proper cool one. 

Hammer Ons and Pull Offs

So here we are - hammer ons and pull offs. Everyone has had a spin at doing their best Paul Gilbert impression widdling away with these but there's often just something missing. A lot of the time this is simply timing and finger strength but this legato workout is a great way to train yourself to keep them sounding smooth and tight, without losing timing or control. Whether you fancy trying your hand at shredding, improving your solos or just adding a little speed to your licks, solid hammer ons and pull offs should be a weapon in every guitarist's arsenal. This workout may well leave you with a cramped up claw for a hand but if you stick with the techniques and practice then we can pretty much promise it'll help your playing sound way more professional. Even if you're a rhythm player, this is still something you want to have down so spend a little time dialling it in, it'll pay off!

Final Thoughts

This list could've gone on and on, so follow your nose and see where that glorious YouTube rabbit hole takes you next. It can seem a little boring to sit and learn a technique but when you've got an expert in front of you breaking it down, you'll quickly get wrapped up in it and rise to the challenge. The internet is an incredible resource with tutorials on pretty much anything you'd dare to think of -  do some exploring and put in a few shifts at practising - you'll thank us later! Drop a comment and let us know how you got on!

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