That’s right, folks, it’s International Guitar Month! Since 1987, April has been a month for music lovers to recognize the glorious contributions artists have made using our favorite six-stringed (sometimes seven or eight-stringed) instrument. Some of you might be thinking, “Well this is convenient, I celebrate the guitar every single day!” If that’s something that has crossed your mind, then you’ve come to the right place!
Antonio de Torres, a luthier from Spain, designed the first modern guitar in the mid-1800s. Since then, the instrument has taken on many different forms, and inspired many different methods of playing. Some of these methods are even unique to guitar playing. So, we’re going to show you some of the most important techniques you can use to play the guitar. Pick up your axe, and strum along with us!
1. String Bending – Corey Congilio
If you have ever heard someone play blues guitar, you’ve undoubtedly heard them bend a string or two. String bending is one of the most expressive techniques a player can use when playing their axe. Mimicking the way a human voice can slide between pitches, string bends can help you bring a vocal quality to your guitar playing!
2. Slide – Andy Aledort
Similarly to string bending, slide is a method of gliding (glissando, for those who love the orchestra) between notes in order to add a vocal texture to our playing. A smooth covering is typically placed on the either the ring or pinky finger of the fretting hand, and this is used to “finger” the notes instead of the frets themselves. The covering itself comes in several different materials, each of which lends to a slightly different sound. In this lesson, Andy Aledort uses a small glass bottle as a slide!
3. Hammer-ons & Pull-offs – Vicki Genfan
Hammer-ons and pull-offs are two closely related techniques that are unique to stringed instruments. Hammering on refers to using a fretting hand finger to forcefully and suddenly land on a string behind a fret to cause a note to play. The opposite of this is pulling off, which occurs when a fretting hand finger that is sustaining a note is pulled off the string. This allows a lower note on the string to ring out. In this lesson, Vicki Genfan shows us how we can apply these techniques in our acoustic guitar playing!
4. Tapping – Chris Buono
Tapping is a method of playing that takes hammer-ons and pull-offs to the next level. Instead of only incorporating the fretting hand, the strumming hand is also used to apply hammer-ons and pull-offs. Try out this tapping practice session with Chris Buono!
5. Fingerstyle – Andy McKee
Beyond strumming and tapping, there is one other primary method of striking notes on a guitar: plucking! In the guitar community, this is called fingerstyle. The fingerstyle technique requires a player to use their strumming hand’s fingers to pluck individual strings. Some guitar players, like Andy McKee, Tommy Emmanuel, and the legendary Chet Atkins, made names for themselves employing this style. Watch Andy McKee break down a syncopated fingerstyle rhythm!
6. Harmonics – Muriel Anderson
In music, we use “harmonics” to describe sound waves at frequencies above an original signal. But on stringed instruments, we can isolate those harmonics to produce notes with markedly different colors. In this lesson, Muriel Anderson shows how natural harmonics, as well as “artificial” harmonics can be weaved into a fingerstyle etude!
7. Electric Expressions – Andy Timmons
Our last technique showcases the power of of the electric guitar, which was first developed in 1932 by George Beauchamp and Adolph Rickenbacker. With all of sonic artifacts that one is able to produce with an electric guitar, it was only a matter of time before artists began leveraging them in their playing. In this lesson, Andy Timmons shows how we can use an electric guitar to imitate a “wail” type of sound that was a favorite of the late Jimi Hendrix’s.
Here at TrueFire, it’s a daily ritual to celebrate the guitar and all of the musical innovations it has inspired. How will you be celebrating International Guitar Month?