Discover 9 advanced guitar techniques that will take your playing to the next level. These techniques will help you unlock your full potential and become a true guitar virtuoso.
I love advanced guitar techniques.
They’ve made me push myself on the guitar, and they’ve given me technical freedom to compose and improvise at a level I once dream of.
And I have good news for you:
Advanced guitar techniques aren’t too hard. There’s one key to getting them down:
High-quality practice. If you want to learn an advanced guitar technique, you need to practice them the right way, and you need to do it consistently. This is easiest to do with a private guitar teacher or with reputable YouTube Guitar Teachers.
With that out of the way, let’s check out these advanced guitar techniques.
Table of Contents
Selective picking is a modern, advanced guitar technique invented by Tosin Abasi from Animals As Leaders.
Selective picking combines alternate picking, hybrid picking, and hammer-ons from nowhere. Oftentimes the picking is palm muted.
From what I hear in Tosin Abasi’s playing, and from what he’s said about selective picking, it seems that the technique is a solution to “dynamic” control.
If you don’t know, dynamics refer to how loud or soft a note is. With selective picking, you have complete control over the type of sound a note is going to have.
It really makes you think about which notes need to be picked, muted, and hammered-on.
Hybrid picking is a technique that combines both pick and fingers (usually middle and ring) to pluck the strings.
You’ll use the pick for some strings and fingers for others simultaneously, allowing for access to notes that you may struggle to play with alternate picking, and for more control over the sound of your chords and single notes.
For example, hybrid picking a 4-string chord will sound a lot different than strumming it.
Here are some hybrid picking licks that can help you practice the technique.
String skipping on the guitar is a technique where you intentionally skip one or more adjacent strings while playing.
It’s especially useful for guitar licks and arpeggios with wide interval structures, such as triads using 3 notes-per-string.
For example, Guthrie Govan uses string skipping to play his famous arpeggios from his song “Wonderful Slippery Thing”.
The harmonic structure of the arpeggio is simple, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to play!
Here are some of my favorite string skipping licks. Give them a try.
Economy picking, sometimes called directional picking, is the name of the picking technique used when moving from one string to another string with the same pick stroke (down → down or up → up). This allows you to follow the economy of motion, which is why the technique is called economy picking.
This is different from alternate picking, because alternate picking moves to the next string with the opposite pick stroke (down → up or up → down).
Frank Gambale is cited as the inventor of economy picking, and his phrasing set the gold standard for practicing the technique.
You can learn more about economy picking with my economy picking licks lesson.
Sweep picking on the guitar is a technique where the player uses a continuous picking motion across multiple strings in a single direction (up or down).
This is generally used to play arpeggios, especially common CAGED triad arpeggio shapes.
Jason Becker’s “Serrana” is a great showcase for sweep picking.
Harp or tapped harmonics
Harp and tapped harmonics are a technique where you’ll lightly touch the strings/frets at specific “harmonic nodes”, producing a bell-like chime while picking the strings.
To play a harp harmonic, fret a note with the fretting hand, such as the 2nd fret G. Then, using your picking hand, lightly place your index finger on the fret that’s one octave higher (at the 14th fret), and use your thumb to pluck the string. This will result in the “harp harmonic”.
To play a tapped harmonic, fret the same note as fretted in the previous example, the 2nd fret G. Then simply tap the fret itself that’s one octave higher, at the 14th fret. Don’t tap on the fretboard itself; tap the actual fret (the metal part). This is much easier to see in a video, which is shown below.
Tommy Emmanuel shows off harp harmonics at the beginning of this Somewhere Over The Rainbow playthrough.
And here’s a great lesson video showing you how to do tapped harmonics, using Eddie Van Halen’s tunes as the example.
8-finger tapping on the guitar is an advanced technique where both hands are used to tap the fretboard, allowing for the simultaneous use of all eight fingers (four on each hand) allowing you to play advanced phrases that would otherwise be very difficult or inaccessible without the technique.
Noteworthy 8-finger tappers include:
- Stanley Jordan
- TJ Helmerich
- Sarah Longfield
- Tosin Abasi
Buckethead’s 8-finger tapping technique has its own name: “Nubbing”.
This video shows off his nubbing technique. You can see it at the 1:16 mark: Figure 5.
Galloping (Meshuggah Style)
Galloping on guitar is a rhythmic picking technique where the guitarist plays a series of quick down-up-down picking strokes. It’s one of the most common rock and heavy metal techniques.
Sometimes there’s an additional downstroke to start the gallop, resulting in: down down-up-down.
This is arguably one of the most advanced guitar techniques, and is difficult to do for long periods of time.
“Bleed” by Meshuggah is a popular, and epic example of advanced galloping.
“Tremolo flutters” on the guitar refer to a rapid “flutter” or “gargle” with the whammy bar.
This happens when you, the player, quickly pull the tremolo bar backwards or forwards, creating the fluttering sound.
The fluttering sound is not possible to play without a whammy bar, which makes it a unique technique for your compositional and improvisational arsenal.
Fluttering is the first technique that you’ll here in this lesson video by John Petrucci. He explains the technique really well at around the 0:46 mark.
Advanced Guitar Techniques Summary
The 9 advanced guitar techniques you covered were:
- Selective Picking
- Hybrid Picking
- String Skipping
- Economy Picking
- Sweep Picking
- Harp or tapped harmonics
- 8-finger tapping
- Galloping (Meshuggah Style)
- Tremolo gargles
Practice the advanced guitar techniques that align with your overall guitar playing and musical goals. Don’t just learn a technique because everyone else is using it.
I personally think that hybrid picking is one of the most underutilized techniques.
I also believe that sweep picking, in the way that most guitar players think about it, especially in metal guitar, is the most overrated guitar technique.
Now, go and practice these techniques!
I’ll catch you in the next guitar lesson!