About technique development...
Pretty much everyone needs to develop their technique in order to execute the music that they wish to perform. It is no good having a great idea in your head and not be able to get it out, and you will probably find that there are many songs that you want to play but are not physically capable of yet.
Technique development is the physical development of your hands (and to some extent your body) so that you can play things that you want to play.
For demanding styles (like jazz and fast metal) it is essential to develop your technique to a high level, and then maintain it. Even if this is not your thing, it is a good idea to get your technical ability higher than you need it - so that it will sound easy and smooth when you play.
Why develop your technique?
I am not a fast guitar player. I can't play 1000 notes a second but I am still very interested in developing my technique to allow me to play new and interesting ideas or concepts that I find. To play very fast takes a lot of practice, a lot of repetition and a lot of focus. That is not my thing, but I can show you how ;)
I think it's important to develop your technique to a higher level than where you need (want) to play.
Lets assume that you want to play Dave Gilmore style solos. He doesn't play that fast, but it's really smooth and fluent. He's playing within his technical ability. If you are pushing your technique to the limit your playing will never sound smooth or cool, and you will make mistakes.
Better to be playing within your limits and sounding good, having the time to plan ahead a little and leave some gaps to let the music breath. Playing within your technical limits will let you work on more expressive outlets such as dynamics, touch and phrasing. These things are much more important than playing lots of notes in my humble opinion.
Remember too that the faster you go the further ahead you have to look!
That said, if you want to play full on metal, jazz or fusion, you should push yourself to the max or it will sound lame. One of the things I love about Jeff Beck’s playing is that he is always on the edge, about to fall off and you wonder if he will make it or not… he usually does pull it off, but not all the time. So the above discussion is aimed at the 'general player' not the technical monster!
The Three Golden Rules
There are three golden rules that I think are very important to adhere to if you are going to start developing your chops (guitarist slang word for technique).
• Practice the right thing.
Do not let yourself make any mistakes while working on technique. Do things very carefully, because there is no point in working a lot on developing a bad habit into a perfect bad habit!
• Start new things very slowly and only speed up when it's perfect.
Speed comes with time and a little help from a metronome, but fast runs must be played smoothly, accurately and clearly or they sound rubbish. The amazing thing about the really technical guitarists like Steve Vai or Eric Johnson is not just how fast they play but how cleanly they play. Slow it down to half or quarter speed and you can hear every note clearly - that is what you should be aiming for. Clarity.
• Keep all movements to an absolute minimum.
Try and keep all movements as small and accurate as possible. Try not to let your fingers fly too far away from the fingerboard, or to 'point away'. Also try and keep your picking under control using only the tip of the pick and not moving it too far from the string.
The Three Essential Technique Lessons
The following three exercises are very important in my opinion. I think they give a solid grounding for any further technique development in later stages, and have a good all round benefit for the majority of players. The Finger Gym is one that I have seen hundreds of students make drastic improvements after just a few weeks work on it (also had loads of emails praising this one). The Spider is quite a challenge (not good for beginners) and really works the alternate picking. And lastly scale picking works your speed development and hand co-ordination. All very important. 5 minutes on each of these every day would be a great start to a routine! You could easily spend more time if you have it to spare - see practice routines...
TE-001 • The Finger Gym
Going to the gym for your fingers! independence and strength. Suitable for all levels, from complete beginners to serious players. I think this is the most important technical exercise you can do for your playing.
TE-002 • The Spider
The ultimate alternate cross string picking exercise. Not good for beginners, but once you can play a few scales and starting to alternate pick, this exercise is the daddy :)
TE-003 • Scale Picking
Alternate picking your scales with a metronome for speed development. Suitable for all levels.
Other Common Technique Lessons
These are other techniques used in many styles that many people need to develop. Just read about each and see if it applies to you!
TE-004 • Minimum Movement
A really good way of keeping your fingers under control. Many people have issues with them lifting too far from the fingerboard... here is the solution.
TE-005 • String Bending
Technique and exercises to get your intonation spot on (getting your bends precisely in tune). String bending is an essential skill for many styles of guitar and is worth spending some time with to perfect.
TE-006 • Rolling Technique
No, in this lesson I am not going to teach you how to make a good spliff. This rolling technique is about how to move from one note to another when they are in the same fret but on different strings - quite a problem for many people.
TE-007 • Finger Stretching Exercise
If your fingers are not very flexible, or you have little stumps like me then check out this exercise and it is sure to help :)
TE-008 • Vibrato
A very common problem for intermediate players is getting their vibrato smooth and easy. In this lesson I will give you some tips on getting it sweet.
TE-009 • Bend Vibrato
Once you can do standard vibrato then you probably want to apply it to bends. Often people just wobble the note out of tune, here I will show you how to keep it in tune and get is sounding vocal.
TE-110 • Whole Arm Vibrato
This is the Clapton does vibrato and it's way cool fun and sounds great!
TE-111 • Bending Neck Vibrato
Wonderful technique for getting vibrator on your chords by bending the neck!!
Harmonics sound very interesting and can really add interest to solos and rhythm playing. They have a charm like effect, almost bell like and are used in many styles, from acoustic to metal!
TE-010 • How Harmonics Work
Before you get into trying to play them it is a good idea to understand how a harmonic is created. Bit more a science lesson than a guitar lesson but if you understand it then you will find all the following harmonic techniques easier.
TE-011 • Classical Harmonics
This is the traditional way to play the classical style but it is very relevent to modern acoustic styles and is the foundation for more complex ideas such as harp harmonics. You can do on electric guitar too and it sounds fat.
TE-012 • Pinch Harmonics
The high squealing sound created by rock musicians. Great for upsetting your neighbours or local cats, they are a quinessential rock metal technique.
TE-013 • Tapped Harmonics
A cool pretty modern technique of tapping 12 frets higher than the fretted note, giving a cool octave effect. Mostly used in rock but can be used in many different ways, even acoustics.
TE-014 • Harp Harmonics Intro
I totally love the sound of this. To be honest I have trouble using it as part of a song, but Tommy Emmanuel and Andy McKee seem to have no problems! Lots of fun, fun way to play about...
TE-015 • Screaming Harmonics
Made famous by Joe Satriani, using harmonics and a whammy bar can get you some crazy effects. Pick them fast and they sound cool too - useful rock technique.
TE-016 • Natural Harmonic Series
There are lots of harmonics that are "hidden" on the neck - those used to create the screaming harmonics. This a look at what the notes are that you can get with some distortion and volume!
Fingerstyle Technique LessonsYou can do these on acoustic and electric but they are still acoustic techniques - it's where they were born!
TE-021 • Folk Fingerstyle 1
This first installment of folk fingerstyle teaches you the basic patterns used in finger picking folk tunes in the style of Bob Dylan and co. It starts with fairly simple patterns that just use the thumb and the first two fingers.
TE-022 • Folk Fingerstyle 2
Part two develops the patterns learnt in part one and gets the ring finger into the action too! You should be able to make up some of your own pretty complex patterns once you have these basics down.
TE-310 • Melodic Percussive Fingerstyle
In this lesson we check out how to play fingerstyle and addd in percussive elements and strumming, all mixed together. Great for picking out melodies and adding interest to your rhythm parts!
Singing and playing at the same time
TE-401 • Singing And Playing At The Same Time
By popular demand, I finally organised all the tips and tricks I been using over the years into a 10 Step Method of learning to play guitar and sing at the same time!