5 New Guitar Skills to Develop in 2018

I've already met a bunch of new guitarists who've made New Year resolutions to learn to play, which is awesome!

But what about all of you guys who can already play? What should you focus on for guitar for 2018?

Here's 5 techniques which I love working on, no matter what I'm doing with my music professionally, that you can try to master this year!

As an added bonus, I'm giving you a few songs that use each of the techniques to get you started.


#1 Tremolo Picking

The only people who don't like playing fast are those who can't play fast. 

Playing fast is fun! Yes, it's not always the most appropriate skill if you're playing a slow ballad or a sombre, moody piece, but tremolo picking can be a great little way to embellish a phrase or a section of a song without musically changing very much.

Esoteric Surgery by Gojira is an awesome example of the power of tremolo picking.

It's an easy technique to practice, but it does take time (and a bit of discipline) to master.

Start slow, with a metronome, playing a few simple patterns or exercises. These could be scales, random notes; whatever you want. 

Get it to the speed where it starts to fall apart, where the rhythm is lost and it 'feels' off, and dial it back a bit. That's your target speed to beat each day.

Remember tremolo picking can be done with fingers too for you classical players - in my opinion, it's much harder, but just as rewarding to master.


#2 Power Chords and Palm Muting

I'm lumping these two together because palm muting is fun, but palm muting with big, distorted power chords is amazing.

You can do it with drop tunings and just barre, or you can stick to standard tuning (or any variation of that like D Standard, C# Standard). 

Symphony of Destruction by Megadeth has a great little palm muted break in between big power chords.

Don't assume this is just an electric guitar technique, though. There are heaps of great acoustic songs that use palm muted power chords too.


#3 Lead Guitar Improv

Improvising (or soloing, as we often call it) is a core skill of any musician. Being able to just make something up is extremely rewarding and can help you get through plenty of challenging songs, techniques or situations without breaking a sweat.

This is the easiest thing in the world to practice, but something I feel you can never truly master - after all, it's creativity manifest.

  1. Pick a scale, and practice it until you know it inside out.
  2. Put on a backing track in a particular key, and just start making up some melodies!

Ideally, you should record yourself as you go, then try and play back any phrases you thought sounded really good, but even the act of just jamming over songs will develop so many of your guitar techniques together.

Some of these backing tracks are pretty cheesy, but they are long, stick to one key and are simple to solo over.

#4 Pinched harmonics

Squeals! Pinched harmonics are so much fun once you can get them....but until you can, they are super frustrating because they sound horrible.

You'll need an electric guitar and a high gain amp to really pull this one off (though I enjoy playing quiet pinched harmonics on the acoustic for practice), but you only need to try it for 5 minutes per day to begin with.

Once you can get it to work, 3-5 times in a row, you can move on to playing harmonics in riffs, scales, solos...whatever you'd like!

The quintessential squealer, Dimebag Darrel from Pantera, has some great riffs to introduce yourself to pinched harmonics.

#5 Listening

The one skill every musician needs to work on more than they do. 

The best way to practice listening is in group environments, where you can respond to what other musicians are playing, but you can develop similar skills by listening to songs and trying to identify key elements like:

  • The key
  • The notes
  • The chords
  • The time signature
  • Each instrument

If you want to get into audio engineer territory, start listening for what frequencies are being played. If you want to get super nerdy, try picking out which guitars or amps are being played!

I would recommend combining listening with any of your other skills or techniques, so what you listen to is up to you.

But hey, I released an album last year, so why not listen to that?

So there you have it - 5 techniques you can get stuck into for 2018. 

My only advice is to focus on a couple of techniques for guitar mastery, not everything at once so you don't get too overwhelmed, but ultimately, it's your guitar time.

Take ownership of it and become the guitarist you want to be!