#1
Many guitarists seeking to improve their playing reach roadblocks or plateaus, and post here looking for specific advice that only helps them with a certain part of their playing. I'm writing this as a guide to players, so that they may improve in every area of guitar playing, and there are many.

First off, the most important part of progress is good practice techniques. If you want to progress at a good pace, then you have to employ three things during your practice: Consistency, Accuracy, and Variety.

Consistency - Play the part right every time. It doesn't matter what tempo you set, Speed comes from Accuracy, and Accuracy comes from Consistency. Practicing for 15 minutes every day helps you retain a lot more information than practicing an hour and a half once a week. Play phrases over and over until it's completely perfect before you move on to another one

Accuracy - If you practice sloppily or too fast and miss notes, you are learning to be a sloppy player. A huge problem of guitarists is that they practice too fast. If you learn to play a lick correctly, and repeat it accurately, suddenly you'll find that playing it at a faster tempo cleanly is very easy.

Variety - A one trick pony guitarist is a boring guitarist. I don't care if you can sweep at 150 BPM, I care about your phrasing and variety of techniques. When you practice, practice a little bit of everything. For one it's refreshing to switch from palm muted riffs to finger picked arpeggios, and it gives the muscles you overuse a break, while working on the less used ones. Practice until all your techniques and styles are solid, and you'll be miles ahead of someone who practiced sweep picking for 3 years, yet still bends out of tune.

Techniques


There are plenty of techniques to learn, and each one adds certain flavor to notes. Once you've got the finger strength and dexterity to use them, the next step is to be able to use them all interchangeably and seamlessly in time in a practical musical situation, so you can pick and choose which flavors you want to add to your notes.

BASICS

Alternate Picking - Alternate Picking means picking with an upstroke, then a downstroke, etc. STRICTLY. The most effective way to practice this technique is repetition across all 6 strings. An easy example of this is to practice different patterns up and down the pentatonic scale. Practice with a metronome, and make sure each stroke has the same volume, tone and texture as the last.

Economy Picking - Economy Picking is similar to alternate picking, but with a small difference. With Economy Picking, each stroke is determined by the closest way to pick the next note. If you pick a note on the low E, then pick a note on the A string, you would pick downstroke - downstroke, instead of downstroke - upstroke like in alternate picking. Both styles work and have amazing players that use either, it's mostly preference. I myself economy pick because it uses better economy of motion.

Hammer-Ons - A hammer-on occurs when you use your fret hand fingers to slam down on a note above the one you are playing and cause it to ring - without picking it. Effective ways to practice this is by playing hammer-ons with each finger in different positions. Or hammering the same note with all 4 fingers alternating. Make sure your hammer-on has the same volume as the note before it. Many players neglect their pinky and their legato suffers as a result. Strengthen all 4 fingers equally

Pull-Offs - A Pull-off is like a hammer-on, only the note you are going to is lower than the current one. If you just lift your finger off, you may notice the note does not sound very strongly. The reason pull-offs are tricky is because you actually need to "pick" the string with the finger you are pulling off for the same volume. Same as hammer-ons, practice this technique with all 4 fingers until you can use them all interchangeably.

Slides - A slide occurs when you fret a note, and then without lifting your finger, moving it to another fret on the same string. I've found that when sliding to a note far away, look at where you want your finger to move to, and then move it there smoothly. It helps you build the muscle memory to slide to the right fret every time. Practice making the slide smooth and with the same volume.

Bends - It takes a long time to develop the muscles for bends. You want to bend using your wrist and the knuckles. Bending in tune is the most important part of bending. Practice bending up a step, and then playing that note normally until you get the right pitch every time. When you bend, place the finger you are bending with on the fret and then add other fingers behind it for extra strength. Practice bending with all four fingers, half step bends with the index, up and down. The most common fingers for bends are your index and ring fingers.

Vibrato - Bending a fretted note up and down to cause slight variations in pitch. Many guitarists overlook this technique, or don't practice it enough. Just like any other technique, you need to practice your vibrato. Vibrato is the most expressive technique to learn on guitar. You can make your vibrato wide, thin, fast, slow, or a combination of those. You can practice bending and vibrato simultaneously, as the same muscles are used. Adding vibrato to bent notes is also an effective way to practice. Good vibrato is what separates good players from great players.

Left Hand Muting - Developing your muting technique is absolutely essential. Unwanted string noise is the mark of an amateur player. At any given time, your index finger should be muting the string above it, and every string below it. For example, if you have your index on the A string, it should be touching the low E with it's tip, and also laying and touching, but not fretting, the D, G, B, and high E strings. If you can't seem to mute with your index because of certain licks, you can lay fingers that you aren't using on problem strings.

Right Hand Muting - Right hand muting is more difficult and involves more trial and error than left hand muting. Ideally, your palm, or the side of your palm, (the base of your thumb) will be muting every string above the one you are playing on. For example, if you are playing on the D string, your palm is touching the A and low E. Some players also use their middle and ring fingers to rest on strings above the one they are playing, but I find this unnecessary.

Tapping - While playing legato with your left hand, reach with your picking hand and hammer-on a note with your right middle finger. (Or index if you prefer - hold your pick against your palm with your thumb) This technique is easy to pick up, but be careful of string noise, good muting is needed to make it sound good.

Synchronizing your Hands - Ever find that your picking hand is always one step behind your fretting hand? Picking before you've got the note fretted? This means one of your hands is more developed than the other. To remedy this, play slowly and consistently and make sure you are fretting the note, and picking it at the exact same time, every time.

Tremolo Picking - The trick here is to be relaxed. the objective is to play the note as fast as possible in repetition, but what happened is players seize up their picking hand and use their forearm/elbow to tremolo pick. This causes inconsistencies and cramps. Tremolo picking comes from the wrist, and is relaxed. To practice this, pick as fast as you can while the notes are still all even. If notes are uneven or different volumes, play slower. Tremolo pick on each string for 2 minutes each string straight every day. This will not only improve your tremolo picking, but your right hand control in general by a large margin.

I'll edit Sweep Picking, string skipping, multi-finger tapping, octave bends, harmonics, etc. in later. Next part will be about practicing dynamics, variations of techniques

work in progress - feedback and questions are appreciated
#3
For beginners i might put tremelo picking before multi-string alt picking.

trem picking at slow / moderate tempos is a quicker way (IMO) to get comfortable and consistent with the wrist motions needed for alt picking.