How to Get the Spark Back Into Your Acoustic Guitar Playing With These 3 Killer Techniques - Part 2

Here are 3 more very cool and creative ways in which you can play your guitar.

Ultimate Guitar
In the first part of this article on how to play your acoustic guitar more creatively, I presented to you two cool and unique approaches you can use in your acoustic guitar playing. I am now going to run you through 3 more very cool and creative ways in which you can play your guitar. 

Don't try and master these techniques and approaches all at once. Take your time, and explore each, one at a time. There is much to be gained in doing so regarding your creativity and progress on the guitar.

Using Open Strings

The open string is generally underused in most guitarist's playing. Perhaps due to its simplicity, it gets over looked most times outside of chords, riffs, and melodies in the open position on the guitar. The open string however has huge potential to drastically increase your creativity on the guitar.

Here is an example starting with a typical G Major scale:

If we take each note in the scale above that could be played as an open string, and play it as an open string, the result would be this:

What a difference in sound the resonating open strings make against the fretted notes in the scale. Just be sure the notes you replace with open strings are in the same octave, or are unison to that open string. This approach will turn your acoustic guitar playing on it's head in all sorts of great and creative ways.

Some Ways in Which You Can Create With Open Strings on Your Acoustic Guitar

1. Create similar scales with C, A, E, and D. These keys generally work best as they contain enough open string notes in them. 

2. Take any existing melody or riff you know, that has enough open string notes in it, and play it using these open strings where you can. Don't just limit yourself to scales with this approach. They are just the beginning. You will totally transform the licks you play on your acoustic with this approach. 

3. Move the licks and melodies you learn with this approach through the keys mentioned above. Because you are using open strings, they will work out and sound different each time. 

Changing Things Up With a Capo

A capo is a tool that allows you to change key on your guitar instantly while still playing the same chord shapes. Basically, you remain in the open position wherever you place the capo on the neck of the guitar, and is why you are able to predominantly use open chords whatever key you are in.

It might help to think of the capo as a moveable nut. Another way is to think of it as your index finger when barring chords, as it does the same job that the capo does.

For example, you can play an F chord on your guitar using the root 6 bar chord form at the 1st fret. However, if you place the capo on the 1st fret of your guitar you will now be able to play an open E chord and get the same sound.

Why is this?

By clamping the capo down at the 1st fret, everything is raised by one semitone. So you are fretting an open E chord form, but due to the capo being at the 1st fret, this is raised a semitone to sound as an F chord.

The capo is an essential stylistic tool for the acoustic guitarist. It allows you to do things in certain keys that you just can't do without it.

Some Ways in Which You Can Create With the Capo on Your Acoustic Guitar

1. Take a song you know on guitar that uses mostly bar chords and capo at a position that allows you to play the same song, in the same key, only now with open chords. 

For the key of Eb major, experiment by placing your capo at either of the following fret positions: 1st, 3rd, 6th, or 8th

For the key of Ab major, experiment by placing your capo at either of the following fret positions: 1st, 4th, 6th, or 8th

These positions will allow you to use mostly open chords in these keys, even though without the capo you wouldn't be able to use any at all. You can now take advantage of things such as chord embellishments that would not have been possible without the capo.

2. Use a capo with the open string ideas that we touched on above. The capo is all about being able to maintain the use of open chords and open strings so it goes hand in hand with this approach. Simply move your capo around to various positions on the neck, so you can play your open string riffs and melodies in any key without needing to change a thing. 

3. Use your capo with a song that already has mostly open chords in it. Providing that you put the capo in an appropriate spot, this will give you a new set of open chords to play the same song. Using different open chords will give you a different sound and different possibilities. Definitely worth experimenting with this approach.

Playing Your Acoustic Guitar Percussively

An increasingly popular way to play your acoustic guitar these days is percussively. It's a wooden box after all, so why not.

When you get into this style, even if you only learn some basics, you will wonder why you never thought of playing your guitar like this before. It's heaps of fun, and the potential of what you can do with this approach is massive! You'll never look at your acoustic guitar the same way again.

The great news is you don't have to practice playing your guitar percussively for years before sounding any good. Focusing on some fundamentals will have you up and playing this way in no time at all.

Here is an example to start doing exactly that:

In the example above I am using the side of my thumb to hit the lower area of the sound board of the guitar, just below the bridge (see picture for reference). This is indicated in the drum notation with "B.T." (bass hit with thumb). Think of this as a kick drum sound and be sure to keep your wrist nice and relaxed. It is making a flicking motion as your thumb hits the body of the guitar. 

To get the snare sound, simply tap or rap the side of your guitar just below the strap lock with two fingers of your picking hand (see picture for reference). I like to use my 3rd and 4th fingers for this, but you could use your 2nd and 3rd if you prefer. The snare is indicated with an "S" in the drum notation. You are after a higher pitched sound when executing this move to emulate a snare or rimshot. Be very patient as it can take a little practice to get this sound consistently.

Some Ways to Make Percussive Guitar Part of Your Acoustic Playing

1. Be patient and spend a little time perfecting both the kick drum and snare sounds from our example above. You can do a lot with just these two percussive techniques alone, without any chords. 

2. Copy some drum beats from existing songs. Listen to them carefully, and then using your kick drum and snare sounds, play along. You'll come up with some cool grooves doing this. 

3. Add the kick drum and snare sounds into some of the chord progressions you play on your acoustic as we did in the example above. 

Start Experimenting and Creating on Your Guitar Now

It's easy to get overwhelmed with each approach that has been covered in both parts 1 and 2 of this article. I suggest choosing one area to explore and taking your time to then go about doing this. The idea is to get you doing something different with your acoustic playing than you have done before. If you are doing that then great, you're on your way!

The key is to start now and enjoy the process of learning something new. There will be many victories along the way to keep you going as you become more and more inspired and creative with your acoustic guitar playing.

About the Author:
Based in Melbourne Australia, Simon Candy is a professional guitar teacher and musician. He has taught guitar for over 20 years covering a variety of styles including blues, rock, jazz, and fingerpicking. Founder of Simon Candy School Of Guitar, Simon also offers tuition for acoustic guitar online.

22 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Hey Simon, Rob Hiemstra here, solid article, I would give this to my students and work on it with them. Two thumbs up.
    Thanks for reading the article and thanks for all your great feedback, I really appreciate it. I take your point about the capo section JimJam. I could've gone deeper here with ways you can use a capo however you'd be surprised how many people don't know the basics and all the possible positions you can capo for the one chord progression. There are also 3 points laid out at the end of this section that encourage you to explore a little more with the capo including one that links back to the first section on including open strings in your scales and riffs.For anyone interested, If you click on the link to part 1 of this article (at the beginning of part 2) and scroll to the last paragraph of that article you will see a link to an ebook I wrote about different ways to use a capo. It does't cover very possibility as that was not my intention, but it does go into more detail than the article does.
    This is the lesson for me in my playing time. I am really glad to have your input.. Thanks so much for sharing..
    The part about what a capo does was unnecessary imo. Anyone who reads this article is already going to know what a capo is and how they work, for an article about bringing interest into your existing acoustic guitar playing, explaining what a capo is is redundant. You could have instead covered partial capos and/or 3 string DADGAD capos, and it would have made a lot more sense in the context of the article. Also when it comes to percussive guitar, most guitarists don't use their thumb for the kick, they use the fleshy part of their palm, as it's much softer than your thumb it makes a much more convincing and nicer sounding bass drum sound (you don't have to, but most will find it a better way of doing kick sound). If you want to incorporate it with normal playing, it's a good idea to do your bass thumps just above the soundhole (it's a loose part of the sound board, so it works just as well), and create the snare with the classic bass string "click". The goal is to be able to play both the guitar parts and drum parts seamlessly, instead of just playing one or the other at a given time.
    Sure, there are so many ways you can create percussive sounds on the body of the acoustic guitar. Your points are really valid. I just wanted to demonstrate some basics in this article as there are many advanced players who have never played this way before
    ^ We all can't be as awesome as you. Ya know, there may be actual beginners reading this.
    Jim jam jaroo over here is right. The article, while still helpful for beginners, is aimed at experienced players (as inferred from the title, that says How to Get the Spark Back Into Your Acoustic Guitar Playing ). And in the likely case that a beginner does come across this article, he or she is likely to find the same information about capos in a different article more suited to his or her level. Of course, including the information here isn't harmful, but it dilutes the whole thing.
    Except the article is very clearly not aimed at beginners. It's like if there was a section on how to tune your guitar in a sweep picking article, it just doesn't fit within the context of the article.
    I like singer songwriter music from 60s and 70s. Songs mostly made up of chords. I know CSNandy and joni Mitchell used many alternate tuning but unless I am missing it, it is not covered here. am I wrong. is there some other site I should try to pick this up from
    I didn't actually read the capo part, cause I'm familiar with it. All in all - the article is great. Nice stuff here
    JimJam, you are being overly critical. A phrase from my youth comes to mind, "Who pissed in your Wheaties?". As someone that knows the lines between beginner, intermediate, expert, rock star etc from my social group I run, I'd say this is a beginner to intermediate lesson. At that level there is a lot of confusion and questions about the capo. At this point these guitarists are just getting into some thoughts of theory. They are looking for ways to break from the first 5 frets. I think this lesson is spot on.
    Heaven forbid I shed some constructive criticism. It's not like I'm mad about it being in here, I just find it trivial. I even gave advice on how to make the segment fit within the context of the article more by suggesting partial capos (a great way to add interest into your writing, and something that I feel would be great to cover in future articles). Most people with even a few months of acoustic guitar practice will know what a capo is/does, any less and they're probably too new for an article like this anyway. Why is everyone so annoyed that I'm sharing my opinion on this article? It's like I'm shitting all over the entire thing, when I actually really like this series of articles. I'm sure the author appreciates any sort of feedback.
    Chris Zoupa
    You're actually being really constructive. Valid points and not being a dick about it. This is what forums are about. Difference of opinion and constructive discussion.
    Actually, when I'm playing percussive acoustic guitar, I slap the strings near the Bridge like a Bassist to get a big bass-drum sound.