I realize that this is my first article, and I apologize to those who find this uninformative... I suppose that this is more for the inexperienced than the pros.
Well, with that underway, let's get started.
I think it fitting to start out with the basics first. We'll move on to the more complicated stuff later. Now, to start out with, we'll talk about chords. As you know, a chord is a combination of notes that harmonize with each other.
Most songs are made up of different chords played in a consistent rhythm. The chords in a song will almost always have different strumming patterns than the others. Some may be fast, some might be slow. But chords aren't all of what makes up a song. Find simple songs or tunes to practice on. When you feel comfortable about that, move on to my next point.
Bends, Hammer-ons, etc.
Well, to make a song more interesting, use a couple of these. True to its name, a bend is when you play a note on the guitar and you bend it to make a higher pitched sound. Like the intro and chorus to Meant To Live by Switchfoot, they use bends to create the more swaying sound of the notes instead of the obvious made by hammer-ons. A hammer-on, by the way, is when you play a note/chord on the guitar but instead of bending it to make the higher pitched sound. "Hammer" your finger(s) on a fret above the original note/chord without plucking the string(s) and this makes a faster sounding, more complicated sound than the normal shift.
In most solos and riffs, there are bends and hammer-ons, but also sliding movements. I won't even have to explain how to do this; just slide your finger up or down the fret board. Easy. A pull-off usually comes after a hammer-on; it's actually a backwards hammer-on. Instead of making the note higher by moving up the fret board, use your finger to pluck the string while another finger is behind it on the same string, to make a lower sound. To perform a vibrato, just put more and less pressure on the string with a good rhythm which slightly alters the sound of the note. Some guitars come with a whammy bar that does this for you.
Harmonics and palm mutes are slightly alike, a harmonic is when you strum the strings openly, but you mute the strings with your left hand fingers. To palm mute, place your palm at the base of the strings, usually just above where the strings are held in place at the bottom. Strum it like this to give it a much different, but good sound.
This is a great way to bring life into songs. As other articles have mentioned, there are different types of harmonizing. I won't go into that much detail, you can check all that out yourself. But this really spices up riffs and solos too. It's a bit harder if you've never done it before, but once you get the hang of it, it'll be worth using and practicing.
Using more than one guitar is a definite way to make a song sound much better; it's playing two or more riffs at once instead of one. This is like an upgraded type of harmonizing. It takes time to learn your separate part with your friend(s), but that's how bands start. It's good to play along with friends, the better they are the better you'll be and vise versa.
Pick Honest Friends To Play With!
Don't be afraid to play in front of your friends. Demonstrating what you know to them will give them the idea of your style. The more honest they are, the more they can help you. Don't let them discourage you; they're just trying to help. Other people will be able to pick out your mistakes much easier than you can. Feel free to express everything you know, but be careful not to become boastful. Ask them they're opinion, they will help.
This is a very important factor while playing the guitar. If you have no rhythm, it will sound bad. That's just how it is. Try to have more patience, don't try to speed things up to make yourself look good because that will just make you look worse. Practice keeping time with your guitar metronomes will help you. Select what tempo the song you're playing is and play it keeping beat with the metronome. If you already have good rhythm, that's great. Oh, while playing with your metronome, don't speed the beat up or down than the beat of the song you want to play, you'll just be practicing what you're not supposed to do.
This might be one of the most difficult and confusing types of playing. Solos pretty much consist of everything I've mentioned so far. Something that I haven't mentioned yet though, is the scales. Use scales to improve your speed and use scales to base solos on. It is much, much easier to play solos if you know the scales. I'm not an expert at this yet but it doesn't take much to figure out that the very big majority of solos are hard. You must be a very experienced player to understand that to take on a solo is a good way to make a fool of yourself if you're not careful. Please listen to me when I say don't do it if you know you haven't got it down. You won't impress a soul if you mess up on a solo you've been bragging that you could do. If you can, excellent! Get back at those guys who won't leave you alone and maybe impress a girl or two. If you're new at guitar, you're probably not going to be able to solo quit yet. It takes much practice; you have to get to know your guitar. Know how much pressure you must apply on the strings, how far you have to move to get your fingers to the right frets, know your scales, well, you get the point. In all, save soloing till you're more experienced.
It makes you look a lot better if you move your body with your fingers. It's not that hard to keep playing well while moving your legs, arms, and head. This is just an option, you don't have to actually do this, but it works. You'll look a lot better.
Well, I leave you here. I really hope I helped you out, forgive me if I made a few mistakes, this is after all my first article. Well, my last word to you for now is: