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If learning guitar is one of your main goals or you’re getting back into it it’s important to get the  fundamental techniques of playing down. From fingering chords to strumming rhythms to picking individual notes, making music with the guitar is becoming a reality. As you continue to develop as a player, here are some techniques you can use to make your playing more expressive.


Palm-muting can give your playing a percussive quality that works well in a variety of music genres, from the distortion-driven chugging of heavy metal to the percussive rhythms of acoustic rock. This technique involves lightly resting the bottom of your palm on your strumming hand down on the strings close to the neck. The goal is to lightly deaden the sound when you strum but not completely. 

Palm-muting reduces the sustain of the strings, creating a muffled staccato sound when you strum. This sounds especially well when you’re playing power chords, but it can be used to spice up your lead playing as well. The closer to the bridge your palm rests, the more sustain you’ll allow from each strum. As you move further away from the bridge, the sound becomes deadened. Even though palm-muting adds more expressiveness to your playing, it’s a relatively easy technique to begin experimenting with. It’s also a technique that fits well with acoustic or electric guitar styles.

Take a look at this video lesson from JamPlay on Palm-muting. Explore the many ways that JamPlay can help you improve your technique to become a more expressive guitar player.


Closely related to palm-muting, pick-raking also adds some percussive spice to your playing. Pick-raking, however, has less to do with muffling the sounds of notes played and is more about deadening the pitch of a string entirely. Instead of using your pick hand to mute the strings, you’ll use the fingers of your fretting hand. The idea is to play two or three muted strings followed by an unmuted note in quick succession. This creates a percussive click sound just before the note sounds. 

For example, you might lightly rest your index finger against the 4th and 3rd strings while fretting a note with your middle finger on the 2nd string. Quickly strumming through the 4th, 3rd, then 2nd string adds some spice to the note played on the 2nd string because of the clicks of the 4th and 3rd strings immediately before. This technique is typically used by lead guitar players in a variety of genres, from country to blues.


Few techniques create more expression and more emotional resonance in a guitarist’s playing than string bending. A staple of any lead guitar player’s toolkit, string bends create a lyrical quality to your playing. Instead of plucking individual notes one at a time, string bends allow you to seamlessly slur two or more notes one after the other. 

To play a bend, finger a note on any string, preferably the higher four strings over the lower two, and after plucking the note, use your fretting finger to push the string up toward the string next to it. This causes the note to rise in pitch without requiring a second plucking of the string. Bending can be tricky to master because you have to learn the feel for how far to bend a note. There are half-step bends, whole-step bends, and even whole-and-a-half-step bends, and you have to practice a lot to get the feel of each.

Explore string bending with this video lesson from JamPlay.


Vibrato adds character and expression to your notes and gives personality to your overall playing. In fact, vibrato mimics the qualities of a singing human voice and makes individual notes stand out. Along with string bending, vibrato is a common technique in any lead guitar player’s arsenal. 

To give your notes vibrato, you can either rock your finger back and forth to create a wobbly sound in the note, or you can subtly and rapidly bend the note up and down on the fret. This technique works best with the sustain of a distortion-driven guitar.


Whenever you play any note on the guitar, the sound you’re hearing is called the fundamental note. For example, if you play the note on the 5th fret of the 6th string, you’ll hear an A note. But on top of that A note are several overtones or harmonics that you don’t hear because they’re mixed in with the fundamental note. Guitar is a unique instrument because you have the ability to isolate those harmonics. 

Natural harmonics sound out when you lightly place a finger on the string over certain frets and pluck the string. The easiest natural harmonic you can play is on the 12th fret, but there are also natural harmonics on the 5th and 7th frets.

Artificial harmonics can be played by fretting a note and using your pick hand index finger to lightly touch the string roughly 12 frets above the fretted note and picking the string. Harmonics are an expressive technique that can be a challenge to master, but they create some interesting opportunities for sound exploration.

Watch this JamPlay video lesson to learn more about harmonics. 

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