Improve Your Acoustic Guitar Technique

The most effective help guide mastering Acoustic Guitar Technique​

Are you currently wanting to improve your acoustic guitar playing? Then technique is one thing you should be being focused on initially. A great technique is at the basis of any excellent player. It’s not possible to have an incredible acoustic guitar player without a great technique. As part of our ‘Beginner’s Guide To Learning the Acoustic Guitar’, we hope this section on technique will help you improve simply and speedily.

Improve your Acoustic Guitar technique

Daily Exercises

Many exercises are essential to gain a proper technique. Once you master these exercises, you’ll be able to play almost anything. That sounds like a grand statement – but don’t underestimate the word ‘master’!

If you work enough, you’ll be able to look at a section of music and be confident enough to learn it quickly. For each exercise, there is a specific way to practice it. Your practice is only as good as your form while you practice. So be disciplined about it, as practising exercises wrong is a complete waste of time!  We have three key exercise categories that will help you…

Piano Exercise

1. Scales

Scales are the building blocks of music. Just learning the minor pentatonic and blues scales means you have instantly opened up the possibility of learning hundreds, if not thousands of songs and riffs from famous songs.

Scales should become part of your practise routine. Many musicians use them as a warm-up before they start to play but many also use them as a way to be creative in their playing.

For example, scales are also used when it’s our turn to take the spotlight. Most guitar solos are built around scales – so you better know them when it’s your turn! 

A good teacher will help you learn how to use these scales to take a solo, and with enough practice, you’ll be able to pick up the guitar, let go of any worries and just improvise.

Chances are you will find some things which grab your ear and sound great, keep doing them! Internalise that lick and that sound, make it part of your ‘vocabulary’.

Once you’ve spent a few months using these scales, then consider learning your Major and Minor scales, but bear in mind that you cannot underestimate the pentatonic; many blues and rock players carved entire careers out of just one or two scale choices. Just look at BB King and Eric Clapton for inspiration!

Improve your Acoustic Guitar technique

2. Chords

Learning chords will allow you to achieve a goal that most new players set themselves. To be able to play their favourite songs. However, whilst most students can play the individual chords in a song, they really struggle transitioning from one chord to the next without breaks in the music. To overcome this problem you must develop some fluency in your technique.

Here’s how to do just that.

Let’s take a look at a basic chord progression: G-D-C, G-D-Am. We’ll use the 4 finger G chord. 

If you look closely at each chord you’ll notice that some notes appear in both chords. This means you can change from G to D without lifting your 3rd finger at all! 

Practice this movement back and forth between these 2 chords for a few minutes until you can move all of the fingers at the same time and use the 3rd finger to pivot around.

As you combine more and more chords you’ll start to notice just how little you have to move your fingers to transition between them.

You’ll also notice that even when finger movements feel strange and you struggle to move between them, practising slowly and carefully will help you build up finger strength and coordination so you can play the chord changes smoothly after a short time.

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3. Fingerpicking

Once you’re able to use your thumb and fingers, you should start to think about ways of combining them. Alternate between thumb/finger/thumb/different finger/ and repeat that whilst you hold a chord with your left hand.

Next, combine your thumb and fingers by playing with a thumb and finger at the same time. This is more difficult than it sounds, as you don’t want to rely on pulling your hand away from the guitar. Imagine you’re twisting a bottle cap; your hands don’t move, just the digits attached to them.

4. Pick Technique

Whilst playing acoustic guitar with fingerstyle technique is very common, many guitarists also use a plectrum too.

A plectrum or “pick” is a small triangular piece of plastic which is held between the thumb and index fingers and used to pick the strings with. 

For a full rundown of this technique, take a look at our technique article.

Improve Your Acoustc Guitar Technique - Summary

With so many techniques to choose from, the task of improving can seem a little daunting. Where should you start and how long should you work on each technique for example?

This is where having a structured practice routine will really pay off. 

Decide which exercises you want to practice before you sit down to work. You can also decide how long you’ll practice them for. 

Taking time to be specific about what you’re doing will not only give you focus and make you work harder in the practice room, it will also make you sound better when you get on stage for your next gig!

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