Special Effects Overview | Hub Guitar

Special Effects Overview

Here are a few ideas for achieving new sounds.

Muted Picking

Mute a string while picking it rapidly using alternate picking. You can change the sound of this muted string by sliding the muting finger up and down, even sliding all the way up the string past the neck towards the bridge of the instrument. This technique is often used in flamenco guitar.

Prepared Guitars

A prepared guitar is one that has been altered by applying interesting objects to the strings and then playing as normal. The strings can be jammed up off of the fretboard with a pencil or screwdriver. A pick or some other material can be woven between the strings near the bridge. All kinds of interesting household objects can be used to change the guitar’s sonic output.

Using a Slide

Put a glass or chrome slide on your smallest finger, and you can gently rest this on the strings over the fretboard while striking the strings. Sliding up and down creates lots of interesting new sounds for both chords and lead lines. This technique is very difficult to execute with a low action. Many players will get a separate guitar with a much higher action to do this, or else temporarily modify the instrument (such as by preparing it with a screwdriver jammed underneath the strings of the first fret). Also, since the slide can’t form chord shapes, the slide guitar is often tuned to some sort of open chord tuning.

Bending the Neck (Behind the Neck Bend)

Guitar without whammy bars can benefit from a slight variation in pitch if the player gently grasps the body of the guitar with the right arm and uses his left arm to bend the neck of the guitar at the headstock. You can bend either in or out. WARNING: this technique is probably not recommended by luthiers and guitar repair persons inasmuch as it can damage or even break your guitar if great care is not used.

Bending Behind the Nut

This one probably isn’t going to hurt your guitar, but it will definitely hurt your finger. Play an open position G major chord, with an open B note on the 2nd string. Now reach up to the headstock, behind the nut, and press down on the B string there. This will increase the pitch of the note you played. You can push it up to C for a Gsus4, and release to return it to Gmaj. It’s a cool effect. Try it!

Harmonic, Bending Behind the Nut

The same as bending behind the nut, but with a harmonic note instead.

Alternate Tunings

There are many alternate tunings that can be explored. Usually, guitar players will use alternate tunings to make new and interesting open chords available. However, others have suggested alternate tunings that are not intended for playing open chords, including Robert Fripp’s “New Standard Tuning” (perfect fifths) and Ralph Patt’s major third tuning.

Changing the Tone

You can change the tone of your guitar by changing the point along the string where you strum or pluck. Strumming or plucking near the neck, before the soundhole, tends to produce a mellow sound. Down by the bridge, you’ll get a twangy sound.

Electric guitar players create this effect by switching between various pickups, or even combinations of pickups (for instance, bridge pickup + middle pickup).

Combining Multiple Techniques

How many different combinations of techniques can you think of? We’ve explored some of them here, but there are many. For instance, bending + tapping or harmonics + bending the neck.

As the creator of Hub Guitar, Grey has compiled hundreds of guitar lessons, written several books, and filmed hundreds of video lessons. He teaches private lessons in his Boston studio, as well as via video chat through TakeLessons.

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