Simple tips for playing the electric guitar like a pro

tips for playing the electric guitar

A unique approach to acoustic music

When an acoustic player picks up an electric guitar, they tend to use it in two ways. They will either play it as pentatonic bluesy lead lines or like a traditional acoustic. If you are strumming with an electric guitar, you are going to need to play it quite differently than an acoustic. This is going to require working with the natural sustain of the body and the groove as opposed to working against it with overpowered rhythm.

Playing rhythmically

In many instances, the sole position of the electric in a worship band setting is to not act as the lead guitar but to be able to add greater dynamics and colour to the rhythm of the song. You will want to use various voicings further up the neck, use a combination of open strings and frets, pick out notes in the chords, and of course, make everything sound as though it is backing up the main groove of the song.

Use of CAGED voicings

The CAGED system is one that is based around the major and minor open shapes of C,A,G,E, as well as D, and moved up the neck and in conjunction with the bar chord. The CAGED system will help offer a complete framework in which you can play and chord in any position as well as down the neck. If you have never heard of the CAGED method, you can learn more about it in our Intermediate Guitar Course.

Trust in the capo

You may have heard other musicians claim that the capo is a crutch. However, we think of it as a tool that enables new voicings. If you desire to play jangley rolling parts, you will want to use a capo to place the open strings into key and between the combination of open and fretted notes in order to play incredible drone sounds.

Don’t hate the keyboard

It is possible to play a similar octave spectrum as the keyboard, so it is essential that both do not clash. If you are unable to hear them, simply watch for fingers in order to compliment the rhythm. You will want to play in various spaces as well as unique octaves and tones. Keep in mind that there is no reason to play constantly, if you like what they are doing, take a step back.

Play texturally

You should consider using your electric to add a sense of a textural part into a song in such a way that keyboard players will use filters and pads.


Many players will use two overdrives, one for those really big sounds and one for general, compression for a tight sound, a delay, and maybe some modulation such as tremolo or chorus to add a little texture to the mix. However, the essential elements are delay and drive. Delay is used to help thicken the tone and add a sense of sustain to the ringing chords in addition to rhythmic textures like a dotted 8th note. The key to this is to ensure that the delay time is in synch with the tempo of the song. If you are too slow, the notes are going to sound muddled and slow, if they are too fast they will sound as though they are running from you. Typically, the more reverb and delay effect that are used, the more your sound is going to be placed toward the back of the mix. You will not want to overdo it, unless you are looking to create a simple wash or texture.

Do not overdo the distortion

Take a moment to listen to classic rock guitars as listen to the amount of distortion, it is probably a lot less than you remember. If you feature too much distortion, you are going to lose the clarity of the mix. Try to practice with less gain and execute every chord in a clear nature. While distorted tones are often dry, take care in adding too much delay or rev as it has a way of accentuating high frequencies that are not too comforting to the ears. By using these ideas, it will help to cut through the mix in a better way.

Play with tone and volume

A guitar volume is going to work best when fully open. When you back them off they are going to lose treble, the same can be said of tone controls as well. However, there are some sounds that is going to work perfectly well for and a number of players are able to create incredible tones through the modification of these controls. For example, when playing with a Telecaster, you might back off the tone to about an 8 and adjust the volume for the best amount of distortion.

The use of mid

If your lines and motifs are not able to cut the mix, you should add more mid for an extra amount of zing. This is why the Eric Clapton Strat features an active mid-boost control. A pedal like the Ibanez Tubescreamer feature a natural mid hump in their tone and if you have an amp that does not include mid control, there are several drive pedals that offer a dedicated mid pot.

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