If you are going to learn how to play electric guitar, you should know about the basic techniques that you will be learning. Some of these guitar techniques have been used for hundreds of years but others were developed by electric guitar players in jazz, country and rock styles. To learn more about these electric guitar techniques, do a search on YouTube for video clips of guitar players putting what they have learnt into action.
For an electric guitar player the first technique to learn is picking. This is an art that should be learnt carefully and practiced every day. For playing scales and fast passages you will need to learn how to use your pick in alternating up and down strokes. As a guide to beginning your alternate picking, just assume you are going to be using a down stroke for the downbeat and up strokes for the upbeat. You can depart from this rule as your technique gets better.
Some metal guitar players will just use down strokes in their playing to get a heavier feel to their playing. Johnny Ramone is said to have used the downstroke picking technique exclusively in his guitar playing.
For fast playing on a single string, rapid up and down strokes can be used. This is called tremolo and a great exponent of this technique is Dick Dale. So you can work on your fast playing using alternate picking or another technique you can learn is called sweep picking.
Sweep picking works well on arpeggios, making you sound like a real electric guitar hero. You begin by working out the shape you are going to play. Arpeggios are just chord shapes picked as single notes. Once you have got sweep picking under your belt you can move your arpeggio shapes up and down the fingerboard.
An important left hand technique for electric guitar players is vibrato. This is where you prolong a note by picking it and then rapidly moving the finger fretting the note from side to side. The same effect can be produced by using the tremolo arm on the electric guitar but, depending on how good your guitar is, this could lead to broken strings.
You can also use your left hand to “bend” notes up. Put your finger at any fret, pick the note and while the note is sounding, push the left hand finger up or down. You have just produced a higher note. With practice you will find many cool ways to use this technique, such as what is called the “unison bend”. This is when you do a bend up and at the same time play the note you are bending to on another string.
An important part of learning how to play electric guitar is using electronic effects. Electric guitar players have been making use of electronic effects since the early guitar groups of the sixties. Some effects were originally undesirable side effects of using electric guitars. Feedback is a good example. One minute guitarists are frantically figuring out ways to eliminate it, next minute it is a new tool for using electronics to produce music.
As the electric guitar has developed, the production of effects has become more sophisticated. Jimmy Page was a pioneer of the fuzzbox and playing the electric guitar with a violin bow, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix helped popularize the wah-a pedal and generations of electric guitar players have helped develop echo, phase shifting, sustain, chorus and a host of other effects.
If you do not have a guitar teacher, the internet is an excellent resource for anybody wanting to play the electric guitar. You will find many online guitar lessons, many of them free.
Here is a video featuring a lesson on how to play the intro to Jimi Hendrix’ Hey Joe . . .