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Guitar Playing Styles & Preferred Guitars

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Deciding On Your Guitar Playing Style And Most Suitable Guitar


If you’re just starting out and are more on the beginner level, starting off with complicated styles and songs could “put you off” of playing sooner than you think. This is something to consider, BUT with perseverance and passion, you could and would achieve your goals with a style you truly enjoy!

The guitar playing style is dependent on the music genre. The style is the sounds produced and how the guitar is being played within the music genre itself; very much like that of a singer’s “style”.

What To Consider

Deciding on your style, relies on various factors. You may have already developed a passion for a particular genre and style or perhaps want to explore all styles, developing your skills in all areas instead… whatever you decide on, the essential guitar choices for the various genres are Acoustic, Acoustic Electric, Electric, Solid Body Electric Jazz and Classical. There are others, but these remain the essential key choices.

1) Your Current Guitar Skills Level & Experience

So, if you are a starting off player, you might want to consider a simple to play guitar. During the beginner learner process, some finger discomfort and getting used to shifting and shaping fingers across the fretboard may still be a factor… A good classical guitar with nylon strings has been known to be the preferred choice for starting off players, as nylon strings tend to be more lenient on the fingers than steel strings.

Another suggestion would be a guitar of your preferred choice, but perhaps ensuring the action on the guitar is very close. This means that the frets can be found near to the instrument’s fretboard.

2) Your Preferred Musical Style

Your preferred music style/genre is probably going to play a major factor in your choice of guitar playing style. Playing the guitar is a way for one to express their true selves and what they really feel, so the type of music you enjoy most will definitely influence your decision. As mentioned in the beginning, some enjoy all styles of music and might want to explore various or even all genres. This is possible too!

Let’s have a look at some gear of the most common styles chosen: -

Rock – An electric guitar with amplifier and various built-in effects for sound, is usually used by guitarists in the Rock genre.

Country Rock – An electric guitar with amplifier and various built-in effects for sound, can also work for guitarists choosing to perform lead in the Country Rock genre.

Folk Country – An Acoustic or Acoustic Electric is usually the best way to achieve the chords played in Country Folk Music.

Classical/Latin – Either an electrical or plain classical guitar is best suited to play Classical & Latin Music where there is much fingerpicking style used.

Jazz – The best for Jazz style is an electric guitar with close action for ease of shifting jazz chords.

4 Different Guitar Playing Styles

Let’s take a look at the 4 most common guitar playing styles played by guitarists:

1) Rhythm Guitar

Rhythm guitar typically accompanies the melody of the song that is being sung by the singer and is usually the guitaring style chosen by the singer if they too play the guitar, and when performing the song acoustically.

2) Lead Guitar

The lead guitar playing style is always used in playing the main melody and riffs of a song and usually incorporates a guitar solo performance. Lead guitar is a more advanced playing style and will require advanced guitar technique and improvisation knowledge and ability.

3) Fingerpicking Guitar

Fingerpicking is used to accompany the vocalist and lead instrument in a song. Fingerpicking is an advanced style that introduces a lot of color, as some guitarists are able to play a range of chords, bass lines and melodies at the same time. The fingers are used to pick and pluck at the strings with the fingernails producing brighter tones.

4) Slide Guitar

The slide guitar playing style is usually used in blues, country and rock music. Slide guitar is performed when the guitarist uses what is called a slide pipe; placed on one of the fretting fingers, to control the chord shape, producing a particular tone.

Deciding On Your Guitar Style Based On Your Preferred Musical Genre

As mentioned before, the style of music or music genre you enjoy most will certainly influence your style choice. There are definitely preferred guitars used for a particular genre and style of guitar playing; this should be considered when deciding on your guitar and the genre/style you have chosen. For example; if you have chosen hard rock or heavy metal as your preferred style, then you will need a guitar and equipment most suitable for that particular genre. You could consider an ESP, Ibanez, Jackson etc., as these electric guitar brands cater for lower action and thinner necks which ultimately produces the tones needed for that particular music style.

Exploring the Different Types of Musical Styles

Most guitars today are able to handle various musical genres however, it can work out better if you buy a guitar that is more suited to a particular genre style. It can be helpful to understand the different musical genres and the type of guitars that are more suited to the style.

Let’s check out some of these genres and what to look out for when gearing up: -

1) Rock

Rock music is one of the more popular music genres and usually comprises of electric guitar, electric bass and drums. Rock riffs can be more challenging; and also incorporates complex fingering patterns. This is something to consider when choosing Rock music as your particular style, and that learning these riffs, patterns and techniques will require a lot of perseverance and constant practice.

2) Blues

Blues originates from West African music and is characterized by polyrhythms. Polyrhythmic is a mixture of contrasting rhythms; distinguished by two sounds or rhythms played together. To play blues music, you will need to learn the blues scale which stands apart from other musical scales. You could use both an Acoustic or Electric guitar for this genre style.

3) Bluegrass Acoustic or Flat-pick

Bluegrass style will require a good Acoustic guitar. Bluegrass music entails complex guitar playing and originates from American root music; evolving in the 1940’s where it gained its name from William Smith Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys’ band, who started the bluegrass music style officially.

There are typically three subgenres to Bluegrass music; Traditional where folk songs and traditional chord progressions are used; Progressive which can make use of electric instruments and borrow songs from other genres; and Gospel where Christian lyrics are written.

4) Electric Country

Electric Country or Country Rock is the use of country rhythms, riffs and slides, using an electric guitar rather than the traditional acoustic, which is usually used in Country music genre. It adds an edge to the overall sound, when the tones of an electric guitar produce the rhythms of country music, bringing through the electric country feel.

5) Jazz

Jazz musical roots derive from Blues and Ragtime music, originating from the African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana and United States in the 19th and 20th Centuries.

Jazz is considered a musical genre difficult to define, as it contains many subgenres however, improvisation is one of its defining elements making possibilities to this particular genre type, endless.

Some of the subgenre types are: Bebop, Afro-Cuban Jazz, Latin Jazz and more.

6) Country & Western

Country or Country & Western music is quite a popular musical genre that originates from blues, church music, American folk music, and the cowboy western music styles of New Mexico and Texas country. If you decide on this particular music genre, your primary instrument will probably be the acoustic guitar, but electric guitars can be used as well. A popular musical genre that features an interestingly complex guitar-playing style.

7) Classical

Classical music is one of the most demanding musical genres. Classical music is considered ageless, hence given the name “classic” and can be performed pretty much anywhere and still be enjoyed by most people. As demanding as classical music is, so is the technicality of playing it and more practice is needed to get the hang of it.

If you choose classical as your preferred musical genre, it is better to have a classical guitar but acoustics can be used as well.


If you are just starting out, the classical or acoustic guitar is the preferred choice normally, as they are the “easier” guitars to play and can be a good instrument to start off with when building your guitar playing foundations.

Considering that a single mode of a guitar can be used to play various genres of music, the electric guitar is the more versatile guitar to use, but if you prefer the acoustic dependent on the music genre you choose, they are a popular instrument too.

Shelley Gilman


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