Guitarists who use unique techniques

Some guitar players are by-the-book with their playing style – and some take the book and throw it away, opting for unique and unusual guitar playing styles. 

Here are some guitarists who use unconventional playing styles:

Eddie Van Halen

“Eddie Van Halen at the New Haven Coliseum 2” by Carl Lender is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Van Halen’s Eddie Van Halen popularized the two-handed tapping technique, showcased in the 1978 instrumental track “Eruption”. Van Halen explained that he watched Jimmy Page play the “Heartbreaker” solo in 1971 and was inspired. “He was doing a pull-off to an open string, and I thought wait a minute, open string … pull off,” Van Halen said in an interview with Guitar World. “I can do that, but what if I use my finger as the nut and move it around? I just kind of took it and ran with it.”

Jeff Beck

“Jeff Beck” by MandyHallMedia is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

English guitarist Jeff Beck is regularly included in lists of the greatest guitar players of all time. He had a creative approach to guitar, which involved incorporating the volume knob with his pick and thumb. He also experimented with distortion and feedback during his time in The Yardbirds, and utilized the whammy bar to create unearthly sounds out of his instrument.


Jimi Hendrix 

“Jimi Hendrix Experience-‘You Got Me Floatin”-1967″ by scottallenonline is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Another one of the most highly regarded guitarists of all time, Jimi Hendrix broke some guitar traditions by using feedback, distortion, wah, and even his teeth in his playing. A left-handed guitar player, he played upside down and backwards. Hendrix was able to play rhythm and lead simultaneously, a trick he perfected from years of playing in trios, and he rejected the typical barre chord fretting technique, instead fretting the low 6th string root notes with his thumb.


James Hetfield

“James Hetfield 2017” by Ralph Arvesen is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Metallica’s James Hetfield has a unique way of holding his pick – he holds it with three fingers, like a pen or quill, instead of the usual two. Maybe that helps him with his signature style of downpicking riffs, creating a staccato sound. 


Marty Friedman 

“Marty Friedman – 01” by Hiroshi YamazakiCopyright holder: Marty Friedman is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Megadeth’s Marty Friedman also has an unusual picking technique. He clenches his picking hand in a way that goes against the typical palm mute used in metal music. He also uses upstrokes vs. downstokes, picking by moving his fingers, also known as “circle picking”. 


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