What Are The Five Fundamental Techniques?

There are many elements to guitar playing that all contribute to making music such as theoretical aspects such as chord knowledge, as well as practical components like technique and skill exercises. The Ultimate Guitar Method fits all components into five different categories called the Five Fundamental Skills. These are used to establish benchmarks of difficulty that support logical progression of improvement in order to advance students abilities on the guitar.

What are the Five Fundamental Skills?

1) Picking

This includes anything that has to do with picking, such as exercises, palm muting, alternate picking, arpeggios and scales. Knowledge of how to use scales is also crucial for advanced grades with improvising. Students are taught many fundamental expressive techniques such as tapping, sweeping, legato, licks and lead guitar phrases. Even though skills such as Legato are necessarily picked, the fretting hand utilises the same technique, so it is still classified under Picking.

2) Chords

Of course guitarists need to know how to play chords, but this component also requires students to learn about chord composition, arpeggios, diatonic harmony, musical keys and common chord progressions. There is a large component of theory that applies here, which coincides with many other areas such as Aural.

3) Reading

Simply put – anything that involves reading and playing. This uses music notation, chord charts, chord diagrams and guitar tablature. The end goal is for students to be able to be given a piece of paper (or pdf file these days!) and have them play what is written on it.

4) Aural

I say this to many of my students – the best guitarists all have outstanding listening skills. No, I’m not talking about having good hearing, I’m talking about being able to listen and identify sound. At UGA, we use a range of exercises such as interval training, to teach students how to identify a sound they hear. This could be a scale, chord, interval or even a chord progression. Advanced students are often given a song to listen to and figure out how to play. Most theory topics fall into this category because theory is all about what you can hear.

5) Songs

Learning the first four elements is great, but at the whole point to them is to make music by playing songs! So it makes sense that you put your skills and knowledge to good use and play songs that use skills form your grade. The best part is that while there’s a recommended song list for each grade, the song choice is completely up to the student, so you can learn and perform songs you know and like – what a great way to keep students motivated!

In conclusion…

The Ultimate Guitar Method uses these Five Fundamental Skills to develop well rounded guitarists with skills that apply to all genres of music. While we highly recommend learning all five areas, students can choose to leave out a component if they’re not interested in learning it. They are still able to work through the grades of The Ultimate Guitar Method, however need to fulfil requirements for all five components if they wish to officially pass grades and receive certificates.


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