Popular Guitar Techniques That Are Older Than You Think
One of the most beautiful aspects of guitar playing is that it is a largely cyclical art form, with techniques, soundscapes and concepts being invented, fading out and then becoming revitalised in new forms within the context of new genres.
This is often seen within the context of accessories for guitar. The EBow, for example, was first notably used in 1974, 22 years before it returned to prominence thanks to R.E.M’s E-Bow the Letter and Radiohead’s My Iron Lung.
However, this cycle of technique can often lead to false histories, particularly when it comes to the origins of popular guitar techniques. Here are some examples of guitar styles that are far older than you may think.
The concept of sweep picking, where an arpeggio is played whilst the hand is moving, creating a fluid sound and the ability to play said arpeggios faster, is often credited to the guitarist who popularised and relied heavily on the technique in his composition the most, Yngwie Malmsteen.
Whilst Mr Malmsteen, a man who scalloped his fretboards to help with his signature technique, certainly helped popularise its use in guitar shredding, he was not the first to play it in any respect.
It was, like many metal guitar techniques, first used in Jazz guitar, with Chet Atkins and Les Paul developing the technique in the 1950s.
Arguably its first use in its rock-friendly form came in the 1973 Genesis song Dancing With the Moonlit Knight, with guitarist Steve Hackett using it as part of the song’s solo, alongside another similarly popular shred technique from that era.
The other major guitar technique from the same era as sweep picking was one-handed tapping, where the strumming hand is used to fret and pull off a note in a single motion, whilst the other hand frets normally.
Whilst commonly credited to Eddie Van Halen, the highly influential shred guitarist, Steve Hackett claimed to have invented the technique, and both are heard alongside each other on the same Genesis track.
In practice, neither invented the technique, with similar techniques used in violin playing since the days of Niccolo Paganini and on guitar by pioneers such as Roy Smeck.