6 Subtle Guitar Highlights- Be the Coolest Guy in the Band...

Great chops, ferocious intensity, and melodic mastery may be the hallmarks of the guitar Gods, but what about all of the other subtle stuff?

What about things like articulating heavily with a whammy bar, or a perfect attention-grabbing pre-bend and release articulated with a volume-pedal swell? These subtle highlights can add a lot of dimension to a song. Look no further than U2's "The Edge" or Alex Lifeson from RUSH and you'll hear the powerful effects that subtle playing can have on creating amazing guitar parts.

SUBTLE HIGHLIGHT #1). Volume Swells
Adding volume swells will help in focusing the listeners attention toward a particular segment of a piece. Whether it's the entrance of a Verse, the mid-point of a Chorus, or the way the song begins or ends, the volume swell is fantastic for getting the listener to perk-up and take notice. For a phenomenal use of volume swells check out the 3rd song from the Diver Down album by Van Halen called "Cathedral." It's a great example of how powerful the volume swell can be.

SUBTLE HIGHLIGHT #2). Whammy Bar Vibrato
The typical vibrato done by the fretting hand has a particular sound that is definitely amazing to add onto notes. However, the whammy bar's vibrato can offer a whole other dimension to the sound of a note, plus it can offer the vibrato effect smoothly on chords of any type, even open chords, or combination chords that use open strings and fretted tones. Have a listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers song, "Pretty Little Ditty." It's an excellent example of how beautiful a subtle vibrato sound can be when added on select notes as well as, chords.

SUBTLE HIGHLIGHT #3). Simple /Fluid Lead Breaks
Lead guitar melody is often thought of as a part (or a break) of a piece, where the guitarist will perform a specific section of a stand alone guitar melody. This can be where lead guitar is seen as being far to centralized within a song. Lead breaks, sometimes also called fills in a piece can be a fantastic way to apply guitar melody, without resorting to a full-blown guitar solo. A great example of this is in the RUSH song, "Emotion Detector."Alex Lifeson plays interesting highlights around the synth parts as a way to enhance the overall musical direction of the piece. You'll also hear Alex do this in many other RUSH tunes like; "Tom Sawyer," "The Analog Kid," and in, "Limelight."

SUBTLE HIGHLIGHT #4). Pre-Bends and Releases
The sound of bends are one of the core effects of the guitarist. And, when this technique is applied in a way we would refer to as a highlight, the results are amazing. A song instantly gets a new lease on life when the sound of unique bending techniques like the "Pre-Bend," and the "Bend-Release" are added across the melody lines and vocal parts. An excellent example of this in action is from the Pink Floyd song, "What Do You Want From Me?

David Gilmour does some wonderful bend highlights throughout the entire piece.

SUBTLE HIGHLIGHT #5). Expressive Vibrato
The use of traditional vibrato is one of the oldest forms of musical expression on the planet. And, the application of vibrato technique to fretted guitar tones as single notes, two-note chords and larger fretted chord voicings is well worth the time and effort to master on the guitar. Slow smooth vibrato is a hallmark of guitarists like "Jeff Beck," "Eric Clapton," and "Jimmy Page," (just to name but a few). All you have to do is listen to songs like Clapton's "Bell Bottom Blues," or the gorgeous melody of, “The Messiah Will Come Again,” by Roy Buchanan. The effect that is possible with the use and application of expressive vibrato is simply incredible to listen to.

SUBTLE HIGHLIGHT #6). The "Dive Bomb"
There's nothing that literally screams guitar like a tremolo arm, "Dive Bomb." This sound effect is one of the most "in your face" guitar sounds that can be done on guitar. 

Whether it's Slayer in their song, "Raining Blood," or Motley Crue's classic, "Dr. FeelGood." Or, in Motley Crue's intro to "Kick Start My Heart (Live)," where Mick Mars goes absolutely nuts with an onslaught of manic dive bombs... The effect of this sound is something so unique that every guitarist should experience it and try applying it at least once in their lifetime!



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