Countless guitar players—from late greats like Stevie Ray Vaughan to living legends like Paul Gilbert—have used the technique of "digging" into the strings to convey attitude.
As with all techniques, the key is not just physically learning how to do it, but knowing when to use it and when to avoid it. Some guitarists tend to overuse this attacking sound as a result of the energy with which they play, which can take away from the dynamic impact that digging in can create.
That said, there are no rules in the practice room, so feel free to jab and thrust your pick into the strings at will as you work on this skill. The basics of digging in to your guitar strings are simple: Use a crunchy tone on your bridge pickup, use your left and right hands to mute the strings you don’t want to ring out and—most importantly—have a mean attitude.
The muting can be achieved by resting the palm of your picking hand lightly across the strings, with your left fingers keeping the majority of string noise at bay. Start slowly by raking your pick over one muted string to hit the fretted note on the string directly below it, and add more strings as you get comfortable with the movement.
Tyler Larson is the founder of the guitar-centric brand Music is Win (opens in new tab). His insightful, uncomplicated guitar lessons and gear demonstrations along with entertaining, satirical content about life as a musician receive tens of millions of video views per month across social media. Tyler is also the creator of the extremely popular online guitar learning platform, Guitar Super System. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Tyler has been teaching guitar for over a decade and operates a production studio in Nashville, TN.