Watch the Volume Swells online guitar lesson by Chris Buono from 60 Electric Guitar Techniques You MUST Know
Volume swells eliminate the initial pick attack, giving you violin-like phrasing possibilities. This can be achieved with the guitar's volume knob or a volume pedal for hands free swelling. Taking it to the next level, you can add reverb and/or delay for more depth as well as creating synth pad textures.
Looking for inspiration? As with many electric guitar technique,s volume swells came to my attention via Steve Howe and his masterful work with Morley volume pedals (my first one) in songs like "To Be Over". Afterwards, swelling in long delay pads became one of my main calling cards. Another defining volume swell moment – this time with a volume knob – was Van Halen's "Cathedral" from Diver Down.