Updated: Jul 18, 2019
When a beginner guitar player is starting out, one of the most frustrating things can be trying to play cleanly i.e. no bum notes, no notes ringing out that aren’t supposed to. While achieving a clean playing style is a combination of many things such as good finger strength, correct fretting, and of course practice! The often overlooked technique is string muting. String muting can be done with either or both hands, and is as simple as it sounds, you simply cover the strings lightly so that when they are struck they make a percussive ‘scratch’ type sound instead of a note. This essentially stops the strings from sustaining any notes. Now on its own, it’s not that impressive sounding, the key is to combine muting with regular picking and alternate between the two without consciously thinking about it. With your strumming hand, you can play a note and then quickly place your palm down on the strings to kill the sound. For your fretting hand you can fret one note and gently touch the other strings with the rest of your hand, this way you can strum all six strings and only worry about the note you’ve fretted ringing out. If you combine these two hand muting techniques and alternate where needed, you will quickly notice with practice that guitar playing is much tighter, cleaner and more professional. This style of playing is a must for genres such as Funk and Rock that use percussive style playing as an integral part of the guitar sound.
Tom Rickerby (Music production and guitar teacher)