One of the most common problems beginners struggle with is how to position fingers on the fretboard to avoid muting strings and get a good, clean sound out of the guitar chords. This article comes with a video where I explain the problem of unwanted muted strings in-depth and give tips and exercises to help you overcome the problem.
Let me start by saying it is normal for beginner guitarists to mute certain strings when playing chords. As a beginner, you have a lot of things to focus on simultaneously, such as hand placement, balancing the guitar, remembering and finding the chord shapes and finally, strumming the strings. Even advanced guitarists may find specific chord shapes challenging and need to pay extra attention to how they place their fingers on the fretboard in order to avoid muting strings.
Fretting Hand Finger Placement To Avoid Muting Strings
In most cases, the problem of muting strings on guitar can be resolved by paying attention to how you place your fingers on the fretboard. Have a look at the two examples below.
Can you see how the fretting hand fingers are placed vertically to the plane of the fretboard?. This is the ultimate way of holding chords, and this placement allows other strings to have some space to ring without being muted.
Think about it this way, the strings need to breathe, so make sure you create enough space around each string so it can ring freely and avoid muting strings.
I know that right now, it may look like there are a lot of things you need to pay attention to, but I promise that over time, as you get better, a lot of these details will feel like they’re on autopilot and performed without needing to think too much.
Don't Forget To Press The Strings
Once your fingers are in the right place, don’t forget to press them against the fretboard. It may sound like strange advice, but in my one-to-one lessons (Guitar Lessons In Reading UK – CLICK HERE), I have had quite a few guitar students who just placed their fingers on the fretboard without applying any pressure to them.
It was confusing as they had the shape of the chord, and their fingers were placed correctly, but the strings were still muted 🙂 It took me a while to figure out that they weren’t pressing down on the strings!
Put Your Fingers Closer To The Frets
Remember to position your fingers closer to the frets when you place them on the fretboard. That way, it will be easier to avoid muting strings and, in many cases, stop the strings from buzzing. It will also be much easier to press them down!
Have a look a the image below. Can you see how the first finger is positioned very close to the first fret?
A little disclaimer: with certain chords, it won’t be possible to place all fingers this close to the fret, so keep in mind that there will be some exceptions and variations to that rule.
Pay Attention To Your Thumb
For many beginner guitarists, thumb placement is quite problematic, and many would prefer not to use it all 🙂 … but remember, the role of your thumb is to support your fingers. It all works together to help you get the best possible sound out of the guitar and avoid muting strings.
Hands come in different sizes 🙂 as a result, it is pretty challenging to predict the exact placement of the frettings hand thumb, but something like in the image below will be a great starting point.
Make Sure Your Fingers Are Curled
For most chords on the guitar, your fingers should create a nice curved shape. Imagine that you are holding a little tennis ball with a closed hand. That is probably the closest analogy to shaping your hand the right way to avoid muting the strings.
Rember to avoid bending your fingers inwards (especially between the first two knuckles). What I mean by that is to ensure you’re not flattening your fingers on the strings. The contact with the strings should only be the tip of your fingers.
Use The Tips Of Your Fingers To Avoid Muting Strings
Whenever you place your fingers to hold a chord, try to make sure that the very tips of your fingers are what is pressing the strings. Yes, it hurts, but you will get used to it! In the video, I give you a little tip to help reduce the pain and build your calluses quicker.
Once again, it is not always possible to place your fingers like this because some of the chords can require covering two or three strings so take it as general guidance.
Your Fingers Might Be ... Too Big For Your Guitar Neck
If you have tried all of the above and you find that you’re still muting strings on guitar, your fingers might be too wide, large or big. This is nothing unusual, and one of the solutions would be to get a guitar with a wider neck where the spaces between the strings are bigger.
Before you throw away your guitar, though, try to go to a music shop and have a look at different makes of guitars and see if you can feel the difference between different necks. Certain music shops (For Example, in the UK GuitarGuitar and Andertons) allow you to trade your instrument to put your money towards a new one.
By the way, I cover all of these techniques (and much more) in my online guitar lessons, which provide you with a step-by-step system and are perfect for you if you’re just starting out on the guitar, so it will be a pleasure to help you accelerate your learning process and be part of your guitar journey. Click here to find out more: Online Guitar Lessons.
So here they are, my tips on how to avoid muting strings on guitar especially if you’ve tried everything and nothing seems to be working. Did it help? Please let me know below.
Darius | Guitar Couch Lessons