Fingerstyle String Muting

Hi All.

I picked up guitar relatively recently and have been getting into fingerstyle. But I’ve been having issues with unwanted strings ringing out so I wanted to look into string muting, but I haven’t been able to find much to help me understand.

There is also a good chance that I’m misunderstanding the idea of string muting entirely, so if any of you could point me in the correct direction in terms of the concept that would also be a huge help.

Much like Justin’s one lesson on string muting, most videos out there also describe string muting as mostly using either the tip of your fingers on the fretting hand, the length of the fingers on the fretting hand, or the palm of the strumming hand. However, the way I understand it, this mostly applies to strumming patterns and not really to fingerstyle.

Ranging from songs such as “Limbo” by Keshi and “Castle in the Sky” by eaJ, where the chord shape only changes every two bars, to higher tempo songs such as “Playing God” by Polyphia, I don’t really see how the string muting described on the internet applies to these songs.

One way I can see it working is by using the aforementioned muting methods and adjusting them every time there is a change in chord shape, but that would only be applicable to songs with slower tempo.

Again, I’m pretty much a complete noob so any advice is greatly appreciated!

1 Like

I think you mean strings dampening. It’s done in many ways, using left or right hand, fingertips, palms etc.
I saw some videos on YouTube about strings dampening, especially for classical guitar

For example:

I find muting a little different between picking and fingers. Here’s what I have found so far:

Change fast enough - This is just simply making the chord change fast enough that the listener doesn’t have time to notice something ringing that sounds a little sour. You will want your air change practice to be pretty good.

Palm Muting - using the heel of the picking hand to mute strings. This works well for me finger style until string 4, but gets awkward for string 3 and I’m better off using some other method. Muting a thumb maintaining a bass beat is how I usually use this.

Picking hand fingertip muting - I use this when I want a full stop on some string that is ringing. I need to be careful to avoid missing and knocking into an adjacent string that may get muted or buzz against a fingernail.

Fretting hand fingertip muting - This can often be just lifting fingers off a chord I just played by enough to quiet it. I may also be muting by lightly placing a finger down on a ringing string. Same care needs to be taken to be accurate like mentioned just above.

Fretting hand whole finger muting - This is laying one or more fingers lightly across several strings. I have case where I do this just to mute one string and let the bass note ring out, but it works for muting a chord as well.

Fretting hand thumb muting - This is just wrapping the thumb over the top of the neck to touch string 6. Doesn’t take much touch and I use this without thinking about it either picking or finger-style. If you have a long enough hand + fingers, then you can make it to string 5 - it is a little too much for me.

so far most of that is to quiet a string AFTER picking it. You can also touch a string that is not in use. A good example is playing a note on strings 1 or 2 that causes a vibration after a moment on strings 5 or 6. The idea is the same, you just need to dampen the string vibration.
I use palm muting and also (not mentioned above) touching an adjacent string with a fretted string’s fingertip when fretting. I may also lay a finger fretting a string a little flat to dampen strings under it.

You claim to be a “complete noob”, but you have a couple songs that need more advanced skill than “noob” to accomplish. Make sure you have a pretty good proficiency of the chord changes and are able to consistently hold a clean tempo (not necessarily at full speed) with your finger picked notes.

1 Like

To be honest I’m not sure if you have a problem to solve. It is all situational, the song itself defines whenever the damping/muting is needed. It would be better if you could the present the exact problem and the song.

I too have read a bit recently on finger style string muting. I think Michael (@sequences) lists out the major options well.

Alex DeGrassi also has an article about it, which is quite similar.

The bottom line, in my mind, is that there are a myriad of ways to stop strings from ringing. The goal being to time notes as required by the piece being played and avoid unwanted droning or sympathetic resonances, etc.

How you do it, in any particular instance, only matters in that it is achievable in the context of what other tasks your right or left hand may need to be doing to play in a consistent manner.

Many notes will take care of themselves, but when they don’t, figuring out the finger/hand movements to play the note and stop it at the correct moment is just another layer to learning to play.