Muting Strings Deliberately

In this lesson, explore how to mute unwanted string when playing guitar and elevate the sound of your scales!

View the full lesson at Muting Strings Deliberately | JustinGuitar

A couple of months ago, when I was learning scales, it annoyed me that the sound was all over the place. Thanks, Justin, I’ll incorporate this into my routine.

What is the relevance of the E minor pentatonic scale as opposed to any other scale, pentatonic or diatonic.

It’s an easy scale to start with as it’s in the open position.

Aha, thank you. I thought there was some kind of pentatonic pattern you could apply to any note and create a pentatonic scale. I was doing that on a baritone ukulele and it was fun because you can’t play a “wrong” note… Like, say, in G, you might play E,F or F,G and wish you hadn’t.

There is 5 patterns and each pattern has a major and minor
version that you can apply.

In addition to answers already given, it cennects brilliantly with learning some of Wish You Were Here.
Hope that helps.

Cheers :smiley:

| Richard_close2u | Community Moderator, Official Guide, JustinGuitar Approved Teacher

This is by far the hardest thing we have learnt so far. My plan is just to nail one string or note at a time before moving on.

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Muting isn’t easy indeed and the gain you get from the effort does not shine through like in nailign a chord grip

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I got serious about thumb muting when I got tired of hearing the open E string ringing, and couldn’t make ring finger muting work with the C chord.

Just starting to see progress after a couple of weeks, but liking what I am hearing so far.

But it’s been a major change in my technique. My semi-classical-with-strap sitting position - which works beautifully with thumb at the back of the neck - is not so good with thumb in the muting position.

Not only is my hand position changing, but I’m having to experiment with neck angle, and a more casual sitting position - which I’ve always hated up till now.

But I’m paying attention and perceiving things in a new way, and it’s starting to pay off.


Thank you, this was a great lesson. Good stuff to really start thinking about and working on as I play. When I lift my fingers off a string, I get some ringing on that same string- should I use the fretting hand or picking hand to try to mute this, or is that more a matter of changing how I am pressing down on the strings themselves?


There’s that and how you lift the fingers off the strings, Sarah. If you lift off vigorously and at an angle then you are beginning to execute a leader guitar technique called a flick-off or pull-off. So just a matter of experimentation and practice.

How do you mute with your picking hand if you don’t use a pick (classical guitar)?

How do you keep the strings from ringing when removing fingers from the fret?

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I am practicing muting together with the E minor pentatonic scale, and I was wondering if it is a good idea to turn on distortion when doing this?

Distortion tends to amplify the slightest string noise so it would make the exercise harder and less forgiving but it may also make it easier to spot mistakes.

What do you guys think?

Yes, high distortion will make it easier to hear the unmuted strings. I always practice scales with high distortion for this purpose.

Of course, since you are practicing E minor pentatonic (root position), your muting will predominately come from your right hand.

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You have 2 options:

  1. When playing chords without open strings, it might be enough to lift the fingers of the fretting hand just enough to stop the strings from ringing out.
  2. If open strings are involved, you can use the “heel” of your your picking hand to mute them.

Leentjheu: “How do you mute with your picking hand if you don’t use a pick (classical guitar)?”

With classical, your picking hand’s finger tips are generally in the perfect position to lightly press on most any string to mute it. To quickly mute all of them at once, the side or palm of the picking hand will do.

Coming from classical to electric myself, I’ve found that muting strings is much more of a need with electrical than classical because ringing strings tend to ring much more loudly and longer with an amp.

Since a while I am practicing the fretting hand part of muting while playing scales or riffs, but I am still much slower than before (using the tips of my fingers). Often the notes are not clear and I have a buzzing sound.
Because the fingers of my fretting hand are flatter and the tip of my finger is touching the next string, I need substantial more pressure to get clean notes. Is this to be expected?

I experienced the same thing when transitioning from only using my fingertips to laying my fingertips flatter to mute the string above with the tip and the strings below with the inside of the finger.

Over time, practice, and purposeful focus on your finger positioning, you will eventually find the proper finger placement and pressure. You actually don’t use more pressure, it’s just that the pressure is applied with a different part of the finger, and it feels different because it’s new to you.

I swung back and forth between too flat, not flat enough, too much pressure, too little pressure for many months before it felt natural. Like Justin says, you should be aware of your muting, but do not let this stop you from continuing your progress through the lessons. In time, you’ll also be muting with the picking hand, and the two hands will work together to make your muting really solid.