Muting the low E only - arm mechanics

So, I’m currently trying to learn Smokestack lighting, muting just the 6th string while I play the regular bass note on that with my thumb as my fingers do the rest of the notes.

After not much time, I feel discomfort/tiredness in my upper arm/shoulder. From what I can tell, when I play normally (not muting any strings), I rest my forearm on the top of my guitar with my elbow slightly behind the guitar, and my hand is free to fingerpick or strum, so all the weight of the arm is supported by the guitar.

But when i’m trying to mute the low E string, I move my elbow forward a bit so I can get the side of my palm against the 6th string, and I can’t rest my forearm on the top of the guitar so basically my shoulder/bicep is holding up my arm, which is why I think it aches after a while.

But I can’t work out another way of doing it without muting more than I want (end up muting down to 4th string at least). I’m not sure if that made sense but if it did, any advice on how to get that muted string only? Or is it just a case of practicing until the arm doesn’t feel tired any more?

Hi Saj,

EDIT: I saw the OP is playing Smokestack Lightning. I know this riff and the muting is more of a dampening rather than a deadening. My answer is related directly to the riff.

I definitely need to hold a bit of my arm in tension. For me, it is in the bicep and upper forearm. Are you using an electric (thin) or acoustic (thick) guitar? May have a little to do with where the tension is.

I tend to set the heel of my palm down on the corner of the bridge and rotate around that corner. It mutes string 4 at the beginning of the riff and then I need to rotate away from string 4 just to reach it when i need to pick it. Muting string 4 again when I cycle back to the start of the riff is handy to keep notes clear.

Not sure if this pic will help.

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Hi Sajid,

What helps if you only want to mute the low E, is to use the thumb of your fretting hand

See if you can manage that whilst still fretting the other notes.

Kind regards


Thanks - I’ve tried with both electric and acoustic, but mainly electric. Its good to hear that holding the arm in tension is not just me, and also seeing you’re not finding one “magic” position but moving it as you need the 4th string or not.

you are always moving your hands. Even the fretting hand. My fingers are nearly vertical at the start of the riff, and then flat by the time I am at string 4, muting the three strings under it. I seem to rotate my hand so fingers are pretty much 90 degrees across the fretboard (parallel to frets) at start to maybe 45 degrees so I can get that flat grip. Kind of looks like I am ready for a string bend at the end of the riff.