String Muting

Hopefully, I can make this question clear. Goal is to mute all the strings after a strum direction so nothing rings out. Pretty easy if a barre chord, but not when it’s an open chord position (eg, E or C). To illustrate, I have a simple down strum only for four beats and I want the strings muted before the next down strum. Don’t want to play any strings until the next down beat. Relaxing the fingers on the fretted strings is good for those notes, but the problem is the open strings ringing out. Trying to mute open strings with fretting hand without using palm of right hand is the barrier. Any suggestions?

You should use your palm to mute in these instances >> . It might be an idea to tell us what you are trying to play then some specific suggestions/ideas could be given.

As Jason already said, palm mute is the obvious choice. But depending on the chord you’re playing you can mute wtih your fretting hand as well by covering all strings.

Look at Justin’s Lessons on the Backbeat Hit and Palm Muting. It illustrates the technique pretty well.

Basically, after you finish the down-strum, you rotate your wrist slightly and mute all 6 strings with the edge of your hand, like a palm mute.

So, some songs sound good just strumming away and everything rings out. Other songs sound better with the chords abbreviated. At least that’s my take on it :). The problem I experience is trying to use my fretting hand and getting the open strings to mute. Lifting the fingers a little obviously takes care of the fretted strings. Palm muting seems to throw off the rhythm of the strumming hand. It all just feels very hard to coordinate. I think it’s usually the open D or G strings that are the problem.

Hi Dennis.
As you say, palm muting can throw you off the rhythm if you’re not used to it.
Think of it as an upstrum but instead of striking the strings with the pick, brush the strings with the heel of your hand as you are moving back up for the next down strum. That way, you will keep the hand/arm moving with the rhythm.

So, I think we’re discussing two separate issues. The percussive hit with palm muting is one thing (notes are played and muted at same time). That’s pretty straightforward. The second issue is playing the chord clearly and then quickly muting it before the next up or down strum motion with the arm. This is what I’m trying to get a handle on. I’m just trying to figure out the technique to accomplish that with the fretting hand only. I’ve seen it done, but I’m at a loss.

The way you describe it, it seems to me, that the only thing you can do is just mute everything with your fretting hand and then be quick enough to grab your chord again.

Hi Dennis,

Justin has two lessons I know of that may help:


The technique he barely brushes on in #1 but suggests #2 will create a staccato mute using the fretting fingers. Note that your fingers are already in a good position here to cover the strings quickly. I don’t think it is a reasonable technique to use for all occasions. He also says it is fairly advanced (note Pride and Joy is grade 7). I can tell you that my attempts are fairly horrible sounding. :slight_smile:

I use palm muting a lot. From a light dampening to reduce sustain to a hard mute to stop the sound fast. Don’t discredit using your palm mutes! I think that getting used to the pressure you put on strings is a large part of what you are trying to do. Too heavy and you fret the string or get a buzz, too light and you raise fingers off the string failing to mute.

Yep! What you describe experiencing is exactly what I’ve run into. If it is indeed a “fairly advanced” technique, then I have no chance as I am only advanced in my dreams, not in my fingers. I guess I was hoping there was some drill or method to try to move the process down the road. The incomplete muting sounds really bad and makes me bail out of the strumming pattern. I’ll check out those other lessons. Just haven’t seen too much written about this problem. I know I couldn’t be the only one.

The way to do a left hand mute with open chords is to unfret the chord and mute with all fingers. I do it a fair bit, how easy it is depends on how quick you are to the chord in question.

An “easier” song to practice it with is La Grange.

Just practice it slow and build up speed like most things.

ooh - Thanks JK! I forgot about La Grange. In that lesson Justin also mentions muting with BOTH palm and fingers to get that stop to be very defined.

1 Like

Thanks. That’s what I’m trying to do. Forget songs!! I’ve just been practicing with simple chord progressions or just keeping the same chord. It’s harder yet with more challenging strumming patterns such as:

D D DU U UD DUD (two measures)

With muting in all of the spaces.

When playing 16th note strumming patterns with rests on the acoustic I mute the strings on the rests with the side of my strumming hand and back this up by releasing the fretted notes just enough to dampen them. As @jkahn says you can unfret the chord and mute all strings with all fingers or if your playing an open chord and have the 4th finger free for example you can unfret the chord whilst maintaining contact with the strings and lay the pinky across the strings to mute the open notes in the chord.

1 Like