Why am I finding thumb muting with A so hard?

Hey everyone,
Using my thumb is something I’m trying to build at the moment and on the whole it’s pretty good, muting the low E string playing D, Dm, Am I’m all quite happy with. Using the thumb to fret low E when playing G is all good but for the life of me A causes me issues still. I’m either muting high E or I’m not fretting the G string (1st finger) well. It all feels so cramped with my thumb over the top. It’s more the G string fretting that’s the bigger issue out of the two.

Sometimes it works ok but it’s really inconsistent. I’m doing some OMC exercises in my practice to try and dial it in. Did anyone else find this particular chord a challenge with using your thumb? Any tips or suggestions gratfully received!! I did watch the lesson again earlier today but I didn’t pick up anything new. It’s not the end of the world obviously but it is a bit of a PITA at the moment! :wink:

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Yeah, my thumb gets nowhere near.

For these ‘odd’ chords I try not to worry too much, either a c chord will come alone soon and I can stop the low E ringing out with the index finger or maybe a D and all good with the thumb again.

I try not to hit the low E obviously but if I do , it’ll soon get muted on next chord change so tend not to worry. The E is in the a chord anyway so no biggy.

Sorry I don’t have a magic fix for you. I tend to find lots of little things all add up when cleaning up my sound:

  • fretting finger muting (all sorts, tip of index, adjacent strings with pad of finger etc)
  • sliding finger down string as I’m lifting off to avoid accidental ‘pull offs’
  • palm muting with strumming hand
  • biggest for me - not hitting dud stings - try and keep it accurate
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Personally, I haven’t yet felt the need to start working on using my thumb to fret notes, but I use it occasionally for muting the E string. Have you tried to play the 1st finger A chord and mute the E string with your thumb? It may be a bit easier than with the regular A chord grip.


I think the simplest answer to your question is… biology. Large hands, small hands, long fingers, short fingers, the shape of the palm and angle of the fingers, etc etc… it’s going to determine what we each find easy and hard.

Personally, I have the same issue you do. Thumb works fine for most things, but reaching the E string while cleanly fretting an A? Problematic. So I just don’t bother. I spent at least two years playing open chords without ever muting the E and sounded fine, so why waste time on it now?

The way I look at it is that it stops me being lazy, because I have to make sure my strumming accuracy is up to scratch.


As I recall, the index finger A cord is naturally muting the high e anyway, so wether you play the index or three finger A, why worry about muting the high e? Take the thumb over the top!


@liaty thanks Dave, yeah I kind of know there’s no magic fix it’s just a pain that A is in isolation is so much more problematic! I’m blessed with quite big hands which has been useful so far, maybe this is the first encounter of it being detrimental!

@Jozsef do you mean barreing the A? I use it from time to time depending on what I’m changing from or to with it. I’ve not tried the thumb muting with that fingering but it makes sense it may work better. I’ll give it a go :+1:

@Goffik fair comments Ross, as above my hands are on the bigger side. I’m not losing sleep on it for sure and I’m happy to crack on, just one of those annoyances!!!

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Good point Joshua, my regular A is Justin’s 2, 1, 3 and I’ll use index finger A occasionally. It’s with the 2, 1, 3 fingering that’s the issue, and it’s the G string fretting that’s the bigger problem. I’m quite happy with index A so it may be worth using it more.
Cheers! :+1:

As Goffik has said, everybody’s anatomy is different.

I play quite a few things that involve using my thumb on the low E, but I can’t remember the last time I had to play a thumb over G.

Things like muting when playing an A, you only need to touch the string, but I suspect the issue is you need change how you fret the other strings.
As a beginner you’re taught to keep your thumb on the back of the neck to avoid ‘sloppy’ technique, but as you develop as a player, you’ll learn lots of playing actually involves pretty ‘sloppy’ holding of the neck. However you’ll also learn where and when you need to use ‘good’ technique.
I suspect your main problem is you need to learn how to fret the A using a more ‘sloppy’ hand position with your palm touching the neck. Ignore trying to mute the low E, and work on fretting the A with your palm against the neck. Just like originally learning chords, it’ll be using bits of your fingertips without callouses, so it’ll be difficult at first due to the string sinking into your finger, but it’ll get easier with practise.

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Hi Mark what Jozsef said is the correct answer, mini barre for A chord if you plan to mute low E string. As for high e string if it doesn’t ring out it’s okay I think Justin says in one lesson that high e string can make an odd experience when playing the chord to the listener so don’t worry too much about high e not ringing out.

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I struggle to mute low E when playing an A with 3 fingers as well. Can do it but often mute the high E.

Barre A FTW or accuracy in strumming. It’s not a big deal if you hit the low E as the A chord has an E in it anyway.

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@mc @adi_mrok @jkahn Thank you guys, I’ll continue to experiment but building in more use of the mini barre sounds like a good path to go down.

Sloppy chord technique is not something I’d have thought I’d be recommended! :wink: I do get what you mean though.


Does this sloppiness ever get taught in any of the modules (when to use it, and how)?

Hi Stacy, no nothing shown, I’d say it’s just about playing around a little bit.

I don’t think there’s a specific lesson on ‘sloppiness’, and furthermore, I don’t agree that it’s sloppy (meaning no disrespect to whoever used that term upthread, and who offered some good advice).

When I started thumb muting, I noticed there was a lot more contact between my palm, the base of my thumb, and the back of the guitar neck. I think that’s just part of the technique.

The main thing is that you do it consciously, in a relaxed way, that doesn’t mute other strings unnecessarily

I gotcha. Im not to this lesson yet but I’ve been obsessing the past couple of weeks about my hand size and my ability to keep the gap under the neck. I toyed around with thumb over the neck on A chord and muting E is virtually impossible for me to do.

@artax_2 , I think I saw that post.

If I haven’t already suggested this, I’m suggesting it now….

Post a picture!

It’s probably not a physical limitation. And even if it is, we can most likely suggest things that will help.

My pinky is only 5.3cm or 2 inches, and thumb is only 5.6cm. Reaching upwards to the 6th string brings the meat of my palm into the bottom strings. I’m not even worried about stretching frets lengthwise with the pinky. I just can’t reach upwards…without bending the wrist and using my palm to be an extension of the fingers. Maybe that’s okay to do, or maybe I’ll get carpal tunnel, or maybe I’ll never use it above the 4th string. I don’t know yet.

That’s why I put ‘sloppy’ in quotes.

It’s not really sloppy as such, but for beginners having your palm on the neck is often described as sloppy.
Unless you play classical guitar, where it most definitely is sloppy as the only thing that should touch the neck is your thumb!

But as has been said, it’s a case of experimenting.
Those with smaller hands may struggle to fret the low E string reliably on larger necks, but should still be able to touch the string enough to mute it.


I was about to make the same comment. My hand anatomy is built in a way that when playing an open A major chord, once I bring the thumb up to mute the 6th string, my palm will just lightly touch the 1st string.
I’ve tried contorting my hand around in different position. On occasion I can get a clean strum, but not with any consistency.

But! :smiley:

There were a couple of suggestions to use a 3rd finger mini-barr like you would when doing A-Shaped CAGED progressions.

And - BAM! Bob’s Your Uncle! I’ve got enough practice under my belt to be able to hit a 3rd finger mini-barr fairly consistently without muting the 1st string with my 3rd finger, and this position frees-up my hand and allows me to use my thumb to mute the 6th string.

Just Super! Great idea.

If you’re just starting out, you may want to concentrate on using Justin’s 213 A-Chord finger combination. But I’ve added a couple pictures if you want to get a feel what we are talking about as this isn’t Grade 1 Module 2 material.

As you can see, I can’t thumb mute the 6th string without my palm muting the 1st string.

The mini-barr solves that problem.

:guitar: 200% :+1:

Sooooo, now that I’m considering using the finger position for my Open A-chord, I’ll have to work on Chord Perfect and Chord Changes using this shape - which is why I’m here in Grade 1 Module 2 instead of elsewhere in the program.

I was going to say that when you learn 1st finger mini-barre A chord you will find that low E muting is a lot easier with it.
1st finger mini-barre A chord, more and more, will become a part of your open chord progression choice.

Can I say to @LamphunLamyai please don’t get into the habit of using a 3rd finger barre for open position A. It won’t do you good in the long run when you want and need to add embellishment notes to it.
Such as: