String muting/stopping

by John
(Canton, MA, USA)

I just switched or started playing electric from acoustic. I notice the need to continually stop the strings, which I find annoying, when trying to play follow leads from recorded music, as the notes carry for long periods of time, unlike an acoustic.

I there a technique to commonly do this?

Is the coin phrase, palm muting, refer to one of the techniques for doing this? What is the best technique, and/or other ways to accomplish this?

Answer

Hey, thanks for the question. It is really easy to mute a string or strings, here are a few examples:

Case 1:

you play a note on a single, not open string and it's vibrating while you're fretting it.

Solution:

stop to press the string, but still keep your fretting finger on it (just touch, no pressure).

Case 2:

you play a single note on an open string.

Solution:

you can touch the vibrating open string with any of your available fingers of the fretting hand, or you can place the side of your picking hand near the guitar bridge, like here:

A Photography of Muting the ringing string with the side of the picking hand

You can also use the thumb of the fretting hand to silence the low E string.

Case 3:

You need to mute all or a few ringing strings.

Solution:

  1. all the strings that sound are the fretted ones: just like in the case 1, stop pressing the strings, but don't withdraw the fingers from them.
  2. you have mixed (open and fretted) or only open strings: you may silence them by putting the side of the picking hand somewhere about the bridge like in the case 2, or by touching the strings with the index finger of your fretting hand. You'd need to place it across the strings like when you're playing a bar chord, without pressing them.

You might also check the 'Muting unused strings when playing power chords' answer that I published some time ago.

PS
There's no such thing as a "conventional way" of muting strings on the electric guitar, The examples above are ones that work for me, but I really never think how I should silence the strings, I just use any method that is appropriate to a situation and may combine them if necessary kind of on auto-pilot. You might end up with your own methods that work better for you.

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