Clean Up Your Lead Guitar

August 11th, 2010

One of the common problems several aspiring lead guitarists run into is that once they take up that role, the guitar is a little sloppy. Obviously this is not wanted as you want nothing more than to shine in your lead guitar role.

Thus, the point of today’s post is to examine A) what makes choppy lead guitar and B) how you can correct this issue.

Generally, if you have a hard time playing lead guitar cleanly, the most likely reason is due to excessive guitar string noise. So, for the majority of guitarists this may have nothing to do with improving the way they play but rather simply watching what they do when they strum. 

The root of excess guitar string noise lies in the notes (or strings) that are accidentally played. Ideally you want nothing to do with these notes as they drown out a portion of your lead. Consequently, your remedy lies within a term known as muting techniques.

What are muting techniques?

MusicInfo4All breaks string muting on a guitar into three basic categories – String Muting, Fret-hand Muting and Palm Muting. While all three are different in both technique and purpose, the primary goal of all is simply to mute or distort unwanted notes. Both fret hand muting and palm muting are very individual and stylistic techniques, reserved best for advanced players while string muting is a little easier and more common.

When muting guitar strings, the guitarist has an option of either A) stopping unwanted guitar string noise from LOWER (in pitch) strings or B) muting the higher (in pitch) strings. Again, different methods exist, however the techniques listed below tend to be the most ideal.

Muting the Lower Strings

Most guitarists use the palm of their picking hand to mute lower strings. Although this technique is fairly adequate, some are against this practice as it tends to A) cause a slight delay in the muting of a string which has just been played; and B) when the guitarist uses their palm the natural position of the guitar pick (when not playing) is now away from the strings. This is what some refer to as your Natural Point Of Rest.

Note: The slight delay of unwanted guitar string noise is caused because the flesh of your palm is much softer than the side of your thumb and therefore takes more time for your palm to actually stop the string from sounding. Also, it’s not easy to get your palm in the perfect position thereby reducing the effectiveness even further.

Some say that when your pick is resting up and away from the strings, your picking hand is ultimately working harder and also significantly increasing the chance for sloppy play, string noise and slower picking speeds.

Thus, a fantastic alternative is to mute with your picking hand’s thumb for all lower (in pitch) strings. When you follow this technique you will also notice that the “Natural Point Of Rest” is now on the strings. The result is a drastic reduction in wasted motion as well as a much more comfortable position. 

Muting the Higher Strings

While muting from the lower strings is very common among guitarists, muting the higher strings is actually a foreign concept to the vast majority. Unfortunately, many guitar players are totally unaware of the possibilities for muting unwanted guitar string noise from the higher strings and the result is sloppy lead guitar.

Thankfully, two main techniques exist. Individuals may use the underside (fingerprint side) of the fretting hand’s index finger. This part of your finger is then used to lightly touch the higher strings that you want to mute. The emphasis is on lightly. Simply resting your fingers on the string(s) will do. Secondly, individuals may mute higher strings by using the unused fingers of their non-picking hand (such as middle, ring and pinkie). This extra layer of muting will ensure the removal of unwanted noise. 

In conclusion, guitar muting equals stronger lead guitar. Not satisfied with your current lead guitar. Clean it up with these simple, yet relatively unknown tricks.

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