String Noise: 5 Ways How to avoid buzzing strings

On electric guitar if you want to have a recording-ready sound coming out of the guitar, string muting and avoiding unwanted string noise is vitally important.

Especially with heavily distorted sound.

There are FIVE main ways to mute the inactive strings while playing.

It depends on the situation when you apply which technique.

I will lead you through all of them.

Be aware: you can never eliminate noise completely.

But you can play in a way that the actual notes you want to play drown out the other noises.

Left (fretting) hand muting to avoid string noise

There are two sub-categories for this one.

a) Muting the strings higher than the current string

This can be achieved by slightly resting your fingers on the strings:

Left hand string noise muting on guitar

This needs to be calibrated well so you still maintain freedom to play any note you want but you can do this with any finger.

b) Muting the string lower than the current string

This works especially well with barre-chords but it is not limited just to that.

The idea is to slightly over-reach your finger so that the tip touches the lower string and prevents it from ringing out:

2. Right (picking) hand muting to avoid string noise

The most straightforward way is:

a) Just hit the right strings and don’t hit the strings you don’t want to play

If you are for instance strumming a barre chord with the lowest note on the A-string, train yourself to land your pick in between the E- and A-string and then trigger the strumming.

b) Thumb muting

This requires a bit more build-up because if you don’t hold your pick right, this is not going to work.

But it works especially well with sweep picking arpeggios and fast scale playing

Think of your pick as if you are holding a pen.

(unless you are holding your pen in a weird way with more than two fingers)

Holding the guitar pick with two fingers like a pen
Holding the guitar pick with two fingers like a pen

You rest your hand on the strings like this and you are done:

Thumb muting demonstration for guitar to avoid string noise

You may feel awkward playing now but if the rest of your picking technique comes mainly from the wrist or, for sweep picking) from the arm, this method works wonders.

If you don’t play any notes, you would hear how the thumb scrapes over the strings but, like I hinted at in the beginning, the sound of your notes should drown this out easily.

c) Picking hand finger muting

For this one it is important that you keep all your fingers aligned with each other and don’t stretch them away.

(apart from that stretching causing unnecessary tension which will exhaust your picking hand faster)

This technique is useful especially for sweep picking when your left hand is busy fretting notes.

The idea is to drag your fingers along over the higher strings so that they look like this:

This will take a bit of practice and experimenting if you don’t have a professional teacher to look over your technique.

If you want more help just get in touch:


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