string muting classical guitar
-

7 Ways to Mute Your Guitar Strings (7 Muting Techniques)

It’s hard enough to sound the right notes at the right times. But what about when we want the strings to STOP ringing?

What’s the best way to mute out strings in our classical guitar pieces?

Below you’ll find seven methods you can choose from.

The Ends of Notes

Each note we play has three parts: the beginning, the middle, and the end.

We focus most often on the beginnings of notes. When we play a note, we use our bodies (fingers) to sound the string. This moment of sounding the string is the beginning of the note.

When we let a note ring, fretted or unfretted (open), we hear the duration of the note. This is the middle of the note.

And when we either stop the note or it fades completely away, we have the end of the note.

A main goal of classical guitar technique is to play smooth and connected (aka legato). This means that one note ends at the exact moment another note begins. In this way we make the music more lyrical and vocal, instead choppy and separated.

And sometimes we need to end a note on purpose, at a specific time. This could be at the end of a section or tune, or it could be at a rest or dramatic moment.

In these cases, we’ll need to mute the note.

 

Muting Method #1: The Left-Hand Lift

One way to stop a fretted note from ringing is to stop pressing the string with the left hand finger.

When we lift either one finger or the entire hand, we release pressure on the string.

We don’t need to lift our fingers all the way off the strings, as this could create noise and re-sound the strings on accident.

Instead, we can stop pressing. We can “let go” of our grip.

This may happen on accident when playing chords. In that case, we’ll want to recognize it and keep the pressure steady.

Also, if we release pressure slowly, we may create a buzzing sound. So we can either release the pressure quickly, or combine this method with the next…

Muting Method #2: The Left-Hand Touch

Another way to stop a ringing note is to use a left-hand finger to touch the string that’s ringing.

We can use the entire hand, or just send one finger over to do the job.

This can take practice not to press the string, but only to touch it lightly. We’ll need control if the other fingers are pressing other strings.

We can also play a note “sloppily” on purpose to mute the adjacent string. When we do this, we play more on the pad of the finger and let the tip touch the next string, muting it.

Muting Method #3: The Right-Hand Thumb Mute

We can use the right-hand thumb to mute strings. This could be simultaneous with a preparation for the next thumb note.

Using the side of the thumb, we can mute one or more strings

This can also be combined with…

Muting Method #4: The Plant

“Planting” is when we prepare our right-hand fingers on the strings before playing them.

We can do this to increase confidence and security in our playing. And we can also do it to mute one or more notes.

Ideally, we keep our right-hand technique as intentional as we can, so we’re in the best position to continue playing.

Muting Method #5 The Karate Chop

Using the outside (little-finger side) of the right hand, we can stop all the strings at once.

This method is great at the end of a song, when we want a hard cut-off.

We can “chop” hard enough to stop the strings abruptly, but not so hard that the strings click against the fretboard. The result is an accented silence.

As a bonus performance tip, freeze all body motion for a moment when using this technique. It gives a professional closure to the piece.

Muting Method #6: The Fade

For a different ending effect, we can “karate chop” directly onto the bridge, behind the strings, then roll our right hand forward. This creates the effect of a volume knob being turned down.

It’s a softer ending than the full “karate chop”, but still has an air of finality about it, perfect for an ending.

Muting Method #7: Pizzicato

Also known as “muted bass”, pizzicato is a technique where we play the thumb while the side of the hand lightly rests on the strings near the bridge.

The effect is like an upright string bass: woody, thuddy, round and without much sustain.

If you do “The Fade” from above, you’ll be in the perfect position to play pizzicato.

The right hand chops down onto the bridge, behind the strings. Next, we roll our hand forward, over the strings. The side of the hand lightly covers the strings (often just the bass strings when playing pizzicato). Then the thumb plays the bass strings.

Which One Should I Use?

Which one we use depends on the situation and our comfort levels with each technique.

The important part is that we learn to hear how notes end. With practice, we can notice when a note rings too long, creating a clash with the next note. Or we can hear when a note ends too early, creating a clipped sound and breaking the line

Eventually, we use a number of these methods almost by instinct to clean and polish our music as we go. But to start, we have to develop the tools, and learn to hear the ends of the notes.

allen mathews classical guitar

About Allen Mathews

Allen Mathews learned guitar as an adult, and has been a full-time guitar teacher for almost two decades to students age 4 to 96.  He has taught classical guitar at Reed College and Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and has been a guest lecturer and clinician at schools and universities throughout the U.S.  Allen is often praised for his creative teaching abilities, and his dedication to helping adults learn classical guitar.  He has a popular Youtube Channel offering regular classical guitar tutorials, and has gained fans worldwide for his weekly emails and articles at ClassicalGuitarShed.com.





Become a Member and Play More, Beautifully!


“The basics are the basics, and you can’t beat the basics.”
Charles Poliquin  

Join the program that takes you from the beginning fundamentals to advanced mastery, so you…

  • Move your hands safely and fluidly

  • Enjoy fulfilling practices and meaningful work

  • Play beautifully with expression and flow

Click the button to take a step towards an organized, effective guitar practice. >>>




Featured Courses

$39


jesu bach classical guitar

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring – Bach

One of the best loved of all classical pieces.

See more...


$39


read music guitar high positions notes

Play and Read Music in the Higher Positions

Learn to read music and identify notes on the entire neck.

See more...


$39


how to play segovia scales

Better Technique, with “Segovia’s Favorite Scales”

Detailed explorations of this popular technical tool.

See more...


$39


pachelbel's canon guitar

Pachelbel’s Canon in D

Great for beginners to intermediate players.

See more...


$47


how to read music for guitar

How to Read Music for Guitar

A full course to get you started reading music

See more...


$39


malaguena guitar

Malagueña, by Ernesto Lecuona

One of the most fun and recognizable guitar songs in the world!

See more...



See more…