14 July 2008

Beginner Guitar Strum: String Muting Lesson

In the last guitar strum lessons you learned how to mute the strings to practice rhythm patterns. You mute the strings to get the feel of the rhythm without worrying about playing the chords.

Once you have the rhythm down you can start to use it with chords and progressions. But the usefulness of muted strings doesn't end there. You can use this technique to mute strings when playing chord progressions and songs. You can create great percussive effects in your rhythms, or simply leave a silence to create some space.

Create Contrast

Both techniques create contrast with the chord sounds and give your rhythm playing added interest. They are very effective when you are playing at faster speeds and let you create some funky rhythms, even with basic open chords.

Get Practicing

You include these sounds in your playing by resting your fretting hand fingers across all six strings, just as you did when practicing the rhythm. Apply just enough pressure to mute the strings, don't press them onto the frets.

It might not be easy at first to change between your usual chord positions and the muted position. But with a little practice you will soon be changing back and forth as easily as you change chords.

And one and two and blend

Once you are comfortable with the changing positions blend some muted sounds into your chord progressions. You strum the muted strings to create a percussive scratching sound. You don't need to strum all the strings, just a few will do the trick.

You can also leave a silence by muting the strings and not strumming. You might also try to create other sounds during silences, for example you can tap on the table or the sides of the guitar with your right hand.

Practice string muting with some of the chords you already know. Choose a simple pattern like this one over four beats: strum - strum - mute - strum. Play the pattern over and over and practice moving between the fingered chord and the string mute. Remember to start out slowly and increase speed gradually.

Once you've done this for a few chords you know you can start practicing with chord progressions. It takes a little while to get really comfortable and play these kind of rhythm patterns automatically.

One good way to practice is while you watch TV in the evening. Not only does it gain you some extra practice time, it actually helps you to learn to play the rhythms without full concentration. This is valuable when you want to sing along or pay some attention to other musicians you play with.

Here's a podcast from Guitar Noise that will give you some ideas for using string muting with simple open chord rhythms using G, C and D chords.

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