Forum - Banjo Ben Clark


When I finish playing a solo, there are usually a lot of overtones ringing from the open strings - sympathetic vibrations and tones. How do I stop this because it sounds sloppy. As a new picker I am always questioning my technique and assume that you folks may be doing something to prevent this. I currently rest my wrist on the bridge. Is there a better place? One that would dampen the strings to stop this? Or do I just need to soften my attack on the strings until the overtones stop? Any ideas?

There are a bunch of ways to handle unwanted ringing notes as there is no ‘one right way’ to do this. I play with my right hand floating over the strings so how I do this may be different from how you choose; so I’ll suggest a few different methods.

Generally, went finishing a line of music or a tune, I will use my right hand to mute the strings for a clean finish to a tune. To do this, I use the fleshy part of my right hand, directly below my little finger and above my wrist, and mute the strings close the the bridge. This method allows me to control the rate of the dampening of the strings by how close to the saddle I approach the strings with my hand. For example, if I strum a final chord and want it to die away slowly, I place my hand directly on the top of the saddle slowly allowing the string energy to gently die away. Or I can move toward the sound hole an inch or two for a quicker, more pronounced Finale.

Another method that I regularly use is done with the left hand. This method allows for precise control of ringing strings during tunes and I often use it for rhythmic, percussive strumming and picking. It is done by using your left hand little finger (and sometimes the ring finger) straightened out and dropped flat against the strings. This tends to be an abrupt muting of the strings and works well for clean, percussive strumming and picking. This type of muting I tend to do naturally (without thinking) when I hear a ringing string among the notes I want to hear.

Finally, another left hand method for muting is to simply straighten all of your fingers on your left hand and lay them across the strings near the nut or further up the neck, depending on how fast you want the string sound to die.

I’m sure there are other methods, these three have served me well.

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In addition to Dr Guitar’s good advice, just keep playing. As your fingers gather greater facility doing what you want them to do, you will also pick up ways to control the sound. Both hands can contribute to that end. If you end on one note, your idle left hand fingers can rest lightly on strings you don’t want to ring out and that can be part of learning a piece just as much as stopping/fretting a string. Ben’s playing is a really good example of how to fret/pick cleanly; emulating his technique will not harm your playing. :wink:

See if this helps, buddy.


Good stuff guys! Great camera angle Ben, it is excellent for showing right and left hand techniques.

What Ben is talking about at 2:09 (muting strings not wanted in a chord) has been a major breakthrough for some folks I play with, myself included. Another great example is for the D chord. When playing a D chord you generally do want the open D, you might want the open A, but you would just about never want an open E (except as an explicit passing note). On a D I often wrap my thumb on the second fret to pick up an F# root. Even when I am not fretting it, I keep my thumb resting on the E to mute it. It makes a world of difference, not only for overtones, but for when I accidentally pluck the low E. Selective muting makes your right hand picking much less demanding. I now use selective muting in all sorts of chords (and to a lesser extent in playing individual notes not in a chord shape). The cool thing is, once you do it a bit, it becomes automatic.

Also, FWIW, I LOVE good overtones. I love the way a guitar rings.


Hey everyone - thanks for the all the advice. I probably should not worry so much about technique and just keep playing. Thinks will probably resolve on their own as I get better. Thanks, Ben, for the terrific video.


I play Guitar as well as round neck resonator and banjo all finger picked mainly ( play other instruments too but this mainly applies to these ones) When finger picking round neck resonator I got to noticing that all strings resonated really loud due the nature of the instrument, and the ones that weren’t a part of the chord I was playing over or part of the melody made my playing sound like crap. I noticed this on guitars that had a lot overtones too. My solution was rather than mute these strings just fret them to notes that sound good with what your playing so for example if your soloing over a G major chord try to make all or lest the strings closest to the ones your hitting notes of that chord G, B and D or for a D7th D A F# or C ECT. and try to make really sure your not fretting or leaving any open strings to any notes ring that aren’t a part of the scale key your playing in. Rather than wasting all of that energy on those strings I turn it into harmonizing notes. Open tunings are nice for this and you can sort solve the major third problem with them too.

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Similar conversation on FB earlier today and this video came up of Molly Tuttle. This vid is worth 6 minutes of your time, both to learn from and to enjoy! See:

One thing though… It seems to me that a lead is never really played in a vacuum. It doesn’t have to be blazing fast either. If you are playing alone, after the lead, you’ll generally end on the key chord and start right back into strumming.

Also, if your lead is in key, and you’re playing the right notes, the various overtones, etc, should be in key with the chords anyway, so will just add color.

If you’re playing with another guitarist, the other guitar will be chording during your lead, and so all kinds of other tones and sounds will be coming out, all depending on what guitar two is doing.

All that to say, I wouldn’t worry about it one bit. Those sounds are unique to you as a player and add character to your music.

As someone said above… just play.

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There are times when one comes to realizing the craft is a quantum level higher than imagined. Thanks, Mollie Tuttle. Wow.

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Loose and fluid playing, power, control, and accuracy… Molly’s got it all.