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.
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.
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.