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How to Avoid Noise When Releasing a Guitar String

What makes a guitar player sound good isn’t just what they are playing but also what they are not playing. A common problem for beginner guitarists is that they create unwanted noise when releasing the string. This can turn what would otherwise be an impressive piece into a bit of a sloppy mess.

So what’s the solution? To avoid unwanted noise when releasing a guitar string make sure you are lifting your finger straight up and work on your muting technique with both your picking and fretting hands.

In this article we’ll take a look at what causes unwanted noise when releasing a guitar string and some tips on how to avoid it.

Lift Your Finger Straight Up

The first thing you want to make sure you’re doing is lifting your finger straight up when releasing the string. It’s fairly common for beginners to pull slightly down or up which results in an unintentional pull-off that creates noise when you release the string.

You also want to make sure you don’t release the string too quickly as this is likely to result in the open string ringing out too, even if you lift your finger straight up.

As long as you’re lifting your finger straight up, this should eliminate 90% of that unwanted noise. Try practicing simple melodies slowly whilst making a conscious effort to lift your finger straight up and you should be making minimal unwanted noise.

Muting Is Key

The most important factor to keep your guitar playing clean is good muting technique. Eliminating unwanted noise is huge when it comes to taking your guitar playing to the next level.

Poor muting technique or a lack of muting altogether is going to result in unwanted noise when you release the guitar string. Even if you’re lifting your fingers off correctly without pulling off, there’s still going to be some noise, especially when playing faster.

The best way to mute a string after releasing it is to not take your finger completely off the string. If you keep your finger lightly resting on the string after releasing, this will keep it muted and prevent that unwanted noise.

Sometimes it isn’t possible to use your fretting hand to mute the string, perhaps if you’re moving quickly to a different area on the neck or changing chords. In this case, you can also use your picking hand to mute the string.

Different guitarists mute unwanted noise in different ways and that’s totally fine. Don’t get too caught up on how you mute the strings, just try and work on your muting in whatever way feels natural to you.

Keep Your Fingers Close To the Fretboard

Keeping your fingers close to the fretboard is another thing you may need to work on. Doing so allows you to play faster and more easily and it also helps you to play smoother and less robotic. What it also does is make it much more natural to leave your fingers on the string after you release a note to mute the unwanted noise.

I tend to leave my first finger lightly resting on the strings above whichever string I’m currently playing. That way, I’m muting those strings above which means if I catch them they won’t ring out, but it also makes it more natural to mute the current string I’m playing when I release it.

Rough Calluses Can Catch the Strings

If you find that you are lifting your finger straight off the fretboard but your fingertip is still catching the string, it could be that your calluses are rough.

I’ve found that when I first started building calluses they were quite rough and the skin would peel. After a long time of consistent playing, they’re still thick and protect my fingers, but they’re much smoother.

In the meantime, you might want to keep them moisturized and avoid picking at them as this will damage the skin underneath. And whilst it can be annoying for your calluses to catch the strings, you can think of it as a good opportunity to practice your muting.

Start Simple & Keep Practicing

Try playing a very simple piece and play it slowly. Work on both lifting your finger straight up and also your muting technique. If you try and rush into playing something more complicated, too much of your attention will be on what you are playing, but in this case, you want to be focusing on what you’re not playing.

It will take a while to nail it, but if you keep practicing and find a muting technique that feels comfortable for you, eventually it will become second nature and you won’t even need to think about it.