How to play chords cleanly

How to play chords cleanly without muting strings.

One of the most common and frustrating things that beginning guitarists face is learning how to play guitar chords cleanly without muting strings.

There can be many reasons why you may struggle when trying to play chords cleanly. The first step is to diagnose why the problem is happening?

Diagnosing the problem

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Some reasons for muting strings and getting buzzing when playing chords.

There can be many reasons why a student struggles with this problem and below are some causes and solutions.

  1. Cause-Touching the bottom strings B or E with the palm of your hand. Solution– Keep your thumb low behind the neck and make sure you have a gap between neck and the palm of your hand.
How to play chords cleanly

2. Cause – Straight fingers on the fretting hand.

Solution– Keep your knuckles bent as shown in the photo above.

3. Cause – Using the flat part of the finger.

Solution – Use the finger tips to press down on the strings, as they get harder with practice they wont spread out so much.

4. Cause – Placing fingers on the frets or the wrong side of the frets.

Solution – Place your finger tip just before the fret but not on them.

5. Cause – Muted strings.

Solution – Make sure you are pressing hard enough on the strings, they may be sore for a while but will soon be ok with regular practice. Check each string to find which ones are muted and look for the cause.

How to play chords cleanly

6. Cause – Fingers at not enough angle, ideally should be close to 90% to the fretboard. This is often because the finger nails are too long.

Solution – Cut your finger nails as short as possible on the fretting hand.

7. Cause – Strings are too high above the fretboard ( known as the action).

Solution – Get your action lowered to make it easier to press down on the strings, this needs to be done by a guitar tech to avoid poor playability.

For information on buying a guitar see my page:

8. Cause – String guage too heavy.

Solution – Ideally go for a medium or light guage set of strings. See link for information on string guages:

9. Cause – Poor chord changes Solution

Solution – Practice slowly going from one chord to another ( Slow motion with accuracy). Start with two chords then when mastered try three chords and so on.

For some taster lessons using 3 chords see my page:

Lastly, practice regularly to development muscle memory and be consistent.