Sloppy guitar technique is a major part of why you make mistakes and experience frustration in your playing. When you have sloppy guitar technique, you are unable to make fast progress and your playing tends to sound amateur. To fix this problem, you’ll need to:
*Find problems in your guitar technique.
*Discover why each problem leads to unclean guitar playing.
*Work on your guitar technique to eliminate inconsistencies.
Question: “Tom Hess, how do I know which inconsistencies occur in my guitar technique?”
Answer: Here are the two ways to find out:
1. The simple approach: Work together with an excellent guitar instructor who will observe your guitar technique and tell you exactly what needs to be fixed. This is the quickest way to become a better guitarist.
2. Take the time to inspect your guitar playing for yourself (using the steps mentioned below). You’ll need to pay close attention and focus intensely to do this.
Here are the most frequent guitar technique (and practicing) issues that lead to unclean guitar playing:
Sloppy Guitar Technique Cause #1: Noise Coming From Unmuted Open Strings
Open string noise is a frequent issue that causes sloppy guitar playing. When there are notes ringing out from open strings, it makes the notes you actually want to hear harder to hear. This problem is especially evident when you use distortion.
Use both your picking and fretting hands to mute unwanted noise made by open strings.
Here are two ways to mute strings using your picking hand:
1. Use your thumb on the strings lower than the one you are playing on.
2. Resting fingers you aren’t using (not holding the pick) on the strings above the one you are playing on.
Use the padding of your index finger to mute the strings with your fretting hand. The padding will rest on the higher strings. This adds another layer of muting to help eliminate any unwanted noise.
Using both hands to mute the unused strings above and below the one you are playing on is essential for playing guitar cleanly.
Sloppy Guitar Technique Cause #2: Wrapping Your Thumb Around The Guitar Neck When You Play Scales And Arpeggios
When you wrap your thumb around the neck, it causes you to squeeze your fingers together more tightly. This makes it more difficult to play both with speed and clean at the same time.
To make your fingers more relaxed and make it easier to stretch them, place your thumb behind the neck. This will make the motions more efficient and help you play more cleanly.
Sloppy Guitar Technique Cause #3: Not Keeping The Pick In The Trenches Between The Strings
Guitar string trench refers to the space in between the strings. The more you keep your pick inside these trenches, the easier it will be to play fast and clean. Move away from the trenches, and it becomes more difficult to play clean due to synchronization problems.
When you use thumb muting, it is much easier to stay in the trenches. Moving your thumb up and down the strings places the pick in position so that you move as effectively as possible
Note: Don’t make the mistake of using a lot of pressure to press your thumb into the strings. Only apply enough pressure to lightly mute the strings. If you use too much pressure, you will cause unnecessary tension in your arm and make unwanted sloppy string noises.
Sloppy Guitar Technique Cause #4: Using Alternate Picking Rather Than Directional Picking
Alternate picking incorporates a lot of unnecessary movement. When you switch to a new string using alternate picking, you cause the pick to move away from the trench between strings, switch direction and jump over the string you just played. This makes it much more likely that string noise and unclean playing will occur.
Directional picking uses extremely efficient picking and keeps your playing clean. Using this approach keeps your pick in the trenches between the strings, maintains synchronization between both hands and minimizes sloppy string noise.
(Directional picking also uses the same motions used in sweep picking, helping you to make your practice time more efficient as well.)
Sloppy Guitar Technique Cause #5: Fretting Notes Using The Pads Of Your Fingers Instead Of The Tips
Fretting notes with the pads of your fingers leads to sloppy playing.
Finger pads do not get calluses, so you have to press down harder in order to produce a note. Often, the pad of your fingers doesn’t provide enough force to push the string down enough to get the note to sound. This results in an unclear, muffled sound.
Using more pressure than necessary adds more tension into your body, which makes clean playing more difficult.
This problem is created when you collapse the first knuckle of fingers 1, 2 and 3, or by extending your pinkie out too far to play a note.
Solution: Use the tips of your fingers to fret notes (unless you are using rolling technique to play notes across several strings). Fingertips do not compress down like pads, and have strong calluses. This minimizes the tension used to fret notes. Fingertips also require less force to fret a note. This causes it to feel much easier to fret notes, making your overall guitar playing easier.
Sloppy Guitar Technique Cause #6: Allowing The Guitar Pick To Move Around In Your Hand
It’s much more difficult to articulate notes whenever you move the guitar pick around in your fingers. This leads to mistakes.
Solution: Analyze the way you hold the pick. Learn to keep the pick stable and motionless in your hand without using too much pressure. It does not take much force to hold the pick securely in place.
Tip: Bringing the pick closer to the wrist joint helps to keep it from moving excessively.
3 Steps To Eliminate Sloppy Guitar Playing:
Step 1: Record yourself playing guitar much more often. Listen closely to your recording using earphones. Focus closely here, and your guitar playing will improve faster.
Step 2: Spot where your guitar playing begins to become unclean. Pick out the particular notes that don’t sound good.
Step 3: Think about the specific elements of sloppy guitar playing that are leading to your errors.
Here is what you need to do:
*Choose one guitar technique element and focus on it intensely.
*Make adjustments in your guitar technique to improve this element.
*See how your playing has changed. If you see significant improvement, you spotted a cause of unclean playing.
*Go through this process again with another guitar technique element mentioned in this article.
Step 4: Refine the guitar technique elements that lead to unclean playing. Focus on them intensely until they are flawless.
Use this process on a consistent basis to master guitar technique and play guitar as cleanly as possible.