Thumb over neck of guitar to mute low E string


Brian.B
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Joined: 11/04/23
Posts: 3
Brian.B
Full Access
Joined: 11/04/23
Posts: 3
04/17/2024 10:33 pm

Hi Guys,

In a lot of tutorials, the instructor's thumb is used to mute the low E string while playing certain chords etc, so you can play more freely without having to focus on which strings to hit.

I have tried everything to do this, but I find the size of my hand restricts me from being able to do this. I can change chords fast and clean to play songs, so I have improved since picking up the guitar over the past 6 months, but I just can't get my thumb over the neck. As soon as I do, it compromises the chord I am playing and then I can't play the chord properly.

Is this normal for different people and players? It just means I have to focus more on the strings I want to hit.

Is it possibly my technique and with a bit of guidance I can learn to put my thumb over the neck and play the chord properly? I have just tried everything and I just can't do it.

I wish I could though as it would make playing certain chords freely so much easier.

Any advice will be appreciated.

Thanks.


# 1
William MG
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Joined: 03/08/19
Posts: 1,655
William MG
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Joined: 03/08/19
Posts: 1,655
04/17/2024 11:01 pm

It depends on the chord for me. Can you give an example of a chord you are trying to mute with the thumb.


I just grabbed an acoustic with a fairly wide neck and was able to mute the low E with the thumb while playing an A minor.


My glove size is a medium, so I don't have particulary long fingers. 


It could be hand size, technique or flexibility. Technique and flexibility will both improve over time just through regular practice. 


Hendrix used the thumb a lot, and when I am trying to play some of the chords he played, there is just no way I can do it. 


edited

This year the diet is definitely gonna stick!

# 2
ChristopherSchlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor
Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 8,395
ChristopherSchlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor
Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 8,395
04/18/2024 1:47 pm

This is normal for different players, guitar & the musical material.


What kind of guitar are you using?  What chords are you trying to play, using which strings, when you try to use your thumb?


In general, your thumb is supposed to stay behind the neck & provide opposing pressure.  But in certain situations it can mute or fret notes on the low E strings.


Watch this video when I talk about the axis of power.


https://www.guitartricks.com/lesson/12188


The idea is that your thumb moves position relative to which notes on which strings you are playing. 


It helps to have a guitar with a relatively narrow neck.  I can play the low E with my thumb easily on any Strat.  But it's pretty tricky to do on my classical with the wider neck.  And that's fine, because the vast majority of the classical repertoire requires fingerings & chords that keep my thumb behind the neck.


But there are rock & blues chords & licks that benefit from using the thumb.  Mostly these are situations where the notes you're playing are all on the upper strings (G, B, E strings).  This allows you to move your thumb to the back side of the neck near or on the low E string.


Watch the beginning of this lesson.  I'm shifting thumb positions as I need to in order to go between the rhythm riff & the lead lick.  When I play the lick I move my thumb to mute the low E.  When I go back to the riff I move my thumb back behind the neck to support my fretting fingers.


https://www.guitartricks.com/lesson/18118


So, you might try playing chords that only require you to fret the upper strings.  And even start the process by placing your thumb on the neck near the low E to mute it, then reach for the fretted notes.


Hope that helps!


Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory
# 3

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