Saturday, December 3, 2016

Band 101 - Number 3

Welcome to today's version of Band 101.
Band 101 deals with the trials and tribulations of being in a working cover band.

This episode deals with a much overlooked topic that most guitarists' and bassists' may have to deal with once they decide to plug into a amplifier or PA system to join a full band. If you haven't mastered this technique at home you really should before you decide to plug in and join a full band.
I'm writing about something I have had to deal with in my playing, unwanted string noise. To be more precise, I'm referring to being able to mute out any unwanted strings while playing chords on the guitar.
Any bassist learns this technique very quickly because most bass lines use many single notes as opposed to full chords. If you play bass and decide to play the guitar you already realize the importance of muting unwanted strings. Let's use one of the most basic chords as a example, the F chord as seen below.

As you can see the top 2 strings, the E and the A string have a X above them, this means that they should not be played or muted, when playing a F chord in this position. Playing these strings results in unwanted string noise and a chord that is no longer musically recognizable as any chord much less a F chord. If you play a F chord with the unmuted E and A strings at a band practice you may notice that you will get a wondering look from at least 1 other member in your band.
This look can be interpreted as "What chord are you playing?!" or "Where is that bad sound coming from?"... You might get a wondering look from your singer because they're trying to sing in key.
Playing the unwanted strings will cause the vocals to sound off key, this will also affect the overall sound of the entire band. If your bassist or another guitarist looks at you they are probably trying to figure out if they are playing the wrong note or you are...?
Playing unwanted strings will kill the good vibe of any great sounding song or band rehearsal in a heartbeat. An educated listener in the band who cares enough will question where the bad noises came from after the song ends. Trying to figure out when, where and why the noise came from can become tedious and frustrating. This will probably lead to alot of wasted time at practice.
If you are plugged into a amplifier you may be able to get away with unwanted string noise at band practice, as long as no one else notices. But once you are plugged in and going through the PA system at a gig these unwanted string noises will be heard by everyone in the crowd as well as, at least 1 of your fellow band members and this is not a good thing. You must be able to hear what you are playing, recognize the bad sounds and immediately edit them out of your playing if you plan on playing live. It's best to master this at home before you decide to plug in and join a band. Continuing to play unwanted strings is just plain bad guitar playing and nobody enjoys bad guitar playing. Playing any instrument with proper technique makes a band sound better and you will find yourself learning new songs quicker and easier.
There are several easy fixes for the problem of playing unwanted strings.
The absolute best solution is to play only the notes or strings of the guitar chord you're trying to play.
As an example when you play a D chord you just want to play the last 4 strings. The D, G, B and E strings should only be played. Playing only those strings results in a true and great sounding D chord that everyone will enjoy hearing.

It's worth taking time to practice just playing the strings of whatever chord you're trying to play.
Just like any other technique it may take a little time to master but the end result is being able to play with better technique.
There is another easy solution, just drape your thumb, very lightly, over the top of the guitar neck. Lightly rest your thumb over the top of the E the string in order to eliminate it from ringing out, this will effectively mute it. You have to pay attention and listen close when you do this because you don't want to press down with your thumb, this will cause the unwanted string to ring out.
This may also take a little time to master but remember practicing any new technique will make you a better guitarist in the long run.
Here's another chord I will use as an example. The D5 chord, notice that the E, B and top E strings are muted.

You can mute the top E string with your thumb and you can play the notes on the 7th fret by barring them with your 3rd finger.
Playing full bar chords or even partial bar chords is a very useful and essential guitar technique, especially when playing rock guitar.
You can mute the B and E strings with your 3rd finger by lightly draping your finger on top of them. Again, don't press down or the strings may ring out.
If you play a D5 chord with your pinky on the G string you can rest your pinky lightly over the B and E strings to mute them.
Another really useful trick is to move your 1st finger up ever so slightly as to mute the E string while still fretting the D note in the chord.
You have to be able to look and listen to what you're playing in order to master this very simple technique.
Once your 1st finger is in the proper position the E string will be muted out.
Here is another useful solution, if you know the notes on the guitar fretboard, like any good guitarist or bassist should, you can also transpose or play chords in different positions to eliminate unwanted string noise. 
You may also find it much easier to play chords in different positions on the neck, this really comes in handy when you are trying to sing and play at the same time. 
Some people call this position playing but that's another technique I can get into in the future. 
In order to eliminate the possibility of playing the E string altogether you can also play a D5 in the example below. 
This position falls on the 10th fret. You have to be sure not to play the G,B and E strings in this position. You can rest your 1st finger over them or whatever finger you use to play the notes on the 12th fret. 

Please email any inquiries to and until next time, remember practice makes perfect.

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