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I'm relatively new to playing guitar and I am currently learning on an acoustic. I am adding strumming to my skillset at the moment (as there's only so far downstrokes can take me), but I'm having a particular problem with this.

The high E and B strings seem to ring through the most whenever I'm strumming, which means that no matter what I'm playing, it's dominated by these higher tones. I've tried strumming slowly and watching the technique and how the pick hits the strings, but even then I can't seem to solve it. This happens with these strings both open and fretted.

Do I just need to practice more, or is there something I need to be doing differently? I'd rather not practice hoping for things to get better when the only way they'll get better is by changing how I play.

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Is it while you're down- or up-strumming? –  Tim Mar 2 '14 at 11:54
@Tim: I primarily notice this when down-strumming. –  Matthew Iselin Mar 3 '14 at 4:17

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I had the same issue a while back and concluded it was due to the fact that I was tilting the guitar too much; the fretboard was (slightly) oriented towards the sky, to make it easier to see where my fingers where on the neck. This resulted in my strumming hand strumming the thin strings much harder than the thicker strings when playing a downwards strum. I assume this is due to the fact that my hand was actually performing a vertical motion starting from the (thicker) E-string, while the strings where not aligned along this vertical. When performing an upwards strum, the effect was less noticeable, since in that case the vertical motion starts at the high-e and B-string.

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Aha! Having tried this now I can say holding the guitar properly upright made an immense difference. The reason makes perfect sense, now that I'm aware of it. Thank you :) –  Matthew Iselin Mar 5 '14 at 10:32

It is normal that strings with higher notes dominate your play, lower notes are supposed to be background (unless you play something harder and play with power chords).

You can of course control the sound and try to hit lower notes a bit harder - it's much easier when you use a guitar pick.

So the best thing you can do is trying different methods (different positions of your wrist, hit strings with different power) and after many experiments you will choose playing that sounds good for you ;)

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I'll give this a go and see how it turns out :) –  Matthew Iselin Mar 3 '14 at 10:42

It sounds like you're having a problem with muting/damping.

In order to stop the top strings from ringing out, you need to get good at dampening the strings with your right hand, or simply not hitting them at all, however The problem with this answer is that it's something that kind of comes with time, or at least it did for me!

As far as exercises to help with damping I found this video.

look for exercises in muting strings with the left hand AND the right. I found that over time your hands adapt pretty naturally and give you the ability to control your damping.

Another thing you might want to look at is exercises to only hit certain strings.

I know this answer has been a little muddled, but I hope it gave you some ideas of what you can try :)

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