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When I move across strings quickly (e.g. on arpeggios), I can feel bumping lightly into muted strings. For example when I inside-pick E and A, I will start with an upstroke on E and then slightly touch E again on the way down to A. I manage to mute the string of course, so there's no sound coming from it - but I'm wondering if its a sign that my technique is broken.

So I guess my general question is: When proficient guitarists move quickly across strings, are they constantly touching muted strings because it's unavoidable on higher speeds, or are they actually managing to only touch the strings they're playing? I can't tell from just watching videos. If its the latter then I have to go back to much lower bpm and start practicing again.

I'm fairly new to guitar and have no one to correct me, so that's why I'm asking here. Thanks a lot!

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    If you are playing the bottom E, then playing the A, why would you pick upwards for the E - you're going the wrong way. Unless I misunderstood.
    – Tim
    May 12 at 7:10
  • @Tim I'm using inside picking if I'm not mistaken. So I pick E from the "inside" and then A as well. Inside here refers to the space between E and A. I can try to do it with outside picking, but I'd have to learn that specifically. The reason I learned it that way is because it aligns with the pattern I practice (triples where I'm going back and forth, starting with a down stroke on E) May 12 at 7:24
  • Try resting your palm (nearest the pinky) on the bridge, almost as if playing muted. If your hand is floating instead, you're going to catch all sorts that you don't want. By anchoring, you may have more control. And use a small amount of picksticking out to pluck.
    – Tim
    May 12 at 8:14
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The rule is: if it sounds good, it's good.

I recall in one of his Youtube videos Troy Grady, who analyzed playing technique using slow motion camera, found, that when changing strings quickly one may hit two strings instead of one, and if the "wrong" string is muted, it doesn't affect the sound negatively.

His videos are a bit lengthy and I can't find that specific one right now, but it might might be interesting for you to watch them.

I don't want to discourage you from working on precision, and also such details may matter less or more depending on music style, context, guitar tone etc, but it's good to be aware that the mechanics of playing the instrument may differ from the most simple and naive imagination of it.

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Proficient guitarists do NOT touch the string on the way down. What mean by that is, with practice you will be able to avoid hitting the E with a down stroke on the way to the A in an inside picking pattern.

I never heard of anyone settling for that. It's sloppy technique and anyone trying to play correctly will take the time to get it right. All you need to do is practice. Techniques are not magic. Muted or not you will hear it. If it's muted you wont hear a note but you'll hear the click and that's not what you want.

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    That technique actually works very well when playing octaves - mute the string in between. Wes seemed to do it quite well...
    – Tim
    May 12 at 7:08
  • I don't think that's what the OP was referring to, but you are correct. For chords etc we need to, but for fast alternate picking runs, even string skipping I would refrain.
    – user50691
    May 12 at 10:57
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So since the answers here are kind of contradicting, I've talked to other people and here's my takeaway so far:

Allthough I'm not supposed to bump into muted strings, at my level of experience I'm not gonna be able to avoid this at higher tempo. I still should practice with precision on lower speed, but also get a feel for faster runs and accept that it won't be perfect. Over time, my technique will improve eventually.

So I guess both sides are correct: Don't settle for sloppy technique, but also don't shy away from stretching into unknown territory with a certain degree of slopyness for a while.

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