I have relatively short meaty fingers. Any hints how to avoid muting the A string on the chord 201202?


4 Answers 4


Look at it from several angles. From above, from the front and from the side.

From above first: if you're holding the guitar so you can see the frets, it needs to be in a more vertical position. This means that your hand and fingers don't need to be as flat on the fretboard. That's probably the main culprit.

From the front: if your guitar is slung low, you'll have the same sort of problem - the wrist is too bent to be comfortable, and if the angle (from the front) is tipping the head down, it's exacerbating that. I've sometimes found with students that raising the head of the guitar to even 45 degrees facilitates fingering.

From the side: your guitar needs to be about at right-angles to your body - in line with your shoulders. Probably the least of the worries. Nevertheless, try moving the neck in and out for its optimum angle.

But consider all these positions together, and move around, until your curled fingers can do what you want them to.

As John says, the 'standard' B7 has the bottom string muted, rather than the 5th string open. And strummed from root 5th string 2nd fret. I'm happy playing 5th and 6th strings both fretted on 2, but that's me. Maybe the song calls for B7/A, or 3rd inversion of B7 (with the ♭ 7th part of it in the bass) - maybe it's a bassline that requires it. Another option always denied to folk with short fingers is to use the thumb over the top, but maybe not good for you.

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    "if you're holding the guitar so you can see the frets, it needs to be in a more vertical position." - I don't find this to be true for me or for all of my students. Some of them, maybe. There should be a clear triangle between the abs, left leg, and back of the guitar. Often making that triangle means the frets are more visible for some players. "Slung low" - The question is tagged "classical guitar", so I doubt there's any slinging of any kind. Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 15:12
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    Good point. I read it as acoustic, as chords can and do get played on classical, but generally are on acoustic. Regarding looking at the fretboard, I discourage that from the start - there's really no need. Besides, I had a huge mirror in the studio! And - sitting or standing..? Wearing the guitar higher when standing emulates its position (vertically on the body) when sitting, but can make a big difference to fretting hand angles.
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 15:42
  • Chords can and do get played on classical? Um... I'm playing chords literally every single piece I play every single time I play classical. What's a classical guitar piece without chords? Oh wait there is that one Brouwer that's only got like three chords in it. Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 15:52
  • I agree with this answer and the points in its comments. Posture is usually one of the main culprits when not being able to play cleanly on classical guitar. This YouTube video helped me understand how to fix my playing posture a bit. I believe it mentions all points in this answer. Commented Dec 22, 2023 at 21:01

Might be that your thumb is too far up. if you move your thumb about half way down the fret then you can have your fingers closer to 90° from the fretboard.

I attempted a drawing to explain better. hand position

see with the thumb so high up you can't get the angle with your fingers on the fretboard and they touch other strings. you want to be fretting them at 90° so they only touch one string.

edit: this is alot harder to play but it's just a matter of practice and strengthening

  • The image suggests bending the wrist (or fingers?) outwards, which I guess is not what you intended to show? Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 14:11
  • This contradicts what I've been taught and read about thumb positions Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 15:10
  • @user1079505 no, i'm not sure how anything was positioned so this is just to say that moving your thumb lower will give more space between fingers and unfretted strings.
    – yarns
    Commented Dec 27, 2023 at 23:50
  • @ToddWilcox thanks but your comment doesnt help me address your statement, in what way does it contradict?
    – yarns
    Commented Dec 27, 2023 at 23:50

All good answers. Allow me to offer this much.

Ensure that you practice playing whilst standing and playing with the guitar strapped on. (Or seated upright in a chair without arms.)

This allows your arms to be free, and let you move around and to position your fingers, hands, wrists in whatever fashion facilitates the most comfortable angle for phrasing each different chord.

I say this because many players endeavor to play the guitar slumped back into the couch cushions, or bunched up on the bed amid pillows and other such objects. And, naturally, the arms and elbows become trapped, forcing the player to contort their wrists in an unnatural way while playing.

Stand up. Be free. Play well.

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    Play classical guitar while standing? Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 15:06
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    John Jarvie is one of many classical guitar instructors who advocates playing while standing up, with the guitar strapped on. Notice in my earlier answer I also added, "or seated upright in a chair without arms". Some electric guitar players insist on playing rock and blues while seated. (Jeff Skunk Baxter for one. My brother Stacey as well.) To each their own. I try to avoid stating that any one method is THE method that works. Every hiker chooses his or her own trail. Commented Dec 22, 2023 at 16:35

A standard B7 chord is actually X21202, not what you wrote. Playing what you wrote will result in no low B which will make the chord sound muddy and ambiguous. Try X21202, most can play this chord without much trouble. If anything the D string might get muted but since you don’t play the low E you can cheat your second finger towards the low E to give the D string room to vibrate.

You CAN play 221202 and play the two low notes with your second finger but this will give you a 5th in the bass, B7/F#, which sounds a bit too heavy and changes the quality of the chord. I don’t care for it but some people like this type of heavy sounding chord.

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    Forget about calling it the B7 chord. I want to play 201202 because that's what the notes in the piece I'm playing are. And my middle finger is muting the A.
    – Wynne
    Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 1:13
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    @Wynne That sounds like you're holding the finger at too low an angle and need to arch it higher. You might have to bend your wrist more than would be comfortable in order to get a position that works, and put the wrist under the neck, rather than beind it. It might help to hold the guitar - or its neck - higher than you do.
    – Divizna
    Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 3:54
  • @Divizna made a good suggestion. Another non-traditional option is you can try reaching over the top of the neck with your thumb to play the bass note. Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 8:18

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