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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
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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
  • @MatthewIselin try playing in front of a mirror; you can see what you are doing and you will also be able to hold the instrument at the right angle. – bigbadmouse Jun 22 '18 at 8:06
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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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I would like to add a few things regarding strumming technique to Hrodelbert's answer.

I find that many beginning guitarist have a difficult time with smooth strumming. It's normal and over time and with proper practice, your strumming will improve dramatically.

Certainly the position of the guitar relative to your body can have a big impact. But there are some other things to keep in mind as you continue to practice and improve your strumming technique.

First, for basic strumming, be sure to properly anchor your strumming arm on the body of the guitar. For most folks with most acoustic guitars, the anchor point will be with your forearm contacting the guitar body near the top of the lower bout (widest section of body behind the bridge). Electric guitars will differ depending on the body shape. Anchoring your strumming arm in this way will keep your angle of attack consistent, and the orientation of the guitar (vertical to floor or tilted slightly back to see the frets) will have less of an impact than if your arm is free to wildly flail about.

It is important to avoid the temptation to use your elbow as a "pivot point" for swinging your arm. Unless you want to get "guitarist elbow" (same as "tennis elbow") you don't want all of your up and down strumming motion to come from movement of your forearm.

Instead, try to relax your wrist and use your wrist to strum up and down - not your entire forearm. Try to imagine using a paintbrush to paint a wall with up and down strokes. You will alternate the angle of your wrist and the brush (pick) according to the direction your wrist is moving (up or down). Also, the smaller amount of movement required by keeping your forearm anchored and strumming with mostly wrist, will give you greater control.

This technique will take practice but soon you will get a smooth, rhythmic, and controlled up and down strumming motion - with very little stress on the tendons in your elbow and forearm.

Another thing you might want to experiment with is different gauge picks. Most beginners find it easier to strum with lighter gauge picks. As you get better at strumming, you may want to try medium or heavier picks.

Before trying to learn advanced strumming techniques, I would encourage you to hone your basic strumming technique with a goal of smooth, consistent, strumming. Before long you will be ready to move to more advance techniques such as palm muting and percussive strumming.

I wish you the best of luck as you continue your journey towards a life long passion of making music with your guitar.

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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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My high E ringing out - looked closely at frets and found that if a fret had a deep groove worn in it (as mine does esp 3rd fret) at the E string position it would cause excessive ringing out but when string pressed slightly away from groove the excessive ringing stopped - poss re fret then.....who knew?

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  • I replaced the fret - problem solved – pd 4wine Nov 4 at 23:56
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There are several possible issues here. I see there is an official answer but I'd like to help with more info. First of all the "tilting" of the guitar shouldn't really be an issue if you have control over your right (strumming) hand. And that is really the issue. As a beginner I don't think you have developed control of the right hand yet. Strumming style tutorials might suggest that you aim for strumming all six strings while holding down a chord and attempt to mute those that you do not want to hear. This will only take you so far in terms of technique. In contrast I see in my beginner students the opposite issue, they do NOT strum everything, pulling the hand away too soon.

Another issue could be undesired resonance. These open strings might be in tune with a harmonic of a note you are playing and that will cause the open strings to resonant. In some cases this is a desired feature as it adds to the sound quality and volume.

Assuming that the issue is lack of control I would suggest that you practice some simple exercises to help develop a sense of where you hand is relative to the strings. In theory you should be able to "strum" a group of two, three or four consecutive strings from among the six with a loose relaxed hand. To get there you need to be sure you are hitting the correct strings. The simplest exercise might be to try a light slow tremolo pick on one string. Not Van Halen speed. The idea is to learn to feel relaxed and control the hand. When you can keep this going for a while without messing up try two strings, then three, etc. Always keep in mind that you want to start and stop in the same place.

If you have a real problem even getting the hand to land where you want another exercise is to play open strings in the following order, all down stroke, (E, A, E, D, E, G, E, B, E, e) and back, then (A, D, A, G, ...) etc. This helps you learn how to "feel" where the strings are.

If your issue is more one of muting a resonating string then you need to learn a combination of, (1) using the fretting hand to dampen strings while you hold the chord form, and (2) using the palm of your strumming hand to mute the strings slightly. This requires using the fleshy part of the hand behind the pinky and you need to learn to touch the strings when you need to and release as well to get sound. It's one of those things that is difficult to direct and describe inn terms of basic movements yet after a little trial and error most people eventually "feel it".

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You don't usually want to be hitting all the strings on each strum - aim to catch certain strings depending on the chord shape you're playing, and also to catch more strings on the strong beats than you do on the weak beats. If you don't play all the strings, you don't have to fret them all either, which gives you more left hand freedom.

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