Generally you should not touch the guitar neck with anything than the top of your fingers and the pad of your thumb. I heard this is especially important for new guitar players to build up strength.

Does this also count when I play a note with the thumb? I want to try to learn the technique to play with the thumb. What parts of my hand are allowed to touch the guitar neck if I play for example a D/F#? Is there a special way to press down the string with the thumb?


Image generated with chordgenerator.

I tried to play it like this but it is not easy if you watch it in videos or on pictures.


Image from justinguitar.

In this chord the thumb is also muting the A if I am not wrong. As far as I know the thumb is also used to mute strings like in a power chord with open strings. Is it the same technique if I would play the strings?

|-----------| <-- Muted with the thumb
  • Try D/F# for the name of the first chord !!
    – Tim
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 15:26
  • @Tim Already changed. Sry my mistake...
    – Gerret
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 15:28
  • Fingerboard would be a better word than guitar neck. Not being picky !
    – Tim
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 15:30
  • How would you mute strings with the thumb in power chords?
    – Tim
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 16:29
  • I have not touched a music sheet in years, but that chord looks suspicious to me. F#(m, given the A) is supposed to be F#-A-C#. D is D-F#-A There is no C# on that chord. Moreover, The second string is A, which is perfectly valid for both chords, unless you want to limit the power of the clear string and the redundancy of 2 As.
    – njzk2
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 21:59

3 Answers 3


To play the chord D/F#, and pretty much anything that involves using my thumb to fret or mute, I usually keep the webbing between my thumb and index fingers wrapped around the neck, so I can bend my thumb over the top. I keep my hand/palm in pretty close contact to the neck- not tight, you don't have to squeeze.. it's hard to describe, but something like this:

enter image description here

Depending on the size and shape of your hand you are going to have to experiment to figure out what is comfortable for you. Some people either can't or don't like to use their thumb in this manner at all, so it's not mandatory.

I think a lot of it is personal preference and what feels comfortable to you. For that D/F# chord I would probably use my thumb to mute the A string as well as use it to play the F# note. I use the thumb to mute the E string when playing C, A or Amin open chords (or A power chord like the one you tabbed). I also use it to mute the E and A strings for an open D chord. Typically when I play any open position ("cowboy") chords I keep my thumb hanging over the fretboard to facilitate this muting. It's especially handy because these chords lend themselves to a more aggressive strumming style, so using the thumb to mute the unwanted strings means I can strum all the strings for all the chords.

I do have big hands though, so it might not be as easy for everyone. Also the angle you hold the guitar/neck will dictate how easy it is to use your thumb like that. I think generally it is advised to hold the neck at about a 45 degree angle between the floor and ceiling (see classical guitar posture). That helps when playing fast passages or intricate fingerings, but when trying to use the thumb for muting I find a lower angle is easier, closer to parallel with the floor.

I also mute with my thumb sometimes for single notes, because I can mute the lower strings with my left hand thumb, and mute the higher strings with the other fingers, then this allows me to strum all the strings but still play just a single note. So say I was playing D string 7th fret: I would mute the E and A with my thumb, then mute the G, B, and high E strings with my fingers that aren't fretting the note. This is a more advanced technique, but it works well in funk or rock guitar where you want add a percussive element to the notes you are playing. You get the note you want to ring out, but strumming the muted strings at the same time adds a nice effect. (The main riff of RHCP's "Can't Stop" is a great example of this style. The guitar player John Frusciante strums all the strings most of the time but he is just playing single notes. In addition to using his thumb to mute the E and A strings, he also frets the notes that are on the low E string with his thumb)

Finally, there is the Jimi Hendrix version of playing barre chords: for E-string root barre chords, he wouldn't barre with his index finger, he would play the root note on the low E string with his thumb, and play the rest of the chord with his other fingers. So for a chord like this:

enter image description here

He would use his thumb to play the low E string, usually mute the A string with the tip of thumb, then use ring finger to play the D string, middle finger to play the G string, and index to play the B and high E strings. This leaves his pinky free to play all those cool riffs he does around chords, playing rhythm and lead at the same time. See Little Wing intro for great examples of this (you can't really see it well in that video, but look at the tabs you can see what he is doing, and how it's essentially impossible to play that if you play your barre chords normally. A more modern example can be found in the verse of RHCP "Under the Bridge").

One more thing you might know already, the fingers you fret with are also useful for muting the strings below them. Say I am playing a Bmin barre chord:

Bminor guitar

In that case I would use my index finger to fret the 2nd fret on the A string, but leave the tip of that finger resting against the low E string, keeping it muted. Again, this way I can strum all the strings, and not worry about that low E ringing out.

These are some techniques that you don't need to worry about too much if you are still a beginner, but they can add a lot of options to what and how you play if you are looking for some variety.

  • Thank you very much for your detailed answer! You provide alot infomation that is useful to me. I will try what you told me...
    – Gerret
    Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 8:30

The thumb can be used to mute, but there is absolutely no rule about what you 'should' do, unless you are trying to play strict classical.

In your D/F# I probably wouldn't mute the A with my thumb, but I might if it made sense based on where my fingers had come from and where they were going next.

For that A chord I wouldn't mute the E string at all - I just wouldn't play it. No point muting a string that you are never going to hit.

On my 6 string guitars it is easy to use the thumb on the bottom 3 strings, so it is quite useful to use it to hold a powerchord, for example, while my fingers play melody lines; while on my 7 string it is really only useful on the bottom string.

The general guidance is do what you feel works.

  • Thank you for your help! As I stated in the comment in Tim's answer: You are for sure right but I want to learn the techique with the thumb... so your question does not help me alot. I explicit ask how to play with the thumb!
    – Gerret
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 15:37
  • There is no correct way. At all.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 15:38
  • So I just should I play/mute the strings as I like to? or as I am comfortable with it? I am a more or less new guitar player some help would be appreciated...
    – Gerret
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 9:01

The first statement just isn't true. It really needs a player to use whichever part of the fretting fingers/thumb/hand he is comfortable with. Barre chords will have to utilise the soft parts of fingers, so just tips/tops won't do much of a job.

Whilst some players will use a thumb over the top of the neck to play lower strings, in D/F# it's best to play it with only fingers. The finger on the bottom string can then mute the open A. But why that needs to happen, I don't know. The A note is part of a D chord, so it can happily sound.

In 'power chords' the notes are usually pressed down with fingers, and the rest of the fingers and palm will mute unwanted strings.

In the Asus2 chord shown, the bottom E will only need muting if a root position chord needs to be played. As above, the E is part of the chord anyway, so will produce a 2nd inversion with it sounding. No big deal.

I one wants to be totally authentic in one's playing, one probably won't use one's thumb to press strings down, anyway.

However, to play with the thumb over the top of the fingerboard, unless you're the owner of a very long thumb, it's only going to be the pad at the end that will press down a string. The problem some find at this time is that while moving the whole hand up, in order to get enough thumb onto the bottom string, it pulls the fingers down and either away from the frets, or onto other strings, tending to mute them.Being double jointed is always a boon.

  • Thank you for your help! You are for sure right but I want to play this chord with my thumb... I want to learn this technique so your answer does not help me alot... I explicit ask how to play with the thumb, the chord is just a example.
    – Gerret
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 15:36
  • The A is part of D-major, but that doesn't mean you can just play any A tones as you please – imagine a bass player letting just ring the empty strings, it would sound horrible. The F♯ bass of the chord in question already has a tendency to make it sound a bit muddy, so less other notes in the range is rather better. Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 20:04

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