When I was learning to play electric guitar, it was very difficult for me to keep up with the beats when there comes rests(I don't know if it is called "rest", I mean the beats which you need to mute your instrument).

So I developed a habit that I tap the strings with my pick hand softly for every rest beat, this will mute the strings immediately and can help me keep up with the beats.

Is there any harmful things that this habit will lead to?

What do professional guitarists do when there comes rest beats?


By keeping count like this there is a chance that, if you keep it as a habit, it could develop into a problem. Whilst muting and picking can be used as a musical idea, and indeed I use it occasionally to fill out rhythms on my bass, unwanted sounds can be picked up, and if amplified are not particularly desirable. Even muted I personally won't go near the strings as with various effects pedals that can be very sensitive even the faintest touch can produce unwanted sounds.

When I was playing Cello and would have huge sections of breaks I would lightly tap my feet whilst counting, which worked well. Whilst practising try using a metronome and make a point of not touching the strings whilst you are in a rest to try and improve your awareness of the rhythm. You can also practise different time signatures and styles over time, and again a metronome, or a drum beat behind will help. In a band situation you get used to the pieces themselves, and I'll have reference points from the other musicians (assuming they play it right...).


So you count the beats on the strings when there's a break? In that case, there could be a sound from this, especially if you use a lot of distortion. It's not necessarily wrong, not much is when it comes to music, but a more common technique is to mute the strings with your fretting hand. You can still use your picking hand to keep the beat, but then it can be done without touching the strings, ant thus without the risk of creating unwanted noise.


There's (potentially) two different things here:

  1. Using the fleshy part of your picking hand to stop notes exactly on a beat boundary -- being able to do this is a good thing.
  2. Counting out multi-beat rests by tapping your hand on the strings -- this is a bad thing in that you run the risk of making unwanted noise (note that even if it is not really noticeable to you, the slight thuds will muddy up the mix).

I don't see the problem so much with the actual motions you are doing, as much as with the idea that you don't have the flexibility to stop that hand motion and continue the beat using other parts of your body, when you want to.


Definitely teach yourself NOT to do this. You really don't want either hand "doing things" in contact with the guitar when you're not deliberately making sounds (notes or slaps, etc). A bad habit gets harder to break the longer you allow it to exist. Tap your foot, or move your body, or do almost anything else, to help you keep the beat in your mind.

Heck, some (many?) pros use a "click track" via earphone to keep everyone in synch.


Where I play out, there's grounding issues, which leads to me either having a slight buzz when the guitar's not playing, which I handle by always keeping a hand on the strings, and of course gain and compression always make it worse. If there's time-based effects, the buzz will get caught up in that.

"Always be muting" is something I can get behind. Counting time with your hands? I just can't.

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