Most open chords have roots that is not on the low E string, notes like A and C where the roots are on the 5th string or D where the root is on the 4th string. This calls for the low E not to be played in the case of A and C and the low E and 5th for chords like D and Dm.

In order to not play those stings, or hear them when one accidently strum those with the chord, I wrap my thumb over those strings to mute them, a technique that I do not see often in many strumming pick players (maybe because they have better control due to playing guitar for years, which I have not). It doesn't seem to matter if you play the string above the root (the thicker one).

Lets take the A chord for instance. The A string is the root note of the chord. The chord itself consist of an A note, C# note and an E note. Now, if I play the low E string with the chord, the chord still stays an A chord because E is the 5th degree in the chord. There is also no audible difference in the chord when strummed.

This brings me to this question, if I get the low E into a chord like A (or even C as E is also the third degree note in the C chord), does this count as an inversion because the root is not on the base anymore, but either on the 3rd or 5th degree depending on the chord. Also, would it be considered bad practice to play these strings marked x above the root.

2 Answers 2


First off, it's an inversion when the lowest sounding note is anything other than the root note of the chord. If you play an A chord with the low E string sounding, then that's an inversion.

Second, perhaps in your particular situation and with your guitar, it's hard to notice a difference between letting the low E sound or not when playing an A chord, but in many (most?) situations, it definitely does matter. I would assume that inversions are important even if it doesn't seem like it right now. If you get a different guitar or are playing in a different situation, you'll want to be able to play the correct voicing of any chord as the situation requires.

Finally, there is no problem with muting your low E string with your thumb. I'm not sure what pros you have looked at but many pros do this all the time. I have played for almost 25 years with the thumb over the top style, using the thumb for muting, and I've taught many students that style. If it's comfortable for your hand, keep doing it.

  • Yes, it does matter which inversions one uses, but take a simple song that goes from, say, A to E and back. Playing the open E on both the chords isn't too bad at all. In fact, I've always taught beginners to do just that, to stop worrying about not hitting that open E whilst strumming the A chord. Same goes for G and C - with the bottom string on 3rd fret for both. And E to B7 (open) sounds just fine with bottom string fretted on 2nd fret for B7 - even though it's the 2nd inversion of B7.
    – Tim
    Jun 22, 2016 at 13:29
  • 1
    @Tim I can't imagine how it's not situational. All you need is the right kind of distortion or speaker cabinet with a lot of low end and some of those inversions can get super muddy. Personally I feel like any opportunity to learn and practice muting is a good thing, since it's at least as important as fretting, but all students and teachers have their own style. Jun 22, 2016 at 13:53

Two better ways of muting the low E:

  • If your index finger is fretting a note on the A string then scootch the finger over until it's just barely touching the low E. That mutes the string more ergonomically.
  • Better: learn to play subsets of your strings cleanly. This is what I do. Without any muting at all, I can play chords on the string sets:
  • EAD
  • ADG
  • GBE

Not having to mute means you're not fighting yourself.

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