14 July, 2009

HOW TO play chords that sound clear and not muffled

For this post, I will be writing about my ideas on how to be able to achieve a clear sound on each guitar chord that you play.

For beginners, it is very common to play a chord, and find that it sounds muffled and not clear. This can be because of several things. Eventually, the aim is to be able to play any chord and to get a clear sound from each of them. Yes, even for the dreaded barre chords which every beginner will hate.

I have come up with 3 reasons why chords come out muffled and unclear.

Reason One
Check your fingers! Yes, it's true. For beginners, the main reason why your chords do not come out clearly is because your fingers are still not "seasoned". If your fingers are not "seasoned", you will tend to press your chords lightly because the harder you press, the more painful your fingers will feel. One way to confirm if your fingers are "seasoned" is to take a look at your left hand (I'm assuming you're playing a right-handed guitar). Feel the tip of your left hand fingers. Are they soft? If they are, that means your fingers are still not seasoned. With more playing, your finger tips will become calloused (hardened). When this happens, you will find it easier and less painful to press down each chord that you play, thus achieving a clear sound.

Reason Two
Arch your fingers! This is another common mistake made by beginners. When you play any chord for that matter, you need to arch your fingers in such a way that it only presses the string it's supposed to press, and not accidentally touch others. Here is a picture of the C chord which sometimes gives beginners some problems:

This is a C chord. Just take a moment to look at the picture. See the ring finger on the 3rd fret 5th string? What commonly happens is that this finger is not arched enough and it accidentally touches the 4th string. Take a look at the index finger on the 1st fret 2nd string. What commonly happens is that this finger is not arched enough and it accidentally touches the 1st string.
When all this happens and you give the chord a strum, you will not be able to get a clear-sounding chord. So, you need to remember to arch your fingers.

Reason Three
Place your fingers near the frets! Yes, this is a really good tip to remember. Let's take the above picture again as an example. Notice how each finger is placed near to the fret (the metal bar)? So you might be asking, how will this help achieve a clearer sound? The reason is pretty simple. If your finger is closer to the fret, it will require less strength to press the string down.

So that's the three reasons/steps I have come up with to be able to help you in achieving that clear sound when you play any chord. The most important thing to do is to of course, PRACTICE. With more practice, your fingers will naturally become "seasoned". With more practice, you will be able to control your fingers to arch properly. With more practice, you will remember to place your fingers near the frets when playing chords.

I hope this post has helped!


Gabi said...

thanks it did help ;)

Anonymous said...

The part about the frets is what I'm missing! Thanks for your help. I'm definitely punishing my fingers though they'll be seasoned soon enough! Cheers

Sai Keerthan said...

Hello Mr.Choo, I'm really amazed that you can sing and play so well. I just started playing guitar after listening to you! My fingers are killing but i know its for the best! please email me at saiskee@gmail.com if you have any tips for me! THANK YOU FOR THE AMAZING BLOG!

Cherie Seldon said...

These are certainly great pointers to help those who are just starting to learn how to play the guitar. Placing fingers near the frets is a good method to master early on because, just as what you wrote, it lessens the effort needed to press down on the string. Even so, this takes time to master. And those who have been playing for a long time will agree with me that you can't learn the guitar overnight. Practice, practice, and practice. You'll soon hit those clean and clear notes!

Cherie Seldon

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the advice, i have a cheap guitar i'm trying to learn on and after viewing your post and photo of proper C chord I find the tip of my index is to large that is even if I tried to play just the 2nd sting 1st fret I still contact two strings??

Is there a standard width between the strings? Could I be using a child's instrument by mistake?

daniel said...

Hi Anonymous,

it is possible that you could be using a smaller sized guitar. Do check around to see if other guitars seem bigger than yours.

With that being said, the arching of your finger is important. Do try to arch your index finger more and see if it can only press the 1st fret 2nd string and not other strings.

All the best!