How To Reduce String Noise On An Acoustic Guitar

acoustic guitar | Sandy Music Lab

When you’re playing guitar, you love to hear the chords you’re playing, but what you don’t love to hear is the string noise that comes along with it sometimes. String noise can be distracting to both the guitarist and the person listening to the guitarist play. Thankfully, there are several things you can do to reduce string noise.

To reduce string noise on an acoustic guitar, practice your technique, slow your playing to determine what part of your technique may be causing string noise, change your strings to a coated version, and mute some or all of your strings using your hand or a string dampener while you play.

In this article, we will show you how to reduce string noise on an acoustic guitar, first by discussing the things that most commonly create string noise, and then we will go over some tips and tricks you can implement to reduce string noise in the future. Now let’s get right into it!

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What Causes String Noise On An Acoustic Guitar?

String noise has its place in the world of playing guitar, and often it can add a nice bit of character to a song, but sometimes it can become overbearing and unpleasant if it is not kept in check. You will most likely become aware of your own string noise when listening back to a recording of a song you have played and might then realize just how much noise your strings make that you don’t even notice while playing.

When we play guitar, we actually hear two versions of what we’re playing. The first is what our ears actually pick up as we play a song, and the second version is the version we hear in our heads of what we would like our playing to sound like. Most often, the second version is the more overpowering of the two, and it’s not until we really start to concentrate on the physical version that we hear the noise our strings make while we play.

As mentioned before, this usually becomes most evident to us when we hear a recording of ourselves playing something because then we don’t hear that internal aspirational version anymore. Both versions are necessary, but we need to work hard not to let one overshadow the other.

But before you go trying to fix the issue of string noise, you need to know what caused it in the first place. Getting to understand what causes string noise will help you figure out what you need to change to get rid of it, or at the very least reduce it by a significant amount.

It is important to note that every guitar player, no matter how good they are, will play with some string noise. There is no way to get rid of string noise entirely completely, but there are ways to reduce it so that it isn’t as noticeable and bothersome. But first, let’s discuss what causes string noise.

Your Technique When Fretting Your Guitar

The thing that probably causes the most amount of string noise out of all of the things we will talk about is the technique you use when fretting your guitar. The way you hold your hand on the strings when you play a chord and how you move from one chord to the next chord can create a lot of string noise. This isn’t something you do consciously, but it most often occurs when you aren’t paying much attention to your fretting hand.

You may be putting too much or too little pressure on the strings when you play a chord, or you aren’t relaxing your hand quickly enough when changing chords, meaning you don’t release enough pressure off of the strings, which causes your fingers to drag over the strings and results in that dreaded ‘squeaking’ sound.

Your Strumming Hand

Another thing that may be a cause of string noise is your strumming hand. As you play, the heel of your strumming hand may lightly brush over the strings of your guitar that you aren’t strumming or picking at and inadvertently cause some unwanted string noise. This is another thing you won’t notice you’re doing until you really start to pay attention to it, but it may be the reason you hear string noise while you play.

Something that can contribute to the technique you’re using creating string noise is that you may be playing songs that are still a bit too far above your skill level. This may require you to play songs faster than you are comfortable with or chord progressions that you are not as familiar with and can lead you to play poorly in an attempt to try and keep up with the song. And along with sloppy playing comes unwanted string noise.

The Strings You’re Playing On

Besides playing technique, the other thing that could also be creating unwanted string noise is the physical strings you are playing on. Many people prefer uncoated strings for their feel; however, they do create quite a bit of string noise.

The wound strings (i.e., the top three strings) on your guitar usually create the most amount of string noise, as their windings create friction between the string and your finger when being dragged over, which results in a louder sound being produced unnecessarily. The plain strings (bottom three) strings, on the other hand, create much less string noise because they offer less resistance when being dragged over.

Now, one of the most critical parts of fixing the issue of string noise is to become aware of it, why, by the fact that you’re reading this article, you obviously are. That’s great! Now that you’ve become aware of the string noise that happens while you play, you can work on reducing it.

As we mentioned previously, there is no way to get rid of string noise entirely; it’s just something that comes with playing the guitar, but there are some tips that we can offer that, when implemented, will help reduce your string noise to a level where it won’t be as much of a bother.

So without further ado, let’s get to talking about how to reduce string noise on your acoustic guitar!

How To Reduce String Noise On An Acoustic Guitar (Tips)

1. Practice Your Technique

This may not be what you wanted to hear, as it’s no quick fix, but this is the thing that will make the most significant difference in the long run. Practicing your technique on your guitar’s fretboard will help you drastically reduce the amount of string noise you’ll hear while you play.

Unintentional string noise is most commonly heard when transitioning your fretting hand from one chord position to another. To get rid of this, you’ll need to practice your transitioning technique. It’s common for guitarists to drag their fingers across the strings when moving between chords, but this is precisely the thing that creates that unwanted string noise.

To combat this, you can practice lifting your fingers off of the strings when you want to change chords. However, it’s also important that you don’t do this too quickly; otherwise, your strings will sound open and create even more string noise.

When doing this, first release the pressure from the strings while still keeping contact with them, so the note doesn’t sound open. Then you can lift your fingers off the strings completely. They don’t have to go too far away from the strings; they just need to not be in contact with them. Because you released the pressure off the strings before removing your fingers completely, this step shouldn’t make any sound.

Then once your fingers are off the strings, you can move them into position for the next chord you want to play without worrying about creating a dragging noise on your strings. The more you practice doing this, the easier it will become, and eventually, you won’t even have to think about doing it; it’ll just become part of the way that you play.

2. Sliding Your Fingers Across the Strings

However, taking your fingers off of the strings entirely isn’t always possible, as some songs call for an intentional slide across the strings (known as a glissando). So what do you do when that is the case? There are three ways you can reduce string noise while sliding your finger across a string.

Use the Pad of Your Finger

The first method you can try is to use the pad of your finger to slide across a string instead of your fingertip. The tips of your fingers have likely become calloused from long hours of practicing your skills, and as a result, will create more string noise when run across a string. However, the pad of your finger will still be soft and puffy, meaning that it will create less string noise and mute out some of the high metallic sounds that create squeaks.

Angle Your Fingers Back

Another thing you can do is to angle your fingers back before you start to slide them across the strings. This means that more of your finger will be in contact with the string as you slide along it and help reduce and dampen some of the string noise that can be created due to it. This method is especially helpful when you need to slide along the strings quickly or if you’re playing a more technically difficult part of a song.

Wet Your Fingers Beforehand

The last tip we have for sliding across your guitar strings is to wet your fingers before doing so. This may not always be possible, but if, for instance, the song you are playing starts out with a big slide, you can lick your fingers just before you start the song. This may seem gross to some, but lute players do it all the time, and no one seems to be bothered by it.

3. Slow Down Your Playing

This will go hand in hand with practicing your technique. Slowing down the speed at which you play will give you more time to move your fretting hand’s position properly and will allow you to actually see what your hand is doing. This way, you won’t be relying on muscle memory to play chords; you will really need to pay attention to how you play.

Playing at a slower pace will allow you to observe every move that your hand makes and how that impacts the sounds you hear from your guitar. You’ll begin to have a better understanding of how even the smallest shift of a finger can have a significant impact on the sounds made by your guitar.

As you do this, you will be able to more easily recognize at what point your strings make the noises that you are trying to eliminate, and then you’ll be able to adjust accordingly to ensure that those sounds don’t repeat in the future.

The same goes for your strumming hand. When you slow down your playing, you can observe if at any point a part of your hand unnecessarily touches the strings, whether that be the heel of your hand on the top strings or your fingers on the bottom strings. If you notice that this is happening, you’ll be able to adjust the angle of your hand or the way you hold your plectrum to ensure that your strumming hand doesn’t cause unwanted string noise.

4. Change Out Your Strings for a Coated Set

One of the other things that might help reduce string noise by quite a bit is to switch out the strings you currently have on your guitar for a set of coated strings. Coated strings are smoother than regular strings, so they offer less resistance when you slide your fingers across them. This creates less friction when your fingers move across the strings and, as a result, creates less string noise too.

Below, we have listed some coated strings options for you to choose from if you are unsure of which strings you should buy.

If you’re not sure that you want to change out your strings just yet, you can use a string lubricant (like the D’Addario XLR8 String Lubricant & Cleaner) to create the same effect that you would with coated strings. The string lubricant will help remove some of the friction created by your fingers on the strings and reduce string noise.

5. Mute Your Strings

This may seem counterintuitive because you do still want your strings to make a sound, but muting your strings doesn’t mean taking their sound away. Muting your strings simply means dampening the sound of the strings you are not playing on in a specific moment.

You can do this in several ways, the first of which being by using the heel or palm of your picking hand and lay them lightly over the top (thicker) strings when you are picking on the thinner bottom strings. This will help dampen their sound and stop them from ringing out while you play on other strings.

However, if you are playing on the guitar’s top strings, you can try using the fingers that you don’t need to pick at the strings to cover the bottom strings of the guitar. This will also create a dampening effect on these bottom strings and stop them from creating unwanted noise while playing on the top guitar strings.

These techniques may take some practice getting used to and finding a position that feels comfortable for you. Still, once you start to do this regularly, you’ll definitely start to notice it making a difference in the amount of string noise you hear while you play a tune. Which, at the end of the day, is what we are all after.

If you want to find a way to dampen all of your guitar strings at once, instead of having to do it manually with your hand, you can use a string dampener (like this Gruv Gear FretWraps String Muter). This will partially mute all of the strings on your guitar and reduce some of the excess vibrations and string noise that aren’t caused by your playing technique.

String dampeners are usually placed on or above the first fret of your guitar and help to dampen the noise made by your strings that you may not even be picking up on. String dampeners are most often used in studio settings where string noise can be picked up quite quickly, but you could use them in any setting to quiet your strings a little. 

How To Reduce String Noise On An Acoustic Guitar Conclusion

Trying to fix individual aspects of how you play your guitar, like reducing string noise, can be tricky. Tricky to identify what needs to be changed and even tricker to change it once you know what you change. Humans are very good at forming habits but not so good at breaking them, so these changes may not be easy to make. 

But if you put enough effort into it, anything can be changed, and hopefully, the tips in this article have helped you take the first step towards reducing string noise when you play your guitar!

How To Reduce String Noise On An Acoustic Guitar FAQs

How can I make my acoustic guitar strings quieter?

One way to make acoustic guitar strings quieter is to use a lighter gauge of strings, as heavier strings can create more tension and therefore more noise. Additionally, you can try adjusting your playing technique, such as using a lighter touch or muting the strings with your fretting hand. Using a guitar with a shorter scale length can also reduce string tension and noise.

How do I keep my guitar strings quiet?

To keep guitar strings quiet, you can try using techniques such as palm muting or string muting with your fretting hand. You can also experiment with different types of picks or even try playing fingerstyle to reduce string noise. Proper maintenance of your guitar, including regular string changes and keeping the fretboard clean, can also help reduce string noise.

What causes string buzz on acoustic guitar?

String buzz on an acoustic guitar can be caused by a variety of factors, such as improper fretting technique, worn frets, or a warped neck. It can also be caused by low string action or using a heavier gauge of strings than the guitar is designed for.

Why are my guitar strings so loud?

There are a few reasons why guitar strings may be loud, such as using a heavy gauge of strings, playing with a heavy attack, or playing through an amplifier with high gain. Additionally, if your guitar is not properly set up, such as having high string action, it can create more tension and make the strings louder.

Why is my guitar noise gone when I touch the strings?

If you touch the strings on your guitar and the noise goes away, it could be because you are grounding the guitar. When you touch the strings, you are connecting your body to the ground, which can reduce unwanted electrical noise that can be picked up by the guitar’s electronics.

How can I make my guitar strings smoother?

To make guitar strings smoother, you can try using a lubricant specifically designed for guitar strings, such as Fast Fret or GHS String Lube. You can also try wiping down the strings with a clean cloth after each use to remove any dirt or sweat that may have accumulated.

How do I get rid of the buzzing sound on my guitar?

To get rid of buzzing on your guitar, you may need to adjust the string action or truss rod. You can also try raising the saddle height or adjusting the frets. If the problem persists, it may be necessary to take your guitar to a professional luthier for a more thorough inspection and repair.

How do you get low action without fret buzz?

To get low action without fret buzz, you may need to adjust the truss rod, saddle height, or frets. It is important to make these adjustments slowly and carefully, as making too drastic of a change can cause more problems. A professional luthier can also help you achieve low action without fret buzz.

Which way do you turn a truss rod to stop buzzing?

To stop buzzing on your guitar by adjusting the truss rod, you will need to turn it in the direction that will add relief to the neck. This will usually involve turning the truss rod nut clockwise, but the exact direction may vary depending on the make and model of your guitar.

Do thicker guitar strings buzz less?

Thicker guitar strings may buzz less than thinner strings, as they have more tension and are less likely to vibrate against the frets. However, using too heavy of a gauge of strings can also cause buzzing if the guitar is not properly set up.

Can you put Vaseline on guitar strings?

It is not recommended to put Vaseline on guitar strings, as it can cause them to become gummy and attract dirt and debris. This can ultimately shorten the lifespan of the strings and negatively affect the sound quality of your guitar. It is best to use a lubricant specifically designed for guitar strings, such as Fast Fret or GHS String Lube.

Can you use WD-40 on guitar strings?

It is not recommended to use WD-40 on guitar strings, as it is not designed for that purpose and can cause damage to the strings and other parts of the guitar. WD-40 is a solvent that can strip away any protective coatings on the strings, causing them to corrode and rust more quickly.

Should I oil my guitar strings?

No, you should not oil your guitar strings. Oiling can cause the strings to become slippery and affect your playing technique, as well as attracting dirt and debris. It can also damage the protective coating on the strings and cause them to corrode and rust more quickly.

Are thinner guitar strings quieter?

Thinner guitar strings may be quieter than thicker strings, as they have less tension and are less likely to vibrate against the frets. However, thinner strings may also be more prone to buzzing or other unwanted noise if the guitar is not properly set up or if the player has a heavy attack. It is important to choose a string gauge that is appropriate for your playing style and your guitar’s setup.

If you want to find out what my recommended guitar gear is, then here is what I recommend on Amazon:

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David Sandy

Hey there! My name is David Sandy and I'm the founder of Sandy Music Lab. I've been playing guitar for several years now and created this site to be able to share and explore music with others.
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