How To Make Your Chords Sound Better

By Paul Kleff

Do you struggle to get all the notes sounding clearly in your chords? Do your fingers touch the wrong string and mute it or are your fretted notes not sounding clear? This is a common problem for most beginning guitar players—they struggle to get great sounding chords.

The solution isn’t always obvious to beginning guitar players. Most beginners try to fix their bad sounding chords by brute force—they just squeeze their fret hand as hard as they can. This is not a good way to play chords and is ineffective for two main reasons:

First, by applying excess force, the fret hand tires very quickly. The excess tension caused by squeezing the chords too hard makes it difficult to easily move the fret hand fingers from chord to chord.

Second, they do not position their fret hand in a way that allows their fingers to approach the strings and fret the chord notes at an optimal angle.

To fix the problem of muted notes within chords, we will start by getting your fret hand in the correct position. Getting a good position and string approach will help you solve both of the primary chord problems. The correct position stops the problem of unwanted string muting and makes it so you will not have to apply excess finger pressure to get the fretted notes to sound clearly.

The wrist and arm move the fret hand, and this is the key. The fingers go where the arm and wrist place them. First, make sure that your fret hand wrist is not bent backwards. You want to have a slight forward bend in the wrist. This allows the fret hand fingers to approach the fretboard from an almost perpendicular angle—from the top. Getting the hand in this position almost immediately solves the problem of accidentally touching and muting the strings next to the fretted notes. The muting problem comes from the fret hand fingers approaching the strings at a side angle. Coming down from the top gets the fingers on the correct chord notes and keeps them from muting neighbouring strings.

Once you have the correct fret hand position, become aware of how much finger pressure you actually need to get the notes in the chord to sound clearly. Slowly ease up on the finger pressure until the notes do not sound clearly, then add finger pressure again until they are clear. Notice that it does not take much to get the notes sounding correctly in the chord.

Follow these two steps to clean up you chord sound and make your chords much easier to play:

1. Use the correct approach angle to the strings (more perpendicular from the top) by having a slight forward bend in your wrist.
2. Become aware of how much finger pressure you need to get the notes to sound clear. It is usually much less than you think you may need.

Learn to play guitar the fun and easy way with the best beginner guitar lessons online. You will get guitar lessons that will take you step by step so that you can master the skills you need so you can play the music you love on the guitar.


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