Many beginners have trouble playing guitar chords because they find it difficult to play them without deadening some of the strings. Students with large hands and big fingers tend to mute the sound when their fingers interfere with the open strings of a chord. However, students with small hands often struggle with chords like C or G7 because they require a bit of a stretch. In both cases, the end result is usually a chord that sounds really bad.
So what can be done to correct this problem? Well, actually, there may be several solutions…
The first thing I would suggest for a beginner is to use the right size guitar.
Occasionally I’ll get a student who owns a big, jumbo size, acoustic steel-string guitar, but has small hands and fingers. While the guitar neck may be narrow enough, this student may not be able to apply a sufficient amount of pressure to the strings in order to get a good sound. So this student could experience some frustration until they acquire more strength.
The large body of the jumbo guitar may also cause a problem if the student has to contort their arm in order to position their hand over the sound hole. In time, this could create a fair amount of unwanted tension throughout their neck, back, shoulders and arm.
So, I recommend that a student of small stature and features use either an electric guitar, or a smaller 3/4 or 1/2 size acoustic.
Now a jumbo guitar might be okay for a student with larger features, but they may still have trouble fingering guitar chords because of the narrow neck. If this is the case, students with large hands could try using a guitar with a wider neck, such as a nylon string, classical guitar.
But, neither of these solutions are very good if it hinders someone from playing the style of music they want to learn. The best solution then, would be to correct the problem by simply improving their technique. With that in mind, here are a few suggestions that might help…
When playing guitar chords, it’s important to place the very tips of your fingers on the stings. Many beginners however, tend to use the flat part of their finger, which results in a dead or muted sound. Good chord technique is a matter of using the knuckles of your hand, fingertips, and wrist effectively.
– Make a tight fist with your fretting hand
– Slowly relax and let your fingers begin to uncurl
– Your hand should now have a soft, round look & feel
– All three knuckles of your hand should be slightly bent, your wrist relaxed
This is called a “cupped” hand and it is what you want to strive for when playing guitar chords.
– Place your thumb behind the neck of your guitar between the 1st & 2nd fret
– Put the very tip of your first finger on the 2nd string, at the 1st fret by bending your 1st knuckle
– Hit the 2nd string (if it doesn’t sound clear, press harder while holding it down)
– Continue to hold the 2nd string down while you hit the 1st string open
Both strings should have a clear, clean sound.
– Keeping your 1st finger down, add your 2nd finger to the 4th string at the 2nd fret
– Make sure to use the very tip of your 2nd finger by keeping the 1st knuckle bent
– Now play the top four strings, one at a time, while keeping the 1st & 2nd fingers down
Each string should have a clear, clean sound. If they don’t, check you position. You may need to move your thumb toward the center of the neck in order to maintain a “cupped” hand.
– Add your 3rd finger to the 3rd string at the 2nd fret
– Check your position- cupped hand, first knuckle bent, fingertips placed on strings just below fingernail
– Now, pressing down firmly, play each string, one at a time
If you hear a muted sound, try to identify the problem by determining which string is being muted. If a sting that you are pressing down is muted, you probably need to apply more pressure. If an open string is muted, another finger is probably interfering with it.
Adjust your position by creating a “cupped” hand with knuckles bent so that you are up on your fingertips and repeat the exercise. Continue doing this until you achieve the desired result with your guitar chords.
Taking the time to focus on your technique will not only improve the sound of your guitar chords, but they will eventually become easier to play as well.