Australian Guitar - - Technique -

Some­thing’s been bug­ging me. No­body seems to know how to mute their damn strings any­more. I’m not talk­ing about the good old-fash­ioned ‘chugga-chugga’ metal mute; I’m talk­ing about stop­ping un­wanted strings from ring­ing out while you’re play­ing a note or a chord. And yeah, you can buy all sorts of pro­mo­tional-logo’d string mutes to stick on your gui­tar right down by the nut to stop those stray string noises, but for me, that would just be an­other thing to lose along with half a dozen Jazz IIIs ev­ery week. And what hap­pens if you find your­self handed an un­fa­mil­iar gui­tar in a jam sit­u­a­tion? You don’t have a fret wrap on you, and you’ve spent your life up un­til that mo­ment let­ting those fuzzy lit­tle bug­gers take care of clean­ing up your play­ing so you don’t have to. What hap­pens then, huh!?

Aright, al­right, a dis­claimer: there are some in­stances where these do-dads are a good idea – par­tic­u­larly if you’re into a lot of two-handed tap­ping. But some­thing I heard in a Marty Fried­man clinic once re­ally stuck with me: he likes those stray har­mon­ics, semi-ran­dom string noises and the weird sym­pa­thetic over­tones you get from choos­ing ex­actly when and when not to mute. He feels that it adds more hu­man­ity and vi­brance to cer­tain mo­ments. And that’s not com­ing from an anti-tech­nique player: Fried­man is one of the most in­cred­i­bly tal­ented shred­ders you’ll ever hear. The dude knows what he’s do­ing.

I per­son­ally feel that a fret wrap is a great tool for the right mo­ment, but I see some play­ers who won’t solo with­out one, and I feel like they’re re­ally short-chang­ing them­selves when it comes to cool open-string licks and the like. Yes, you can ad­just a mute so that it’s only min­i­mally af­fect­ing open strings, but then they’re not as ef­fec­tive at over­all mut­ing.

Any­way, this is all just a long way of say­ing, “Here are some cool licks you can’t do if a fret wrap is mess­ing up your open strings.”


This is a sim­ple pull-off lick which is slightly in­spired by Brett Garsed’s solo in John Farn­ham’s “Two Strong Hearts”. It has a nice bounce to it, and when per­formed prop­erly, it gives you some in­ter­est­ing lit­tle grace notes. As you go from the fret­ted note to the open string, pull the string slightly to­wards the floor. This helps to sound the open string more loudly, and it also adds a very slight mi­cro-bend to the very end of the fret­ted note. It’s the kind of ef­fect that’s al­most too sub­tle to con­sciously per­ceive, but you can feel it.


This one is kind of in­spired by the badarse open­ing unac­com­pa­nied solo in Gary Moore’s “End Of The World” – although you re­ally should track down the ac­tual song to hear how great it is, be­cause this isn’t any­where near the ac­tual lick. Try play­ing the same pattern on dif­fer­ent strings, let­ting dif­fer­ent open strings ring out.


This is one of my favourite licks ever. Mute the strings with your left hand, hit those open strings hard with the pick and then ham­mer each of the fret­ted notes re­ally solidly for a very per­cus­sive and al­most ro­botic sound. Take this lick fur­ther up onto the other strings and see where it takes you – it sounds great and it looks even bet­ter. Again, I’m not against string mutes: I think they have a time and a place, and they can be re­ally help­ful in the stu­dio. But don’t let them be­come a crutch that pre­vents you from fully mas­ter­ing your in­stru­ment, and don’t let your­self miss out on some of the cool things that can hap­pen when you ex­plore open strings.

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