How To Clean Up Your Guitar Technique By Keeping Notes From Bleeding Together

One of the biggest causes of sloppy lead guitar technique is notes bleeding together unintentionally.

This mistake is not too hard to fix when you understand:

a) the specific reason why it is occurring and

b) the situations it is most likely to occur in.

After you correct this issue, your guitar technique instantly becomes MUCH cleaner.

Watch this video to learn how to keep notes from bleeding together:

Click on the video to begin watching it.


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My #1 tip for cleaning up sloppy bleeding of notes is:

Practice guitar with distortion!

Question: “But tom Hess, I heard practicing with distortion is like cheating. Doesn't distortion simply mask mistakes?”

Answer: No. This statement is a gross oversimplification. There are many different types of mistakes that can happen when you play guitar. The main ones are:

- notes bleeding together

- unwanted string noise

- notes being out of tune

- weak articulation (poor pick attack)

Distortion makes the first 3 mistakes (bleeding, unwanted string noise and out-of-tune) notes sound worse.

The reason?

Distortion compresses the sound. This means mistakes become louder and easier to hear.

But here is the good news:

Since mistakes become easier to hear – they are also easier to correct. That’s because it becomes immediately obvious when you fixed them.

So, is there ever a benefit to practicing guitar with a clean tone?


That’s because distortion does cover up inconsistent articulation.

Clean tone makes weak pick attack very easy to spot.

(Although an even better way to spot it is to practice unplugged.)

So, on the whole… the best way to practice to clean up your playing is:

1. Using distortion about 80% of the time. This helps you clean up sloppy string noise and nasty bleeding.

2. Unplugged (or with a clean tone) 20% of the time.

This will not only improve your articulation, but will make your synchronization tighter too.

Question: “But Tom Hess, I heard you are supposed to pick as lightly as possible. How can picking strings really hard be a good idea? ”

Answer: Picking as light as possible makes it hard to keep your hands in sync. That’s because you don’t get the tactile response from your pick and finger fretting each note at the same time.

Plus, wimpy pick attack simply doesn't sound good. :)

Instead of picking as light as possible – focus on relaxing excess tension through your body.

As you play, relax everything from:

  • Your jaw (and believe it or not, your tongue can become tense too).
  • Your shoulders
  • Your arms and wrists
  • Your stomach (take deep breaths as you play)
  • Your thighs
  • Your calves
  • Your feet

This is called: a “tension audit”.

If you are able to relax these parts of your body as you play…

…your playing will feel very easy.

(Even if you are picking notes with eye-popping articulation.)

And your synchronization will sound and feel very tight as a result.

Question: “Tom Hess, how do I clean up sloppy bleeding noise in arpeggios?”

Answer: Master fretting hand finger rolling.

What is finger rolling?

Finger rolling is where you fret more than 1 note on different strings on the same fret… with the same finger.

And if you are not careful – finger rolling can get sloppy very fast.

Sloppy Sweep Picking At High Speeds

Here is how to do finger rolling the right way:

1. Fret a note with your fingertip (exactly as you would play any other note).

2. Collapse the first knuckle of your finger to fret the second note. This means: bend the knuckle the opposite way of how it would normally bend, so your finger almost looks like a banana.

When you do this, you get to release the first note of the roll, while fretting the second. At the same time, your fingertip continues to stay in contact with the first string keeping it muted.

This is what allows you to do the finger roll with no bleeding.

3. (Only needed if doing the 3-string roll), rock your wrist backwards to roll the finger onto the 3rd string of the roll.

This will release the second note of the roll – while fretting the 3rd.

Congratulations – you’ve just completed an ascending finger roll.

How do you descend it?

Answer: by reversing the motion in the exact opposite direction from how you played it ascending.

Imagine rewinding a video.

That is how you rewind the motions of a finger roll.

Common mistake to avoid when doing finger rolling:

Mistake #1: thinking of a roll like a “barre”. A roll is not a barre!

In a barre, all notes under your finger ring at the same time.

This is the exact opposite of what you want when you do finger rolling.

Get the barre image out of your head completely. Instead, think about making notes ring separately.

Question: “Tom Hess, I practice finger rolling, but the notes are bleeding together. Problem is: this only happens at fast speeds. If I slow down - the problem goes away. When speed back up – it comes back. What can I do?”

Answer: This problem is very common.

The solution is simple:

Don’t practice excessively slow.

When you can already do a technique (such as rolling) really well, slow practice doesn't do anything to help you master that technique.

Here is what to do instead:

Find the exact tempo where your bleeding problems first begin. Then practice right around that tempo.

For example: if the tempo where your bleeding first starts is 100 beats per minute…

Practice at tempos 93-107 beats per minute.

This will be just challenging enough to require your full concentration… but easy enough for you to control everything and make your finger rolls clean.

As you get better at playing around the edge of your clean playing speed - this speed will move (increase).

Increase the tempos you practice at right along with it.

Also, record yourself playing finger rolling and listen to it at half speed. This will tell you where the notes are bleeding together, so you know what to focus on when you practice cleaning up your playing.

You now know what it takes to clean up sloppy noises in your guitar technique.

The next step is to transform the rest of your guitar playing, so you can fully reach your musical goals.

I can help you with this in my Breakthrough Guitar Lessons.

Online Breakthrough Guitar Lessons With Tom Hess

Here is how it works:

You tell me about your musical background, goals, challenges and frustrations. From that, I’ll create a customized lesson plan to get you playing guitar the way you want. 

As you practice your lessons, you and I stay in frequent contact.

I track your progress, give you feedback on your guitar playing and hold your hand every step of the way to nearly guarantee your results. 

To begin, go to:



To get results like them, go here:

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