How To Fix Sloppy Guitar Technique And Make Your Guitar Playing Accurate And Clean

By Tom Hess

How-To-Fix-Sloppy-Guitar-PlayingMany of your guitar playing mistakes are caused by sloppy guitar technique. Sloppy technique slows down your progress and makes your playing sound amateur. To fix sloppy guitar playing, you must:
  • Look for inefficiencies in your guitar technique. These inefficiencies make playing guitar very hard.
  • Understand why each inefficiency causes sloppy guitar playing (and how to eliminate it from your guitar technique).
  • Refine your guitar technique to make your playing cleaner, easier and more accurate.

See how this process helps you fix sloppy guitar playing:

Question: “Tom Hess, how do I know what inefficiencies exist in my guitar technique?”

Answer: There are 2 ways to find this out:

  1. The easy way: Have an expert guitar teacher analyze your guitar technique and tell you what holds your guitar playing back. This is the fastest, easiest and most proven way to reach your musical goals.
  2. Analyze your guitar playing yourself (using the steps below). This requires a lot of attention to detail and laser-like focus.

Use this guitar speed eGuide to master your guitar technique and speed.

Here are the most common guitar technique (and practice) inefficiencies that cause sloppy guitar playing:

5 Fix Sloppy Guitar Playing

Sloppy Guitar Technique Cause #1: Open String Noise

Sloppy guitar playing is often caused by unwanted open string noise. Vibrating open strings make it hard to hear the notes you are actually playing. Heavy distortion (and playing at a loud volume) makes this problem worse.

Use your picking hand and fretting hand to clean up sloppy guitar playing.

Your picking hand can mute string noise in 2 ways:

  1. By using the thumb to rest on the lower strings to keep them from ringing. This picture shows the thumb position for thumb muting:

    Thumb Muting Position
  2. By resting the unused fingers (the ones that aren’t holding the pick) on the higher strings. The picture below shows this:

    Picking Hand Muting

Your fretting hand technique mutes string noise with the pad of the index finger. The finger pad rests on the higher strings. This gives you an extra layer of security to eliminate string noise.

Fretting Hand Muting

Muting both higher and lower strings makes it easy to only hear the notes you want to hear. This is key to playing guitar cleanly.

Sloppy Guitar Technique Cause #2: Wrapping The Thumb Around The Guitar Neck To Play Scales And Arpeggios

Wrapping the thumb around the guitar neck forces your fingers to squeeze together. This makes it harder to play guitar fast and clean.

Placing the thumb behind the neck of the guitar makes your fingers more relaxed, keeps them closer to the strings and makes stretching easier. This makes your motions more efficient and your playing becomes cleaner.

Watch the video starting 0:17 to see the huge difference the thumb position makes on your guitar technique.

Sloppy Guitar Technique Cause #3: Not Leaving The Pick In The Trenches Of The Strings

Guitar string trench is the space between strings. The more your pick stays inside the trenches of the strings, the easier it is to play cleanly (and fast). The more your pick moves away from the strings, the harder it is to play cleanly (and keep your hands in sync).

Thumb muting makes staying inside the string trench very easy. Sliding your thumb up and down the strings keeps the pick in the most efficient position.

Note: Avoid pressing the thumb into the strings. The thumb should apply just enough pressure to mute strings, but no more. Pressing the thumb into the strings tenses up your shoulder and creates sloppy noises on string changes.

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Sloppy Guitar Technique Cause #4: Using Alternate Picking Instead Of Directional Picking

Alternate picking forces the pick to move a lot more than necessary. Changing strings with alternate picking requires the pick to leave the string trench, change direction and skip over the string you just played. This makes string noise (and sloppy mistakes) more likely.

Directional picking makes your picking motions more efficient and easier to keep clean. It lets you keep the pick in the trenches of the strings, keeps your hands in sync better and prevents sloppy string noise.

(Directional picking also trains the same sweep picking motions that you use to play arpeggios. This makes your practice time a lot more efficient.)

This video shows the right way to do directional picking:

Sloppy Guitar Technique Cause #5: Fretting Notes Using The Pads Of Your Fingers

Fretting notes using the pads of your finger makes your guitar playing sloppy.

Finger pads lack calluses, so more pressure is needed to produce a clear note. The pad often doesn't apply enough force to push the string all the way down. When the string is not pushed down all the way, the note becomes muffled and unclear.

Using more pressure than necessary also creates extra tension in your body that makes playing guitar difficult.

This problem is caused by collapsing the first knuckle of fingers 1 2 and 3, or by extending the pinkie finger too far to fret notes.

Solution: Fret notes using your fingertips (unless you are rolling the same finger across several strings). Fingertips have strong calluses and do not compress as easily. This helps you to consistently fret clear notes without excess tension. Fingertips also transfer force to the string much more efficiently. This makes your guitar playing feel easier.

Sloppy Guitar Technique Cause #6: Letting The Guitar Pick Move Around In Your Hand

Moving the pick around in your fingers makes it hard to articulate the notes clearly and keep your hands in sync. This causes many sloppy mistakes.

Solution: Analyze the way you hold the pick. Learn to keep the pick stable and motionless in your hand without using too much pressure. It does not take much force to hold the pick securely in place.

Tip: Bringing the pick closer to the wrist joint helps to keep it from moving excessively.

Steps To Clean Up Sloppy Guitar Playing:

Step 1: Record your guitar playing often. Listen carefully to the recording in headphones. The more you focus during this step, the faster your guitar playing improves.

Step 2: Identify where your guitar playing is sloppy. Isolate the specific notes that don’t sound the way you want them to sound.

Step 3: Determine which elements of sloppy guitar playing are causing your mistakes.

Here is how:
  • Select one guitar technique element to pay attention to.
  • Make adjustments in your guitar technique to refine that element.
  • Listen to how your playing changes as a result. If you notice an improvement, you identified one cause of your sloppy guitar playing.
  • Repeat the process for other guitar technique elements described in this article.

Step 4: Refine the guitar technique elements that cause your sloppy playing. Focus on them like a laser until they are mastered.

Use this process regularly to develop flawless guitar technique and play guitar clean.

This free guitar speed eGuide helps you master guitar technique faster and easier.

Study with the best online guitar teacher to reach your musical goals fast.

© 2002-2018 Tom Hess Music Corporation