How To Improve Sloppy Guitar Technique & Make Your Guitar Playing Accurate And Clean

By Tom Hess

Whenever you make a mistake in your guitar playing it’s likely due to poor technique. Poor technique makes your playing sound sloppy and slows down your progress. To fix this, you must:

*Pick out the problems occurring in your guitar technique.

*Learn why these problems cause errors in your guitar playing.

*Improve your guitar technique to make your playing more consistent.

See how this process eliminates problems that cause errors in your playing:

Question: “Tom Hess, how do I know what problems are happening in my guitar technique?”

Answer: There are two approaches to finding this out:

1. The basic approach: Start working together with an excellent guitar teacher who will identify the problems in your playing and help you fix them. This is by far the fastest way to become a better guitarist.

2. Examine your guitar playing on your own using the information in this article. This will require excessive patience and intense focus.

Use this guitar speed building resource to quickly master guitar technique and build speed.

These are the problems that most frequently cause sloppy guitar playing:

Sloppy Guitar Playing Infographic OWS

Sloppy Guitar Technique Cause #1: Sound Made By Unmuted Strings

One of the trademarks of sloppy guitar playing is noise coming from unmuted strings. This issue makes it very difficult for you to actually hear the notes you are playing and is particularly noticeable while using high gain or distortion.

From now on, use both your fretting and picking hands to mute the strings.

Use these two approaches to mute strings with your picking hand:

1. Mute any strings below the one you are playing on with your thumb. Here is the positioning you need to use:


2. Use any fingers that aren’t involved in picking to mute strings above the string you are playing on. See how this looks in the image below:


With your fretting hand, use the padding of your first finger to mute the higher unplayed strings. This adds another layer of muting to help eliminate any unwanted noise.


To become a very clean guitarist, you MUST be able to mute with both hands as I’ve described.

Sloppy Guitar Technique Cause #2: Wrapping Your Thumb Around The Neck To Play

Wrapping your thumb around the neck while playing causes two main issues: 1. It adds a lot more tension into your hands 2. It makes playing cleanly very difficult

Instead of wrapping your thumb like this, place it behind the neck. This relaxes your fingers and helps you play more efficiently.

Watch the video at 0:17 and you’ll find out just how big of a difference not wrapping your thumb make.

Sloppy Guitar Technique Cause #3: Taking The Pick Out Of The Trenches Between The Strings

The trench is the area between the strings of the guitar. It is much easier to play cleanly and accurately when your pick stays within this area. When your pick leaves this space, it becomes harder to play cleanly and you start to lose sync between your hands.

Thumb muting technique makes it much easier to stay in the trench area of the strings. Using this technique helps you move your picking hand in a very movement efficient manner.

Note: Don’t use too much pressure whenever you mute with your thumb. You only need to use enough so that the strings are muted and no more. Using too much pressure will lead to additional string noise and a build-up in muscle tension (which also effects how clean your playing is and limits your potential to play fast).

Sloppy Guitar Technique Cause #4: Not Using Directional Picking And Replacing It With Alternate Picking

Alternate picking incorporates a lot of unnecessary movement. While using alternate picking and switching to a new string, the pick will have to move out of the trench of the strings, move in an opposing direction and jump across the string you played. This greatly increases the chances of adding noise into your playing.

Directional picking is very efficient and helps make your playing clean. It keeps your pick in the trench, improves two hand synchronization and eliminates unwanted string noise.

(Note that you also use the same type of motion with directional picking that you use with sweep picking. This means your practice time can be made more efficient.)

This video demonstrates the best way to use directional picking:

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Sloppy Guitar Technique Cause #5: Not Fretting Notes With The Tips Of Your Fingers (Using The Pads Instead)

When you fret notes with the pads of your fingers rather than the tips, it makes clean playing much more difficult.

You don’t get calluses on the pads of your fingers. This causes you to press down harder in order to produce the note. In addition, this usually produces a muddy, unclear note.

Using additional pressure when it isn’t needed also leads to unclean playing, and generally makes clean playing more difficult.

This issues occurs once you collapse the first knuckle of your index, middle and ring finger or by over-extending your pinky to play a note.

What is the solution?: Use your fingertips to fret the notes. Since they have hard calluses on them, you will not need to press down really hard to produce a note. This helps get rid of any unnecessary tension that you would use to fret the notes. Since fretting notes with your fingertips requires less pressure, your overall playing feels much more effortless.

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

When you move the guitar pick around in your fingers, it becomes increasingly difficult to play cleanly. This is a big cause of mistakes.

What is the solution?: Look closely at how you hold your pick. Make sure you keep the pick still without gripping it with too much pressure. You shouldn’t need to use a lot of pressure to hold the pick in place.

Tip: Adjusting the pick so that it comes in closer to your wrist joint minimizes its movement.

THREE Steps To Solve Sloppy Guitar Playing:

Step 1: Make a habit of recording yourself while playing guitar. For better results, use headphones while listening back to your audio files. Do this, and you will make faster improvement in your overall guitar playing.

Step 2: Look for the specific note or notes where your guitar playing breaks down.

Step 3: Try to identify the particular sloppy guitar mistakes that are leading to a break down in your playing.

This is how you do it:

*Choose a single guitar technique element and make it your central focus.

*Make altercations to your guitar technique to improve upon this element.

*Notice how your playing has changed. If you see tons of improvement, you’ve just identified a main cause of unclean playing.

*Go back and repeat this same process over again with another guitar technique element.

Step 4: Refine the guitar technique elements that are causing sloppy guitar playing. Work on them until you master them.

Utilize this approach each time you practice in order to master guitar technique and play guitar extremely clean.

This free guitar speed building resource helps you to quickly master guitar technique.


Author's Bio: 

About The Author:
Tom Hess is a highly successful guitar teacher, songwriter and a pro guitarist. He uses the best online guitar lessons to train guitar players to reach their musical goals. Go to to get more guitar playing resources , guitar playing eBooks, and to read more guitar playing articles.