Tech Tip: Touching the strings

Question. When I play chords I always touch the strings that I should be playing open. How can I avoid this?

Answer. Touching the wrong strings when you play chords is a common problem that many beginners face when learning the guitar. Today we will look at some simple solutions.

1. Try and press your fingers straight down. Your finger should be at a 90 degree angle with the string. This means that only the tip of your finger should be connecting with string.

2. Are your fingernails short? If your fingernails are long, your fingertip will not be able to sit on the string and your fingers will touch the other strings on the guitar.

3. Place your thumb directly on the back of the neck of your guitar. This puts your hand in a good position to keep your fingers clear of the wrong strings.

4. Practice with chords you find easy. Look at how your hand sits when you play these chords. Try to use the technique that you use on easier chords with more difficult chords.

5. Using a capo at higher frets can make it easier on your fingers as the frets are closer together. However for people with big hands this can make it more difficult. So experiment with a capo to see if it helps you.

Each person has different size hands, finger shape and flexibility. For this reason there is no universal rule that will change your playing to avoid touching the wrong strings when playing. You should practice chords as much as you can until you feel confident and comfortable with them.

Good luck with your practice.

Posted by Ben Edwards.


  1. Theo

    My finger tips are too stubby. If I fret a string, I will still end up either touching the one above or the on below it.
    particular on electric guitar.

    1. Mark McKenzie

      Hi Theo, I actually just answered another comment just like this one… it’s a pretty common complaint actually. It’s often because your fingers haven’t developed calluses yet and they act like a cushion. When you’re pushing down on the string that makes it really difficult to get a good clear sound out. As you keep practicing, your fingers harden up so getting clear notes out isn’t so difficult. If you think your fingers are much shorter than most, you can try lowering your thumb down the neck a little. But make sure you don’t lower it too far as you still need a good grip on the guitar neck to play your notes. Push through and you’ll get there with it.

  2. Rob Dotz

    Damn, so much for the coke nail on that hand…. There goes my street cred. Actually, #5 never would have occurred to me before but I can see how that would make a difference, thanks.

  3. Joan

    Yup, fingernails. I really didn’t want to cut them short but I eventually had to accept that I had to if I wanted to play some chords right.

  4. Sydney

    Thanks! I always thought I was supposed to point my knuckles away from my body, so I did that and it was uncomfortable and distorted my sound, and I thought I was doing it right >< the 90 degrees thing really helps.

  5. Manickam Rangasami

    Quite helpful tips,it’s good to see your fingers going the right way it should. Thanks a lot.

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