How to Stop Guitar Squeaks and Improve Your Sound

Rubbing those string the wrong way aye?

Category: Guitar

Do you have any clue how loud your guitar squeaks are? Do you even know what I’m talking about? If you do, do you know how to stop guitar squeaks?

Probably not. If you’re like me, I was not aware how bad the strings squeaked when I played until the very first time I recorded myself. I took out the Tascam 4-track (yup, I’m older than you thought), fired it up, plugged in all necessary cables, pointed the mic on my amp, pressed record and began laying down the track. After that very first take, I pressed playback, enjoyed the hell out of it and then proceeded to do more takes cause really, my ambitious musician self really had some big rockstar dreams, as most of you do. A day later, I listened to it again and after only a few minutes, I finally heard it. The recordings were marred by guitar squeaks, left and right, every single time I finger strummed the acoustic guitar parts. It drove me mad.

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I tried mixing something to no avail. I was a newbie to playing guitar and recording so I tried to do what i thought was the right thing to do. But in the end, I knew that the problem was actually me. You see, when you’re a beginner, it’s the hardest pill to swallow. Life is over. Why do I suck? what am I going to do? Maybe the guitar is not right for me. I hear ya, it’s goddamn crippling!

So what does a determined musician do when these type of things come up? Rise to the occassion, always. I made a plan to tackle the issue and here’s what I came up with:

1. Record again and listen.

2. Find the trouble parts and recognize the issue.

3. Third, Lift those fingers.

First things first, record again and listen. When you record yourself and listen to the playback carefully, you’ll be able to hear guitar squeaks because microphones attenuate sounds that we don’t hear while playing guitar. By listening to your recording, you can recognize the issue by remembering which part it is that is troublesome. From there, you can recognize mistakes, unwanted noise and start to wrap your brain around how to actually solve the issue.

Second, find the trouble parts and recognize the issue. Once you know exactly where the parts are that cause the guitar squeaks, you can then begin to assess what is causing the squeak. What you need to know is that the pressure you put forth in holding the string, is what’s causing the guitar squeak. When your finger rubs on the wound strings, it will squeak. Assess, how you’re holding the neck and strings at that certain part and what comes before and after that part. Then try to see what would be a better way to switch/transition chords. Go slow, then try to do it at the normal speed.

Third, LIFT!!! That’s right, lift those fingers! As I mentioned, the pressure is what makes the strings squeak. Before you transition into the next chord, release your fingers, lift and then hold. I know it seems like a herculean task to do this but it’s not. Go slow and practice how to release, lift and hold. Practice this until you minimize the squeaks. Basically, if you’re holding the C chord and need to transition into a G chord, release all fingers, lift your fingers and then hold the G. The lift is the most important part and is the most difficult part to memorize.

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Unfortunately, you can’t really get rid of all the guitar squeaks.

As a matter of fact, I love guitar squeaks when it’s in the proper context, i.e. live concert recording, studio one-off, rare acoustic performance or live in-studio performances. If it’s in the proper context, like live recordings, it gives certain types of recordings the warmth and ambiance the track needs to
make the listener feel like they’re right there with the artist. It almost sounds fake when a live recording has been tampered with.

So if you’re downright agitated or confused by guitar squeaks, the steps above should help in completely minimizing or eliminating guitar squeaks.

Got any advice of your own on how to stop guitar squeaks? Comment below.