#1
Hi! Alright first post, wish me luck...  

So, when I play my A, C and D chords in open position I've always muted the low E with my thumb (and also the A on when playing D chord). But recently I've start to notice that many players don't do this and instead they have their thumb behind the neck and just avoiding to strum the E and/or A depending of which of these three chords they playing. Is this an essential skill that I should learn?

For me personally, the main advantage of muting the low strings with my thumb is that I don't have to think about not the hit those while strumming. But one disadvantage is that hammer-on/pull-off's becomes a little bit harder since the other fingers for doing those things are more stiff in that position. I rather have my thumb behind the neck while doing those, but then again I can't strumm without hitting unwanted strings then...

So If thumb behind the neck and avoiding the low E and/or A  is a "better" way and a skill that every good guitarist already have, I have no trouble trying to learn it. I'm just asking just so I don't make my technique worse. I do also know that some are muting the E with their index finger while playing the C chord.

Thank you! *Edit: I know it is good to know several techniques to switch between, but I think my question still stands.*
Last edited by modernmattias at Apr 26, 2017,
#2
My opinion is that the pick should be able to sound any contiguous group of one, two, three, four, five, or six strings effortlessly, precisely, on demand, without looking. The right hand also participates in damping unwanted strings; the low E, A, D with the palm below the thumb, the high E, B, G, with the fingers or palm below the pinky as needed if not damped by the left hand. The left thumb should stay behind the neck and never participate in damping.

You can't really learn to damp directly because the combinations of strings needing damping and the combined methods used by both hands are so complex. You need to let the hands figure it out for themselves; then you can play anything and they will take care of it without you needing to think at all about it. Fully damped playing is transparent to the player - all unwanted strings are damped all the time no matter how fast the string selection needing damping is changed by fast playing or chords voiced to include string skips... the hands will learn how to do all of this automatically.
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#3
Being able to hit the strings you want to sound and not hit the ones you don't want to sound is pretty much an essential skill.

If you're playing an open A chord then really you shouldn't be hitting the E string - if you are then that's something you need to practice. Same goes for an open D, you should be able to just hit the top 4 strings.
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#4
Quote by steven seagull
Being able to hit the strings you want to sound and not hit the ones you don't want to sound is pretty much an essential skill.

If you're playing an open A chord then really you shouldn't be hitting the E string - if you are then that's something you need to practice. Same goes for an open D, you should be able to just hit the top 4 strings.

Thank you both PlusPaul and Seagull for your replies! This was exactly what I needed to hear.

Just to make sure, the same goes for UP strumming too right? Meaning that I should learn too strumm both down and up without hitting the unwanted strings.
#5
There's no right or wrong way to play a chord, but you should learn to play some voicings with your thumb behind the fretboard ( classical position) so that you have more flexibility sometimes.   I play with my thumb a lot ( Hendrix style) because it helps with muting and frees up the other fingers for fills on the upper strings. However, I use the thumb to play actual bass notes, not simply mute.

Unless you're playing something really intensely percussive , I would not suggest using your thumb to mute a D chord or an A chord - those you should be able to strum without muting with your left hand, but rather your right hand. Precision develops with time. 

A great exercise is to learn basic bluegrass acoustic rythm - where you play the bass note  and then strum  the rest of the chord ( this gets done quite quickly with fast chord changes).  That really helped me develop precision.

There is no real right or wrong way to do any of this, so the context of what you're playing matters.  You do mention that you have trouble doing certain fills with your current voicings,  so that is definitely a problem. In my experience, it helps to practice different forms of chord voicings so you can use the one that fits best for a given song.  So practice some of those chords with your thumb behind the fretboard to at least have the option when necessary. 
#6
Quote by reverb66
There's no right or wrong way to play a chord, but you should learn to play some voicings with your thumb behind the fretboard ( classical position) so that you have more flexibility sometimes.   I play with my thumb a lot ( Hendrix style) because it helps with muting and frees up the other fingers for fills on the upper strings. However, I use the thumb to play actual bass notes, not simply mute.

Unless you're playing something really intensely percussive , I would not suggest using your thumb to mute a D chord or an A chord - those you should be able to strum without muting with your left hand, but rather your right hand. Precision develops with time. 

A great exercise is to learn basic bluegrass acoustic rythm - where you play the bass note  and then strum  the rest of the chord ( this gets done quite quickly with fast chord changes).  That really helped me develop precision.

There is no real right or wrong way to do any of this, so the context of what you're playing matters.  You do mention that you have trouble doing certain fills with your current voicings,  so that is definitely a problem. In my experience, it helps to practice different forms of chord voicings so you can use the one that fits best for a given song.  So practice some of those chords with your thumb behind the fretboard to at least have the option when necessary. 

That makes sense, what you're saying about learning several techniques and use the one that suits the song best. And maybe even use a different voicing if necessary.

I will try out the bluegrass rhythm and see if it helps me too! Thank you.