Shifting/sliding and the "string scrape" sound


I just answered this question on one of the Beginner to Badass lesson pages, and wanted to share it here since I thought it might be helpful. The student asked:

“When doing a “reach” up or down a string, like going for the C note on the A string in this groove, is it better to lift the left finger and move or slide? Lifting seems cleaner but slower. Sliding seems quicker but you get the string scrape sound.”

My answer:

What you’re calling a “reach” I would call a “shift,” just for terminological clarity. In general when shifting, you want to keep your fretting fingers touching the strings as you shift (NOT pressing, just touching) for muting purposes. The string scrape sound you’re hearing is actually pretty innocuous in the context of playing with other people, even though it seems really noticeable in a practice context.

And sometimes you can hear that scrape sound, it’s just part of the deal playing an instrument with metal strings. Like listen to this solo banjo recording of Bela Fleck, there’s string noise all over the place and he’s arguably the best banjo player alive (at the very least my favorite) –

So moral of the story - don’t worry too much about that particular kind of string noise, and keep rocking! Let me know if this is helpful or if you have related thoughts/questions?


The scraping sound used to bug me when playing acoustic guitar (something like Nothing Else Matters by Metallica) … lifting my fingers would create a slappy sound when re-freting and sliding them created a horrid scrape sound. The I figured out if I did something in between like half lift and slide it would sound sweet as a nut. No scrape or slappy. Though… I don’t think this applies as much to the bass because of the lower frequencies so the scraping isn’t so apparent?


I think it depends… if we’re talking acoustically, it’s probably fairly similar since the sound is coming from the metal strings higher-end resonance. If we’re talking amplified, then yes probably this happens less on bass than guitar because we have less high-end coming out of our amps.

And yeah, there are ways to move around the string to get more/less of the scraping sound, for sure. The less friction you put on the string with your fingers, the less they’ll scrape, I imagine. I mean I’m pretty sure that’s the variable in play, but I haven’t done controlled trials measuring finger PSI to scraping decibel levels. :slight_smile:


Some nice (and not so nice) tips here