The guitar is a dirty instrument. And we’re so glad it is that way!
After all, that sleazy tone that only a guitar could have created has made history in the world of music.
Rock n’ roll, grunge, punk, metal, hard rock. We could write hundreds of articles focusing on the magnificence of such a beloved instrument (and we actually do it).
However, there are certain occasions in which a tone is better when it’s perceived as clear and clean.
How, then, can a player get that tone with a guitar? With a string dampener around the nut!
Some players wrap the guitar’s nut with a string dampener to avoid unwanted noise caused by vibrations. As a result, guitarists get a cleaner tone that fits perfectly on studio recordings. However, many prefer using them even during live performances.
The good news is that you don’t have to buy a string dampener to achieve this result.
In reality, there are some DIY alternatives to it.
Want to know which ones are those? Then keep on reading to find it out!
What is that thing some players use to wrap the nuts of their guitars?
Those things some players use to wrap their nuts (the guitar nuts!!) are called string dampeners.
A string dampener is a tool that’s placed on the guitar fretboard to restrain the strings. This is helpful for reducing unwanted string and fret noise.
It’s generally used for studio recording, although there is a fair amount of guitarists who use string dampeners during live performances.
Are these string dampeners placed in front or behind the nut?
String dampeners are placed in front of the nut. That is to say, they go over the fretboard part, not the headstock.
However, certain string dampeners can be placed over the strings but near the saddle.
Those tend to be string dampeners made for acoustic guitars.
Why should you want to wrap the nut of a guitar?
Wrapping the guitar’s nut is an effective way of getting rid of string and wrap noise.
Ultimately, those noises could interfere with the sound expected to be made.
For example, certain guitarists (especially those who play metal) will want to record a riff that needs to sound as clean as possible.
In those situations, a string dampener comes in handy.
The truth is that guitars are lousy and imperfect instruments.
As a result, many inconveniences could appear.
For instance, certain strings will vibrate despite not playing them at all.
Make the experiment by yourself. Hit the E string as hard as you can.
You’ll notice that the open B string vibrates as well.
Although the change could be too little to notice at all, for those musicians who want to play as perfectly as possible, this detail ruins it all.
Also, string dampeners replace the palm-muting technique for controlling noise.
Even if you’re a master at this technique, you may give string dampeners a try since they are more accurate.
If you ever tried out any 2-hand tapping lick you might have noticed that controlling unwanted notes ringing out is extra harder without your picking hand near the bridge.
A string dampener will help you get a cleaner sound in these situations.
Can you use just anything to dampen the strings of your guitar?
Okay, time for the good stuff. There are certain objects that could replace a string dampener.
Here’s a list of DIY string dampeners to save you a couple of bucks:
- Hair Ties (if you play metal and have long hair, cool! You have this already covered)
- Tube sock (really? Yes! Try it out by yourself)
- Wristband (you may even palm-mute with it. Or should I say ‘wrist-mute’?)
- Soft cloth (place it under the strings but do not increase the strings’ tension)
- Tape (the all-time-problem-solver)
- Fretwraps (not a DIY but still a worth-mentioning option)
Try them all, and see which one worked the best.
Is this something only metal players do?
String damping is not something that only metal players need to do.
Yes, this is something more common for metal guitarists. However, there are no rigid rules in the world of music.
Any musician who wants to get as clear of a sound as possible could try string dampeners.
These are tools designed for guitarists. So, anyone who plays guitar could find them useful, no matter the genre they play.
Can’t you just learn how to mute strings properly and get away with it?
Palm-muting is a wonderful technique.
Depending on the player, some will claim it’s hard to accomplish, while others may say it’s a piece of cake.
In reality, any guitarist can do palm-muting assertively. All it takes is some practice.
Palm-muting could replace a string dampener and save you from the need of buying one.
However, that technique is not as effective as wrapping the nut with a dampener or any other object mentioned above.
Remember that palm-muting just mutes the strings the moment you place your hands or wristband on them.
On the contrary, a string dampener will prevent unwanted noises non-stop.
Something similar can be achieved when combining palm-muting with fretting hand muting, which is natural for most experienced players.
However, on some occasions, such as in the 2-hand tapping scenario, I mentioned above, a string dampener might be an extra layer of protection against unwanted noise.
If you’re in doubt, just try it by yourself. You never know what could change the way you play forever.
Hello there, my name is Ramiro and I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I’m obsessed with everything gear-related and I thought it might be worth sharing it. From guitars, pedals, amps, and synths to studio gear and production tips, I hope you find what I post here useful, and I’ll try my best to keep it entertaining also.