Guitarists on TikTok are wrapping rubber bands around their strings – here’s why

Guitarists putting rubber bands behind their guitar strings
(Image credit: TikTok)

TikTok truly is a goldmine for guitarists. Not only is it the home of serious players – an unassuming guitar teacher who wowed on America’s Got Talent, or a dedicated Weezer superfan, for instance – but it’s also a pantheon of DIY guitar tips.

The latest that seems to have garnered some attention is one of the niftiest – and cheapest – hacks we’ve seen in some time, using nothing but a humble rubber band to unlock a completely different sound from your acoustic guitar.

It’s all very, very simple. Simply take a rubber band and wrap it around the base of your acoustic guitar strings just above the bridge, and hey presto: you have a permanent palm mute, and a pretty effective substitute for Reuben Cox’s rubber bridge, which is favored by the likes of Phoebe Bridgers and Wilco.

@ashleyvirginia.music

♬ original sound - Ashley Virginia

Granted, it’s not quite as clear as the rubber bridge, and the application will have to be tight enough in order to avoid unwanted rubber band rattle, but not too tight so as to pull the strings and throw off the tuning. We also imagine strumming too hard would get some unwanted vibrations from the band, too.

But, if all that can be balanced – and if the hack is deployed correctly – a lush horizon of tones can be harnessed. As demonstrated by TikTok user Ashley Virginia, the de facto mute can be used for effortless dampened fingerstyle motifs, as well as the sorts of strumming sounds that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Bridgers track.

@ashleyvirginia.music

♬ original sound - Ashley Virginia

Plus, it does have some advantages over a fully fledged rubber bridge. As pointed out by a second TikTok user, Kirstie Lynn, rubber bands have the benefit of being wholly flexible, meaning they can be tied to certain strings while leaving others unmuted.

In practice, that lends itself to some intriguing possibilities, including leaving the bottom string open and ringing for sustained drones while the rest of the strings complement it with some pizzicato-esque fingerstyle melodies.

Not only that, it’s far more flexible. Want a damper sound? Throw on a thicker band. Fancy a quicker mute? Add another band, or throw on a few more wraps. Want to go back to your standard acoustic sound? Just remove the band. 

@kirstietheworsty

♬ Charlotte Street instrumental - Kirstie Lynn

Unlike the rubber bridge, the hack is instantly reversible, and won’t require a restring and a newly set up bridge to tap into similar sounds. Yes, it’s not a like-for-like substitute for Cox’s bridge, but it’s a solid alternative for those looking for an easy fix.

As such, the rubber band joins an evergreen list of household items you can use as guitar accessories, lining up alongside fretwrap socks, credit card guitar picks, glass bottle slides, Grolsch beer washer strap locks and more.

Plus, we’d argue it’s a much better way to use rubber bands with guitar strings, as opposed to Bernth’s idea of literally using rubber bands as guitar strings.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.