Beginner - Unusual habit in my muting technique.

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Riptide, Feb 26, 2021.

  1. Riptide


    Jun 3, 2013
    Chattanooga, TN
    As the title suggests, I am a beginner (as of the beginning of this month), and I am trying to take things slow to find what right-hand technique(s) may suit me best.

    Little bit of context that could be irrelevant, I started out playing a 5-string - intentionally, so I could just dive in to extended range headfirst. (Ibanez GSR205)

    I've noticed that, rather than using the 'floating thumb' technique or anchoring my thumb on the B string/pickup, I've been sliding my thumb underneath the strings as I 'climb' my way up the higher strings. It is usually between the neck pickup and the neck itself.

    Is this technique going to be detrimental to my playing in any way in the future? I don't see anyone else talking about or using this technique and I assume that's for a good reason. I'd rather not be practicing the wrong things and "getting good at being bad" as I would call it.

    It'd be cool to find out that it's not a big deal, because it is comfortable to me, but I would like to adjust myself as soon as possible.

    Thanks in advance for any and all constructive feedback/advice, friends.
  2. Unusual muting techniques are not uncommon and should be fine, as long as they get the job done and don't hinder your playing. John Patticucci has a way of muting that I could never copy, but it works for him.
  3. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    It sounds like you're using what's known as the "moveable anchor" technique:

    Obese Chess and Element Zero like this.
  4. Yonni


    Oct 31, 2016
    When you say “sliding my thumb underneath the strings”, do you mean between the body and the strings? Wouldn’t that slow you down when string crossing? I’ve just tried it and I find that my plucking fingers lose power when I do this. I’ve never heard of anyone doing this before but I’ve only been playing 5 years.
    gebass6 and foolforthecity like this.
  5. Riptide


    Jun 3, 2013
    Chattanooga, TN
    Well said, and thank you for the affirmation via that great example. I felt that it wasn't something awful, but I also didn't want to be too confident in myself. lol
  6. Riptide


    Jun 3, 2013
    Chattanooga, TN
    I have been practicing the moveable anchor tech, but no, I usually have my thumb against the body and underneath the strings that I'm muting.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2021
  7. Riptide


    Jun 3, 2013
    Chattanooga, TN
    Yes, that is what I mean, and I've only been playing for about 3 weeks, so maybe it's just me awkwardly trying to figure it all out, but it's comfortable and much faster for me than anchoring/floating my thumb.
    Ggaa likes this.
  8. Malcolm1935


    Feb 5, 2021
    Mutting depends on how you sound the string. If you use a pick (or your thumb) then palm mute seems to work best. Floating thumb seem to work best with a two or three finger approach. So how do you sound the note?

    I went with flat-wound strings and foam rubber under the strings at the bridge. Gave a sound I liked, and I still use them to this day. Mutes about 90% of the problem.

    It is just something you have to work out.

    Happy trails.
    C Stone likes this.
  9. C Stone

    C Stone

    Sep 4, 2020
    Whatever works for YOU.
    I have found my thumb to occasionaly creep under the E without thought when playing a passage or part on a fiver.

    I also mostly find myself anchoring on the B string when playing a fiver and when playing the low B my thumb just lands on the pick-up but I have never used the E as an anchor on a four string bass so I guess it is considered a 'movable anchor' on my fiver.

    I have always used my pickup as a thumb anchor and only played four strings for decades so there's that. I'd say do whatever gets it done. Welcome to the low end and enjoy the journey! :thumbsup:
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2021
  10. Yonni


    Oct 31, 2016
    There’s a really good video out there on YouTube about different anchoring techniques and using combinations of different approaches. I think it might be on Scott’s Bass Lessons but I guess there are others as well. Try out a few different ones to see what works best for you. I tried to stick to one approach that didn’t feel natural. About a year in I changed to floating thumb and that has served me pretty well but si combine it with my ring a pinky as well. One on E and one on A when I’m playing on the G. Good luck!
    C Stone likes this.
  11. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    So, it's a "diving thumb" technique. Hmm - I'd never do that, because my thumb won't fit under there without getting wedged in place. Maybe the bass you has has strings that are really high off the body? My guess is you won't be able to do that on every bass, so maybe it's not a good idea to build that habit.

    I have thumb rests right next to the lowest string on all my basses - it's kind of an extension of the fngerboard, but a bit wider. Anyway, my thumb floats between 2 positions - on the side of that rest when playing the lowest string, or on top of it, resting against the lowest string when playing other strings.

    Floating thumb does a couple things for you:

    1) it helps you damp low strings that aren't being played. One of the things that a good bass player has to know how to do is damp strings that aren't being played - if you don't do this well, there will be a rumbling sound goin' on,'d sound crappy.

    2) It helps you reach higher strings without stressing your wrist into an uncomfortable/unergonomic position. This is more of an issue with 5 or 6 string basses and short fingers. In my case, I play 4's and 5's (mostly 5's) but the 5's have fairly close spacing (17.5 mm) and I have ginormous hands (very long fingers), so I don't need to float past the B string with my thumb to reach the G string easily. situation is unusual. Your mileage and hands will probably vary.

    If you dive your thumb, and then try to reach the G string on a 5'er (or a 6'er) my guess is your hand is gonna be tweaked into a position that you might get away with for a while,'s not at all a good idea long term. I had to take a decade off from playing for wrist issues (an injury not related to bass playing) - wrist issues are something you want to avoid at all costs.
    C Stone likes this.
  12. BassFalcon


    Nov 18, 2020
    I’m gonna go ahead and be the bad guy here. Stop this technique. Take the time to learn one, or even better, all of the several standard right hand techniques. Get a teacher if you can afford one, or watch any number of YouTube tutorials or whatever but attack it academically and learn the how and why. After you have a handle on basic proper right hand technique you can revisit this technique and see if it’s actually advantageous or not and either ditch it or continue to develop it. But you can’t make that judgement without knowing at least one of several accepted, proper, right hand techniques. I know my comments will be controversial, especially among the “there are no rules in music” crowd. But “whatever works for you” is terrible advice for beginner. To put it succinctly and prevent me from writing pages and pages let me just say “learn the rules before you break them”. Also, cheers, and welcome to bass!
    SteveCS, slapshot, teh-slb and 8 others like this.
  13. C Stone

    C Stone

    Sep 4, 2020
    Nah your not "the bad guy" just a difference of opinion, and that's ok...I never wanted to possibly stifle my natural tendencies with 'lessons'. Yours is sound advice none the less and as you said learn some "proper" techniques and 'ditch' what doesn't work for you. :thumbsup:
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2021
    BassFalcon likes this.
  14. coy garcia

    coy garcia

    Jan 18, 2020
    Seems like a very limiting bad habit technique. My left hand mutes the stings above the ones I'm playing and my right thumb (over strings) mute the strings below the one I'm playing. A simple scale exercise across all strings will develop good muting technique into a good habit.
    Lobster11 and swink like this.
  15. Element Zero

    Element Zero Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2016
    Fresno California
    I’ve been doin what Adam Nitti describes in that video above since I started playin. Just seemed natural.
    C Stone likes this.
  16. BarfanyShart


    Sep 19, 2019
    DC Metro
    When I find myself doing something that is not orthodox, I think it's good to try it the standard way, then do it more my way, and figure out what I really think is better. You often end up learning to do things both ways, and use different techniques for different thing's. I do a lot of things different than most players, and I have spent time learning really weird techniques that I use for only one song, but, you know, it's always worth the effort of learning it the "right way" too.
    BassFalcon likes this.
  17. jefkritz


    Oct 20, 2007
    iowa city, IA
    If possible, you should post a video so we can see what you’re doing! It might be okay or it might be a bad habit, but it's hard to know without more info.

    As an unrelated related story... A good friend of mine used to only use one fretting finger and would just slide up and down the neck. He could go pretty darn fast, but I told him to start using multiple fingers instead. It slowed him down for a while, but he ended up thanking me.
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  18. swink


    Jan 10, 2019
    This might help to improve your floating thumb technique...
    Use a pencil like this:
    Your thumb will automatically point downwards, and will find its place on your strings in a natural way.
    upload_2021-2-27_1-37-23.jpeg upload_2021-2-27_1-38-30.jpeg upload_2021-2-27_1-39-36.jpeg
    If you let your arm rest on the body of your bass, you don't need to rest your thumb on a thumbrest or string, just lay your thumb flat on the strings you dampen. If you like to go Pattiticci-style You can hook your pink under the B-string and your ring finger under the E-string.

    Another effective way is to rest your thumb om the E-string as if you're playing a 4-string and do some right hand dampening where needed.
  19. MVE


    Aug 8, 2010
    That seems like a really bad technique to me.

    I strongly suggest you keep focusing on trying to learn a good floating thumb.

    There are plenty of other techniques, but floating thumb is the least limiting ultimately.

    That being said, do whatever works for you. If you grow as a player, you will discover little things about every element of your technique that you need to adjust, work on and practice in order to learn to play a more challenging piece.

    Im not a believer in the old saying, “it’s harder to unlearn ‘bad habits’.” Blah, blah, yeah, whatever. I say, “ me the clinical study.”

    Changing your technique to learn a new song is just part of learning a new song.

    Keep playing and learning new stuff. I suspect, sooner or later, you will find having your thumb stuck under the strings is slowing you down and you will try something else. But, if not, cool!! Just keep playing.
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  20. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    I would suggest taking lessons. Maybe your technique is awesome. Maybe you would benefit from someone giving you direct feedback. And if you don’t like the feedback find another teacher.
    Enjoy the journey. Dig in and don’t get frustrated. There is not a single proper form and many of us transition between different forms of plucking and muting, etc. Rock on.
    BassFalcon and Obese Chess like this.