Carol Kaye's method of muting open strings with felt

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Nuclear Guru, Oct 8, 2010.

  1. Nuclear Guru

    Nuclear Guru

    Oct 8, 2010
    As seen in the attached image from this website: (it's tip 113)

    I have recently started playing with a pick (because it sounds awesome). I've been having a lot of trouble with the muting, or lack there of, of the strings I am not playing. I am curious about this method.

    Could anyone give me more detail on this? What kind of felt is she using (I'm assuming that all felt is not created equal)? How is it attached to the bass? How far from the bridge?

    Less technically, what do you think of this muting method?


    Attached Files:

  2. somegeezer


    Oct 1, 2009
    Why not use your palm to mute? The foam only mutes all the strings. With your palm, you are at least able to bridge over the string you currently play.
  3. bassie12


    Aug 23, 2008
    I suspect the key to success here lies in the leopard print sleeve...:bag:
    bigthemat, Oddly and king_biscuit like this.
  4. I've heard of it being done by putting a piece of foam under the strings at the bridge as well. Haven't tried it this way but Carol Kaye knows what she's talking about (hundreds of gold and platnum records can't lie, right?).
    I've muted to imitate a DB sound at times. I generally just use my index finger and fret the note right ON the fret and I lay the other 3 fingers very lightly on the string and it dampens it and gives it a pretty good DB tone (I do it with flatwounds on a P-bass and I don't use a pick). I can't play too fast this way (yet) and it takes some getting used to. It's not the most comfortable way to play and while you're getting used to it, your fretting hand likes to cramp up a bit.
  5. Why not mute them all? It's a bass. How many strings do you think he's going to be playing at the same time? With a pick no less.
  6. SnakeKappele


    Sep 20, 2010
    I put foam under the strings close to the bridge. I use a BassMute on my Fender Jaguar and it works well for pick playing and finger playing. The nice thing is that it uses a lever to set the muting level so you can adjust it on the fly (depending on how fast you are flying).

  7. Nuclear Guru

    Nuclear Guru

    Oct 8, 2010
    Whoa, this is pretty cool. How much does that cost? That certainly looks nice but I'm looking for something a little more accessible. Is there a low-tech, homemade way to approximate this?
  8. THAT'S cool! I've never seen that (or heard of it) before. What a great idea.
  9. SnakeKappele


    Sep 20, 2010
    Sorry it took so long. I had to make a mute and document it.

    I used 1/2"x3/4" high density foam weatherstrip tape (from Amazon) and some adhesive backed felt (can't remember where I got it but Google should tell you).

    I measured a piece of foam tape for the length of the pickup. You just really need to span your strings plus 2 times the distance between two strings. This is so there is even muting on all the strings (especially the 1 and 4).


    I then stuck the tape to a piece of felt (the felt slides easily on the bass, the foam just sticks).


    I then trimmed off the excess felt.


    Normally, this would be it. I have a really high action so I needed to put another thickness of foam on and trim it down.


    Then slide it under the strings by the bridge and play that funky music!


    Making it, photographing it, and writing this up took about an hour. The mute took about 5 minutes!
  10. somegeezer


    Oct 1, 2009
    "I've been having a lot of trouble with the muting, or lack there of, of the strings I am not playing"
    That's why. He clearly stated he wants to mute the strings he's not playing. So I figured foam muting would be something you'd want to avoid using. Nothing wrong with a foam mute, just doesn't really work with the statement he gave.
    mcnach likes this.
  11. delta7fred


    Jul 3, 2007
    When I bought my 62P, in about 1969, it had flats and a string mute. The first thing I did was take them off, and the pickup cover and thumb rest.

    The mute looked like it could have been original, and I think it was fitted in the bridge cover, next to where the strings emerge, there is certainly a mark on the bridge cover where it could have been.

    It was fairly dense foam rubber, about 5/8" square and as long as the cover is wide. It looked like it may have been a standard fit. I thought I could lay my hands straight on it but seem to have filed it away 'safely'. At least I found the bridge cover.

    The positioning of it would have been very similar to the one that SnakeKappele shows in the post above, only touching the top of the strings.


    Just read the post by somegeezer, yes it looks like it is a technique issue not a particular sound he is after. In that case ignore all my waffle about mutes.
  12. SnakeKappele


    Sep 20, 2010
    That was the Motown sound - a Fender '62 P Bass with foam in the bridge cover muting LaBella 760M flatwounds.
  13. Nuclear Guru

    Nuclear Guru

    Oct 8, 2010
    Wow, thanks for the info and the quality how-to.

    For everyone else: Yeah, it's really more of a technique issue rather than chasing a certain sound. I have tried muting with my right palm but I haven't yet found a way to pick comfortably while doing so (although admittedly I could try a lot harder). I do plan on pursuing palm muting more, but I saw this and figured that it was worth a shot. Nothing wrong with experimenting right? :ninja:
  14. I too use the foam strip under the strings at the bridge. It gives an up right bass sound which I like. I just took a foam cleaning pad and cut it to the right size and pushed it under the strings.

    I understand when electric basses came on stage they did not sound like an up right so foam was added. Some, like mentioned in the other posts took off the foam to get the electric sound. Electric sound caught on so now days electric guitars do not have foam.

    Mine does now. I like the sound. Does not cure all the muting problem but with the foam and a little palm mute I'm happy.
  15. I took a lesson from a VERY well known bassist..

    "I asked him.. what one thing do all of the well known bassists you've played with have in common?"

    without a pause

    "They all can mute without gadgets in various levels of controlled muting."

    We went on to spend an hour correcting my right and left hand technique.

    I could see this being interesting if there was a gig of all full on mute tunes (blue grass.. some early motown etc).
  16. SnakeKappele


    Sep 20, 2010
    Sorry, I missed that. It was about $120.
  17. john_g

    john_g Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2007
    Dear god man, clip yer nails! =)
  18. SnakeKappele


    Sep 20, 2010
    I spend an hour of my time making a mute and documenting it in an effort to help someone and I get a crappy comment like this? What the hell is your problem? You have nothing better to do than make snide comments to someone who has done nothing to you? Would you like it if someone did that to you?
    proby, merseymale and salcott like this.
  19. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    if you subscribe to carol's picking method (and i 100% do), palm muting can be injurous to your hands. i'm not going to go into the entire method here, but trust me...she's right.

    btw, carol tapes the felt onto her bass with double stick tape and uses pretty much any felt you can buy at a fabric store. but she does it for the sound, not the ability to mute unused strings.
    Steve Boisen likes this.
  20. pnut166


    Jun 5, 2008
    Some MM basses have individual string mutes built into the bridge. Adjustable with thumb screws. They are awesome !

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