How should I mute?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Kaitlyn, Sep 13, 2017.

  1. Kaitlyn


    Sep 7, 2017
    Okay so I'm fairly new at Bass guitar. I've been playing guitar for a long time but I realized how much I love the sound and feel of bass so I decided to switch. I'm mentioning this because on guitar I never had to worry about muting. Currently on bass I'm attempting to teach myself how to mute using both left and right hand technique. I can do it fairly okay but I was wondering if I should just go the easier route. Muting with my right hand isnt an issue for me but muting with my left hand by lightly putting my first finger over the strings not being used is slowing down my playing. I realize I should take things slow at first and that I'm not gonna be great at it in the beginning but I just wanted to know if I continue to practice will I be able to play just as quickly as I do without having to mute? Do you guys think I should teach myself to mute first? Or instead should I just buy muting foam and be done with it?
  2. Stumbo

    Stumbo Guest

    Feb 11, 2008
    I use the side of a finger to mute an adjacent string. I also use 1.5" necks that allow me to wrap my thumb around to mute the E.

    I also use the pads of my fingers depending on the fretboard position.

    In conjunction with rh palm muting, with practice, I choose whatever's method is convenient, switching between whatever works at the moment.
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2017
    Two-Spirit and Kaitlyn like this.
  3. I don't know if you are right or left handed, so I will address this as though you are right handed.

    The third and fourth fingers of Your right hand mute strings lower than the one you are playing on.

    The fingers of your left hand mute the strings higher than the one you are playing on.
    HolmeBass and Kaitlyn like this.
  4. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Here are two clips that may help :

  5. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    I never learned muting, it just came natural. My left hand mutes the higher/thinner strings that are not in use, by having all the available fingers lying lightly on them (sometimes it is better to have two fingers resting lightly on a string to prevent accidental overtones) while the right hand mutes the lower/thicker strings.
    I'd say just carry on playing and whenever you hear a string making a sound it should not repeat what you are doing and see how you can mute the string best. It will come to you.
    gebass6, Two-Spirit, Stumbo and 5 others like this.
  6. eJake


    May 22, 2011
    New Orleans
    The fact that you're new to bass and thinking about muting is already a good sign. Watch the vids above and find out what works best for you.
    40Hz, pbass2, nice_hat and 2 others like this.
  7. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member

    I use floating thumb, which covers a lot with the right hand when playing fingerstyle. When playing with a pick I do a little muting with the pinky side of my hand, depending. Left hand muting is generally unconscious, just a matter of not always bringing my fingers square on to the string so they can lay across them a little bit, but there are a couple of songs I do where I've practiced specifically laying a left-hand finger on an open string to mute it.
    rickdog, Thumb n Fingers and Kaitlyn like this.
  8. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    I'll bet the problem is that as a guitar player you are accustomed to fretting with your fingertips and with your fingers arched -- as if you were typing on the fretboard -- precisely to avoid muting other strings when playing chords. With bass, you want to lay your fretting fingers almost flat across the strings and fret with the pads of your fingers rather than the tips. Once you get used to fretting this way, left-hand muting just comes naturally.
  9. Kaitlyn


    Sep 7, 2017
    Yeah you're right, as a guitar player I'm not as comfortable playing with my fingers flat, once I practice more I'm sure I'll get the hang of it, thanks for the advice!
  10. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    OK, good. I thought that might be the case.

    BTW, there's another reason to avoid fretting with a "claw" hand using the fingertips: In order to do that -- especially when fretting notes on the E and A string and/or down near the nut -- your wrist has to be almost directly underneath the neck, and sharply bent to allow your fingers to reach back toward the fingerboard. Playing with a severely bent wrist (on either hand) is probably the single most dangerous thing you can do in terms of risking injury; it also significantly reduces the strength and agility of your fingers. (Try holding your arm out, bending your wrist as far as it will go, and then wiggling your fingers.) By keeping your fretting fingers straight (or only gently curved), you won't have to bend your wrist nearly as much to fret the strings.

    As you can see, although the bass looks like an oversized guitar with fatter strings, it requires rather different technique than does guitar. A lot of things you are accustomed to doing on guitar will be either inefficient or potentially harmful when applied to bass. I suggest that before you do too much more practicing, you spend a little time studying up on bass technique so when you practice you'll be practicing the right things rather than developing bad (and potentially harmful) habits.
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  11. I am in a similar boat and had this same question a few months ago. I am currently learning a set of 6 to 8 songs to play this weekend with some buddies I'm meeting up at our cottage, so I've been focused more on sounding good rather than just knowing the notes. The more I play a song from beginning to end focused on sounding good, the more I noticed myself naturally muting with both right and left as I become more and more familiar with the music and fine tuning the sound.

    In summary, don't stress out over it, I think it will come naturally as you develop your chops on familiar songs.
    Kaitlyn likes this.
  12. DavC


    May 17, 2005
    Tallmadge , Ohio
    " because on guitar I never had to worry about muting " .... ???????????????? what , really ...

    just like on guitar , there are many ways to mute ... whatever piece of tissue/skin you have , that is not being used at any given moment = mute

    i think we all develop our own fairly unique muting methods from ' trial/error ' , which turns into ' repetition/practice ' ..
    gebass6 and pbass2 like this.
  13. How you mute depends on how you play your notes. Yes - using the pad of your finger to fret lets the rest of your finger deaden the unused strings. That was a big WOW for me.

    No reason for us using the tips of our fingers as we are not strumming several strings at one time and needing good clean sounds from all of them. We sound one note at a time and the pad does a good job of this. Using the pad kinda pulls our wrists into the proper angle and eliminates a lot of other problems.

    Now on top of that I use flatwound strings and foam rubber under the strings at the bridge. Gives a sound I like and also helps with the sustain, or fret rattle. I use the foam from a foam rubber paint brush, doubled and cut to size.

    Pads first, flats next and foam rubber if something more is needed. Using all of this I no longer even think of muting it just happens.

    Should mention if you are using your fingers to sound the strings, then the floating thumb comes into the picture. I sound the strings with my thumb so palm mute and all I've mentioned above gets the job done for me.

    We all are different, experiment, however, something will need to be used as our beast does growl.

    Good luck.
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2017
  14. joinercape


    Dec 22, 2007
    Have a look here, lots of info, decide for yourself:
  15. Timmy-Watts

    Timmy-Watts I like bass. And airplanes. Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2010
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    I have instinctively done this:

    When not using the treble strings, the left hand fingers do the muting, mostly my pointer finger, like this: 20170914_124834.jpg
    When playing the skinnier strings, on a 4 string, my pinky licks on the E, my ring locks on the A. When playing on the G string, my pull-offs, of my playing fingers lock on the D. Like this:
    But lately, I have been employing the floating thumb technique, because it keeps my wrist straighter, I have been playing more Matt Garrison technique, and playing 6 string. Like this: 20170914_124930.jpg
    gebass6, rickdog and Kaitlyn like this.
  16. Thumb n Fingers

    Thumb n Fingers

    Dec 15, 2016
    This is sort of how it came to me also. I'm not sure there's one catch-all solution to muting. Honestly, I think you just need to do what you did (ask the question) and try all of the very valid techniques the previous posters said, and see what works for you.

    Keep in mind that you may need to use different muting techniques for different situations. When I'm fingerpicking, much of the muting comes from my right hand (floating thumb technique mostly, but I also sometimes use my right ring finger to mute the next lower string instead of my thumb depending on the passage and what I'm playing). In that same instance, I often find that my ring or pinkie on my left hand sort of naturally mutes the higher string(s).

    When I slap, I tend to use more and different techniques to mute... everything from left hand, to my right palm (or side of my palm) to even my forearm.

    Just try as many suggestions as you can and see where (and when) they work and they don't work. Before you know it, it'll come to you without even thinking about it.

    Good luck and welcome to the Low End!
    Kaitlyn likes this.
  17. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    When you get comfortable doing that muting the higher strings becomes automatic. You'll just do it without thinking about it.
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  18. Keep at it. You will eventually start switching mute styles mid-lick as your hand and ear learn to coordinate your playing without much concious thought. From there you can start to explore percussive muting (almost a hammer on, but not quite), wich can really expand what your are doing in a song/jam.
    Very good info being shared here, and props to OP for skill building!
    Kaitlyn likes this.
  19. pbass2

    pbass2 Supporting Member

    Jan 25, 2007
    Los Angeles
    I agree. You're on the right track. And it IS a bass guitar after all. Work on various muting techniques but also don't over-think it. When you're really engaged with the instrument, you'll land on a variety of things that work organically without even trying. I play with pick, fingers, thumb, and use a variety of muting techniques with both hands, but rarely think about it, from more obvious things like palm-muting when picking or thumb-plucking, to subtle left-hand muting on the fingerboard a la Rocco, etc. etc--you'll get it!
    MalcolmAmos, Kaitlyn and nice_hat like this.
  20. Ewo

    Ewo a/k/a Steve Cooper Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2008
    Huntington WV
    +1 to the advice, above, to cultivate the floating thumb technique with your plucking hand.