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Muted notes: left vs right hand muting

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Oleg BassPlayer, Jul 27, 2017.

  1. Oleg BassPlayer

    Oleg BassPlayer

    Feb 4, 2016
    I usually play the bass with fingers. Recently I've been wondering how do I produce sharp muted notes like those one does with a pick and palm muting. More specifically, I am trying to emulate pick bass sound like one we can hear on the 60's records, for example, in San Francisco by Scott McKenzie supplied by Joe Osborne.

    I've tried putting my right hand on the bridge and plucking strings with my right thump and index fingers (thump-down and index-up movements). This works for slow tempo, but I can't play fast this way. To avoid this limitation, I've tried alternating index and middle fingers still keeping the hand on the bridge. This doesn't sound well for me, either, as finger movements are very constrained in this position, and secondly, index and middle fingers give very different sound because the hand is rotated clock-wise to touch the bridge with it's fleshy part.

    Is there a common "academic" way to play muted notes? Should I try putting left hand fingers just on the frets to get the sound? Or should I go on with the right hand muting? Does anybody use alternate right hand picking (i-m) while keeping right hand on the bridge or should I give up this idea at all?
  2. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    When I joined TB I played with pick only for a very long time. After reading many threads on the benefits of finger style, I spent 2-3 months working on it to become proficient.

    Let me turn the tables a bit and encourage you to learn pick style. :)
  3. Oleg BassPlayer

    Oleg BassPlayer

    Feb 4, 2016
    If I do it'll be a retreat, I'd rather be able to play both ways :D
  4. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    I believe Joe Osborne used old, dead strings and a piece of foam under the strings near the bridge as a mute.

    That said, left hand muting is also possible, and a good technique to have in your toolkit. Check out the Francis Rocco Prestia instructional video on YouTube for some ideas.
  5. I favor muting with my left hand, the right hand muting just never felt right to me.
  6. monsterthompson

    monsterthompson The Eighth Note Wonder Of The World

    Nov 25, 2008
    I've found I can fret with my left index and mute with my left middle resting lightly on the string. In theory this should be pretty similar to using the right hand to mute at the bridge when picking. Of course, I find this helpful when pumping out root notes, and it gets a little tricky when left hand riffs or walking lines are required.
    The Rage and Element Zero like this.
  7. Oleg BassPlayer

    Oleg BassPlayer

    Feb 4, 2016
    How exactly do you do that? Do you put fretting fingers just on the frets?
  8. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    The most common technique of left hand muting is to use additional fingers as mutes. So for example if you are fretting a note with your 1st finger, you can use some combination of fingers 2, 3, and 4 as mutes. The youtube instructional video I mentioned earlier will point you in the right direction. Studying video clips of master players can be a great way to learn.
    Nashrakh and Oleg BassPlayer like this.
  9. Double E

    Double E I ain't got no time to play... Supporting Member

    Dec 24, 2005
    Northeast OH
    Left hand muting can work well for certain lines but you have the most overall freedom using right hand muting while using your thumb, index and middle fingers. Just keep practicing the technique, you'll get the hang of it... that's where I am, still in practice mode but convinced that it's the best way. Here's a vid of Marcus using this technique for a familiar line that is actually a great little excersise. He uses thumb only but I (try to) replicate the line using fingers as well.

    TrevorR and ryco like this.
  10. i use my pointer to fret and the other 3 fingers to lightly mute, it just kind of happened when I was trying to get quick defined notes out over fast rock passages. I also play with a fairly heavy pluck anyway. I don't think you could get the same effect with a lighter plucking hand. If I was going for more of a Motown kinda deal I would probably approach it differently. If I played with a pick I would just palm mute with my picking hand.
  11. eJake


    May 22, 2011
    New Orleans
    I mute with both hands. Try picking down up with your thumb on the rh while palm muting. Takes some practice but I can play fast that way. Right hand muting to me has a different feel than left hand muting.
    Guiseppe and Double E like this.
  12. Resonance129


    Feb 15, 2011
    I think it depends on how hard I want the note to stop. Most times, I mute with my fretting hand, but when I want a REALLY sharp stop, I mute with both hands, simultaneously. I use all fingers except the thumb to stop the string vibration, very slightly pulling up towards me so that I'm not pushing the strings closer to the fretboard and ending up with a harmonic. It was a little weird at first but it's really effective, and pretty comfortable now.

    I also agree that playin with a pick helps. Playing with a pick almost forces you to get used to muting because everything wants to run together if ya don't.
  13. blastoff

    blastoff Supporting Member

    Sep 5, 2007
    i like to use the top of my right hand index finger nail, as if it was a pick. down strokes. its bit fatter and warmer than a pick sound, but still sounds nice and picky plus you can palm mute. and it doesn't require a pick. you may chew up your cuticles if you're not accurate but its a great trick that you already have up your sleeve.
    Guiseppe likes this.
  14. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    I find that left hand muting gets in the way while playing faster lines, and can lead to uneven muting, so I usually use the bottom edge of my palm on my right hand.
  15. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Picks sound like picks, fingers sound like fingers.
    Trying to make either sound like the other is pointless.
    Learn both, use whichever is appropriate to the sound the song calls for.
    pbass2 likes this.
  16. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Agreed that both techniques are good to have in your bag o' tricks, but it depends. Didn't Geddy play Roundabout with his fingers for the HOF?
  17. Element Zero

    Element Zero Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2016
    An interesting option would be to grow your index and middle fingernails just a bit longer. Not even with the tip of your finger... cause it looks a little feminine... not that there's anything wrong with that... Not long like some classical guitarists do either. Just, a couple millimeters behind the tip and play normal. However, roll off a bit of the tone/treble knob on the bass or experiment with a slightly different eq on your amp. Or, try using a pick. It not hard per se... just takes practice.
  18. I also vote for Rocco Prestia's instructional video. He has a unique way of muting with the left hand. I use this technique to a degree and it works well. It takes a lot of practice to get it down pat. Good luck. :thumbsup:
  19. Joebone

    Joebone Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2005
    Los Angeles
    Maybe I'm nuts, but often mute fretted strings on left hand by simply reducing pressure so that the fretting finger is doing the muting. Also sometimes use left hand to mute open strings...if I want a really sharp release, I'll use the right hand, sometimes letting the release almost be like a ghost thump in itself. Should add that I'm left-handed, which may drive this particular train...
  20. Interesting. I have the opposite problem. Have been a finger player forever, but am learning to use a pick now to broaden my skills (one band is doing On Call by Kings of Leon which has a heavy pick sound; figured now would be a good time to learn). Biggest problem I have is muting. I mute with the right hand all the time finger style, using floating thumb technique. When picking the lower (pitch) strings, I suppose my left hand is muting some, too as I reach over the D and G). With a pick, no floating thumb and my left hand technique goes to heck as I try to mute all over the place.

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