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muting on fretless- more reliance on plucking hand?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by The Mock Turtle Regulator, May 14, 2004.

  1. d'oh- it just hit me as to why on fretless I often get unwanted ringing harmonics on the higher strings when releasing the left hand fingers and moving to the lower strings -that never happen on fretted-
    (I've had my first electric fretless for almost a year now- I've had a defretted ABG with flats for 9yrs, but with the shorter sustain never had muting problems)

    it's because the left hand fingers are in just the right spot when stopping the note to sound a harmonic when pressure is released-
    whereas on fretted the finger is behind the fret, and when the pressure is released it's in the wrong spot to sound a harmonic, and instead the string is muted.

    therefore I find I have to mute the string with a right hand finger when moving to a lower string- much more often than I do on fretted.
    (if I'm moving to a higher string my thumb can mute as I'm used to on fretted)

    anyone else also find their right-hand technique alters for fretless?
  2. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    This is why I love fretless... it's an adventure.

    There's a very fine line left hand-wise between sounding a note, muting a note and ringing a harmonic. You can actually get harmonics to ring while your finger stays in contact with the string. The trick is in figuring out how to "not" sound them. The answer is twofold, the first part can be relatively simple... use another LH finger to stop the string.

    The next not quite so easy... develop your touch so you can use just the right amount of pressure to make the string do what you want to do. Combine this with varying your plucking intensity and you can get into Percy Jones territory, harnessing the harmonics and ghost notes.

    This can take time to get down. Once you do the sky's the limit.

    Good luck.
  3. CJK84


    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH
    I play only fretted, but I use this technique a lot.

    It works well when I'm using my index finger to fret the string. When I want to stop the string, I raise the index but maintain a little contact - and also rest the pinky of the fretting hand against the same string.

    Sometimes, I additionally place a plucking hand finger against the string to completely eliminate any chance of unwanted harmonics.

    I can imagine that this is more difficult on a fretless.

    Good luck.
  4. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    I play fretless and do not change my technique at all. If your left hand has proper technique, only minor muting should be needed.

    Are you using all the fingers, so when you lift the second finger off, the first is there to stop the note?

    You might be pressing too hard if you are always getting harmonics. Pressure is a big issue and can produce unwanted noise and notes.

    This is something I learned from playing URB, you only need to apply as much pressure to acutally sound the note, not anymore or less.
  5. with certain riffs, this may not be possible-
    consider this one;


    to get this sounding right the high G and D are fretted/held with ring and middle fingers respectively,
    and the index finger slides from the low G to A, with a large bit of vibrato on the A.

    getting the slide and vibrato right interferes with left-hand muting, resulting in the octave harmonics ringing unless you mute the strings with right hand fingers.

    ringing harmonics were not a problem on the live recording I heard it on (although they could have been hidden by the rest of the band) probably because the bassist was using a fretless P-bass.
  6. When i played that little line, my index finger naturally made contact with the D and G strings. The only muting I do with my right hand is the floating thumb technique that I'm used to. but yeah, I've found that it's mostly about cleaning up your left hand (fretting/fingering hand) technique. I'm still working on it, but the better I get, the more fun it is. Fretless is great.
  7. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    Sorry, I don't read tab. I would most likely finger this with the G and D with the pinky, and use middle finger to slide from the G-A. If this is being played over a four bar measure. As for the G and D I would play them slightly staccato to avoid the ring of the harmonic.

    Fingering would be 4-4-2.

    But you are right, not everything can be always muted.