Palm muting, plucking with thumb?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by OldSchoolFlats, Aug 11, 2021.

  1. OldSchoolFlats


    May 29, 2021
    Ancient palm-mute pick on flats player here. Sort-of coming to grips with index/pointer finger plucking now, after solving that whole muting thing.

    ...for playing one groove, with an octave stop, it sounds best with palm-muting, and plucking with thumb. Sounds great, but my feeble thumb gets tired FAST.

    I have rarely seen a few folks palm-mute and pluck with thumb, but is it really a "thing"? I don't mind building-up strength in my thumb (I like the muted sound), but don't want to damage anything in my hand.

    Don't really want to use foam muting by the bridge, but realize it is an option.

    BTW, I realize this is sort-of a "(d|th)umb question"...
  2. AboutSweetSue

    AboutSweetSue Guest

    Sep 29, 2018
    It is definitely a thing. It just isn’t a common thing. I use a leather pick and palm muting to get a more percussive, clear effect than when using just my thumb. Not to mention the inherent flexibility of a pick added in.

    Really, it’s simple, if you’re doing it then it’s a thing…if only to you. Do what works.
    TOOL460002 likes this.
  3. Leo Smith

    Leo Smith

    Oct 21, 2009
    I think it's "a thing" -- it's a plucking technique that I actively use and encourage students to use. I do it when walking medium tempo jazz tunes. It does take a while to build up a little strength and endurance in the thumb.

    But as the Sweet Sue said - do it if it works for you, if it's a sound you fine useful, it it's a sound that works with the music you are playing.
  4. Malcolm35

    Malcolm35 Supporting Member

    Ditto what has already been said. The thumb came over from rhythm guitar and the palm mute is kinda easy when using the thumb or a pick.

    Been doing this for years, no bad affects here.
    LBS-bass likes this.
  5. "Right Hand Path, Developing your Sound through Technique by Pablo Elorza.
    MattZilla likes this.
  6. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Inactive

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I love the sound of paml muting using the side of the thumb. There are a couple of other variants I find effective.

    1) It takes a while to get it smooth, but try doing down AND up strokes with your thumb. It's ridiculously even sounding once you get it down. And speed is no longer an issue.

    2) For an "in between" sound (between thumb plucking and standard index/middle plucking) Try using your plucking hand pinky to mute when plucking with your index and middle fingers. Just extend your pinky straight down and use it to mute the strings. It had a little more bite and punch (clarity) than thumb plucking. But muting by the bridge still chops off some highs to leave more fundamental.

    Both take a little practice. But I have always enjoyed just diming the tone knob on a passive bass and coaxing a dozen different tones out of it using different techniques.
    juggahnaught likes this.
  7. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    I do it to emulate the dull, thuddy sound of an Ampeg Baby Bass.
  8. MattZilla


    Jun 26, 2013
    If your thumb is getting tired, I wonder if your amp is set to too low a volume…
    12BitSlab and Mushroo like this.
  9. tshapiro

    tshapiro Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2015
    Jax Florida
    I sometimes do the palm mute and pluck with the thumb. If it’s a faster part I’ll add my first finger to the mix. Down with the thumb, up with my index finger. Almost like a picking action but with my fingers. I’ll make a short video if you think it would help you.
    5StringPocket likes this.
  10. TOOL460002


    Nov 4, 2004
    Santa Cruz
    Legit never knew leather picks were a thing. Got a specific one you recommend?
  11. OldSchoolFlats


    May 29, 2021
    I will have to give that a whirl! Now that you mention it, I have seen that technique in some bass-lesson podcasts, and actual grooves. I was focusing on other areas though, so didn't think about it until your post.
    tshapiro likes this.
  12. AboutSweetSue

    AboutSweetSue Guest

    Sep 29, 2018
    The bass community isn’t too familiar with them. Usually I get ridicule and disbelief that I’m not joking. Anyway, they’ve been used for ukes and mandolins for a long time.

    I’m not sure what brand mine is. Timber Tones’ “Leather Tones” look decent. My pick has been used on and off for four years now. The longevity is insane.
    TOOL460002 likes this.
  13. I typically palm mute with my fretting hand. Not great for busy parts.
    For busier parts I will use my right palm to mute. If I have a pick I’ll use that. If I don’t have a pick I will pretend I have a pick but strike with my fingers instead mostly using fingernail.
  14. juggahnaught


    Feb 11, 2018
    Seattle, WA
    I've been doing it lately. I used that technique a lot on Saturday for a gig where we had some reggae tunes.

    I don't have a problem doing it, but I can't do it super fast (I can't double-thumb, yet) and on my six-string it's a little more difficult to do it on the higher strings due to the location of the knobs - my hand bumps into them, because I've got to mute down near the bridge to get the right sound and not just a dead pluck).

    I think it's a worthwhile technique to use. Practice with the technique to strengthen your thumb a bit. I actually posted something on here recently about thumb pain when using this method, and it's not a problem anymore for what I've been playing. I'm going to continue working on the technique, as it's a good one to have in the repertoire.