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Questions about muting

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by AndyPanda, Jun 4, 2014.

  1. I'm about 3-4 weeks into learning to play bass and struggling a bit with string muting.

    I've been reading different bass books as well as researching a lot online and I have tried out several different methods.

    What feels pretty good and somewhat natural to me, so far, is to rest my thumb on the E string most of the time and to simply lift off slightly whenever I want the E string to sound and back on to mute it again. And it also feels pretty natural to move my thumb up to the A string when I'm playing on the D and G strings and do the same thing of just lifting off slightly when the A string needs to sound and then back on (rather than moving back to the E while I'm playing the A string, I just unmute for a second and then back down again - I have my thumb in between the E and A so I'm still muting the E with the edge of my thumb while the tip of my thumb is muting the A)

    So far that works well with one exception --- when I'm playing a descending pattern and leave the A string to start playing the E string, the A string is always ringing from either the last note or ringing from my thumb coming off the string.

    I've read that some players (was it Jaco?) use the right ring finger to mute the A string - that feels really awkward to me and I just can't see that happening.

    A different technique that I just sort of "made up" and seems to work for - at least it works as long as I'm striking only with my index finger and not using two fingers on the right hand - is to keep my thumb hovering over the strings and muting using the side of my thumb rather than the pad of my thumb. And just have the thumb continue to follow me as I move from string to string. With the side of my thumb muting, I can be muting the E, A and D while I'm playing on the G string and the thumb automatically moves back off the D when I move my index finger to pluck the D string. (hope that makes sense).

    And then last night I was watching old videos and saw that James Jamerson seemed to be doing exactly that same thing (only with his other fingers on the pickup cover which I don't have). Or at least it looked to me like he was muting the strings with the side of his thumb.

    I know I'm supposed to be learning to pluck with at least two fingers (if not three or four) but that is really making me feel uncoordinated even though I practice walking the strings with two fingers for hours each day, it just isn't feeling natural. While plucking with index finger only, feels really natural. Yeah, yeah ... I'm not going to give up on it yet - I'll keep practicing using two fingers. If I play triplets on each note it feels natural - but playing single notes or double notes (or four etc.) it really screws with my head as I try to always pluck with the same finger on my right that is fretting on the left. For some reason triplets don't have that effect and I can easily move around without needing to start plucking with the out of sequence finger.

    Crap --- I got sort of off topic there --- anyway back to muting. Does it sound like I'm on the right track at all and it'll get easier as I keep practicing?
  2. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    You're sort of doing what's known as "floating thumb" muting technique already, which is cool. But for that A string descending thing, there are ways to work your left hand into muting it as well. Without seeing the specific riff, I can't exactly say what's best for muting, but slow down whatever you're trying to play, and see if there's some way to position your left hand fingers where you can descend and keep the A muted while not interfering with playing the riff.
    maestrovert likes this.
  3. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    You're on the right track in that you are giving it a lot of thought and practicing this important skill.

    But don't forget that you have 10 fingers on 2 hands to choose from when muting (and don't underestimate the value of private lessons with a good teacher who can show you this stuff in person).
    maestrovert likes this.
  4. bluesdogblues


    Nov 13, 2007
    There are many many ways/techniques to mute - left hand, right hand, palm etc. For me it depends on many factor - the note/passage to play etc.
    The more practice time, the more it became automatically executed.
    I found it very good to practice muting when I use my headphones, because the unwanted ringing sound of string, noise etc are far easier to detect.
    maestrovert likes this.
  5. Thanks for all the replies and suggestions ....

    I'm very excited that late last night, while practicing, I had some major breakthrough and all of the sudden the muting started to become much easier and more natural for me. I can actually see myself being able to do this soon.

    It just amazes me how practicing something slow with a metronome can take something that seems IMPOSSIBLE and gradually turn it into something fairly simple.

    I am loving every minute of learning this instrument.

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