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string mute

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by shatner, Sep 30, 2004.

  1. shatner


    Sep 22, 2004
    Isle Of Wight, UK
    Here's a weird one. I was playing electric with a Sinatra tribute for a while, taking the place of an upright player, and decided on trying to emulate an upright sound. I didn't do badly with using the standard muted thumb technique but it took some doing to keep it up for a full show. The G string is particularly awkward. Then I tried putting a piece of sponge between the body and strings, near the bridge, and this sounded great. It really made a difference to the sound of the band and I thought I was onto something. Then I noticed it was screwing with the tuning so I stopped. Plus, the sponge was falling apart.
    Anyway, I recently noticed that the old 1951 precision had that string mute at the bridge in an effort to emulate the upright. Does anyone know much about the mute?
    Does it screw with the tuning at all? Can you buy them as a separate add-on? Are Fender replacements available?
  2. lucas vigor

    lucas vigor Banned

    Sep 2, 2004
    Orange County, Ca,
    Shatner, I play in a drummer-less hawaiian steel band, but I play electric bass, not upright. I have used foam I got from one of those things that go on top of your mattress. I added a bridge cover, which I ordered from Musician's friend. I used this on my Flat-wound strung Fender Sting, and it has been that way for about two years now. I have never had any problems with the tuning, and the stuff has yet to fall apart...the great thing is that since I have it stuffed under the bridge cover, no one really knows whats going on...it's a secret weapon!!

    There really is no other way to get that punchy, percussive upright tone!
  3. ApeIsHigh81


    Aug 24, 2004
    Someone here said Tony Levin uses a piece/strip of diaper under the strings at the bridge.
  4. Rhythmalism


    Sep 25, 2004
    I'm glad you both reminded me of this. I've been meaning to put foam next to the bridge on my fretless too. Keeping the strings quiet with just fingers gets old after 20 minutes or so.
  5. Hey stop it. You are giving away all the good secrets! LOL.

    I use packing/shipping type foam, the kind like you would use in a Haliburton camera case and some of the old Shure mic cases.

    Funny story only an old school bassist could understand. I had abdominal surgery about 18 months ago. When I woke up afterwards my feet felt funny like they were being squeezed and they were really warm. I slowly pulled one foot out from under the sheet and looked at it and I had these wacky looking blue foam moon boots on. They put these boots on real tight and they were fastened with velcro to force blood out of my feet during surgery to reduce shock I guess, I never found out for sure. Anyway, for some reason they left them on. Since I was in the hospital for abdominal surgery I was not expecting them to mess with my feet, but my very first thought was not about why they were there, but rather that I now had enough foam to last a very long time on my basses. This blue foam now resides on my 55 P-bass. Prior to this I was always snagging pieces of foam from shipping cartons and so forth for basses. This surgical boot foam is great.

    I try to conceal the foam under the strings next to the bridge with a bridge cover. I usually like to try to match the foam to the bass color to make it even less obvious in case someone gets a glimpse...but heck I have a ton of blue foam from the surgical boots so I'm using it. It also reminds me how lucky we are to be alive. I've given some of this stuff to bassist friends too. This surgical boot foam lasts a VERY long time. It is high quality and quite dense.

    MORE IS NOT BETTER. I have tried also loading foam both under and over the strings held down by the bridge cover and it just deadened the strings entirely too much. So after a five minute experiment I changed it back to under the strings only. Basically what I want to do is mute the harmonic tones, not mute the strings out much at all. It doesn't seem to bother the intonation very much at all this way.

    With roundwounds the foam works well, but with flatwounds it tends to be overkill. So on flatwounds I have found that about a 3/4 to 1 inch strip of FELT from a craft store overlapped twice around all the strings adjacent to the bridge works great. The craft store here has about 100 colors of felt in 8x12 sheets for 35 cents each so you can get close to your bass's color to make it less obvious. The felt only touches the strings. I Scotch tape the end of the felt down to the underlying felt layer and then slip the entire felt wrap around the strings until the tape is on the bottom. Works well. Got this tip from Carol Kaye by the way.

    Dang another secret out of the bag.

    It is amazing how much difference the right material makes. I may try to steal a diaper somewhere and try that. You never know what is going to work.

    Think of all the money people spend on pedals, rack gear, strings, pickups and other gimmicks when sometimes the sound they are looking for comes from the judicious use of free foam or 50cent felt from the craft store.

    Most old Fender basses used a narrow strip of real rubber weatherstripping type material under the bridge cover. The weatherstripping rubber eventually deteriorated, became ineffective and got hard and was removed. You'll see the discoloration on the underside of bridge covers sometimes where the rubber once lived.

    Also Fender briefly used a more sophisticated felt pad mute system on the Jazz basses. This had individual arms with felt pads that pushed down on the strings to mute them. These were somewhat adjustable as far as the pressure was concerned, but they were quickly abandoned and Fender back to the weatherstripping.

    My hat is off to anyone who can consistently mute using their hand. I get either too much or not enough mute that way.
  6. MobileHolmes

    MobileHolmes I used to be BassoP

    Nov 4, 2006
    I sometimes use 5/8 inch non adhesive weatherstripping on my bass. Ugly, but you can get enough to make about 100 of them for less than 5 dollars.
  7. I once tried an old Aria HB that had a similar system. It was cool but ultimately I think it was overkill.

    I used some weather stripping foam for a little while but then I switched to flats and I find I almost never need it.
  8. Of course, Rotosound Black Nylon Wound Flats help..............
  9. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    I just push a rag under the strings at the bridge and adjust it to get the desired amount of muffling vs sustain.
    If you want to go hightech, a company called Bassmute makes lever removable dampers.
  10. Brotherdave, man I dig your resourcefulness!
  11. somebody show me a pic of their 'cute mute' please???

  12. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

  13. I'm hearing harmonics even with the flatwound Thomstik-Infeld JF344's that I tame with felt. Especially true on my rig in the upper mids.
  14. Now that is a PROFESSIONAL solution. Would like to know if there is any difference between felt, foam or that fancy expensive mute.
  15. That is very close to what was on Fender's vintage basses. It was applied to the underside of the bridge cover about 1 inch from the lip. This weatherstripping fender used was a dense rubber, not the foam that is more common at the hardware store now.
  16. ZenMoto


    Feb 9, 2006
    Motor City USA
    The whole string mute idea is nothing new...My '73 Rickenbacker 4001 had one built right into the bridge with an adjustment thumb screw on each side to raise and lower it to taste. I never used it but it was part of the factory bridge assembly.
  17. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    Nothing new indeed, since the P bass came stock with one installed in the bridge ashtray since 1951.
  18. bassmonkeee


    Sep 13, 2000
    Decatur, GA
    The original purpose of the mutes was not to emulate an upright sound. it was to cut the high end to work with the primitive amps.

    I use one of the fancy mutes posted above with flats. It works great. I'll be buying another one when I get my six string Bongo to go with this one:


    There sure have been a lot of zombie thread resurrections lately....
  19. Sean1990


    Dec 18, 2007
    i like to emulate the upright feel by just placing my pinky and ring finger softly over the string i want to mute right next to the bridge. with the right touch and alot of practice it is a great way to get the upright sound
  20. whitespike


    Nov 28, 2007
    Austin, TX
    I just use the top part of an old thick black sock that I cut off.

    Could you take a pic of the flatwound/felt tactic?