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String mutes... any bright ideas?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by fookgub, Jan 28, 2006.

  1. fookgub


    Jun 5, 2005
    Houston, TX
    I'd like to install some mutes on my fretless. I want to come up with something that is clean and simple but rugged, and I want to be able to engage/disengage the mutes mid-song. I know they are a couple products out there, but I would like to make something myself (both to save money and because I like to build things).

    My original inspiration was these: http://www.bassmute.com/bassmute/bm_mainframe.html, but I almost choked when I saw they were $100. I could probably rig up something like this on my own, but I was wondering if anyone had any good ideas for a different approach.
  2. Linas


    Jan 6, 2005
    i know a cheap and easy way to get a bass mute, is to get a bit of cloth from anywhere, dish rag, doesnt matter. roll it up thick enough to where it can fit and stay put right in front of the bridge, stick it there, and bam, quick cheap easy efficient mute. not flick of a switch removal but not hard.
  3. Cerb


    Sep 27, 2004
    The rag trick obviously works, but you certainly can't engage and disengage it mid song.
  4. SBassman


    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    This is not changeable mid song - well, you can remove it, just can't add it :) - is a simple piece of insulating foam from any Home store. Works better than a rag, IMHO.
  5. fookgub


    Jun 5, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Thanks for the suggestions. I should have been a little more clear in my original post. I've been using a radiused block with a piece of foam on top as a string mute. It works fine, but I don't like having keep track of it a gigs and pause to put it in or take it out. I'm looking to make something along the lines of a Hipshot D-tuner... basically a slick little device that's always ready.

    I did a patent search this morning to see what I could come up with, and it didn't help much. I really want something that comes up from under the strings, as opposed the the Bassmute design, which would probably interfere when I'm picking by the bridge. I was thinking that a wedge-shaped block sliding up and down a ramp might work, but I can't think of a good way to anchor it in place. Another idea would be a tune-o-matic style thing that I could crank up and down, but I don't think that would be any faster than the block I'm using right now.

    Anyway, for anyone that's interested, here are a couple US patents on the subject:
    3956962 (Fender)
    4116107 (Ovation) this one is pretty slick
    6297434 (this is actually for a guitar bridge, but I think the design could be adapted)
  6. SBassman


    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    That's where the thread started - with a reference to that bassmute. But, it's 100 dollar item for something that sure Feels like it should be much less. Especially when, outside of needing to put it on and off at will, a $1 piece of insulating foam does the job.
  7. the bassmute approach is to mute the string with pressure on the side...

    you could machine something very similar...it is basically a plate with a threaded rod through the center and adjustible blocks with the foam pads mounted on spring steel arms...the release mechanism is spring loaded and locked into position and released with a cam-shaped throw-off.

    I agree, $100 is a bit dear for such a device...if they were $20 - $25...I think they'd sell 100 times the volume.
  8. fookgub


    Jun 5, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Well, I have to admit I'm still stumped. It occurred to me that anything with intricate moving parts would probably be beyond my capabilities unless I can pirate a large part of the mechanism from some other device. I'm still trying to come up with something along the lines of a block sliding on a ramp, but I can't figure a good way to lock it in place. I feel like I'm overcomplicating the issue. There's a lot of inventive people here... you guys really don't have any slick ideas?
  9. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Yu could make a strip that runs up-down, with foam wedges on. Tehn when you move it down (e.g.) the string is loose, and when you pull it up, the foam damps the strings.
    Remember where you heard that!

    Or you could train on palm muting, a technique that is just as old as the bass guitar. And quite effective.
  10. nateo

    nateo Schubie Fan #1

    Mar 2, 2003
    Ottawa, Ontario
    I'm not sure exactly what you're looking for in a mute, but here's something to think about.

    If you're willing to put an extra hole or two in your bass, why not put a pin on either side of the strings and us a piece of foam sewn to a piece of elastic. To mute just loop the ends of the elastic over the pins. You could even leave one end permanently attached if you're ok with a bit of danglyness on your bass when unmuted.

    It's certianly homebrew, but it'd be cheap (as in free if you're house is anything like mine) and with a bit of practice I'm sure the mute/unmute changes could be done in song without missing a beat.

    Or you could build a more elaborate hinge mechanism where the mute swings in from over the tailpiece and is held in place with some slight spring tension. That would likely require some machining, though.

  11. Nate, that elastic is BRILLIANT in its simplicity...

    if you're not into putting more holes, and you're into a "little" machining (drilling and tapping primarily), I bet you could easily fit a standard bridge with a couple of "ears" for hooking the elastic over...
  12. fookgub


    Jun 5, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Yeah, the pricing is a bit of a shame. For $25, I'd probably just buy one. Still, the problem with that design is that it will interfere with tremolo picking by the bridge. Also I'm not sure I could machine something that complex. I have a drill press at home, and a lathe and a mill at work, but I don't think my employer would be happy to find out I'd wasted half my day making a part for my bass. If it was something that took under an hour, I'd probably be ok.

    I like the elastic idea, and I could attach some ears to my bridge to make it look clean. I've got another idea, which is more along the line of what Suburban described. If I put a pin on either side of the bridge, I could make a block that slides up and down on the pins, radius the block to match my curvature at the bridge, and put foam on top. Then I could put the block on the pins with springs to hold it in the "up" (ie: mute engaged) position. Now if I could figure out a good catch mechanism to lock it in the "down" position when I don't want to use the mutes, I'd be in business.
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