Quarter Note Muting Question

Forgive me if this has been covered elsewhere, but I couldn’t find it. I hope I can explain this clearly.
I’m working on “Can’t Buy Me Love”. It’s a fast bass line (174) of all quarter notes. my question is for those measures where it’s the same note, should I slightly mute in between each note or let it continue until the pick strikes the next note?


Just listened to the original and it’s hard to tell, but to me it sounds like there is no muting. There may be fraction of silence between the same notes, but that could be from the pick attack. If it were me I would experiment a little to see what I liked better and go with that :slight_smile:


Yeah, I have tried both methods. Of course, it’s easier to play not having to mute each note, but is that the right way to play?


Listening to the song, the bass tones are legato which is the way it should be. I’m afraid if you mute every note, it’s going to sound too staccato. Besides, at that tempo who would even notice the ringing strings?


So true. Well, that’ll make it easier to play. Thanks Pam.


What do you mean “the right way?” Studio? Live? A particular live version? Are you playing from a tab? Who transcribed it? Just because it’s a Hal Leonard book (for example) doesn’t mean it’s “right.”


By the “right way” I meant the proper technique for something that fast. Yes, it is a Hal Leonard transcription.

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I guess @JerryP’s original question points to an underlying issue with covers. How do you faithfully reproduce (or not) what someone has played 1, 2, 5,10, 20 or 50 years ago?

A lot of pop/rock music has probably never been written out properly to begin with. Perhaps there were some chords, some melody fragments and a few other sketches, and often a piece would develop and morph during rehearsal and recording anyway… Whoever played it also infused the playing with their own style and idiosyncracies.

Now, every time someone makes a transcription from a record (or a live recording), they try to catch all the details and code them into notation. Notes (pitches) should be fairly straightforward (although there are bends, vibratos, and so on), rhythmic figures should be doable (but also here lots of potential ambiguities), but then there is the articulation and it starts to get hairy. Was that a “normal” stroke or really more tenuto? Is this staccato or actually even shorter, more accented? Is a staccato quarter note “shorter” than a non-staccato eighth note? And so on…

The next question is then “do you want to play a cover exactly as it is on the original recording (or, at least, as close as you possibly can)?”. If you are playing wedding gigs or if you are playing in the “Xxx [insert band name here] Tribute Band”, the answer is probably “yes”, but otherwise, I personally would tend to reply “no” here.

Sure, it gives a feeling of accomplishment to totally “nail” a cover, and it is also a great technical skill to read notation, understand all the symbols and have the ability to reproduce the requested sounds on your instruments. But, maybe that is not the most “musical” way to approach a cover!?

I am not talking about re-harmonizing a song, re-arranging it, bringing in new instruments and so on (that is also cool, but a bit a different ball game), but use your musical understanding, your feeling and interpret the song through your glasses and play it in that spirit. On the way to that goal, all input is welcome (reading (several) transcriptions, listening to (several) versions/recordings of the song, other covers, …), but they are just that - input, and not gospel!

For @JerryP: I would play it such that I felt it fit the song, it was “in the spirit of the song” and that it served the song… and otherwise just have fun playing it :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:


I don’t think there is a “right” and a “wrong” way to play this.

one idea would be to record both versions, not necessarily the whole song but at least the same segment with or without muting. then you will be able to listen carefully to the bass line, without thinking about actually playing it, and it could help you determine which version you prefer.


Thank you gentlemen, @terb & @joergkutter. I’ll continue to practice the song and play what I feel. Good advice.


That’s what I was getting at. Thank you for doing a great job deciphering it.

Recently I picked up Derek and the Dominos “Live at Filmore” complete… 10 disc set with, soundboard and audience recordings. Every set they play songs differently. “Let it Rain” is probably the biggest example. The first time it features Eric and his guitar work is arguably better than the second time. But the second time features Bobby on keys, and he takes it to a whole new level. And these two versions bare hardly any resemblance to the studio version from Clapton’s debut album (which still was performed by the same band mates).

Who you’re covering matters, in this regard. Zeppelin and The Who are pretty consistent in their live performances (not always, but generally so). Hendrix and Clapton never play the same way twice.

What are your goals in playing? I don’t mean for you to actually answer me here (although of course you’re welcome to). Just that we should all ask ourselves this.


For me the best covers are ones where the artist brings their own interpretation to it. I’m not nearly there yet :slight_smile:


@JerryP original question was as to whether or not he should mute each note when going to the next one. To my knowledge, the only musical notation for muting strings is either when the staccato symbol appears (dot above note), or there is a rest after a note, therefore it doesn’t really matter if he’s using a Hal Leonard book or whatever. I have yet to see any scores in a Hal Leonard book with staccato symbols.
Correct me if I’m wrong @JerryP but I got the impression you were asking more of a “what would you do” question than a technique or style question. My answer earlier was (and still is), I would not bother muting between notes on that song.
With that said, I think the advice posted above in which you should record a few phrases using both muting and not muting would give you a better idea of how to proceed with the rest of the song.


Everyone’s advice has been extremely helpful. I will try to keep to the notation on the sheet music but also I will interpret the song the way I feel. Should be interesting…
Thanks again to everyone!


You can also take a look at my question and Gio’s answer in the below thread, I think it’s a similar subject. The takeaway was the same as well: pop music transcriptions often don’t spell out everything on the sheet music, and leave a lot to individual interpretation.