Some muting advice (agree or disagree?)

Hey gang, I was just helping a student of the Beginner to Badass course with a muting question and thought I’d share my thoughts with you all as well. His questions was:

my muting goes to heck when I try to speed up. When I think about whether to mute with left or right hand then I fall behind. I can see the improvement with continued practice, but wondering if there are specific drills that target muting?

My answer

Muting is a complex technique because your available “muting equipment” (fingers) changes from moment to moment depending on what string you’re playing and what finger(s) you’re using to fret.

But sounds like you do okay with it up to a certain speed threshold, the trick is just getting that threshold higher over time, which is what’s happening anyway.

Muting is something you kinda have to work on on a case-by-case basis, so I would suggest any time you notice ringing strings you don’t want, take a pause, figure out the simplest way to mute it, and then use the same game plan as you speed it up. Not really a “hack” or a “secret,” but the more you do that, the more you’ll build a base of muting capability and you’ll have to think about it less over time.

Hopefully that’s helpful to somebody here. I’m also curious if anyone disagrees with me (that there’s no “trick” or specific exercise for muting) and has different muting advice for this fellow?

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I’m finding that the more I play, the more I get strings ringing that I don’t want to ring. I don’t have enough coordination to figure out how to get it to stop. I’m sure I’m not hitting the strings. My attack isn’t that hard. I’m plucking like you showed us too. I’m not really doing anything about it right now. I’m more concerned about getting the pattern right. I figure muting will take care of itself at some point.

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I agree with this, and Josh’s approach up top -

I have a lot of students want to WORK on muting… but it’s a way more Zen thing than expected. It is the playing that is not playing.
The most important thing I’ve found is that a player can sing the rhythm or groove they want to hear on the bass with the mutes.
It’s a 100% groove and feel technique, and unless you can feel it and sing it, I’ve found the student ends up TRYING real hard to get the mutes… which is the opposite of what happens.
Muting is when you try and play bass and drums at the same time. It’s a natural musical move for wanting to hear the drum groove and bass groove out of your instrument.
Focus on groove and rhythm, and mutes will happen… eventually.

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Definitely a case by case thing for me… some bass lines you don’t think twice about muting. Others it’s like arghhh please stop that excess noise. And like Josh said, the more you do it the more natural / automatic it becomes.

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Yeah, that’s sympathetic vibration! Often the need to mute doesn’t come from anything you’re doing “wrong” with your technique. Strings just like vibrating! You can test this yourself - plug in your bass, turn up to a decent volume, and then pluck the E on the 9th fret of the G string, without touching any other strings or moving the bass around. Then mute the G string - hear how loudly your E string is ringing? Sympathetic vibration.

@Gio are you talking about muting or ghost notes? When I say “muting” I specifically mean “keeping strings from ringing that you don’t want ringing,” it sounds like you’re talking about what I call ghost notes :ghost: where you’re actually plucking muted strings?

Yeah, I remember when I first started learning Classical Thump by Victor Wooten.


The muting was so hard in that intro because a) you’re slapping so you can’t mute with your right thumb, and b) the fretting fingering is pretty demanding so it’s hard to find a free finger to mute the low string with.

Took me so long to get that part clean! And I still play it messy sometimes! And I’m pretty sure I’ve heard Victor Wooten get ringing strings when playing it live too! Muting is an ongoing learning experience. :slight_smile:

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Word.
Roger that.
I call ghost notes mutes… But no longer!!

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:stuck_out_tongue: Wasn’t meaning to correct you, just wanted to make sure I understand what you were saying.

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Worrrrrd.
Well, in the meantime the bass police came to my house and repo-ed all my basses. My Funk License got revoked, and my Lifetime of LowEnd Special Plaque (bestowed by the ghost of Cliff Burton) 2001 has been rescinded.
But if it’s all gravy, then I’ll just submit some forms to the proper authorities, and I should be back in the good graces in no time.

Ghost Notes are Mutes.
Mutes are Ghost Notes.
Finkle is Einhorn - Einhorn is Finkle!!

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Can I mention palm muting? I play with the edge of my right hand resting lightly on the strings and use an on/off method to mute as well as finger muting. Works great for reggae.

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I love palm muting! I find it especially useful for reggae with my Cirrus rig since I don’t have a real reggae setup, so I have to do all the tubbiness/deadening with my hands.

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Okay, I feel better that this is how muting works. All this time, muting was just not a big priority - getting technique down, and other basics were on my mind. Until about a week ago, when I kept hearing sympathetic string vibration sometimes, and now, I always hear it if I don’t mute other strings in some way! How did I not pay attention to this before? The sound is so much cleaner with good muting. But now it feels like I better do something with all 4 strings every pluck, and the whole thing seems much more complex. Growing pains…

Good advice, will do.

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Ha! Good advice? Or is it more like…

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No, it’s good advices. But, not necessarily…:joy:

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I only recently signed up for this forum and after playing (hacking at) bass for probably 8 years now, along side playing guitar which I’ve been doing for over 25 years, I’ve come to realize I’m not a bass player. Sloppy articulation is way too prominent in my playing.
Been concentrating harder for the last few months on this subject , muting the noisy strings… and now it just messes me up with learning a song, it’s become quite frustrating hearing that rattle, bugged me before, but, as many have posted here, that muting would take care of itself, however it hasn’t and I’m fed up with trying to get it stopped. Learning any new song is just going to be pointless as my fingers are now all over the place.

Yes, I’m whining, but I enjoy music and want to be a part of it. I’ve a hunch now, this is a failed dream to become more articulate at the these instruments, bass and guitar. I believe I’ve reached the pinnacle of my abilities. Some are born to play and some are not.

@Frisk_Cat - Have you signed up for the b2b course that is offered here? When I decided to take up the bass several months ago I really sucked… Thats when I signed up for the lessons that @JoshFossgreen offers here through his b2b course. His lessons really helped me tremendously, especially when it came to proper technique. Try not to be so hard on yourself no matter how discouraging it may seem.

Music is a special gift whether you play it or just listen to it. I’ve always believed that there is some sort of instrument out there for everyone to play, and many ways for all of us to contribute.

Lanny

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Yes, to everything @Griff said.

The difference between the Beginner to BadAss course and teaching yourself or learning from YouTube, is as different as night is to day.

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No Lanny, I’ve not signed up for the B2B course and probably won’t. I have watched many of the free lessons Josh has provided especially the right hand technique (which Ive watched numerous times) and it still requires conscious thinking of muting the strings, which of course my fingers bumble around and then lose track of the timing and the song.
I also took bass lessons back in 2016 locally from a very proficient player for about 6 months. His contention coincides with other thoughts I read that practice and more practice will alleviate the string ringing, however, no matter how much I practice using thumb, fingers, palm to deaden the strings, I fumble all over the song I’m playing, and, it’s most noticeable when I plug in an amp, so, I almost never use an amp when learning a song, it sounds horrible.
Yes, it is frustrating. I originally wanted to play with others in a group jam setting but when amplified, they’d probably laugh me out of the session, so I just screw around now for the cats.
And Eric, I have learned a few minor things here and there on You Tube, (and yeah, a lot of it is drivel too) but whether its right or wrong who knows for sure, to me, everyone has their own comfort level/technique, but the string muting has been my crippling Achilles heel on bass. 8 years and zero muting progress has finally led to accepting I’m a no talent wanna-be hack. I also have never been able to do any slap bass, when I try, the left hand fights the right so I’ve abandoned that as well. I think some people can’t go any further in playing a instrument once they reach a certain level, mental block perhaps or other physical ability that gets in the way of progress. Thanks Lanny and Eric for the encouragement, but the ship is grounded.

@Frisk_Cat - I can fully understand… Sometimes, an honest unbiased assessment of who we are and what we are capable of (without underestimating ourselves) is sometimes necessary to make sure that we don’t waste our resources on fruitless endeavors. It’s pretty much true for career paths, relationships, or any other major decision (like buying a house, car, or even playing bass) that we may face.

Good Luck in future endeavors…

Lanny

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Thanks Lanny. That post really sums it up. I can at least do chords on guitar fairly well, so I’ll just diddle with that to pass the time.

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@Frisk_Cat Putting the idea of taking the course aside. If you ever have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. We’re all still learning stuff and if you have a question, chances are good someone else here has the same one.

In the mean time, you could try one of these to take care of the ringing strings when you do decide to play. The small will fit your guitar or a 4 string bass. That way you only have to buy one and you can test it on both. It wraps around the neck and automatically mutes the strings. You can even slide it up past the nut when you don’t want it to mute anything.

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