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?


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.


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.


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.


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:


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


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


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!!


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.


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.