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5

It looks like a string mute of the kind made by e.g. http://www.gruvgear.com/fretwraps. It would be used to mute the string somewhat to reduce sustain and the number of higher overtones. In some circumstances you can mute easily enough without needing such an accessory, e.g. by using right or left hand muting, but with some techniques and for some pieces ...


5

The bassist in your photo is using a technique popularized by jazz bassist Victor Wooten about 25 years ago. (I was a friend of his back in the day.) Wooten uses one or more of an ordinary and cheap girl's hair-tie: an elastic and yarn hair-band, or "scrunchie", of the kind that can be found for 50 cents in any drug store or department store. He got the idea ...


3

It's a mute. What the other answers appear to be missing that in the position in the picture, the mute is off. If you want it to have a significant effect, you have to pull it down to a position on or beyond the nut. As long as it is above, its effect should be negligible. So the reason you mostly see it above the nut is that it is sitting dormant there ...



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