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I am learning Bass Guitar on my own and muting looks challenging. For eg, when I am playing the A string, I find the G string sympathetically humming at times and vice versa. Such humming produces an unpleasant clash in the harmony. I know either hand can be used for muting, but I am not able to decide which is best for a given situation, and this seems particularly hard when playing fast.

Is there a standard method or a popularly accepted approach to doing this? It would be great if someone can list down the commonly used techniques and some guidelines on what can work when.

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On the one hand... Often the plucking hand thumb will look after the E string, and some players use the extra fingers on that hand to damp the upper strings. Or use the side of the palm/pinky to damp other strings. An acquired idea, but it leaves the gap where your finger joins your palm with a gap for the played note to ring.

On the other hand... Use the underside of any spare fingers to damp the other strings. Be aware that you may touch a harmonic node, and so set off a different sympathetic vibration though. This can be used in some songs for an extra bit of fun.

Know a session player who plays 5 string, who developed a technique whereby when one string is played, the other four digits (R.H.) will be muting the other four strings. Looked complex, but what a clean player!

Use all of the above ideas - that's belt and braces, and will soon become second nature.

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When playing a fretted note on the A string, the fingers of your left hand have to pass over the D and G strings anyway. If you want to mute the strings you aren't playing, you can use this to your advantage. Allow your fingers to gently touch these strings, not enough to fret, simply to rest there.

Also, if you're playing an open note on the A string, you may wish to have the fingers of your left hand rest over the D and G strings (since they aren't up to much at that time anyway).

I often do this instinctually, and have seen many other bass players do the same.

(This will depend specifically on what you're playing, and in certain situations the right hand may well come into it. Also, as with many things, I wouldn't be surprised in another player comes in here with another technique that works for them. This is a good rule in general though imo)


My comment got too long, so in light of your further question:

Generally, muting the string below (as in closer to the E string) is achieved in the right hand.

E.g. if I was playing this https://youtu.be/pcawnRIyeok?t=180 , when plucking that first open A string, my fingers would land on the E string (and just sit there, not pluck it).

When playing with rest strokes, I personally tend to pretty much always have one finger on the string below the one I'm currently playing, and I alternate between my fingers for each note. If that makes sense. So if I was playing a bunch of notes on the D string in quick succession then I would alternate between my plucking with my first finger and second. The finger not currently being used would be resting on the A string, and the finger that just plucked the D string would immediately land on the A string to join its finger bro.

Play, and tell me if this makes sense. You'll be surprised how quickly things like this become second-nature after a while. See which techniques feel natural to you, experiment and eventually you'll get into a groove with it. And even if you get into that pattern, never be afraid to switch up and try something new if you want to :)

  • Agreed with this. You can also use your left palm in the event where you need your other fingers. – Matthew Read Jul 30 '15 at 16:29
  • Thanks @Some_Guy, but what if it is the other way round, ie playing the G string but want to mute the D string, can the same approach work? – gigahari Jul 30 '15 at 19:40
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    preface to my answer, there are two types of finger strokes. "rest strokes" and "free strokes". Rest strokes are much much much more common when playing bass. It's where the finger lands on the next string down after playing (and "rests"). Also "down" and "below" in this context I mean pitch-wise. (you might think of this as up because, well, it's further from the floor haha) – Some_Guy Jul 30 '15 at 22:32
  • @gigahari this make sense to you? – Some_Guy Jul 31 '15 at 9:22
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I've found that my left and right hand postures, without consciously thinking about it, arrange so that no matter what note I play on what fret with what finger, there's a "spare" finger touching each of the other three strings, preventing it from ringing. The finger might be a left or right hand finger.

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