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When playing the bass, I'm noticing a lot of hard-to-mute harmonics at certain points. Most of the time I can stop a note by easing off but still applying pressure with my fretting hand, and muting the same string with my plucking hand.

However, certain highly harmonic frets, fret 7 for instance, have such strong resonance that stopping the note requires the first/second and fourth fingers of my plucking hand as well as muting with the fretting hand, for three fingers total.

I hesitate to rely on the fourth finger of my plucking hand because that limits possibilities for muting other strings. Has anyone else encountered similar problems with 7th-fret harmonics / found strategies for dealing with them?

edit: to clarify, I'm referring only to bringing a total end to an active note. Sympathetic resonance isn't a factor.

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    Two perhaps obvious suggestions: 1) practice timing and hand position. 2) consider plucking slightly farther from the bridge, which will reduce overtone generation. – Carl Witthoft Mar 19 at 13:15
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I've really never thought about this before, so I assumed I must be doing it automatically, without even thinking… so I tried to analyse what it is I may be doing.

I normally play finger-style, rather than with a pick. With a pick you can always keep the rest of your hand ready to damp, so that's easy enough.

Finger-style, on right hand unless I'm being particularly busy, I seem to have a natural resting position where I've got currently unused fingers &/or edge of hand already on the unused strings, keeping general sympathetic vibration down.

I also seem to keep a 'spare' finger behind the currently played note, so as I lift I have two in place to damp. I also seem to favour resting any 'spare flesh' across the fingerboard, just touching any string I'm not playing right now.
It seems that this resting covers the top strings with the fretting hand & the bottom strings with the picking hand a good proportion of the time, without much further trickery.

If I'm paying with enough agility that I can't keep up this almost constant damping redundancy, I find I will slide the fretting finger back half an inch as I lift, so it drops to a non-resonant position.
I was really concentrating by this time, so it was feeling a tad unnatural. I think I may only do this once I start to feel a harmonic starting to escape, or in a track I'm already aware it can.

I'm not concentrating on any of this under normal circumstances - it just happens - & it took me quite a while to spot what it was that I was doing. Heisenberg's principal - the more closely you examine something, the more it affects the result.
I'm also not doing "all of this, all of the time" just whichever bits I've got time for, if you see what I mean.

I honestly didn't realise I do all this until you made me look ;)

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  • Appreciate the detailed answer! The sliding out of resonance approach is really interesting, not something I'd considered. Will have to try it out. – vertexarray Mar 19 at 10:26
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There's a session bassist in London who years ago developed a muting method he uses constantly. Thus his playing is super tidy. Even on 5-string, it involves each finger being on each string at any given moment, with the note needed being played by one of those fingers, while the other four (inc. thumb) mutes the others. It looks very complex, and does not incorporate for example index always being in charge of the same string. So it's even more complicated.

Personally, I never mute any strings while playing others. Still tidy, no extraneous noises, but that works for me.

I wonder whether it's where you pluck the strings, causing some of those harmonics. It's quite possible to get two sounds from bass or guitar that way, fundamental and a harmonic. Or the volume is so high, there's a sort of feedback which creates harmonic pitches.

I don't understand the '7th fret harmonics' problem. Do you mean the second harmonic note from any string, or when playing 7th fret on some string there's a louder harmonic?

Moving away from the speaker may help, or it may be sympathetic vibration from something in the room. Does it happen anywhere? Does it happen when you play similarly on any other basses? That needs checking first - it may just be that the guitar yu use has a problem - let others play it to eliminate that one. What bass and what amp?

Otherwise, yu'll just have to get used to muting with whatever you have available. Some players use a scrunchie close to the nut, which damps all open strings, others put a bit of sponge under te strings close to the bridge. Carol Kaye (player on thousands of pop hits) has an odd damping system,near the bridge, seen in an interview on youtube. Worth watching anyway!

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