Muting is one of the most important things for bass playing so I thought I would start a thread on this topic as I am still exploring ways to make my playing cleaner.
This is the thread where you can ask questions or comment on anything related to muting, even if your topic is related to muting for plectrum style (palm muting or other). We've seen enough fighting over why picks aren't for bass, so if you happen to think you have something to say about that topic which hasn't already been said 1000 times before, I direct you here: Pick Bassists Shunned by Finger Bassists?
First on the agenda is what I think is the hardest playing style for muting: slap. I'm only beginning to develop my slap technique so I often have strings ringing. It's quite hard to mute with the thumb while I pop and it's even harder to be able to take my thumb off strings it is muting fast enough to slap but without making the string it was resting on ring a little bit (I'm talking about the B string mostly here).
Left hand muting is ok but it kind of limits what you can do, making lots of movement really hard.
To avoid any confusion when I say "higher strings" I mean strings that playing higher notes, and that are, therefore, physically at a lower height than "low strings".
Anyway here's my muting style for finger picking (which is what I do most of the time): If I am playing the B string, my fretting hand lightly touches all the other strings, thus muting them (I always mute strings above the one I am picking with my fretting hand, unless I want some to ring). If I am playing my E string, my picking fingers rest on the B after plucking the E string, thus muting it. When I play the A, my picking fingers rest on the E, so I have to mute the B with my thumb. When I play the D, my fingers rest on the A, so I have to mute both the B and the E with my thumb. This is a little uncomfortable. I basically put my thumb between the two strings so that neither rings.
The trouble comes when I play the G (or the C if I had a 6 string bass). Since my picking fingers come down to rest on the D string, I have the B, the E, and the A strings to mute. My thumb isn't big enough to span 3 strings, so I just mute the B and E strings, since those are the noisiest. The problem is that when I'm really loud, my A string starts to ring ....
I would suggest to most people to do what the Cryptopsy bassist does: use the pinky on the picking hand to mute the string below the one (s) you are playing. Only problem is my pinky is busy as I used 4 fingers to pick ....
I don't know what to do.
Another interesting problem I've noticed is the milisecond of fret buzz (or the string hitting the fret) that occurs when you release a fretted note. It's especially noticeable on the lower strings. If you try something simple like playing a 3rd fret on the E string for one quarter note, and then having a quarter note rest, over and over again, you should notice that as you release the third fret there will be a small click of the string that is still vibrating hitting the 3rd fret. Once you've released even more pressure the string mutes completely because of your finger, and is too far to hit the string anyway. But the very short click shouldn't be there for a pause, especially if the whole band does a pause at the same time, you want there to be an immediate dead silence for the pause. Depending on your strings and your bass, your might also get harmonics ringing at certain frets (3, 5, 7, 12, etc) if you're only muting by releasing the fretting finger.
The solution I use is to not only release the fretting finger, but also at the same time place my other fingers on the string so that no harmonics occur and (hopefully) the string is muted just at the perfect time before that click might occur. Depending on how high your strings are off the neck this can be very hard to do. Mine are really close. If you put just a tiny bit too much force in any finger, it will make the string touch the fret and you will get a small click. It's especially hard to do on the B string. I can only get a completely perfect mute about half of the time on this string. It wobbles around so much that you would want to use a bit more pressure to mute it, but do that and it will touch a fret and you get the small click before the mute.
I think some pedals have compression that do not let such small sounds through, but I think this is bad because it ruins some of the dynamic aspects of your playing, eliminating certain frequencies and such.
I also do not want to raise my strings as I like to do two handed tapping now and then.
Any suggestions? Will I just have to spend hours and hours in my room practicing playing a note and then muting it?
I've notice that most bass players actually don't care and will just mute with all four fingers, applying enough pressure to so that this very small noise happens. They just figure no one will hear it. Truth is, barely no one notices that it's there, but it still sounds alot
better if you can get rid of it.
One example of a pause being so much better because it is perfect (no small noise at the start) is in Opeth's "Blackwater Park". Near the start of the song all the instruments stop except for the guitar which play a riff with a very clean pause near the end of the riff. When the band joins in the beauty of that pause is maintained. It's just a 16th note rest but with proper muting it adds so much to the song.
This is done on the open string (they are tuned to D) but I'm sure they could do it at any fret. That's what I want to be able to do .... please tell me how.
Damn this is going to be a long post ...
Muting with a plectrum: If I said I was bad at slap you should hear me with a pick. Nonetheless there are certain advantages to pick that make me want to learn it (for instance, you can do sweeps up and down and get the same sound of notes ascending as you do descending). The only problem is that muting is really hard. If you anyone wants proof that the bass was not designed for pick, I tell you to try palm muting on bass.
Since a guitar is smaller, you can hold it at a more horizontal angle. Due to the length of the bass neck, most bass players keep it at a more diagonal angle with the headstock almost up to shoulder height so that the lower notes are easier to reach with the fretting hand. Problem is that playing with a pick at this angle feels unnatural, let alone trying to palm mute. Whether or not you do palm mute, you still need to be able to mute the lower strings when you've just played them and want to move up to higher strings, so this is a problem no plectrum user can avoid. I tried angling the bass more horizontally, but that just feels really unnatural. I also find that my volume and EQ nobs get in the way of my picking hand when I try picking higher strings and that palm muting the D and G strings is almost impossible. Also to palm mute the B in any noticeable way, you have to apply more pressure or move your palm a bit further from the bridge. In short, palm muting is damned hard!
But I know it can be done, and I know that it can sound awesome. A listen to the intro to "Five Magics", "Poison was the Cure", and "Symphony of Destruction" (all by Megadeth) shows what sort of feel you can get out of it. I can kind of do these but it gets difficult and tiring. Any tips?
Well that enough. Feel free to add a long boring response to my long boring post. I know I won't be bored.