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tedmanzie

Muting the A-string!

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I’m trying to improve my finger technique. I mostly play with my thumb resting on the E, briefly lifting it upwards to rest on the pickup if I’m playing the E string. My two fingers are doing the muting ok - eg pluck the A and rest/mute back on the E string below. The problem is sometimes playing the G string leaves the A open. I’ve tried the ‘floating thumb’ (like scott devine) technique but I’m finding it awkward.  I watch some pros on YouTube and they seem rooted to resting their thumb on the pickup and I can’t work out how they are muting. Should I just persevere with the ‘floating thumb’?  I think that’s what Pino P is doing in the vid below?

Btw my left hand muting is pretty good,  but maybe there are techniques I’m missing.

I’m coming from pick playing where muting is all left hand and palm, and that’s all ok.

Any tips welcome :)

 

 

 

 

Edited by tedmanzie

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My thumb moves between the pickup, (B string), E string or A string. It moves automatically, and without any input from me, depending on the string I'm playing. I have only seen floating thumb being used on a gig (as opposed to a video lesson) once, by Alphonso Johnson. So far I have not seen any of the "greats" using floating thumb, so I don't see any benefit in trying to change my perfectly workable technique.

I mute the strings positioned above (ie E when you're playing an A etc) the one I'm playing with my right thumb and the ones below with my left fingers. You will get problems with ringing strings if your accuracy when plucking the string isn't very precise. Try to only hit the intended string with your right hand.

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51 minutes ago, chris_b said:

My thumb moves between the pickup, (B string), E string or A string. It moves automatically, and without any input from me, depending on the string I'm playing. I have only seen floating thumb being used on a gig (as opposed to a video lesson) once, by Alphonso Johnson. So far I have not seen any of the "greats" using floating thumb, so I don't see any benefit in trying to change my perfectly workable technique.

I mute the strings positioned above (ie E when you're playing an A etc) the one I'm playing with my right thumb and the ones below with my left fingers. You will get problems with ringing strings if your accuracy when plucking the string isn't very precise. Try to only hit the intended string with your right hand.

Thanks I'm going to work on this, I need to get smoother when moving my thumb down to rest on the A string.

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1 hour ago, chris_b said:

My thumb moves between the pickup, (B string), E string or A string. It moves automatically, and without any input from me, depending on the string I'm playing. I have only seen floating thumb being used on a gig (as opposed to a video lesson) once, by Alphonso Johnson. So far I have not seen any of the "greats" using floating thumb, so I don't see any benefit in trying to change my perfectly workable technique.

I mute the strings positioned above (ie E when you're playing an A etc) the one I'm playing with my right thumb and the ones below with my left fingers. You will get problems with ringing strings if your accuracy when plucking the string isn't very precise. Try to only hit the intended string with your right hand.

Chris_b has nailed it.

Also, I'm a firm believer that floating thumb only works for Gary Willis, who is a mutant. For the rest of us mortals, it leads to what I'd term 'homoeopathic' bass playing: tickling the strings, trying to make the amp do all the work and not conveying any sort of conviction or authority in your playing.

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I disagree with my learned colleagues. I use the floating thumb and am very happy with it. So I'd say give it a try and see whether it suits you.

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Not sure if it has a name, but I mute with the side or outside of my thumb, which always rests gently on the lower strings. The photo shows me about to play the G string. The whole hand moves down correspondingly to play the D, and down again to play A; but there is no more movement when I play E. Instead, the thumb just sort of lifts vertically up (perpendicular to the front of the bass) to get out of the way.

 

hand.jpeg

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Yes, that's the floating thumb. (I really hate to disagree with TKenrick, who is a proper bass player, while I am and will remain strictly an amateur).

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On Scott Devine's latest techniques course one of the lessons focuses on this.  He talks about floating thumb but also recommends (and provides a practice  structure for) moving the right hand thumb anchor point,  from pickup when playing the E string to E when playing A, A when playing D and also to D when playing G. The muting occurs from the right hand as @chris_b already describes. 

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6 hours ago, stevie said:

Yes, that's the floating thumb. (I really hate to disagree with TKenrick, who is a proper bass player, while I am and will remain strictly an amateur).

@stevie I'm probably (definitely) biased against floating thumb because I could never get it to make a decent sound. Absolutely happy to hear from people who get on with it; this is a discussion forum, after all.

My main gripe was that I couldn't (and still can't) see any benefit to it over the moveable anchor - I'm aware that its proponents say that they can play faster* and with less effort, but I've never felt that moveable anchor was particularly hard work. It might well be that floating thumb is essential if you have a bass with more than 5 strings, but they're not for me.

 

*I also feel that anyone whose main concern is being able to wiggle their fingers more quickly is barking up the wrong tree.

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For me, the floating thumb is a more natural technique than the moveable anchor - nothing to do with playing faster or anything like that - because you don't have to think about it: the thumb is always there, doing its damping job. It sounds like it might be a personal preference thing.

Edited by stevie

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I changed over to floating thumb about 6 years ago and never looked back. It works for me. For that reason I would recommend it, but not to the point of becoming evangelistic about it.

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On 25/01/2019 at 18:36, TKenrick said:

*I also feel that anyone whose main concern is being able to wiggle their fingers more quickly is barking up the wrong tree.

Can't decide whether to frame this, or get a tattoo done. If I go for the tattoo I may edit it a bit so it fits.

I play with thumb firmly anchored on pup / E / A depending where I am, but I do seem to float the thumb occasionally, mainly if moving up nearer neck for the snap n ring sound I like (notice sometimes where John Entwhistle played). So mostly the former, very occasionally a bit floaty.
I reckon controlling the E is tricky if you don't drop the thumb down to A when playing D or G. I find the E has most energy in it and is hard to control with left hand alone.

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Playing reggae I mute a lot , and i gently rest my thumb on the string above the one I’m playing , and rest on the pickup whilst playing the E , I started to make a conscious effort to do this about 5 years ago to improve my technique, now I just do it automatically.   I also have a fretwrap on all my basses , which helps to stop the open strings ringing out 🙂

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8 minutes ago, wal4string said:

You gently rest your thumb on the string below the one your playing surely?

Yeah you’re right, i should’ve said the lower string  🙂

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