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String Noises and Unwanted Harmonics


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Hi all,


I have just discovered recently that my fingering technique produces unwanted string noises and harmonics. I did a search about it in the Search section but didn't get much results from it.


I have been using the thumb on pickup technique and the usual fretting hand muting technique.


I notice that when i use the headphones instead of the amp speaker, the open strings produce noises when other strings are plucked.


Is this the norm or does my bass need a setup?


I am now trying to practise using the movable thumb technique and also the plucking hand ring and pinky finger string muting technique. It's almost like I am back to square one again but there has been progress and my tone sounds way lot better now.


I would like to know about your experiences and how did you correct the fault.


If you haven't tried using the headphones, you should do it. I felt horrible when I did it for the first time. It's not a problem if you are a live performer but if you are into recording stuff, it's something you wouldn't want in your record or demo. I believe there are gadjets that reduce them but it's best to start by correcting the fingering techniques.


Thanks for letting me share my experience with you guys.


Andre Khor

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The floating thumb technique will surely solve your problems. I had similar difficulties such as when I played an A on the G string my A string would vibrate. I only move my thumb between the P/U and 3rd and 4th string. When I play the G string, my "follow through" deadens the D string, so no need to move my thumb all the way down there.


- Germain

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I use my thumb, ring, and pinky depending on what strings I'm playing. Right hand muting is definately ESSENTIAL when playing bass. You must be using BOTH hands to mute at all time.


Keep practicing. Eventually your muting technique will clean up. I don't even think about it anymore.

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You might look at getting a set up. I do my own set ups, but sometimes if there is a subtle problem I get a professional involved.


I, too, have some unwanted harmonics problems especially when I play up above the 12th fret. I think it is due to the strings hitting and vibrating against the frets. So far, it hasn't been bad enough for me to do anything about and doesn't come through the speaker anyway.


A good setup can't hurt anyway, so it is worth trying.



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Don't waste money on a setup. Not for THIS reason, anyway. A top-of-the-line Sadowsky fresh out of the finish shop will ring out unwanted noises if strings are left open while playing. It has everything to do with technique, and nothing to do with technology.


And it's not that hard, really, to develop the right techniques, but you do have to make a serious point to develop them. Once you do, it'll be like second nature to you, & things will be much, much cleaner. Good luck!

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There's always the "cheat" methods as well: a hair tie placed around the neck (ala Vic Wooten) or a piece of foam under the strings near the bridge (ala Carol Kaye or Bob Babbitt). Of course, there's downsides to these methods as well -- the hair tie, in particular, should be used judiciously because it can cut off open strings completely.


Of course, nothing beats good technique.

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Floating Thumb will help quite a bit. Also learn how to get more dominant in right hand muting. There's a great excercise for that on Gary Willis' home vid. Left hand muting is good and a combo of both right and left is good as well. With right, you can risk harmonic overtones if you just stop the note with just one finger. In the begining with the left, you risk fret buzz and so on. Keeping the other stings silent is at times, one of those things my students ask me and I have to stop think about what I'm actually doing. I learned I have many different ways of taking care of different situations.


Good Luck.

Mike Bear




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I have an unorthodox but very effective solution to the problem of ringing low end strings. I only rarely use the floating thumb technique but I'm getting more comfortable with it. Instead, I usually keep my thumb on the pickup and I mute with my ring and little fingers. My pinky rests against the body between the B and E strings (I play a 5 string) but AGAINST the B string. My ring finger rests between the E and A, AGAINST the E. Same thing with a 4-string: I mute the E and A instead of the B and E. When I want to play one of those strings I just move the muting finger.


This was a very natural hand positioning for me and I didn't realize I was putting my fingers there. I rested my fingers against the body sometimes because the only two basses I've owned have had strange, not-so-normal pickups to rest my thumb on. It is the Reverend that has encouraged me to use the floating thumb technique.


Anyways, one day I was playing and noticed my E string was ringing. I looked down and the closest thing to it was my pinky. Voila! Worked for the A string too. Before I knew it I had a solid, if unusual, solution!

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I should have NEVER read this thread!!!!!


Muting: something I developed naturally and never thought about, but now will try to analyze.


Judging by what analyzation did to my golf game, I'll be riding the short bus at muting by next week sometime...


Thanks ALOT guys...



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