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  1. #1

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    In the year and a half since I picked up the guitar again after a 10 year vacation, I've chosen to play with my thumb exclusively. The one thing I still struggle with is muting strings on occasion. When I used a pick it was easy because the heel of my hand took care of that, I float my hand now and have no contact with the strings.

    What does everyone else do to mute strings?

    Thanks!

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  3. #2

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    Watch some Wes vids and ditch the floating hand.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  4. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
    Watch some Wes vids and ditch the floating hand.
    Oh no!!!!!

  5. #4

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    I practise a lot with my thumb late at night, because my 175 is still loud enough with a pick to wake people up (thinking about it, isn’t that why Wes started doing it?)

    Anyway, like Jeff said, I still rest my hand lightly on the strings, similar to when I use a pick. Maybe it’s resting a bit less, but still enough to damp the strings sufficiently.

  6. #5

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    I do a lot of my muting with my fret hand.

  7. #6

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    Yeah, I use both hands, as needed.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by lammie200 View Post
    I do a lot of my muting with my fret hand.
    How? There are certain chords and movements that when I pull my fretting fingers off the string I dont get at least a little noise from those strings.

    I'm really at the beginning of my journey and, as I mentioned, have about a year and a half under my belt with this "method". I was a golf pro for 10 years and I know how hard it is to make any changes to swing/technique, so I just need to bite the bullet and get to work.

  9. #8
    I thought Wes said he learned to use his thumb so could play whenever/wherever, often with somebody else's guitar. But some sources say it was so he could practice quietly when he started out. Notably, his thumb was double-jointed so he had a superpower there.
    Anyway, works for me to play chords and octave runs with thumb (pick tucked in my palm) and mute with fretting hand.

  10. #9

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    Muting with both hands addresses most every noise issue you might encounter, even string squeak with roundwound strings.
    Last edited by cosmic gumbo; 08-03-2019 at 11:35 PM.

  11. #10

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    The story I've heard is that Wes was living with his family and practicing at night after his day job and whatever gigs he might have had, thus late at night/in the wee hours and keeping his family awake playing with a pick.

    The following article covers this but misses one of the most critical things about how to play like Wes: radiate joy with every note. I've never seen anyone look happier playing jazz guitar than Wes.

    10 Things You Gotta Do to Play Like Wes Montgomery - GuitarPlayer.com

    "Of course, everyone knows that Montgomery played exclusively with his thumb, but do you know why? As an early GP once reported, Montgomery’s famed thumb technique “evolved from his experimentations after complaints from neighbors, his next-door aunt, and his wife over the loud sound created by the pick. The more subdued sound of his thumb quieted all objections and became, unintentionally, a vital part of the Montgomery sound.” Over time, Montgomery reportedly developed a hardened corn that could be used to put a “point” on notes and catch the string on upstrokes. Montgomery’s picking motion—both down and up—came from the large thumb joint, and he loosely anchored his remaining splayed-out fingers against either the bottom of the pickguard or the bottom edge of the guitar. And here’s the kicker: Montgomery attacked notes with his thumb, but the rest of his hand also went along for part of the ride. As Montgomery plucked downstrokes with his thumb, his fingers reacted, brushing gently against the face of the guitar in the opposite direction. Do a little video research, then try playing the following examples using this technique, and you’ll be shocked by how much “bounce” this subtle texture adds to the sound."
    Beauty is as close to terror as we can well endure. -Rainer Maria Rilke

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by DMgolf66 View Post
    How? There are certain chords and movements that when I pull my fretting fingers off the string I dont get at least a little noise from those strings.

    I'm really at the beginning of my journey and, as I mentioned, have about a year and a half under my belt with this "method". I was a golf pro for 10 years and I know how hard it is to make any changes to swing/technique, so I just need to bite the bullet and get to work.
    I think this is one of those things that is difficult to explain in words, you have to sort of examine what you are doing and figure it out for yourself. For example maybe don’t lift the fingers right off the strings every time you change a note or position, that way the left hand can do some damping between notes. Maybe practise lifting the fingers off in such a way that you minimise any unwanted sounds, e.g. lift them only just enough to clear the string, and lift them completely vertically before moving to the next note. You can also angle the hand so that the 2nd string is muted by the side of the finger when you are playing notes on the 3rd string, for example. Classical guitarists have to do a lot of this sort of thing.

    It’s all down to being really sensitive to/aware of what is happening at this ‘micro’ level and making tiny adjustments in technique to compensate. Presumably there are similar things in golf grip (but I know nothing about golf!).

    It seems to me that good players often have a very economical hand technique, it does not look as if there is a lot of movement going on.

  13. #12

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    This is my first attempt at using the thumb only..couple weeks ago. It is a really interesting alternative. I am going to experiment with it more. I did not have to worry about muting and we were pretty loud. (Some of the comping I am doing is Gilberto style, using 2 fingers and thumb).

  14. #13
    If you want to practice this in a really dedicated way, turn the volume up MUCH higher on your amp. Honestly, the more noise you're hearing the better. It's the quickest way to get your left and right hand to start "hearing " articulation.

    Also, really practice articulating short notes on everything for a few minutes each day. Chords, single notes, everything. It's very difficult to learn specific skills like this, if you're only using them on a couple of problem spots, here and there, as they naturally occur in music. Some of us play everything "long" by default. You really have to learn to play short in the same way, until it's more natural.

    The people who are good at muting - in all styles - are those who play a lot of short articulations naturally in what they play on a daily basis. I've seen 12-year-olds playing heavy metal with better muting technique than adults who have played for years, and it's simply the residual effect of practicing on a very noisy, distorted, loud amp - and in a style which very specifically REQUIRES muting throughout.

    Now, if you're talking about muting specific strings etc, while playing others, it's really going to go back to the volume/noise thing. The real shortcut is to use and uncharacteristically non- jazz noisy tone, probably even some gain/distortion. It's an ear training thing as much as it is finger technique. The shortcut is to have MORE sympathetic ringing of unwanted strings on everything unless it's supposed to be muted. This will accelerate your left and right hand "listening " ability.

    Long-term, it's really both hands . You want to be muting with the pick itself, or in this case, the "pick side" of your thumb, also the REST of your thumb , the palm of your hand etc. For left hand, you potentially use the side of the finger fretting a note , unused fingers, non- fingertip areas of fingers etc. Honestly, none of this can be learned very well by thinking harder about it or working on these in isolation.

    You really have to crank the volume if you want to get there sooner.

    It also might be really helpful if you gave some specific examples of specific chord grips etc. that are're giving you problems.
    Last edited by matt.guitarteacher; 08-23-2019 at 11:21 AM.

  15. #14

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    Good advice matt. My muting is AWFUL - many years of playing acoustic (I’m used to floating wrist). As soon as I get in a band with a moderately loud drummer I have all sorts of problems.

  16. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Good advice matt. My muting is AWFUL - many years of playing acoustic (I’m used to floating wrist). As soon as I get in a band with a moderately loud drummer I have all sorts of problems.
    I'm mainly an acoustic player too, and I do a little bit too much practicing with the thin-line unplugged in front of the TV. When I get back to the amp, I really have to clean stuff up. So, I'm talking to myself as well. I'm not claiming to be the expert on this.

    I just know that, for me, this is about 95% an ear thing and that the amp is the main catalyst, rather than some kind of analysis or technical drill... other than the "shorter notes" drill.