When playing the bass guitar, you’re likely to focus on playing the notes but silence is equally important in playing music. With this in mind, choking and muting techniques are an essential aspect of bass playing.

Choking

We can choke a string in one of three ways:

  • Place the right hand finger on the string
  • Release pressure with the left hand
  • Both methods combined

Exercise: Try all three methods on a C note (3rd fret of the A string)

Muting

Muting the strings is essential in removing unwanted residual noise from the non-played strings and helps to clean up our overall sound and tone. Muting is an important aspect of both right and left hand technique.

To help beginners in this regard, I’ve developed an approach to muting using a hand technique I’ve christened ‘Home Position’. This is a position most players commonly use but it often develops naturally over time. There is no formal name for the approach but Home Position seems to be a good descriptive label.

Home Position

To adopt the home position:

  • Rest the 1st finger across the strings (at the fret you’ll be playing)
  • Bring down the other fingers to rest against the strings (parallel to frets)

You should get a muted, dead sound plucking a string in home position.

This is a safe position you should always adopt when you pick up the bass. Everything is locked down preventing any residual noise or accidents.

When you want to play a note, adopt the home position and then perform the following movements, all simultaneously:

  • Press down string at the required fret
  • Raise the other fingers
  • Pluck the string

This might seem obvious, but we are performing these actions from a position of silence first.

Finally, to choke the note, we can simply switch back to home position. If you have a good muscle memory for the finger placement in home position you can switch instantly without breaking down the individual finger movements. This allows for a clean note and choke technique.

Exercise: Play G (3rd fret of the E string) in the order pluck – choke – pluck – choke

Bass Riff

We can practice playing a bass pattern through a progression to practice our home position.

Pluck On Red Beats: 1 2 and 3 4

Choke on 2 and 4

Play this bass line through the notes:

  • G: 3rd fret E string
  • C: 3rd fret A string
  • D: 5th fret A string
  • C: 3rd fret A string