23rd March 2021

How to Play Muted Notes

Muted note (or ghost notes) can make bass lines and grooves sound incredibly funky.  Not to be confused with general ‘string muting’ or dampening which you use to stop unwanted string noise or to create a particular muted sound when playing a bass line. 

Generally these muted notes are isolated notes that you put into bass lines. 

A classic example can be found in the bass line of ‘Hotel California’ by The Eagles.  This is one of the first bass line that I ever played, and I spend a long time trying to imitate the sound of those muted notes.

 

Example 1 - Hotel California

My best advise with muted notes is to first try to play a single muted note very well before using them in a bass line.   

Play around and experiment here to see how you can produce the 'deadest' sounding note possible.

The best technique to use is to get as many fingers of your left hand as possible lightly resting on the strings.  If you just muted with one finger then you will get a slight ringing sound.  You want the sound to be as ‘dead as possible. 

You now try muting all the strings your bass by having flat fingers and resting all your fingers on the strings, with your first finger around the 5th frets.  Now rake all the strings  from G to E with your plucking hand.  This just means you pluck all the strings in one continuous motion with one finger. 

You should hear a very muted sound on each string.

Now play a single muted note on the A string and then put your first finger down on the 5th fret of the A string as you play a D (loud and clear). 

When you are comfortable doing that, alternate between the two, so muted note, normal note, muted note, normal, note, etc. 

The muted note is noted with a crosshead.

 

Example 1

Then start using muted notes in a groove:

 

Example 2