Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Muting Open Strings

This is may be too a fine technique question, but I am wondering about muting open strings when playing. Say you are playing a tune that calls for a first-position eighth note run in G major D-C-B-A-G. What is the right technique for muting the open A string. Assume you just roll into index and dampen both strings?

I don’t typically worry about muting strings when playing mandolin…if you can, please record a little video of you demonstrating this and post it.

Ditto… the only time I intentionally mute on mando is on a few chord shapes.

Ben, here is the link to the brief youtube video on my question. Appreciate any other pointers on hand position, picking technique, etc. that you can pull out from this. Thanks!

Timmy, it may just be my ear, but I don’t mind the A ringing… I often intentionally play 2 chords. With that said, if you want to mute it, have at it. You can use a free or adjacent string finger, but is a little tougher than some instruments since you have 2 open strings to dampen.

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I’m with Mike & Ben on this.

Dynamics can play a big part in how pronounced the ring of the offending note is. Have you tried experimenting with how hard you are picking each of the notes? Open strings usually need less power on the pick than fretted notes…particularly where you are using this A

I’d only add is that there are always other options:

You can always substitute another note for the A…like: D, F, F#
Another option is a quick hammer-on on the A to a B before hitting the G
Also you could reverse the B and A notes of the lick so it would go D, C, A B G…

Just a few of many ways to get around an offending note…:wink:

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Good points Mike and Fiddlewood. Thank you! This hit me when I was playing this past month at a church Lenten vespers service, where I was playing hymns and Taize tunes very slowly with a guitar player (which reminded me how hard it is to play slowly!). At faster speeds for more traditional bluegrass stuff it’s probably not a big issue. The other option I suppose is to try to avoid open notes when possible – i.e., play the A note on the seventh fret of the D string. Thanks again.

This is spot on. If playing slower and the ringing bothered me, I’d be fretting that A instead of picking it up on the open string.

Good suggestions. I especially like the reversing of notes… simple and effective.

@Timmy, great job! You just caused me to think about something I didn’t even know I was doing. Yes, I do mute, and I mute with the finger that is fretting the lower string, typically. What is interesting is that I don’t think about this when ascending…I guess it’s not as common. It is harder to mute when doing that, and in those rare cases, I may mute with a finger than I’m not using to play the higher string.

Thanks Ben. For me at least, clearing all this up is super helpful. I’ve noticed that a lot of accomplished electric guitarists – where this a much bigger issue – mute instinctively but like you aren’t fully aware of what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.