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Michael Casswell - Pro Concepts Season 3 - Part 9: Muting

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 31 **

When I was a kid, I remember reading an interview with Police guitarist Andy Summers, who was talking about how it was an art to be able to control an electric guitar at volume on big stages, with powerful amplifiers. This resonated with me and at the time, I watched closely how certain players I admired could seemingly attack their guitar but keep things contained, controlled and precise. Part of this skill came from be able to mute unwanted noise from other strings and allow your target notes or chords to sing out clearly. When I started stretching my guitar wings by using more gain for dirty tones and compressor pedals for clean chiming rhythms, being able to mute out unwanted strings became an essential skill that seemed to sound much more professional than players who didn't give much thought to it and ended up sounding sloppy or trashy. Fine for a Punk Rock vibe, but I was always more excited by players that could really play, and I wanted that kind of precision, part of which came from being able to cleverly mute what you didn't want or need.

There are many times that muting is essential, and in this Pro Concepts, I have tried to illustrate three occasions you would need to be able to mute precisely and to a high level. Two of these three examples I would consider essential, if you want to sound more professional.

Example 1 is the least important of what we are looking at. This is the muting of the lower strings as you rake up to your B or E string to execute a Brian May style string bend. Brian does this a lot, and so do a lot of Blues players and general Rock players. It can sound dramatic and dynamic (depending on what you play immediately afterwards) and is an easy and instant muting technique that doesn't too much effort to get right.

What is much harder, but much cooler, is what I talk about in example 2. This is where we hit all 6 strings, but only sound one. This is a great SRV, Hendrix, Bonamassa Blues tool, or a great John Frusciante, Nile Rogers funk tool. The mechanics on how to do this will vary from player to player, depending on your hand size, what pick you use, how you hold the pick etc. I try to illustrate how I do it, but you may have to tweak things your end to get it working for you. And I strongly suggest you do get this technique nailed, because it's a cool sound that will make you sound better and give your playing some 'soul'.

Example 3 (the B section to example 2) is also invaluable tool and very essential. Being able to squeeze and mute a chord in a controlled rhythmic fashion, gives a huge boost to your rhythm chops. It works in almost all genres from Gypsy Jazz to Metal, that squeeze and release technique, especially in conjunction with palm muting from your picking hand, is a massive tool to sound on top of your delivery. All your favourite players do it and it's something that doesn't get talked about or illustrated enough I feel.

There are many other areas of muting that we can look at another time. For example when using a bottleneck, or when palm muting alternate picked lines, but examples two and three are a good place to start, and I hope my explanation, and the camera close ups, get you closer to understanding what the aim is here.


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