Get 1950s/1960s Sounds from Your Bass By Using a Mute

20110504122530eddieFor this article an insight in how to get that Acoustic bass sound from a modern Electric Bass. A lot of listening will help you to familiarise yourself with that sound. Also, try to think what the early Fender Basses had which the newer, modern versions lack: A Mute—the metal plate you will find at the back of the bridge. This Mute is  partly responsible for some of those sounds on the early Motown Hit Records.

Most of the early Electric Bass players had been Upright bass players in the beginning of their career. The sounds most of those players made reminds you about the acoustic bass. Some of the techniques some of those early Electric Bass Players used was adapted straight from playing Upright Acoustic Bass: Striking the string with one finger instead of using two alternating fingers, playing the strings by using only thumb instead of any finger—-think about the Finger Rest on early Fender Basses underneath the strings instead of above the strings. At some point the Finger Rest became a Thumb Rest.  This change must have been around the time more Bass Players started using their fingers instead of only playing with one finger or just the thumb.
Of course, any experienced Bass Player knows you do not need a thumb rest: You can rest your thumb as easily on the neck, the low E string or on the pick-up (depending on the lay-out of your Bass). You can also rest your thumb somewhere on the pick guard.

Thinking about that darker sound we hear on so many early Motown Hits you have to remember how most of those Bass Players played and what kind of equipment they used. Today we have a lot more options available but sound wise that early Electric Bass Sound some of the pioneers of Electric Bass did get cannot be beaten.

Once you have looked into how it feels to play whole songs with only using your First finger of your picking hand, or just your Thumb you may still feel there is something lacking: The Mute. The Mute was basically a metal plate with a bit of foam to mute all your strings lightly.
Have a look at your Bass, no Mute eh? Should you order one? Well you can but what about making one yourself? A very simple way to create a Mute is to take a piece of sponge, and cut it to desirable seize and stick it underneath your strings in the Bridge area. You will be pleasantly surprised as in how close this idea brings you to that authentic, early Motown Sound.

Experiment with different seizes to see what works best.

When it comes to strings,  most of the early Electric Bass Players used Flat Wound strings, Round Wound Strings were not yet invented! You may want to get a set of Flat Wound Strings as they will give you less ring. I will leave this choice to your own taste.

Enjoy and have fun and hope to catch you soon again.