String dampeners on guitars?

by Bill Sargeant
(San Francisco, California)


Hi Mark,

What do you think of using a string dampener to quiet down ambient ringing? I’ve noticed a lot of modern players use something like a hair band (Greg Howe, Guthrie Goven) and older players used a clamp-like device (George Van Eps, Herb Ellis, Scotty Moore). For some reason these advanced players don’t seem to find hand dampening adequate.

Are they just being compulsive or do these devices make a real difference?




M-A’s Answer:

Hello Bill,

This is a very neat question! ALL players have to deal with open strings: most students I crossed paths with have to find a way to cope with that. So, yes … good question! Now, my take on it:

Without fear of admitting it, I played quite a bit of rock and metal in my teens. Yeah, yeah, you know: Metallica, AC DC, Pantera, and even more progressive bands like Dream Teather. I confess even more: I did learn some Steve Vai solos and “Satch Boogie”. Lastly: I even lifted a Guthrie Govan solo (or two) from magazines. Ahhh… those were the days. (-:

So, my personal device to quiet the open strings is simply the picking hand “karate chop” side and/or the side of the pinky and ring fingers or the picking hand AND of the fretting hand. That’s it. I’ve always found it funny that players needed some device (like Guthrie or Van Eps) to mute the strings.

In summary: I have coped with it by sheer dumb luck. There is so much palm muting needed in metal, that I learned to mute how I could. This followed me into Jazz (and it permeates through my playing in any situation, in fact.)

Nevertheless, for you, Bill, the story may be quite different. The devices may well make a real difference, for those who need it. Best advice: try and see. Do you have a problem with open strings ringing out systematically? If yes, then try.

I hope this helps,

Marc-Andre Seguin
“Improve Your Jazz Guitar Playing with a *REAL* Teacher”