Regardless of what style of music you’re into, if you listen to any kind of ukulele music you will definitely notice muted notes here in there. Left-handed muting literally transcends all genres of music and styles and is a very important skill to learn as a player.
Whether you’re just starting out, are a beginner or even an intermediate player, knowing how to left-hand mute your uke will open up a seemingly endless universe of songs and styles, as well as increasing your skill level in general.
Left-handed muting is a pretty quick and simple skill to master and you’ll find that it can be used for more songs than you could ever imagine. But, just like with learning any new skill on the ukulele, it takes a little practice and patience.
So, in this article, we’ll explain how to do left-handed muting on a ukulele, along with giving you some useful tips about how to use it along the way. So, let’s get started!
What is Left-Handed Muting?
In a nutshell, left-handed muting is when you want to stop or silence the notes of whatever chord you are playing by using only your left hand. (For this article, this information is written for right-handed uke players who strum with their right hand and place their left hand on the fretboard.)
Bossa Nova is a very popular and very common style of music that often utilizes left-handed muting. Learning a Bossa Nova strumming style is a great way to sharpen your muting techniques, along with being a classic sound that sounds great on a ukulele.
Best Chords for Muting
The best chords to play when it comes to left-handed muting are ones where all four of the strings on your ukulele are coming in contact with your fingers. If you are playing a chord that has any open strings, it’ll be harder to mute it, so basic bar chords are a good choice to play, especially if you are a beginner.
Two Types of Muting
With whatever chord you are playing, simply release the pressure of your fingers from the fretboard but still keep your fingers in the same position on the strings. It’s important to keep your fingers in the same position on the strings so that it will be quicker and easier for you to resume playing the chord after you press your fingers back down on the fretboard.
Once you have released the pressure of your fingers from the fretboard, you can continue strumming to achieve a muffled tone. It’s easy to get creative and throw in some of these muffled strums between notes to give whatever you’re playing some additional texture. That being said, if you’re a beginner or just starting out, it’s a good idea to start by using slow, downward strokes before progressing on to muffling with quicker, upward strokes.
The other method of left-handed muting is to release the pressure of your fingers from the fretboard, just like with muffled muting, but instead of continuing to strum, the chord that you are playing will simply stop and become silent. Again, it’s a good idea at first to practice this with slow, downward strums.
Check out our ukulele play along track for Girl From Ipanema! It’s a classic song in a Bossa Nova style that uses a lot of muting techniques.
Using Your Strumming Hand
We’ve been focusing on what to do with your left hand during this article, but what should your right hand be doing? Actually, nothing different than when you usually play. When it comes to left-handed muting, your left had is literally doing all of the work, so simply keep strumming with your right hand regardless of what rhythm, tempo or style you are playing.
Practicing the Technique
As with learning any new technique, left-handed muting will take some time to get used to, but you’ll quickly discover that it’s not a difficult skill to master in a relatively short amount of time. Plus, once you get the hang of it, you’ll most likely begin to notice it more and more in ukulele songs and other songs that you hear. And, the more you hear it, the more your creative juices will begin to flow when it comes to your own playing.
Just be sure to take your time, starting slowly at first, before you gradually begin to progress into more challenging songs.
Good luck, and enjoy your playing!