Poor Technique or Low Quality Bass?
Been lurking for a while and finally had a reason to post. A quick background, I've had a cheap bass guitar for 9 years, but never really took the time to try to learn to play it. It sat unused for the bulk of that time, save for six months after I got it. I've committed myself to learning how to play. Unfortunately I don't have the time to take proper lessons, so I'm going the self-taught route using various books, sites, TB, etc.
Lately, I've been working on songs and bass lines that primarily use the D and G strings. When doing this, I notice that my amp is picking up quite a bit of vibration from the E string. I use a thumb rest, so my thumb isn't resting on the E to mute it.
The guitar is one of those Silvertone starter kit jobs. When I recommitted to playing, I put new strings on it and adjusted the neck to try and lower the action. The action is ridiculously high compared to basses I've messed with in guitar shops, but it's pretty much as low as it can go without massive fret buzz on the lower notes.
So my question is if the E string vibrations could be a product of the low quality instrument, or if I just have poor technique and need to work more on muting the E while I play. Thanks for any help you can give.
It could, and probably is, a combination of both.
Technique: Rest your thumb or hand on the E and A stings and the string ringing will stop. Playing at "stage volume" and with a band might make it so it's generally inaudible. But if it just annoys you, as it does me, then some slight technique change in you picking hand position will fix it.
You may also be brushing those lower strings with your plucking hand and not even notice. This will cause those stings to vibrate.
Equipment: I have three basses, and have owned others, they all have this problem to some extent. Everything is connected, so when something happens to one part, it impacts the rest of it. The harder you hit your target strings (technique) the more of a chance you have of brushing the non-target strings. However, even if you only hit your target strings, the other ones will still vibrate. Ever see anyone hit their guitar body with their fist? Try it out, even though you aren't touching the strings, they still vibrate.
I have one bass that has individual string bridges; the bridge isn't one piece, each string has it's own bridge. It's the best at limiting non-target string vibration, but it still happens a little bit.
TL; DR: A slight change in technique can fix your problem, but your bass isn't helping the issue.
I thumb anchor as well and I mute with the ring and pinky of my plucking hand and/or unused fingering fingers. If you were playing on the A string, the plucking motion can result in your finger coming to a stop on the E string. So, perhaps you could play the same lines further up the neck on the A and D string.
Poor technique.. Why the heck start on the D & G ?
You want to learn how to touch or mute all strings at all times. There are different ways to do it; personally I use my right-hand thumb to mute the E and A strings (so-called "movable anchor"). Obviously that is hard to do if it's planted stationary on the pickup, so consider un-learning that bad habit...
In my opinion, time invested bringing your bass to the shop for a proper setup and taking a few fundamental lessons with a good teacher, will actually save you lots of time, effort, and money in the long run. Don't be "penny wise but pound foolish" as you begin your journey as a bass guitarist. Good luck! :)
Maybe the nut needs replacing. Could be worn and too low.
If any of the strings vibrate off the first fret because the nut is too low you will have problems. They don't have to even be plucked to cause you problems.
Jacking the truss rod to compensate for the worn out nut will cause you problems.
Start with looking at the nut first...before you go altering everything else to compensate.
The nut doesn't even have to be worn out....it could be just an inferior incorrect off-tolerance cheapy nut that they put in because it was a cheapy guitar to start with......
I have used thumb rests in the past, but usually prefer to play without them. But here's a tip: you don't have to use the thumb rest for the D & G strings. The ringing of the E is probably 95% technique/5% gear related. Just as your fretting hand has to make precise movement to play a scale, your picking hand also has to make precise movements just in a much smaller space. Use the thumb rest for the E & A strings, and when you move up to the D & G strings move your thumb to rest on the E. Eventually it will just become muscle memory and you don't have to think about it.
I always rest my right hand thumb on the lowest strings (B and E for me). Works fine unless I'm playing on the G string, where I have to mute the A as well. Kind of destroys my technique a bit, but then again I don't play that much up there. Anyway, the lowest strings always make some noise unless I can mute with the left hand as well. Not so much that it really matters, but it's not possible for me to mute the strings more than 95% using the right thumb.
Thanks for all the good advice. Sounds like i have some technique adjustments to work on.
I'd like to have my bass set up professionally, but don't want to sink any more money into the low quality instrument. I'm hoping to upgrade to a better quality bass after proving to myself that I can improve on what I have.
There are some good how-to's in the Setup forum sticky threads, if you want to try doing your own setups for free. :)
The ringing you hear is about technique.
At around 1:45 on the above video, Adam demonstrates sympathetic vibration, which I think is the same thing that you've observed. I also suggest trying his Movable Anchor technique.
Some people also advocate Todd Johnson's "floating thumb" as a different technique than Adam's Movable Anchor. I tried both and find Adam's to be more fluid. YMMV
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