Light or heavy touch ?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by hamfistUK, Dec 22, 2013.


  1. hamfistUK

    hamfistUK

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2012
    Location:
    Southampton, UK
    I've started this thread simulated by thought from the recent "action height" thread.
    Some people seem to have such a low action, they must have such a light touch with their right hand.

    Now, the lowest I can get (12th fret E string) on even an immaculately set up bass is about 2.5mm (just over 6/64"). If I go lower I'll get intolerable amounts of clank and fret buzz on my heavier plucked notes.
    Now I'll admit that I have a pretty heavy right hand, but my dynamic range also does go from very light to very heavy. This gives me a big range of potential tones I can make.

    My big question is .... don't you guys with really light touch (and low, low actions) find that you limit yourself in dynamic range as you only have a light or very light touch available in your arsenal ?
  2. Dave Curran

    Dave Curran Lilduke Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2013
    Location:
    NEPA
    Lightly here. Try it. Turn the volume up on your amp, and play as quietly as you can. I came up with some really great sounds that way, including a cool "pick" sound when playing close to the bridge.
  3. Randyt

    Randyt Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2010
    Location:
    Barrie, Canada
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing Artist: Adult Pampers
    I play with light gauge strings..very low action, and a very light touch
    It took many years and I still work on it. I was taught to be a minimalist when it comes to fretting an instrument!..just enough pressure to fret the note..thats it
  4. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2006
    Location:
    G.R. MI
    I have a very heavy right hand. After some recent studio experience I am working on lightening up.

    I will never be a light player, but I could clean up my technique.
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  6. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2005
    Location:
    Apopka, FL
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I go back and forth depending on the song. Some songs just plain sound better when you dig in a bit, and some sound better when you don't.
  7. Bass Fund

    Bass Fund Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2013
    It depends on what the bass can handle. Every Alembic I've had could be played hard with super low action, and not have any fret buzz. I can't explain this on a scientific level, other than owning three of them with the same luxury. It will eventually buzz out, but only if the strings are hugging/almost touching the frets.
  8. 4-stringB

    4-stringB

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2010
    Location:
    Tallahassee
    I have to raise the action, and re-set the intonation, because I play so hard. The heaviest rounds I can find.. And slap bass is next to impossible with this setup...Just playing old time rock n roll. Geddy Lee J.
  9. Thrash3r

    Thrash3r

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2013
    I don't mind a bit of clank & buzz so I can get away with low action (just under 2mm) and a heavy right hand, playing light doesn't work for me, you don't get the same tone.
  10. kcole4001

    kcole4001

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2009
    Location:
    Nova Scotia
    I play pretty much the same way, with much the same action.

    I'll never be a light player all of the time, I can't imagine not having a very wide degree of dynamic range available, or limiting my right hand position to just one spot.
    I float almost all of the time: varying hand position, attack, plucking angle, all withing any given song usually.

    It all makes a big difference in tone.
  11. Bassmunnky

    Bassmunnky

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2004
    Location:
    New York and Philadelphia
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing Artist: Ernie Ball MusicMan Guitars
    Was a heavy hand guy for years and as preamps and amps got better, I discovered the volume knob. There is no question at louder amp volumes and a light touch you can get more range of sounds out of a bass. Takes a long time to get out of the habit of hard playing, which also requires a cleaner style. That's what's I love about the bass so many sounds so little time!
  12. bachlover

    bachlover Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2013
    Location:
    Calgary, AB, Canada
    I'm heavy handed too, both hands, sounds really good, more middy tones come out which I like when I pluck hard, but I need to lighten up along with using more dynamics in my playing. Not so concerned with being forced to use a higher action as much as being one dimensional dynamics wise Same as playing with my right in different positions for different tones. Requires perseverance on my part - old habits die hard! Glad this thread came up to remind me to get back to working on this.
  13. NecroticImbecil

    NecroticImbecil

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2004
    Location:
    under your bed
    Light touch. Action as low as possible, varies with bass. Clank and buzz when I want it, none when I want none. Alter my playing style to suit. Light strings - 90's.
  14. Kmonk

    Kmonk

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2012
    Location:
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing Artist: Fender and Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan Strings
    I do the same thing.

    Play what's right for the song. I have never felt that my dynamics were limited by a light touch. In fact, just the opposite. I find dynamics to be more limited with a heavy touch.
  15. Michael Pearce

    Michael Pearce

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2013
    Location:
    St. Louis, Missouri
    I'm glad to hear these responses. I've been worried that I play too lightly. For some songs, I will dig in a little more, but most of the time when I don't think about it, I end up using a very light touch.

    And then I get out the pick and have to turn the volume way down :)
  16. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass Gnarsty bass tones Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2001
    Location:
    Maryland, between Bawlmer & DC
    +1

    Low action will by its nature limit dynamic range by limiting string excursion. I don't mean to imply that those who use ultra low action will have "too little" dynamic range (whatever that means), but it is limited compared to higher actions.
  17. thunderbird66

    thunderbird66

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2012
    Location:
    west Texas
    Heavy right hand with a pick.
    Do my own set ups. 40-95 gauge roundwound stainless steels. Start off as l low as I can and over the course of week or so raise up gradually as needed. Can always hit softer for dynamics and lower softer volumes. I do find though practicing by myself is not a real good indicator compared to band rehearsal for fine tuning my set ups
  18. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Non Serviam Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2012
    Location:
    Scotia NY
    If you record a bass note using a computer, you can see on the screen that the attack of the note is fairly strong, but tapers off very quickly, making each note look like a fat blob with a long skinny tail. One reason why compressing a bass can make it sound more present in the mix is because the compressor squishes down that fat blob, allowing you to turn the whole track up louder, which makes those tails fatter. A similar thing happens if you use a lighter touch and turn up the amp to get your volume instead.

    There is a greater range of dynamics available within "light touch" than people would think. The truth is that many heavy-handed players really only go down as far as a "medium" touch to play the quieter parts. I have a friend who plays with such a heavy hand that he needs to string up with the heaviest gauges he can find, and raise the action to what I consider to be borderline unplayable. I fear for the neck of his instrument, and I fear even more for the health of his hands and wrists. I have seem him "shaking out" between songs many times. Not only that, but the resultant tone (extremely aggressive and growly) is all wrong for his rootsy, folky band.

    I don't think my action is insanely low. I like it around 1/8". This gives me plenty of headroom to dig in and get that aggressive growl when I need it, without any clank or buzz.
  19. Clouz

    Clouz The Ayatollah of Jack and Cola Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2013
    i'm in the same boat now that i have an SVT i find myself playing way lighter and loving the tone. when i dig in the song or a part of the song calls for that type of sound.
  20. Mojo-Man

    Mojo-Man Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2003
    :cool:

    Light touch.

    Medium strings 45-105. Low action.
    I let the amp do much of the work. But vary touch for definition.
  21. Nashrakh

    Nashrakh

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2008
    Location:
    Hamburg, Germany
    I thinks that's also what Gary Willis says about using a light touch. And I think it's a good point to consider. I also agree with you on dynamics.

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