1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Achieving a cleaner technique/sound

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Steve Harris Is, Sep 15, 2005.

  1. Steve Harris Is

    Steve Harris Is

    Jul 4, 2005
    I am wondering if some of you experienced players can offer up some advice on playing "cleaner", especially with scales, etc. I am a newer player and progressing nicely but I am trying to develop a solid method of fretting notes where I don't always depress the next string(and create unwanted noise) as I am moving through scales. I know that most likely time and practice will help me improve on this, but any other ideas?

    One teacher I saw the first week I picked up a bass said that in order to be a great bass player you need to have LH in a "Claw" and depress notes with extreme fingertips only. I am trying to do this but it feels unnatural and caused LH pain after awhile.

    Any thoughts?
  2. ii7-V7


    Aug 4, 2002
    Baltimore, MD
    First, if you are experiencing pain then you need to find out why. It could be that you have poor posture, or that you are just pressing too hard, playing too fast for a new technique, etc. You can't just push through it because that will cause a more serious injury.

    Second, the answer to 95% of all technique problems is slower, more relaxed, and with better posture. If you aren't able to play something cleanly then you need to practice it at a slower tempo.

    For most left hand fingerings I feel that you should use the very tips of your fingers and press only as hard as you need to to fret the note. This will improve your speed and accuracy. The word "Claw" scares me. I have so many students who come to that have the "Iron Kung-fu Grip," as I like to call it, like they are trying to crush a conconut in thier bare hands. Your hand should have a natural curve to it, but the word claw makes me think of someone who isn't relaxed enough.

  3. groove100


    Jan 22, 2005
    The word "Claw" scares me. I have so many students who come to that have the "Iron Kung-fu Grip," as I like to call it,

    i tell my student that as if they are holding a turtle
  4. Kelly Coyle

    Kelly Coyle

    Nov 16, 2004
    Mankato, MN
    That part, at least, is nonsense. Great bass players play with a wide variety of techniques, RH and LH. Great teachers help students discover the best techniques for themselves. My quick advice would be to have a quick "affair" with another teacher, a test lesson, say. See if you find him or her to be more simpatico. Lots of times (I can't say if this applies to your situation), "immature" teachers teach what works for them, or, worse, what worked for their teacher, as the only possible way to excel. People's minds and bodies are different. Happily. That's why there's so much great music: different people.

    Anyway, if you drew a line straight down my finger, I contact the string not on the extreme tip, but about 30 degrees below that. And I would use less of a claw, and more of how you might hold a bat (baseball, not flappy), not at the handle end, but wherever it would be that your fingertips and thumb were an inch or and inch-and-a-half apart. There shouldn't be any tension in the system.

    I found these people thought provoking:
    Guitar Principles

    Good luck.
  5. Steve Harris Is

    Steve Harris Is

    Jul 4, 2005
    Thanks for the help.

    I only saw that original teacher once and my "official" instructor now is Pat Pfeiffer but he's in NYC and I only see him like once every 2 months so I haven't been able to get advice from him of late. I will see him end of month though and get his input as well.

  6. JohnBarr


    Mar 19, 2004
    Central NY
    As a perennial noob, I have to agree. And the last 5% is to play with a 'nome

    It takes a modicum of self-discipline or maybe self-awareness to get those good behavior patterns. For some reason relaxing is a real issue for me. I hunch over an concentrate like I'm plying chess. Well, not quite that bad and I've loosened up some as i've become more familiar with the instrument.
    Funny thing is, it's a bit of a viscous cycle. You can't force yourself to loosen up. But when I do manage it, I can see the difference.

    Oh, and alcohol doesn't help. I just makes me fuzzy.

  7. Sturge


    Sep 10, 2005
    Liverpool, England
    When you say you're accidentally depressing another string, do you mean you're sounding an unfretted string (ie not the one you're meant to be playing on)?

    Anyway, the best thing to do to develop good technique, as chaddukes says, is to play as slowly as you need to in order to make your notes sound clean and natural. Don't worry about playing pieces up to speed, because if you concentrate on getting your technique right you'll find you'll be able to play faster and easier when you do speed it up. Playing with a metronome at a very slow tempo is also a good way to improve your timing.

    Another thing to consider if your notes sound unclean or you're having trouble pressing down on frets is the setup of your bass. A poor setup will make things harder than they have to be. Next time you see your teacher, ask him to have a go on your bass and see if he suggests changing anything. Might be a longshot but it's worth checking out, because something as simple as lowering the action can made a big difference in a bass's playability.
  8. Ostinato

    Ostinato Guest

    Feb 7, 2005
    Toronto ON
    Getting a decent fretting/damping techinique just takes a little time and patience. When I was first getting into serious playing I had the same problem with unwanted fretting and I HATED it.
    So my advice would be to relax your fretting hand on your fingerboard before you start and try to understand which fingers/fingerings are giving you trouble while it happens. Be deliberate and thorough.
    If you fret a wrong note, stop and look at the culprit. Sometimes it's just a matter of shifting the third or forth finger to where it still sits on the non-plucked string, but it isn't fretting it. That's basically what right hand damping is all about.

    I hope I understood your question correctly, good luck!
  9. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass ****

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    Lot's of good advise above, I especially liked what Kelly had to say regarding different techniques for different players. There are alot of different ways to get it done, but not all of them are widely accepted as "good technique". I don't think that giving specific information regarding technique in written form online is a good idea because it can easily be misunderstood, and may not be compatible with ones anatomy or level of play. Staying relaxed and slow is good general advise. The teamwork and timing between your two hands has much to do with playing cleanly. This relationship takes time to build and it is best that you build it using a good and proper technique that WORKS FOR YOU.
    An analogy I like to use regarding practicing bad habits is this:

    When you practice it's like drawing a line in the sand with a stick. The longer you do it, the deeper the groove gets and harder it is to change the direction of that line. If it's deep enough you literally have to pull the stick out and start all over again and little is actually gained.

    Get with someone as soon as you can and get on the right track so you can move forward in a positive way!
  10. Steve Harris Is

    Steve Harris Is

    Jul 4, 2005
    Thanks again...all useful and helpful info here.

    I am taking my bass into NYC when I see my teacher end of month. I am sure he'll have suggestions to "clean me up" as well!