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"All in the fingers" irritating you?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Bardolph, Nov 30, 2003.

  1. Bardolph


    Jul 28, 2002
    Grand Rapids, MI
    Now I am prepared to get flamed for this thread, but I've been searching through lots of threads about tone and whatnot and I really feel that people are milking the "tone is in the fingers" statement for all it's worth and then way more. Now I know it is true that a beginner on the bass can have crappy tone compared to an expert, but I think once a bassist has developed a decent plucking technique it's the actual playing that relys on the player rather than the tone of the bass and people associate the actual tone with the playing when trying to prove this point in finger technique. It is true that plucking in different areas yields a different sound, but people seem to think that Geddy Lee is the only one with his tone cause he's the only one with Geddy Lee fingers. This is a witty statement but let's just think realistically. I think if he took of his bass and put it on some other bass player with a fairly developed technique and left the same settings and eq and whatnot and had him play on his bass the tone would seem the same. If you think about it, the way a note is generated is that the surface of skin on the finger creates a disturbance in the string's resting position. Given that some people have bigger fingertips and/or harder calluses, the physical makeup of human skin does not vary an extreme amount between different people's fingertips. Tone is influenced by technique, but technique is much more universal than many make it out to be.
  2. SuperDuck


    Sep 26, 2000
    If someone is more worried about tone than technique, I would say they are missing the picture. The (in)famous Jaco quote "The tone is in your hands", I believe is true, but not to the extent that most people give it.

    Playing style is in your hands, taste is in your hands, groove is in your hands. I see tone as a secondary product of all of those. In the grand scheme of things, I would be less worried about my tone as I would how well I was playing. THAT'S in your hands. That's how an experienced and well-versed player can still sound like an experienced and well-versed player even through a crappy rig.
  3. Aaaa, I disagree. In a few interviews I read with Geddy Lee, he talks about one of his picking fingers almost being cut off as a kid. And as a result of the reattachment, his fingernail grew over some of the flesh that was no longer there, and the fingernail was a little harder.

    He mentions that he sometimes uses his fingernail like a pick. You can hear this tone on the recordings where he uses his Wal pretty well, compared to some of the other distorted stuff. Plus the fact that he tends to dig in when he plays, sometimes near the fretboard, all of this results in a pretty unique 'tone'.

    If you heard someone else with the same setup (eq, instrument), and this player was developed and had his/her/it's own 'thing', I think you could tell the difference. Given a different bassist for your example, I might agree.

    S*#&, I'm talking about Geddy's fingers/fingernails, or lack thereof!

    Geddy Lee has a bass shaped like his nose. He really knows how to pick it.
  4. Bardolph


    Jul 28, 2002
    Grand Rapids, MI
    Yes there are reasons he gets his tone, but does this mean nobody else could possibly do it? Would it be impossible to pick hard over the neck or to pluck with your fingernails the way he does? Probably not.
  5. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    We've seen time and time again that it just doesn't work that way. I understand what you're saying, and on paper I agree. But put it into practice and you'll see that it just doesn't work out that way. Tone really is in the fingers.
  6. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    I'll try to find the article I recently read and post some of it here....but basically it said this "tone is in the hands" thing is way too overdone and partially motivated by snobbery.

    One of the points of the article was - if "it's all in the hands, why do all the leading bassists play megabuck/custom basses????".............well, maybe not Fieldy or Hoppus ;)
  7. I just have never quite believed it's *all* in the fingers. If it were, none of us would play anything but Brice or Essex basses, and we would notice no differences between those and Sadowskys, MTDs, or what-have-yous. Let's be honest, if we could get exactly the same tone with a $200 bass as with a $3500 bass, most of us would be saving the money and using it on, I dunno, a trip to Aruba or something. Tell a great violinist he can get the same tone with a Strad as with my daughter's cheap music-store rental, and he'd laugh in your face. He knows better. Some part of your tone--which I define as the total quality of the sound that reaches your or your listeners' ears--clearly is, and has to be, dependent on your gear.

    Thing is, however, that gear-dependent part IMO is *not* the biggest or most important component of your tone. I can buy a Greg Smallman classical guitar, but I will never sound like John Williams. Most of the things that make you sound good are indeed in your hands.

    Just not all.
  8. Bardolph


    Jul 28, 2002
    Grand Rapids, MI
    People associate the tone with the actual playing too much, and they don't back it up with legitimate reasoning. All I hear is "well that's wrong, tone really is in the fingers, I mean listen to Jaco's..." This is great, but he played a specific bass with specific strings with specific settings through a specific rig. I don't know exactly what all of it was but my point is that nobody else sounds like Jaco cause they probably didn't have the EXACT same setup as he did. Imagine sitting side by side with a bassist with all his exact same stuff running through the exact same gear ignoring differences in the woods of the basses and whatnot (I know I know, be hypothetical with me). If the other bassist plucks a single note and you pluck the same exact single note, is it going to magically be a completely different tone? I have let quite a few other bassists use my bass and my gear for performances and things of that sort and the tones of the bass were a heck of a lot closer to eachother than say me going and playing two different basses, even though I am using my same hands on each one. Technique influences tone, but not the same way the actual gear does. A lakland skyline through a GK amp sounds like a lakland skyline through a GK amp, I don't care who's playing it. Not to sound stubborn, but the differences between different people on the same gear are much smaller than the differences of the same people with different gear.
  9. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I never said that all the tone is in the fingers, but much of it is. Eskimo, you brought up Jaco - quite often he played a fretted bass, and it sounded like a fretless. And it sounded like Jaco. I've played other guys' rigs when I've sat it, and other guys have played my gear when they sit in, and they never sound like me. Hell, I've had other guys play my upright and they don't sound like I do, and vice-versa. Granted, equipment has a defintite bearing on tone, obviously. But you can play the same bass, same strings, same amp, same settings as [insert bass hero here] and you won't sound the same. It just won't happen.
  10. Bardolph


    Jul 28, 2002
    Grand Rapids, MI
    I'm not trying to just say that you're wrong but I guess I'll try to make an analogy here. The way I see the bass tone is the actual gear is the steak and the technique is the seasoning. The seasoning does alter the taste, but it is most definitely a steak and there is no mistaking that. Different people use different seasonings. Some are harder to make than others, but it is possible to obtain the recipe and learn to make the seasoning yourself. Now even if you use the same steak seasoning on a taco, it's gonna taste like a taco.
  11. Turn your steak-seasoning analogy around, and I think you'd be closer.
  12. Bardolph


    Jul 28, 2002
    Grand Rapids, MI
    Now that just doesn't make sense. Do you honestly think that two different people playing a fender jazz will sound more different from eachother than the same guy playing a fender jazz and a rickenbacker?
    To add to that, which situation do you think is more likely?

    1. A guy plays a scale up and down on 5 different basses and blindfolded you'd be able to tell it was the same guy just cause of the tone.

    2. 5 different people play a scale up and down on a MM stingray and blindfolded you can tell each passage was played on a stingray cause of the tone.

    Think realistically here.
  13. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    I agree with the statement, to a point. Occasionally my teacher leaves his $2,000 Yamaha TRB-6II at home and plays a $200 rental junker from downstairs in the shop and still sounds incredible, ignoring a bit of fretbuzz due to bad setup. Now, note that this guy has been playing for 38 years :p. However, I was playing around on my own bass through a Yorkville XM100 (my bass is a Samick P/J copy) and it sounded really muffled. I pull a Yamaha BB605 off the wall, and start playing -- starts to sound pretty decent. I start screwing around with the controls, and flick the switch (I think it's something controlling mid frequencies) and the tone just multiplied by a thousand, all due to this piece of gear. I didn't dig in, or change my right hand position. No changes in my technique, but an explosive difference in sound.
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    As this quote has been attributed to Jaco here, I think it would be good to clarify exactly what Jaco meant!

    So - if you watch the instructional video - OK Jaco is not at his best, but he quite clearly oultlines that he means his "sound" - and he goes on to explain that as well as including things like rhythmic acuracy/stamina, legitimate vibrato and technique like a Cello player - he is talking about note choice.

    So at one point he explains how his 'sound' is the fact that only he would choose those particular notes to play.

    I think this is a good point to bear in mind in this discussion - OK... you can have a million dollars worth of gear that makes an awesome sound if you pluck an open string - but that means nothing if you can't play what is needed or something interesting and different that marks you out as a player and that really brings the music "alive".

    So, amplifiers in the end just amplify what you are doing - the better they are, the better they articulate what you are doing - the more clearly you can hear how well you are playing and conversely - how badly!! :meh:

    So - a bad player with great gear can often just end up highlighting exactly how bad they are - with bad gear , it might be more difficult to tell!! ;)
  15. Thinking realistically, I'm almost 100% sure I'll never be blindfolded listening to someone play scales on different basses, in some scientific experiment!

    Most people get off on music because it's a release, it's fun, it's emotional, a celebration, etc. The rest are tools (equipment,notation, phrasing, etc.), to augment the above. Your steak analogy is just semantics, the gear is just
    another tool, if my fingers get cut off the piece of wood sitting on the stand won't do too much. I could always buy audio-to-text conversion software to write about it, but that's not really the point. Most players/composers are recognized by their individual sounds that move people in some way, otherwise we wouldn't be here going on about this.

    But if the gear is it for you, maybe a John Cage composition is in order:

    You'll have to wait 273 seconds to get it.

    There is no spoon
  16. I am thinking quite realistically. Keep in mind that some of us here may have more experience with this stuff than you do. That doesn't make us automatically right, but it does mean that we often have solid reasons for what we say.

    Two different people can easily both be playing a Fender Jazz and sound more different from each other than the same guy playing a Jazz and a Rick. I've heard it. As one small example, I took a few guitar lessons from John Scofield about 20 years ago. He was playing his Ibanez AS200, I was playing my AS50. We played together, didn't sound anything alike. He picked up my guitar, sounded much more like him playing his guitar than me playing my guitar. Not just in phrasing, but tonally. I had the same experience when I took bass lessons from Ron McClure.

    Again, I don't say that gear plays no role in tone. Note my post above. It's just not the single, overriding, dominat factor you seem to think it is.
  17. Slot


    Oct 17, 2003
    Sydney - The Shire
    Its definitely in the fingers, dude.

    Controlled pressure is how 'your' tone is moulded.

    Another thing that comes into the equation though:

    A beginner/Intermediate bassist may play all their licks/lines/songs in the same position above the pickup, whereas an advanced player will know what part of the pickup to play above, depending on the sound that is needed for the given situation.

    Eskimo, although what your saying sounds very plausible on paper. I disagree with it because IMO right & left hand technique is not just a mechanical procedure that once you've got it down, you've got it down. IMO its alot more emotion related than that. The better you can emotionally lock into what is needed in a song/situation, the better you will be able to express the required mood through your hands, hence, the better your tone will be.
  18. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Oh yeah, it was a spot by the "ToneQuest Report" ( a very heavy duty mag devoted to tone and gear; some members of their Advisory Board include R. Sadowsky, Billy Gibbons, Tommy Shannon,Terry McInturff, Buzz Feiten, Linday Fralin, Dan Erlewine, Larry Fishman, among many others.

    Their schpiel goes like this-

    "If tone is all in the hands...why does WHAT you play matter so much"
    You've heard it - we've all heard it...

    More to the point, we all hear things differently. What's great to you may be anything but to next player, and in the real world - in your home, on stage, and in the studio - there is no universal `best.'

    In our world, the only gear that really matters is the gear that inspires you to make great music...."
  19. Lovebown


    Jan 6, 2001
    Richard Lindsey is right on the money here and I've had similair experiences that hes had. If Ron Carter would play my bass he would sound like himself. If I played Ron Carter's bass, i wouldn't sound like Ron carter, i'd sound like myself. Same with me or someone else and any other bassist.

    Of course gear has an effect on your sound but id say 90% of the people on TB overestimate it's importance.

    And the thing about "tone is in your hands" is probably it annoys people who instead of putting in more practice time, take the "easy" way and buy new gear instead and expect that to do the trick...well..it
    never does.

  20. Bardolph


    Jul 28, 2002
    Grand Rapids, MI
    Once again, people are associating the actual playing with the tone itself. I guess you could say I took the "easy" way out by upgrading my gear, but you can't argue with results. You say that just upgrading gear never does the trick, but it sure did for me. My lakland's tone through the GK combo sounds a hell of a lot better than the old acoustic/electric p bass through a mini crate amp did, even though my technique did not change. If you want proof, I'll post clips of each being played by me. If you want proof, I'll post soundclips of me and however many other bassists you want playing my bass with the same settings and you can see how the tone varies.

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