Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by angular banjo, Jun 22, 2008.

  1. angular banjo

    angular banjo

    Jun 17, 2008

    I've been playing bass for 25 years now and never use a pick, basically using a 2 sometimes 3 finger technique with my right hand.

    I've always been aware of doing this but only recently when we were doing some recording did I realise how bad it sounds, I really need to stop but it's just sheer force of habit now.

    Basically I hit/slap the strings (usually down onto the pick up which of course only makes matters worse!) with my right hand on the half beat. I suppose it evolved to help keep rhythm and would sound okay if I was playing standup bass in a rockabilly band...but I'm not and it just sounds awful. I don't appear to do it on walking basslines or fast 16ths, but on anything vaguely countryish or where there's a bit of swing to the beat there's that horrible bleedin' clunk inbetween notes!

    Did anyone else ever do this and more importantly is there a cure?


  2. Mesmerize-16


    Aug 31, 2007
    if the strings are hitting the pickups like that then you must be applying more of a downwards force, as opposed to plucking the strings in the same plane. there was a thread kicking around somewhere a while back on "digging in", you might want to check that out. other than that, take a metronome, slow it waaay down, and relearn the picking technique.
  3. Earthday


    Sep 22, 2005
    New Hampshire
    That technique can sound good if it's used with taste and interacts with the other percussion well. I'd say spend a few practice sessions with a metronome playing everything you know at half speed and make a point not to do it. Every session increase the bpm and make sure you're not doing it. If you do it, stop and start over. Record yourself if you have to. It's not too hard to break a habit like that, you just have to really focus on it for a while. If you don't focus and make an effort it won't go away.

    Once it isn't a habit anymore you can start learning to use it with taste.
  4. nsmar4211


    Nov 11, 2007
    If you mean 2 and 4 when you're saying half beat......I do the same thing. Sound fine live (most genres.....I'm rock..), sounds like :eek: recorded. Asked my teacher about it, says he's gotta remember not to do it when he's recording too :). Mine comes from being a drummer myself and then playing gigs drummerless...I want to hear that backbeat!

    One thing that *may* help is to raise your action a tad. Mine's high (maybe too high) so I have to mean it to get extra clicks out now...
    Also, check your eq. A lot of treble will make any taps like that stand out, you may be able to eq yourself so that if you do hit 2 or 4 it's not clipping or showing up as obnoxiously..... Or find a way to still do the motion without making the noise :hyper:
  5. angular banjo

    angular banjo

    Jun 17, 2008
    Thanks for the replies guys. Reassuring to hear I'm not the only one!
  6. Step


    Feb 20, 2008
    I do it when I play a funky piece and I actually have time to make the beat
  7. BillMason


    Mar 6, 2007
    I do it too, but mostly just when I am playing alone, practicing, and not so much habitually, but to replace the absent drummer. I also need to hear the back beat. It does sound crappy on a recording, but it's not the worst habit to have - smoking, tailgating and speeding all come to mind. :)

    Seriously, it's not as bad a habit as habitually slowing a song down or speeding it up, habitually not listening to your drummer, habitually never doing ear training, or habitually ignoring dynamics.

    I think too that if you practice more with a metronome, and with your bass at a high volume, you will find the path to break this habit. Cranking your amp (not to 10!) will force you to play with a lighter touch, and using a metronome, or drum machine, will remove your need to do it yourself.
  8. Step


    Feb 20, 2008
    this is good advice
  9. HaVIC5


    Aug 22, 2003
    Brooklyn, NYC
    I had the same problem, especially when playing upright bass. The key really is just being mindful of it while you're doing it, and just force yourself to not play like that.
  10. I do the same thing, I don't why. Try recording yourself with the band doing that and see if it adds to the song, if it does leave it there. I think that could be called a ghost note and when done tastefully it's good technique. Of course, if it sounds like dog doo with the band then it's not good technique.

    I never added that technique to my list, it just happened.
  11. Inflin


    Apr 30, 2007
    Newcastle, UK/Currently London
    Affiliated with Genelec, Avalon Design.
    I did it to! for the longest time. I found it really didn't take long at all to change...

    What I did, to start with, was train myself to flick my fingers outwards, if you know what I mean, on those beats rather than slap the strings. I got used to this in about an hour or so of practice, it's not very efficient on the fingers and looks a bit silly but, it works. After that I worked on just emphasising the beats I wasn't playing as I was counting in my head, like one TWO three FOUR ect if I wasn't playing the two and four, just to remind me and make my mind feel like something was happening, if you know what I mean. After a while, I just stopped having to think about it.

    I don't know if any of that helped, I'm not great at writing down my thought processes, but basically, practice not doing it and you will eventually lose it.

    Oh: and tapping your foot and being aware of that tap worked wonders for me too.
  12. angular banjo

    angular banjo

    Jun 17, 2008
    Again, thanks

    Inflin: you actually make perfect sense

    Bill Mason: You hit on an issue I've been aware of for some time now i.e. the need to develop a lighter touch, I only recently realised that a lighter touch equates to faster more fluent playing so I'm working on it.....gently!
  13. BillMason


    Mar 6, 2007
    I tend to dig in too much also - too many years playing alone in my bedroom as a teen I guess. :) That's a harder habit to break, IMO. I see guys playing with a nice light touch, and everything they do just sounds so smooooth. I wish it was me. :)
  14. I had some of the same bad habits. My timing was good, but I literally beat the strings. One guitarist I played with said that I "...did not play bass, but attacked it". It came from playing a style of music that usually doesn't use drummers (Southern Gospel) so I had to make up for it by being a very percussive player. I have joint problems now because of it.
    I use lighter gauge strings now, and play with a lighter touch. I also turn my amp up so I do not have to beat on those strings anymore to be louder. My fingers feel soooo much better now.
  15. Guilty too! I had a habit of tapping out rhythm with my right hand (and left) while playing. I finally had to change the way my fingers plucked the strings by curving them more and pulling more across the string with a bent finger using my fingertip on the string instead of hammering on the string with a straight finger (the way you tap on a table-top) .
  16. bassfrenzie


    May 26, 2008

    Fell better knowing I'm not alone. (wish I knew about this site a long time ago)

    When it happens I have to make a decision NOT to do it, & press on.

    I think it's the strings hitting the pups?
  17. angular banjo

    angular banjo

    Jun 17, 2008
    I should have included this youtube clip at the start, but we're covering this song with the band I'm in and it's probably the hardest tune we play to resist the old boom..CHICK habit, basically in time with the rythmn guitars chop on the 2nd beat during the verse...I think you'll understand!

    funny clip if for no other reason tham to watch John 'music' Miles wigging out on the solos!