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Can we change our sound thru technique?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by suraci, Nov 3, 2017.

  1. suraci


    Apr 11, 2005
    The presiding myth is that we are stamped with our timbal fingerprint. We can only sound as we sound. That seems to be true. But I am wondering if I can go against this axiom... and some teacher knows the bass so well that he can teach how to get truly different sounds . I am not talking about pedals, and strings, just our basic tonal conception, as our finger strikes the string.
    I had a sax teacher who knew the sax so well ( he taught almost everyone in NYC at the time ) that you could learn how to alter your fingerprint so to speak.
    Anyone have a bead on this?
  2. MCS4


    Sep 26, 2012
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    The answer is "yes and no." No matter what you do, you will probably still sound like "yourself." That is what people mean (or should mean) when they say that "tone is in the fingers," although really a lot of that actually comes down to things like note choice, timing, and other issues that aren't really "tone" per se.

    However, even though you'll still sound like yourself, you can still achieve noticeable and useful tonal difference by modifying your technique. To give one example, I've developed a style of playing with a pick that sounds very similar to the tone I get when playing fingerstyle and can be used essentially interchangeably, whereas previously my pickstyle drastically emphasized the "attack" and lacked fullness compared to my fingerstyle tone which made it difficult to find EQ and gear settings that worked well with both styles.
  3. Your EQ knobs change the sound. Plus where you pick the string, near the bridge, over the pickup, etc. do change the sound. Then there are hammer on, pull offs, slides, slap, etc. that can be used. I bet the others will add more.
    tlc1976 and viper4000 like this.
  4. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Why would you not want to sound like yourself ? Miles Davis is famous for being able to be recognised from just one note.
  5. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Where is this a presiding myth?

    Are you talking about being identifiable? Or that each person only ever sounds one way?
    If the later, it is patently ridiculous.
    M0ses and lfmn16 like this.
  6. suraci


    Apr 11, 2005
    I long time veteran in music.. I know that for better or for worse, I chose to be versatile for the
    sake of getting gigs.
    To me one of the marks of a musician is ability to sound more than one way. I feel stuck in my
    timbral world. I am talking about how my right hand fingers caress the strings.
    Maybe large variations in how much the amp ( via being turned up louder with a corresponding lighter touch creates the sound. Then there is height of strings from PU.
  7. Tone is something I'm actually pretty passionate about. In my wee piano student days learning classical, tone was absolutely everything. That made me aware of such things when I went to the synth world -- harder to make a specific tone with just the fingers especially then, but use of other tools like expression pedal and mod / pitch wheel subtleties for this.

    But back to bass: What I find is the immediate feedback of tone change as I work on it. When I was learning piano, I literally had to work months before I could hear a change.

    But as you angle your hand over the strings, plucking with various parts of the finger, e.g. "digging in" as opposed to "funk fingers", exaggerating to prove a point. You immediately hear the difference. I find my flatwound strings do let me approach some sweeter elements of tone at times than any rounds I used to use, but the compromise is the rounds will provide you with other tonal variations flats can't achieve.

    I actually walked away from a band opportunity because they wanted only a very muted 50-esque bass tone. And for me personally, expression and tone are everything. Tone is not just the attack, it's how you personally "step on" certain parts of a phrase to provide variation, something we learned a lot as pianists / keyboardists when I was younger.

    Even something as seemingly simple as what an instructor of mine once called "letting the notes breathe.,." By this, he meant those tiny grace notes often done with a hammer-on or pull-off. But if you glissando into the beat instead, not a giant sweeping slide, but just a half step, you'll find you can really add tonal variation you might not have expected. Learning how to do it and make it sound subtle took me some time.

    One of my favorite things about playing bass is your direct contact with the strings, and your ability to almost feel the difference, not just hear it, when it comes to tone. For me personally, I really try to bring out the melodic in my tone, even when playing the hardest, grittiest music. It's something I picked up over time and just can't put down. Ironically, it was only recently I realized just how important my tone was to me. If you're asking the question, you may be feeling similar. And you can still have a signature tone and be versatile enough to play very percussively or lay down a smooth, gentle groove with billows of sustained low end that lays the foundation for a ballad.
  8. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Lots of ways:

    - picking near the bridge brightens up the tone and vice versa
    - the harder you hit the string, the brighter
    - can mute with both hands
    - ball of your thumb sounds different than fingertips

  9. Nev375


    Nov 2, 2010
    That's a myth alright. I disagree that it seems true.
    lfmn16 and lz4005 like this.
  10. Badwater


    Jan 12, 2017
    If you're talking about how you sound as a player playing what you play or playing original licks and solos. Your talking about a style. Some players have it and some don't. It has a lot do do with mechanics and techniques. But more importantly it's how the player expresses and composes the music they play.
    This style is a lot easier to hear and identify with guitar players because the guitars frequency range is broader. Much more difficult than with the bass where the frequency range is smaller. But, that's where the player's style comes into play especially with solo licks and grooves that cover a broad range of frequency.

    I find that there are players with style. By that I'm talking about how they differentiate themselves from the masses. And they all reach a level where their technical skills come into play. That level of technical skill can be the speed and precision of which they play, or in most cases, the way they manipulate notes to give each note a character of their own.

    If you listen to a lot of random recorded single tracks of isolated bass or guitar, you can hear the style of a player or the lack of style. And you can often tell the difference of a skilled player with style from the random player who has no character in their playing.
  11. suraci


    Apr 11, 2005
    Early in my career I had the honor to play opposite Herbie Hancocks Headhunter band. The bass player was one of the world's greatest.. Paul Jackson. Fast forward to 5-7 years ago, I met Paul near my home area. His hands were twice as big as my own, and my hands are not small, they are meaty and so on, but Paul's hands impressed me. Giant nubs, suggest to me the ability to create tones that are not available to a normal size hand. This suggests I had better expand my use of my whole hand, and thumb. I am thinking the more variations of my hand, fingers, thumbs on the strings, the
    more tonal variation I can muster.
    Eg When jazz string bass players play pizzicato walking bass, they can strike a note with two fingers.
    or on the side of the index finger.

    But all of these hand techniques still evade the essential tone I get when I simply strike or pluck or whatever you care to call it, a string. Leo from Portland has nicely touched upon this aspect of playing.
    Back to the practice room:bassist:
  12. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Total bull.
  13. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    I think you have misunderstood this. We get our sound from our fingers, actually our technique, but it's not something we're born with. I've played classic rock, blues, Motown, country and use different techniques to get the genre correct tones.
    ajkula66 likes this.
  14. suraci


    Apr 11, 2005
    You speak with great depth Sir.
    So take my assertion in opposite direction.. say your right hand is the size of a child... do you believe
    it would not influence timbre?
  15. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    If you don't quote the person you're responding to they won't know you've responded.

    As to your hand size question, the answer is that you're still completely wrong.
  16. tshapiro

    tshapiro Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2015
    Jax Florida
    You can absolutely change your tone or your ‘sound’. Starts with knowing what you want followed by learning how to get it. Unfortunately, answering the question of how one can change their sound is like asking "What is the meaning of life?", lol
  17. suraci


    Apr 11, 2005
    Ok, if asking what is the meaning of life, will yield a more versatile bass tone, fine. What is the meaning of Life????
    Now tell me how to develop a more versatile bass tone, and while at it, tips on figuring out the meaning of Life, and also if time allows it... how to be funny?
  18. turbo2256b


    Jan 4, 2011
    One I have never used a pick cant hold on to them. Use all 5 fingers 2 pinky fingers I like having long finger nails on them.
    Hitting strings with flesh or nail side , thumb vs finger, different areas of strings from the bridge to up onto the neck. Some times just hitting the strings with fretting fingers and not even using picking hand. Attacking strings at different angles with the fingers
  19. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    What is "your sound"? Every player I can instantly recognize like John Entwistle, Steve Swallow, James Jamerson, Jaco, Stanley Clarke, Rocco Prestia etc etc etc has a sound that is inseparable from his technique.
    Technique is more than just how your hands work it's also how your mind works. Can you alter it? Of course you can.

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