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! :)

Clanking strings against frets with fretting hand

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by basslust, Feb 1, 2014.

  1. basslust

    basslust Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2011
    I am wondering how much other bassists do this when playing? When pressing the string against the fret, I always try to get a soft press where the string doesn't clank too much against the fret as I press the note. I find that it is hard to prevent all clanks though and I'm wondering what people who have been playing the instrument for a really long time have to say about this. Are there any tricks to getting the string down softly? Does everyone clank the strings down or do you get better at not doing it as you get more experienced?
  2. edpal

    edpal Banned

    Oct 3, 2007
    I'll give this a go.
    A certain amount of clank is normal and unavoidable. But the more common problem is people not fretting hard enough and getting string buzz. Honestly, think about the players you see playing blistering passages - I assure you they are not worrying about fretting too hard and clanking a little.I'm guessing(sorry if I'm wrong) that you are newer to bass and are not quite comfortable with the sound. Play simple passages fast, diddle around crazy from note to note and ignore the clank.
    Try turning/Eging your treble down a little to reduce it so you hear less of it.
    Fret closer to the actual fret - you'll get proper contact with less effort. And don't squeeze thumb-to-finger to fret notes, it's more of a press with the fingers with the thumb for balance and proper hand configuration. Using your thumb & finger as a vise will slow you down and tire you and your hand out.
    Definately don't be critical of clank if playing unamplified, it will seem very present but really not come through when plugged in.
  3. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    There is a "clack" that results from the plucking hand following through to (unnecessarily) smack the next lower string against the frets. That's the one that annoys me more.

    For example, you pluck the A string with your ring finger, and the finger follows through to smack the E string against the frets, resulting in clack.

    Anybody that knows a quick easy way to stop this, please share. AFAIK the only way to address it is with precision and control, which requires a bunch of hours practicing.
  4. edpal

    edpal Banned

    Oct 3, 2007
    Try floating your hand as opposed to locking it to a thumb rest(if you do - then you can use ring, pinky or thumb for a little muting of that effect. I fingerplay using mainly index and middle and now seem to have a floating mute thing going much of the time. And practice plucking both up and down with the finger(s) you use for plucking. As the muscle memory develops for power/speed on that upstroke your fingers will naturally be less inclined to swing-thru as they reflexively pull up asap. This muscle memory can also be great for various interpersonal activities.
  5. hmmm, here is something i always tought about doing as iam a kid and get this all the time (not the fret buzz the clanky sound goin from the A string arround the 12-20 fret to the E string)
    glue a little bit of cloth to every fret... dont try it if you dont want to mess up your bass and if you ask me no i have'nt tried it, but if you have a low end guitar of say about 50$ or so i'd say go ahead

    In my opinion it should work, i mean string is steel or nickel frets are nickel nickel+nickel = clanky sound nickel+cloth = no sound you should get a warmer sound and im 84% sure that it will work
  6. i also forgot to mention the heavier the gauge the more clanky sound is gonna have, i learned this the hard way :atoz:
  7. basslust

    basslust Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2011
    Thanks everyone
    I think this is really what the issue is, as it is mostly with my pinky that I have this problem. I think the pinky is still a bit weak and so I'm having to exert force to get the string down, which is causing the clank. An example of a time where I really experience the problem is if I'm playing A minor descending scale and going from D on my index finger (A string) to C with my pinky (E string). I'm really not sure if the problem is that I'm not pressing hard enough or that I'm pinching between my thumb and pinky, but I guess I will just have to practice and figure it out.

    Thanks again everyone.
  8. Try setting the action just a little higher. When my action is set just high enough to prevent buzz, clank is bad. Above clank is bliss.
  9. huckleberry1


    Jul 1, 2013
    Mesquite, Texas
    sounds to me like you need to raise your action.
  10. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
  11. basslust

    basslust Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2011
    Can you explain a little more about what you mean here? I don't follow... What does plucking up vs. down mean?

    I raised my action a little and do notice it has made it easier to press down the string cleanly.
  12. edpal

    edpal Banned

    Oct 3, 2007
    Many people fingerplay strictly one direction (vast majority of finger players use 2 finger for bulk of their playing) - finger swings down, hits string, plucking finger is raised with no thought of using it for the next beat and the other finger does the same. If you work in using the upswing of that first finger to hit the next note particularly for very syncopated stuff you start training that finger to not just swing all the way through. Sure it doesn't have the punch of using 2 or more finger in straight downward swing - sometimes you need to gallop that way. But if you ever have an issue with one of your plucking finger you are kind of screwed unless you have worked some of that single finger back-forth. I had new guitarist ask me if I play with pick, I ask why, he thought is was faster due to back-forth action. I single fingered it and he was not able to pull ahead on me..and I'll be darned if he didn't try :) This is (imo) easier if you float your hand a bit rather than locking onto the thumb-rest or pickup. And as I mentioned if you float hand you may find your pinky and ring occasionally doing a little muting duty which also solves some of the clank sins. Keep trying different stuff, I've been playing electric bass for almost 40 years and can look back just 4-5 years and see changes and hopefully improvements in my techniques. Peace.:bassist:
  13. Turn up the volume, relax.
    I should take my own advice.
    My biggest prob on electric bass is fretting and plucking too hard.
    It comes from many years of playing upright w no amp.
    I was used to really leaning into it.
    I'm getting better tho.

  14. ?? My action is insane low, a piece of paper can't fit under G string at 1st fret. Been sort of racking my brain on this one and if ever had the problem. Maybe position of your picking hand is too close to neck and your bouncing your string off the last fret??
  15. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    It sounds like it might be your plucking technique: Are you plucking strings by pushing them down toward the fretboard, rather than pulling them parallel to the bass body and other strings? If you do the latter, the follow-through should cause the plucking finger to stop on the next string, which should effectively mute that string but without causing it to clank against the frets.
  16. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Doesn't sound related to plucking at all.
    Sounds like the OP has poor left hand fretting control,
    and needs to develop his muscle memory of appropriate left hand finger pressure
    like in this Gary Willis video I seem to constantly link to
  17. smeet

    smeet Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2006
    Woodland Hills, CA
    I think I know what this particular sound is. When you finger the D on the A string, where is your pinky? I'm guessing it's far from the string. Then when it's time to play the C, what do you do? You quickly SLAM the pinky into place, creating the clank. There are two things you should do to fix this: first, always keep all your fingertips close to the strings. Second, don't wait until the last instant to put your finger down. Prepare and start moving it into place ahead of time, so you don't have to move it as fast. This means your finger movements will overlap, making the landing smoother. The faster you play, the more you should overlap.

    If you fix these two things, that should fix your left hand clank. Now, get ready to fix right hand clank...

    A lot of clank won't be heard over the band. But you should still strive for smooth, quiet technique. Eventually you will instinctively mute a lot of the nasty noises out of existence. And of course, as mambo4 says, always use as little force as possible.
  18. +1 That crazy looking face with smeet under it is probably right. I'm a new player who got drilled to death by my mentor to learn proper technique (whatever that is) and learned my first 5 months with nothing but an earphone amp (pocket rockit). Conclusion: quiet, subtle hands are key. I have amps and cabs now, but it holds more true. Let the pickups do the work for your plucking hand-- be subtle and dynamic in your approach, not full out aggressive for every note. To your complaint: fret closer to the fret and keep your fingers in position (right above the string you're about to play) and push down-- and with right hand rub up the notes, don't beat the hell out of the strings like my idols Steve Harris and Geddy Lee. Certain techniques work for certain bassists… I also raise my action until when I do beat the hell out of my strings they don't buzz… bigger string needs more space to vibrate, etc.

    also flats will make you an immediately less clanky bassist;)
  19. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Just for the record, the particular post I was responding to -- not the O.P.'s -- clearly described a plucking-hand problem. I certainly agree that OP's problem is with the fretting hand.
  20. Troph


    Apr 14, 2011
    Kirkland, WA
    First of all, I don't understand how we got started talking about plucking-hand technique. This "fret clank" noise occurs when you fret a particular note, and it occurs even if you eliminate your right (plucking) hand entirely. So I'm confident we can rule out plucking technique as relevant here. The noise is coming from the fretting hand.

    Second, on the subject of fret-hand technique. While my technique isn't perfect, it is decent and consistent. And yet I have observed large variations in "fret clank" noises across instruments. So this phenomenon is not entirely caused by poor technique either. A large part of it must be caused by the instrument itself.

    So, where does that leave us? Unless I'm forgetting some possibilities, that leaves the following possible culprits: setup/action, fret size, fret composition, string size, string type, and string composition. Some of these are easy to swap and experiment with. Frets obviously aren't, and sadly I think they are absolutely part of the problem on some instruments. Maybe even fret installation and condition plays a role.

    I'd also like to dispel the notion that flatwound strings are necessarily superior for "clank elimination". I have a set of Chromes on a 2011 4-string Jazz bass that is virtually silent (no fret clack whatsoever). Since I was having "clack" issues with a 1996 5-string Jazz bass, I thought maybe Chromes would solve the problem. But they did not. In fact, the clank even got a bit worse, possibly due to the fact that the Chromes were slightly heavier (just a guess). I eventually ended up selling that bass because I couldn't quiet it down for fingerstyle playing, no matter what I tried (pro setup, different strings, etc).