Clicking off frets - technique issue? setup issue? amp issue?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Steamtronic, Nov 6, 2012.

  1. Hi All,

    I get a lot of fret noise playing fingerstyle - lotsa clicking & a bit of buzz - the more I dig in, the more I get.

    I'm gradually building up my chops, learning to play 60's/70's/80's rock, blues & motown with the odd pop song thrown in. I play a Yamaha 374RBX (professionally setup) fingerstyle using roundwounds. I like a little brightness & maybe a hint of dirt in the sound but definitely not distortion or what I call "mooing".

    I've tried dropping the top end (2.6k) right out on the amp EQ, using the neck pup only, and rolling the treble on the guitar back to zero. This hides the noise, but the tone's too muddy for my liking. If I don't dig in and turn up the amp, it gets too boomy for me and I lose all the definition.

    So, I reckon its time to turn my attention to my good old right hand technique ( know.)

    Any tips here? I currently have my thumb anchored on the (delightfully ergonomically contoured) neck pup and my fingers at about 30º off the bass body, which I've noticed causes me to push the strings down onto he frets. So my question is: Do I
    A: Move my hand to hold my fingers at 90º to the bass body thus stopping the fret clicks; or
    B: Keep them at about 30º and learn to play differently (how?) to stop the clicking; or
    c: Something else?

    I feel like I'm cheating if I use a pick but this does reduce the clicking but I really only want to use a pick when the song calls for it.
  2. Epitaph04

    Epitaph04 Supporting Member

    Jul 5, 2010
    How about either raising your action and/or lightening up your right hand technique?

    If by turning up you sound too boomy then that's an EQ issue and you could probably try turning the bass knob down a tad. Also remember that a lot of that fret nose and clacking tends to get buried in the mix unless there's a crazy amount of it.
  3. lowfreq33


    Jan 27, 2010
    Endorsing Artist: Genz Benz Amplification
    Probably a combination of technique and setup. You could adjust either to get rid of it. Personally I favor a medium string height, it's a little more forgiving when I dig in, and I feel like I get better sustain.
  4. It is a combination of setup and technique. I think the
    technique is the bigger factor. To get the clicking out, you
    want a light touch on the fretboard. To get the buzzing out,
    you want to press as close to the fret as you can. Your
    fretting hand needs to be working lightly and precisely.

    Instead of digging in, you want to turn up your amp and let it
    do the work. We all like to dig in now and then but it sounds
    like you may be overdoing it.

    Regarding action, I'm going to give you a third different answer.
    Personally, I think you should have low action so you only need
    a light touch. By the way, "low action" and "digging in" aren't
    totally compatible. It's a compromise. You need to decide for
    yourself what works best for you. That's why there is no
    easy way to describe "the perfect setup." It's different for
  5. CnB77


    Jan 7, 2011
    Move up a string gauge and maybe raise your action a hair.
  6. All good stuff, thank you guys.

    The buzzing is actually off lower frets than the one I play, so like lowfreq and the rest of you suggested, raising the action a hair is in order. The clicking occurs even when just fretting hard, without plucking.

    Epitaph, Im playing around with the EQ....but Im concerned that as soon as I move the amp out of my study into a different acoustic environment I'll have to undo all of it.....

    Warner, I hear you but I just don't feel comfortable pulling back as I lose the "feel" of the song, especially playing the music I love which is all pretty bouncy and up tempo. I feel that if I just have a real loud amp but tap the strings real soft I make notes but not music (if that makes sense). It also makes it difficult if I want to pop a string during a number. I'm interested in how do you address this because Id like to experiment with it.

    CnB77, String gauge is already pretty light.....would flatwounds make any difference here?

  7. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    Flats might make a difference, but it doesn't sound to me as if flats would give you the sound you're going for.

    Since you anchor your right thumb (as do I), here's a piece of advice that will help avoid wrist problems and may help to solve your problem: get your right elbow up and away from the bass. This puts your plucking fingers in a position of better control, allowing you to stay on top of the strings and avoids driving the strings down into the bass when you play them.

    This same arm configuration also helps to maintain a neutral wrist, which is important for reducing carpal tunnel injury risk. As you move from the E to the A to the D to the G string, your elbow comes up a bit more each time so you stay on top of the strings, not at a sharp angle to them. The elbow comes down a bit as you go back from G to E.

    This has worked well for me for 32 years. This suggestion may be but a piece in addition to the various set-up comments posted earlier. Try a few things to see what gets you where you need to be.
  8. atomicdog


    Jun 18, 2011
    All the things they said (raising the action a little can make a big difference), but maybe also try hybrid strings (flats can cause more noise if they're too low tension).
  9. Epitaph04

    Epitaph04 Supporting Member

    Jul 5, 2010
    Thats why i dont stress about saving EQ presets like some people. My ear hears things differently every day. I want different tones out of my amp every day, and it changes with the bass I play. It also changes with what im playing along to that day or who im playing with that day. Then it also changes with where i play. Eveytine i plug in any of my bass guitars i switch everything to noon, or "flat" as some would call it. From there i take a few seconds to EQ a base tone and just tweak it from there.

    So dont sweat the EQ. Learn your EQ. What each knob does and what each one sounds like. What they add or subtract from your bass tone. Once you do that youll be able to EQ just about any tone you need. Search up equalization right here on TB and you should be able to find a wealth of information on the topic.
  10. sammyp


    Aug 20, 2010
    NB, Canada
    I delt with a bit of clank in the past .....i refused to EQ out clank and focused on my technique, wrist angle and heavy handedness! There is a lot about bass tone that needs that 2-4 khz so scooping that is detrimental in the end! I also go for a medium action, my basses play well but they are definately not super low action.
  11. msaone


    May 13, 2012
    I've been playing for years and I do the same thing. I used to play so hard I actually pushed on of the poles on my p pickup flush with the cover.

    I find my problem is angle of attacking the strings. If I concentrate and pluck perpendicular to the strings I'm good.

    If I'm lazy and pluck into the strings I get clacking.
  12. This is all great, again, thanks guys.

    Re: Wrist posn: I always play standing with my hand at hip level and straight wrist to avoid carpal tunnell. (My Dad's a Jazz muso - reeds - and over the years I've watched a lot of his mates fall vicitim to hand and wrist probs. He himself has Dupuytren's and has undergone 4 operations to free up his fingers. Very sad to see top-line performers who literally can't pick up their instruments to play).

    Ill try Hybrids - hadn't considered those!

    Great advice re the EQ'ing too. I'll do some research and focus on performance tone rather than trying to cover up my weaknesses!

    I now reckon angle of attack is my major issue - I'm self taught so was never shown the correct way to hold my hand - Ill focus on getting my fingers perpendicular. "Plucking into the strings" is exactly what I've been doing, sometimes very aggressively, so I'll focus on getting that fixed. There's also a fair bit of noise from my left hand just fretting, so a combination of focussin on accuracy and raising my action should help there.

    Thanks again, thats all fantasic stuff! :)
  13. Duckwater


    May 10, 2010
    USA, Washington
    I use high tension strings so I can have low action and dig in when I want to.
  14. Life teaches you to apply the same amount of effort with both sides of the body. Plus you naturally apply a little more with the strong side. This is all backwards for bass. In short, as an old upright player once told me, play forte with your left hand and mezzoforte with your right. His advice was about getting a solid sound out of an upright, but applied to fretted electric, the result is zero fret buzz.
  15. fretster

    fretster Advanced Beginner

    Nov 27, 2005
    Moraga, California
    founder, AceNote Inc.
    I've been struggling with fret clack too. I have found that the direction that my plucking finger is moving when it hits the next string has a lot to do with it. Pulling across horizontally gets less clack then pulling across and down. It's hard to avoid the downward part. Practice!

    I've also found that if I hit or swat at the string, there's way more clack than if I carefully park my finger on the string before plucking. Also practice!

    There's one more thing, that was an A-Hah! moment when I figured it out: the amount of pressure on the left hand fretting the next string has some impact here. Plucking a note on the D string, the plucking finger pulls through to the A. If it happens that I'm holding down a note on the A string with the left hand I get more clack than if I let up on the left finger on the A string. I instinctively leave the left hand fingers in place as long as I can. But lifting up a little mutes them a little bit and reduces clack. This is going to take a lot of practice.
  16. Kurosawa, many thanks for the link you PM'd. Most appreciated.