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Consistency of tone and attack between fingers

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by jazzyvee, Feb 22, 2016.

  1. jazzyvee


    Aug 11, 2012
    United Kingdom
    I play bass with fingers and have recently been given a set list for a gig I'm going to be standing in on. The band consists of acoustic guitarist, two vocalists, drums and bass.
    Now a lot of the bass line is primarily root notes, turnarounds an following the chords and really lush vocals nothing fast or complex but really well written and played songs.

    Now that I've started learning these songs i've noticed quite a difference in tone and attack between my first three plucking fingers on my right hand. Index finger has a stronger attack and a brighter tone even when played softly and the other two are mellow with less of an attack so when playing slow passages it's very noticeable if I play using alternate fingers.

    I've started using my 2nd and 3rd finger to keep the attack down on more mellow parts but I don't have the same dexterity with those fingers as with the 1st two. I'm presuming the difference is due to the hard skin on my fingertips and it's probably harder on the index finger because I also play guitar with a picks so probably become harder over the years from holding and playing with that between my finger and thumb. I could be wrong, and maybe someone can correct me on that thought.

    Any suggestions on how to even the tone and attack so that there is less of a difference between fingers will be greatly received. I have noticed this before but it has not been an issue before as the other things I play are, reggae so not much higher frequencies needed there or other genres where the notes are brighter anyway or move much quicker so it's not as up front there either.

    I do have a first rehearsal with the band this weekend and it may not be an issue for them and may not even hear it but on a personal level I'd like to know if i there is a way to even this out.
    mj_ likes this.
  2. Icemanaroonie


    Sep 6, 2015
    Practice, practice, and more practice. Evening out finger attack is one of the most unsexy things you can spend time doing as a bassist, but it's very important. Alternatively try playing with your thumb.
  3. There's no great secret, Icemanaroonie called it. The ability to adjust touch is something that just takes time.

    The only thing I can think of that might help is to raise your bass up a little. I have a lot more control with my right hand with my bass a little higher, but that may just be me.
  4. Slow it right down to 40 bpm.

    Get consistent volume AND tone working ONE finger at a time from one note to the next.
    eg. M M M M etc,
    Or R R R R etc.

    Same, but practice DYNAMICS over a minute or two.
    eg. soft - med - loud - med - soft.

    Then learn to swap fingers.
    eg I I I I M M M M R R R R etc.

    Then lastly alternate fingers with consistent tone & volume.
    Eg. I M R M I M R M etc.
    (Horses for courses, but I found this Steve Bailey method worked best for me).

    Same but with dynamics as above.

    It'll take a lot of concentrated practice to get it right. Practice wrong and you'll only reinforced bad technique.
  5. jazzyvee


    Aug 11, 2012
    United Kingdom
    Exactly, I'm a recent convert to bass being my main instruments so I want to deal with these things the right way. Thanks for all of your input, now where is the key to the woodshed?
    Groove Doctor likes this.
  6. Cuzzie

    Cuzzie Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2016
    James Jamerson pretty much only used his index finger

    Use a compressor to even out the levels
  7. jazzyvee


    Aug 11, 2012
    United Kingdom
    A compressor maybe able to help but I'd prefer to work on controlling this myself so it's not an option I want to consider at this stage. I assume the sound guys will put one in my channel anyway so out front it might be less noticeable in the mix.
    Geri O likes this.
  8. albertus


    Jan 26, 2016
    try working playing with very light touch, pianissimo would say the classic world. it's easy to equal the tone playing soft. when you get your sound even, then go playing harder step by step, but as someone said, no shortcuts, just practice time
    compressors are for lazy people
    hintz, Thumper19605 and SteveCS like this.
  9. rufus.K


    Oct 18, 2015
    Wrist angle?
  10. Cuzzie

    Cuzzie Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2016
    I wouldn't say compressors are for lazy people, I work as hard as I can playing every day as work, family allows and am aiming for quality of touch. The ability to vary your touch is essential, however, we are all human, playing live, adrenaline, nerves etc can alter your touch so compression is not all bad.

    I have it on slight boost and use it mainly when I am playing (trying to play) slap bass to even the attack.
    Sometimes I have to sing and bass at the same time and it's hard.

    Compression will even things out whilst we are learning our trade, and then you may never need to use it
    rufus.K likes this.
  11. tbplayer59


    Jan 20, 2013
    Go the Jamerson route. One finger.
    BawanaRik and TC424 like this.
  12. rufus.K


    Oct 18, 2015
    I don't us a compressor 95% of the time. But theyre times I do.
  13. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY
    That's why a lot of guys play w one finger. I worked very hard in my youth on two and three finger plucking. As I started to gig and record I realized how good one finger playing sounded. I now, if possible, play mostly w my first finger. Geddy Lee is a good example. Jameson was also a one finger player
  14. DavC

    DavC Supporting Member

    May 17, 2005
    Tallmadge , Ohio
    sounds like a lower volume gig ... i would think that those nuances your hear while practicing alone , wouuld probably get lost in the mix ..!?

    but it is something to think about while practicing ... maybe the callus is harder or thicker on your 1st finger !?
  15. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Fort Worth, Texas
    +1. It is the hardest thing to do. I agree with thumb technique for a softer attack, but I find it difficult to do because I haven't practiced enough.
  16. Afc70

    Afc70 Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2004
    Northeast Arkansas
    Gary Willis has some great instructional videos, u can find em on u2ube- he's an amazing player and excellent teacher- his videos stress right hand control, proper bass height, hand positioning, dynamics, etc... Great stuff
    hintz likes this.
  17. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    On bass guitar, my index finger produces a sharper attack than the middle finger. It's a matter of how much meat there is on each digit. I just use one or the other as the music calls for it. I also vary the picking spot for tone color as well. I don't obsess about it too much, though; no one has ever said anything to me on this subject in the 50 or so years I've been playing.
  18. Growlmonkee


    Jan 30, 2013
    Florida, U.S.
    I have a problem with even attack when my fingernails are not cut just right. It could be all in my head, but, I spend some time on them before every live show. I'm not talking about nails hitting the string, to me my attack changes too much if they are too long, or even if too short, I've gotten pretty good at getting them right over the years.
  19. EdwardofHuncote

    EdwardofHuncote I Still Dream of Jeannie Supporting Member

    Aug 21, 2013
    Southwest Virginia
    Jazzy, in very much the same way pick technique is coming to me, for a superior player like you, it's just a matter of time and practice. Sounds like this gig will be a little lower volume than you're accustomed to, so maybe a little bit easier to hear when to dig in or lighten up. Bonus.

    I experienced roughly the same curve when making the transition from upright to bass guitar. You'll get it, and I bet swiftly. :thumbsup:
  20. envy1400


    Feb 19, 2010
    Tulsa, Oklahoma
    If you have access to the necessary tools recording yourself to the metronome then zooming in a little on the wave forms is a good way to see your attack in a more concrete way. Obviously how it sounds comes first but it helps to be able to see it

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