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Do any of you have this problem....

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by sumrnitz, Aug 26, 2005.

  1. sumrnitz


    Aug 7, 2005
    .....that you just don't like the sound you get unless you play really hard on the strings? No matter what bass I play, or what amp I play, if I want to get a decent growl I just have to play wayyyy too hard. It gets really rough on the fingers. My left hand index finger feels jammed up some times because of the huge amounts of hammering and pull off's I do. I've been playing for quite a long time like this. I've always heard that if you can play with a lighter touch it'll increase your speed. So I try that...and then the music doesn't sound good. I've tried cranking pre-amps, power amps, massive eq changes, changing the way I wear my bass, heavier strings, lighter strings, etc. $4000 dollar basses....$40 dollar basses....P/J/. active passive soapbar.....and on and on but the only way I get the right sound is playing to the point of pain after 10-15 songs. At least I don't have newbie blisters. This is really wierd but the best growl I get is playing a cheapie, warm-up setup of an Ibanez EX404 through a Peavey Basic 60 that I've had 15-18 years. :eyebrow: I'm building a jazz now with much better, growlier specs. I hope this makes it a little better.
    Is this a hopeless situation?
    Thanks for listening to my dribble.
  2. AGCurry


    Jun 29, 2005
    Kansas City
    It's not a problem. You just like bad tone. And pain.
  3. sumrnitz


    Aug 7, 2005
    Well...now....I hope I can help you with a problem too one day there Sparky. That was a useless response. :mad:

    Any mature people out there wanna try and help?
  4. Ostinato

    Ostinato Guest

    Feb 7, 2005
    Toronto ON
    Hmmm...maybe it's your finger technique that's giving you trouble. Best suggestion is EXPERIMENT. Try a different hand position (over the strings, as opposed to something you use now). Try different note lengths, long tones, short tones etc...spend a whole evening just plucking with different parts of your fingers, light, heavy staccato etc.

    I had this problem when I was starting out too. Try a variety of techniques and don't worry about gear. It's all in the fingers, baby. ;)
  5. Trevorus


    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    You can adjust the pickups up to get them closer to the strings, and play pretty much right over the bridge pickup and get a really growly sound. Other than that, a pedal with a slight overdrive might be the ticket. Oh, and for growl, mids are your friend. Particularly low-mids.
  6. experiment with using a pick
  7. Trevorus


    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    I also do this. It's wierd, after playing with a pick for a couple of weeks, I almost forgot how to use my fingers the other way...
  8. sumrnitz


    Aug 7, 2005
    Great suggestions. What's bad is I've been playing professionally for 20 years this way and was blaming it on "That's just my style". But as I get older and the index finger talks to me a little more each time its made me realize that I've got some really bad habits that I need to un-learn. The mids on my practice amp and my stack are pretty cranked but I don't use any overdrive. That may be the ticket. Now that I think about it, i've been playing really hard on the strings to overdrive the pickups...that's just wrong. Come to think of it. All of the amps I've owned over the years never had an overdrive, even though I'd keep the pre-amp cranked like I do the mids. I have been eye balling an RBI lately :D
    It's kinda odd that alot of the growl I get is from the fretting hand and all of the hammers and pull-offs are wearing my fingers down. I do play aggressively with my right hand too: It's a combo of bad habits I'm sure. The right hand doesn't have much of a problem except sometimes my right index goes to sleep when playing my 6 string bass. I've narrowed that down to using a sharp angle on my wrist which cuts off the circulation. Problem solved there except when I forget I'm doing it. Changing strap positions helped there as well. I hammer soooo hard with the left hand that problems are developing.
    In the back of my head I've thought of maybe sitting down with an instructor and letting him watch what I'm doing but, I'd get into the groove of thinking "That'd be the end of my paying gigs when word got out that I was taking lessons...after all of these years of playing." That's also a wrong mentality.
    Great ideas folks. Many thanks!
    If there are more ideas I'd love to hear them.

  9. Trevorus


    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    Just figure out how to flatulate the notes along with your playing and mic it up. Then, if you want to be evil, switch it with the vocalists mic when he isnt looking. Make sure to have a camera for the bitter beer face thing he'll surely do.
  10. Thor

    Thor Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    I also use a lot of hammers and pull offs, and I am not having
    this problem. Apparently changing basses and pre-amps doesn't affect the outcome for you.

    Let's look at a couple of things. First of all, hammer ons and
    pull offs increase your speed radically. The thing is they
    lack 'attack'. Your rig is producing attack transients only on
    heavily attacked notes. As it pretty much should. More gain
    pre-amp wise could help.

    I find it very telling that you like your sound best on the
    'cheapie' rig. I am not familiar with the IBex404, but I find
    my best growl on the old Ibanez Roadster. I really doubt a
    'Jazz' of any kind is taking you where you want to go.
    Too clear. Too fluffy. You like a more vintage rock n roll bass.
    A Burns would probably be perfect for you. Or the right Lakland.

    Also, the old Peavey - THE AMP & SPEAKER combo is giving
    you the sound you want. So I suspect the solution will
    come from a combination of the speaker cabinet and the
    pre/power setup. But the cab I think is going to be 50%+ of
    the solution.

    I use Eden WT-300. The thread in my sig shows me building
    my cab, and discussion of its merits. Skim through the
    techno jargon and check towards the end of the second page.

    I can say that this cab has gotten me nothing but
    compliments on the growl, and I suspect we like the same
    kinds of sound.

    Having the cab and head well covered, and the right bass,
    I now sound this way at low volume, which is kicking major
    butt in my band.

    Hope that helps push you in the right direction, but - YOU
    said it.

    Or Mike /DI of the old PV. Why not?
  11. Thor

    Thor Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Also, let's talk about:

    What is your main rig now.

    What bass is your main bass?
  12. WalterBush


    Feb 27, 2005
    Yuma, Az
    Full disclosure, I'm a certified Fender technician working in a music store that carries Fender, Yamaha, and Ibanez products among others.
    I play the same way, yanking the strings so hard that they slap against the fretboard. I don't crank down with my left hand, though. I play Pizzacato DB quite a bit, too, and the two aren't even close--when I feel like I'll rip the strings off the electric, I'd just be getting decent volume out of the DB. I like the tone I get out of my electric this way, and although I can play softly, and it is faster, I don't feel comfortable doing it. I've been playing for nearly as long as you, and I don't feel pain just from playing.

    I know other DB guys who've been playing for decades, and don't have finger pains. It might be your technique, or it might be a more serious problem, and these are the early warning signs. Have you seen a doctor to make sure arthritis or something else isn't setting in?
  13. sumrnitz


    Aug 7, 2005
    Here's the line up:

    warwick covette 6
    brice hxb-406 natural
    fender american jazz 4 w active emg's (hate the pickups)
    Ibanez EX-404 (stock PowerSound "high distortion" pickups

    I've whittled down my set-up by quite a bit. It seems that some of the lower cost stuff is keeping me happy with the clean sounding stuff I do (thank God).

    Behringer BX-3000T head
    BA-210 2x10
    BA-115 1x15

    and the old standby which I mic for growl:
    Peavey Basic 60

    Now let me qualify this setup before comment. I totally realize that the aluminum cones and the Behringer head in general is not a growly set-up. This is for the cleaner songs that my band does and I mainly use the Brice or Warwick on it. It can growl a touch when using the low end Ibanez and gets me by when I need it to. But I don't use it for the edgier sounds because it's not a good match for that. It does do a crystal clear tone and has plenty of headroom for a little 300watt and makes a great modern tone. I get flack over this but, I'm a Behringer bass amp fan for a clean tone.

    When looking for an all-purpose amp, I haven't found it yet.
    Before I bought the Behringer 3/4 stack I tried Hartke and GK setups with paper cones. The Hartke was a fullstack with a 4x10 /1x15 and the GK was a 4x10 with a 1001 head if memory serves. They sounded good, especially when I pounded the strings but when I played the cleaner stuff with the brice and warwick the behringer won out. The Ibanez sounded decent here. Closer to the Peavey but the clarity, when needed, was sorely lacking for my situation(so I dont offend: they were good amps too).
    I've not gotten a chance to try any of the high gain ampeg or swr's. Maybe the growl without the finger damage is there, but the funds for such a setup is not.
    Like I said in an earlier post, I have been thinking about the RBI
    pre-amp. I really dig the Geddy Lee and Chris Squire tones. This might help but I'd need a paper cone set-up to round it out.

    I used to use a Peavey 8x10 with a Mark IV head. No punch, but it was well worn and abused. Actually used the Basic 60 to pre-amp this one a time or two. Sounded better but not outstanding.
    Used a mid 70's silverface Fender head and matching 4x10 while playing in a Jazz band. Don't remember the models but I remember the tone being lifeless.
    Early days I used the 60 stacked on a TKO 75. It worked for the garage bands back in the day but I don't miss it.

    Basses I've tried: To try both the Geddy lee and Chris Squire tones I chose accordingly.I really like the Geddy Lee bass. That bass with a touch more drive from the pickups would be great. I tried Rickenbacker. That was a rauncy sounding bass but I hated the neck. Tried several Yamaha's, older Kramers, Washburns, Charvels, Zon, Spector, a few P basses old and new
    , Thunderbird, EB0, OLP (actually not that bad) and I'm sure there are others.

    The only way I get close to my sound is playing too hard. And it's taking it's toll I guess.
  14. I too am often a fan of the "growl" of which you speak. The easiest way to get it, as someone mentioned earlier is with an overdrive pedal, for me the best one i've played is the Boss Blues Driver, you can get from a little twinge to a whole lot of growl as you see fit, but overall its much more growl than fuzz. The other way one can do it is to actually overdrive the amp itself a bit. I personally have an Ashdown which has both input and output volume controls, I'll often pump the input control so that more stuff goes through the amp, you can also do this with the speaker but my intuition tells me its quite bad for it. The other way is to learn how to get more power without playing as hard. I have been able to do this by learning how to play DB, now I often play the strings so hard that I often would break strings (until I, for other reasons, tuned down to Eb, Ab, Db, Gb) without any exess tension or pain. I would also suggest tuning in down a half step as the strings vibrate more freely and will often get closer to the pickups, causing growl.
    One guy who, as far as I know, didn't use any overdrive but had a real growly sound, when he wanted, was Billy Cox (Hendrix's bassist post Electric Ladyland). He used the combination of the last two suggestions (tuning down and more powerful technique) and had one of my personal favorite sounds.
  15. TomAngelripper


    Aug 30, 2005
    i used to play very hard with my fingers because i rarely use an amp but now i play normally!!Don't know why though!!