Do you seek resistance with your basses?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Low_NF, Feb 25, 2022.

  1. Low_NF


    Nov 21, 2020
    Obviously, no one likes basses with horrible playability, but is there such a thing as a bass that's "too playable"?

    I have seen this culture with guitar players that prefer to "fight" with their guitar, whether it's from string gauges, neck shapes/radius, action height, etc and was wondering how common it is among bass players?
  2. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Depends on what I'm playing. Hard rock riffs often feel / sounds better to me played hard, with heavy gauge strings and action that's not too low.
    rufus.K, bobyoung53, NathOBX and 7 others like this.
  3. 4SG


    Mar 6, 2014
  4. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Yes! I think I use different terminology, but we're saying the same thing.

    I need a bass that REACTS to my playing. I need a bass I can get PHYSICAL with.

    I once owned a beautiful Mike Lull. I never could bond with it because no matter how hard or soft I played every note sounded identical. It's as if a compressor was on that bass. I couldn't stand it.
  5. Lesfunk

    Lesfunk Bootlegger guitars : S.I.T. Strings Supporting Member

    Apr 5, 2007
    Florida USA
    Resistance is futile…
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  6. I have often felt (quietly) that I really bonded with instruments much more that "fought back" when I'm really playing with a lot of dynamics, especially live. I like the term you used (reacts) in describing it. I find that I'm a better player when I have that physical, reactionary relationship with such an instrument.
    The Diaper Geni, fig and two fingers like this.
  7. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Gold Supporting Member

    i don't want to fight with the instrument (e.g., your guitar player examples). but pleasant surprises are OK.

    best bass = plays the gig for me, packs itself up, collects the money, brings it home to me, and fetches a cold beer for both of us! :D
  8. JW56789

    JW56789 Guest

    Feb 18, 2017
    You have to remember that setup needs to be 'scaled' to the particular player. Essentially, the lower the action, the lighter touch is required for it to play cleanly. For guys that really play hard (and I'm one of them at times), the action needs to be set for them, maybe a bit higher than some would like, but perfect for them.

    Alembic always tells the stories for the basses they built for Entwistle, they'd set them up dead-straight with action you could barely gage with a cigarette paper. Unplayable for most any mortal human being, yet when he'd pick it up or they delivered it to him, he'd just fly on it.

    This is how things can vary from player to player, and a good setup always needs to be just right for YOU.
  9. pbass2

    pbass2 Supporting Member

    Jan 25, 2007
    Los Angeles
    There is something to it. I have med-smallish hands, and I play differently on my 1.75" width P with heavy flats than I do on my Jazz with rounds, and even more so on something like my shorty Jerry Jones. On the P, it forces me to articulate and play very cleanly--I like how it being "harder" to play makes me play. How I move from one note to the next, etc. I believe some of that effect translates to the listener too, perhaps it's a subconscious thing--think of upright bass, how physically demanding it is. I think that can be felt by the listener.
    Iristone, CTW68 and Low_NF like this.
  10. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    IMHO, playability involves balancing the tension against the amount of force you like to use (touch). Touch varies from person to person. Too much tension and you will fatigue more quickly and may not be able to play as fast. Not enough tension and you have to artificially lighten your touch. This can degrade your ability to play cleanly, and also limit how fast you can play. Either way you are fighting with the instrument IMHO.

    Normally you vary your touch over the dynamic range of the instrument. With an acoustic instrument the amount of force you use is related to how loud you need to play. In this application, to some degree the preferred tension is whatever gives the instrument the most volume. There is a balance here as well.

    With an electric instrument, you can use gain to set your volume. This allows you to optimize tension VS touch. Tone is also a consideration here.

    As example. I switched between upright and electric bass throughout my career. I almost always used an amp with the upright. My approach was to let the amp do the work so I had a relatively low tension setup that was optimized more for my touch. In the event the job entailed playing acoustically, I would most likely need to increase the tension and build more strength to get more volume out of the instrument.

    I live in a region where the relative humidity swing are pretty drastic from winter to summer. The neck on my #1 BG tends to move around a bit in response to these changes. I feel a difference in the playability of the bass and also hear a difference in the tone and shape of the note envelope when the string height starts getting out of the preferred range.

    There is no universally correct answer to the question, how much tension is ideal? It depends on the player, the instrument, and the playing situation.
    Tim Skaggs and Starthief like this.
  11. luciens


    Feb 9, 2020
    The short answer is no.
    The long answer is as follows:

  12. Afc70

    Afc70 We’re only immortal for a limited time Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2004
    Northeast Arkansas
    Personally, I’m in the Gary Willis camp of low action and light touch, (it gives you a bigger dynamic range as well) I never have liked “fighting” an instrument- for me, with low action and a light touch, it’s easy for me to relax and be comfortable and the music just flows out without resistance.. This approach obviously doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s so much easier this way for me.
    Hawk256, Bunk McNulty and HolmeBass like this.
  13. Not I. I spent years having to pound the %*!*^ out of a Fender Jazz to get a decent sound out of it and wound up with tendinitis and repetitive stress injuries.

    Now I want the softest, easiest playing bass in the world, albeit with medium low action (not the absolute lowest) because old habits die hard and when I get excited - or the drummer gets excited and tom-happy- I still can dig in a bit too much.
  14. chadds


    Mar 18, 2000
    For me the ideal bass winds up and pushes back when I push it and becomes at ease and nuanced immediately when I use a light gentle touch.

    Good question!
  15. Esteban Garcia

    Esteban Garcia bassist, arranger, aelurophile Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2018
    Portland, OR
    No. I prefer playing with a light touch, but I don't play rock. I can see where heavy handed players would want higher action and stiffer strings.
    Afc70 likes this.
  16. Medicine Man

    Medicine Man

    Apr 10, 2015
    Yes, i like high (well medium, but high for you guys) action and heavy strings. It doesnt stop you from playing with a light touch, but sometimes i need to dig in to get the point across.
  17. Mostly, no. For regular fretted bass, I get stupid low action and let the amp do the loudening work. I don't find any timbral advantage on electric that I can get from pickup height, dirt, or gain staging.

    I don't on electric guitar either.

    But I am not 100% that way. I have two basses setup for an old school vibe, where I want zero buzz even playing fff. Still, I get it as low as I can for that.

    Acoustics are a whole other story of course. I certainly will deal with action and string gauge as high as needed to get them to sound good.
    Low_NF and legalbass like this.
  18. No. I prefer a bass that plays like butter. The easier the better, IMO.

    * No butter was harmed in this post.
  19. legalbass


    Jul 2, 2020
    Answering this yes-or-no question -- "is there such a thing as a bass that's 'too playable'?" -- requires a definition of "playable" which the OP alludes to but does not supply, so this is a pretty flawed conversation to being with.

    Assuming OP intends "playable" to mean, a bass guitar with minimal relief and low action (such as requires a relatively light plucking style) then yes such a bass guitar would not be optimally set up for someone who likes to really dig in. I think just about all of us would arrive at that conclusion.
  20. Ricky Rioli

    Ricky Rioli

    Sep 29, 2020
    When I changed from a TRBX (narrow nut, shallow neck) to a BB (not so narrow nut, MUCH thicker neck) I really enjoyed how it much me play more deliberately - I felt my articulation improved hugely as a result.

    I guess that comes within the OP's parameters?
    bobyoung53 likes this.