Front pup or Rear pup??

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Usul, Mar 18, 2001.

  1. For all you bassmonsters that have two(or more) pups:Where do you plant your thumb when playing the E(B)string? I was always led to believe that the pup closest the neck is the best.Of course I have had (as yet)no formal education :( Just what I gleen from online.Is there a differance in sound depending on which pup you play at? I am sure there is but to my virgin ears(on my Ergodyne at least)I can not tell a differance. Just curious is all.....

  2. I like the neck pickup because I like to dig in. My action is fairly high off the fingerboard, so I don't buzz like crazy like you might (how high is your action?). Playing on the J by the bridge is harder because the strings don't have as much flexability back there. That can be a good thing, sometimes if I'm going crazy, I might rip a string right off that mofo, so playing by the bridge keeps the ol' fingers in check.

    There IS a sound difference in that normally the closer you get towards the bridge, the tighter it will sound, playing over the neck pickup is pretty good for general playing, playing by anchoring your thumg on the edge of the fingerboard is very round.
  3. ihixulu

    ihixulu Supporting Member

    Mar 31, 2000
    getting warmer
    Where you plant your thumb has more to do with the sound you're after than anything else. I play a StingRay 5 which only has one pickup so the obvious place to plant the thumb is pretty close to the bridge. Sometimes though, I want the mellower, close to the neck sound so I rest my thumb lightly on the B or E string......sometimes my hand is just floating over the strings not anchored an anything at all.

    If you're not hearing a difference in tone between the 2 pickups you might not be plucking hard enough.
  4. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    A good example of the differences/importance of where YOU decide to plant your thumb.
    Using one player as an example-
    1)Jaco's growling fretless tone-
    ...he was playing over the neck pickup.

    2)Jaco's classic fingerfunk/staccato tone-
    ...he was playing back by the bridge pickup.

    Usul("bass of the pillar")-
    Don't lock yourself into ONE position; always experiment. Sometimes, I'm plucking up over the neck!
    As Pasty said, the strings don't have as much "flexibility" back by the bridge; IMO, it is here where one can really dig can also "dig in" over the neck pickup, too. It is here one can get a Stanley Clarke-esque thing goin; plucking hard over the neck pickup will (usually)yield a popping tone.
    Experiment & have fun...
  5. Usul, this isn't exactly what you were asking, but it may help (certainly it will give you more freedom to attack the strings anywhere along their length you desire). I don't "plant" my thumb anywhere, I "float" it. It rests lightly on the lowest string except when I'm playing that string. Then I let the tip of my thumb barely touch down on the bass body. My thumb just serves as a spatial reference.

    See if you can get away from "planting" any part of your hand whether picking or playing fingerstyle. It'll give you big improvements in speed (especially in string crossings), stamina, and consistency of attack.

    This may sound strange at first, but keep reminding yourself that you slap just fine without planting anything (if you <i>could</i> plant some part of your hand while slapping, it would probably sound awful).

    After you've succeeded in transferring your right-hand workload away from your thumb, you will find instead of your hand having to change shape to move your hand across the strings, your forearm will take a role in relocating your fingers from the elbow.

    Your forearm will also become the point from which your fingers exert force against the strings, so instead of the forces traveling a path from the tip of your thumb to the tips of your fingers, they will travel from the tips of your fingers to your elbow.

    As your hand becomes relieved of extraneous functions, you will realize how overloaded it once was, and you will find your hand doing things with a speed and fluidity you previously thought impossible, and you will be able to do it 5 sets in a row if need be without tiring.

    This will take time. Don't become discouraged. It took you a long time to build your present habits into your muscle memory. It will take just as long to learn new ones. I learned all this by reading Carol Kaye's explanation of how not to anchor the hand while picking (in her book <i>Personally Yours),</i> and once nailed, it transferred over to fingerstyle with no trouble at all.
  6. Yes, it matters a whole lot where you attack the string. To get the max attack out of any pickup, you want to release the string right over the pickup. At the instant you release it, the string's maximum degree of travel is attained--and right there at the spot where you release it with your finger. If you want the most authoritative possible attack for your note, here is where you want to have your fingers.

    Waves of force from your attack will travel up and down the string from the point where you released it, bounce off the bridge and nut, and go up and down until the two waves (the one that started out going up-string and the one that started out going down-string) even out. At this point, in the sustained part of the note, the string's excursion is greatest right in the middle of the vibrating length and it doesn't matter where you released it.

    But it's the attack we're concerned with. Lots of people play endlessly with their EQ to try to get an authoritative sound when it's really an attack problem (by the way, as far as finger effort is concerned, it doesn't take much, just good focus).

    If you want to soften the attack, maybe for a ballad, move your fingers away from the pickup towards the center of the length of string you want to play. This will give you a more hollow sound with a soft "doom, doom" kind of attack.

    Personally, I don't have much use for the sound of strings attacked between the pickup and the bridge. My ear finds it somehow lacking. But there are tons of useful sounds everywhere between right on top of the pickup and midway on the vibrating run of string.
  7. I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you, but how does using extra movement increase speed in string crossings?
  8. Sorry, don't understand. What extra movement?
  9. Moving your thumb to the next string. Like when you are playing the E string, you said your thumb was on the pickup, what if the next note is on the G string (don't laugh)? Isn't that long way to move your thumb?
  10. Thanks for the advice guys! :)

    Kurosawa,I do use the "floating thumb" technique.I justed started doing it(string ringing was getting to be a prob.)Now the only time my finger is off the E string is when I am playing it."Plant" and "anchor" ,these words I used are a little misleading.Actually I apply almost none(if any)pressure to the pup when my thumb is on it.I see what you are getting at though and I will work towards that end!

  11. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    ...the "floating thumb" method(placing the thumb on the string below the actual string being played) allows the player to maintain the same hand/fingers angle. This consistency should provide more "speed"(?).
    Personally, I haven't spent much time with it; I'm pretty "OK" with my plucking hand as is(my fretting hand SUCKS!).

    There was a guy from this area that I dug a lot(back in the '70s)...Benny Bialy. He had the Jaco-Funk thing goin' on & this was back in the early '70s. Anyway, he played a late '50s P-bass; I have actually held/played this bass...he had planted his thumb on the body(between th pickup & bridge)so hard/often, he had actually "dug a hole" into the wood! Man!

    ...are you some kinda scientist or physicist? ;)
    Good stuff! I especially like your comments about EQ-ing vs. one's technique...
    (And thanks for your advice regarding my habit of breaking strings; just yesterday, I broke the D on my main bass).
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I agree with Kurosawa's points almost completely - especially about the "tone" thing - I almost never change my EQ settings and use right hand technique to change the sound.

    But if "floating thumb" is planting your thumb on a string - this isn't really "floating" to me? I just tend to leave my thumb pointing downwards, lying across the lower strings and muting them - that's when I'm not using it to play the lower strings or for false harmonics etc. This to me, is more of a "floating" thumb concept - what Jim describes to me is "planting" but on a string; whereas I never "plant" at all. So what would you call a technique like mine, where the thumb is constantly in use, but never planted?
  13. Well JimK, thanks for your explanation. I guess having it float would be good (if you are used to it ;) ), but what I was saying is what if you are playing a G on the E string, then you have to jump to a C on the G string, and you can't have a break in the 32nd notes (just making this up as I go along), wouldn't that be sorta akward to move your whole hand?

    PS I'm not saying it's a bad technique.
  14. Kurosawa - most eloquent, I've enjoyed reading and will try out your ideas as soon as I can.

    You've brought a few things that I just "know" or assume on some level back into conscious focus, and made sense of the whole "tone changing with plucking zone" thing; it's basically a product of the cancellation of waves out of phase, right? Or is this too simplistic?

    Your technique pointers make sense too. Looking forward to trying them out. One of the things i have to do, both with a pick and also fingers, is break out of playing in the same "zone" on the strings for a whole song (or set:) )

    Bruce - if Kurosawa's technique is "floating thumb" (It's definitely not planted, as it gives him the scope to move freely and fluidly along the strings' length) - perhaps yours is "weather balloon thumb"?

    Sputnik thumb?

    Kurosawa & others: I'd be interested to hear your ideas on plucking strength, and it's effects on speed, tone, etc. How hard do you recommend plucking? Is plucking hard a good excercise for plucking softly (to build up speed and stamina) or just bad practice?

  15. ThePaste: I'm not really a super-competent fingerstyler (no 32nds yet anyway) but i'll try to help. ..?

    If you keep your thumb on the E when on A/D/G strings and above the E when on A/E (when on A you can go either way, depending on where you're coming and going) , you keep your wrist straighter and right hand at the same angle, and the fingertips a similar distance from the thumb, so your attacks are more consistent.

    Same hand shape = consistency = good.

    As to how it pans out playing 32nds or 512ths goes ... you tell me? I'm curious.
  16. There's no rigidity to the thumb, it just tells you where you are like a cat's whiskers.

    I typed a thing about <a href="">fret buzz</a> on epinions that sooner or later touches on attack. You'll have to wade through lots of extraneous stuff to get there, it's a very poorly-constructed post.

    Anyway, focused attack doesn't have much to do with hitting the strings hard. Actually, if you hit them too hard, you can lose focus. Your signal can run out of headroom before it even gets to the amp.
  17. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999

    ...Alphonso Johnson does the same thing; have you ever seen him play?
  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I've heard him on CDs, but I've never seen a video of his playing or been aware that he's been in a band touring the UK.

    I was just wondering what this technique is called and I think of it as more of a "floating" thumb idea than one where you are planting your thumb on the strings for leverage.

    I do tend to use my thumb a lot in my playing, so I always need it ready and don't feel comfortable having it in a fixed place or sitting on strings - it's really always doing something - whether it's muting or plucking the two lower strings.
  19. dunno- maybe that's "thumb trailing"?

    most of the time I anchor my thumb on the top of the P p/up, or on the E, A or D strings to mute them.
    plucking over the end of the fingerboard yields a double bass- like sound, and is good on my acoustic fretless with flatwounds.

    plucking over the bridge p/up is good for getting harmonics, or for getting that stingray sound when I run the bridge p/up on its own in parallel or series mode.

    I like to pluck as firmly as is possible without the string hitting the frets for rock lines, so I find it helps to have the thumb firmly anchored.

    I change the attack by varying the angle of my fingertips- at right angles to the bass for more attack.
  20. That angle thing is very cool.