Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by Berberdeng, Jun 22, 2020.

  1. Berberdeng

    Berberdeng Supporting Member

    Jan 26, 2020
    Machesney Park IL
    :help:Maybe y’all can help me unscramble my brain here. Just looking for some insights and opinions.

    I’m trying to determine if I should switch strings, action, tension, or (gulp) technique.

    I use either Dr Hi Beams or DAddario...whatever nickel ones (sorry can’t think of the name. I think the bottom string was 120)

    I play very heavy fingerstyle. No slap. It’s the most comfortable for me. I try to have a light touch but when I’m playing really fast I can’t help but hit those strings with the force of a thousand waterfalls lol.

    I like having incredibly low action because I can’t play as fast when I have to press hard on the strings. I like the “floppy” feel of them the best. Absolutely can’t stand strings with no flex.

    The problem I run into is that I’m clacking all over the place. Pisses the sound guy off. Pisses me off when I need a clear tone. So I’m looking to be able to punch the hell out of the strings, keep them flexible, and still get a clear tone with little to no clack.

    How do I accomplish this? Should I consider stiffer strings? Tension? Heavier or lighter gauges? Nickel vs SS? Flat vs Round? High action less tension low action more tension actionstringtensionblahblah :help: :help: :help: :help:
  2. 4Mal

    4Mal Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    1. you need to learn to play with a lighter touch. This will help with the fret clack. More importantly, it will also add years to your playing life by not messing with your hands. Playing bass with bad hand technique inspires repetitive motion injuries. It isn't terribly different from running a jack hammer or industrial sewing machine or other mechanical stuff. Do it long enough and your hands suffer. I wish I had know this sooner...

    1a. This also permutes to your overall playing position, the height at which you wear your bass, etc. The weight of the instrument. The bio-mechanics pf our passion/affliction matter to our wrists, elbows, shoulders, lower back... I have a friend who is an orthopedic surgeon and guitarist. Another who is an occupational therapist who plays casually and listens live as much as possible. I have learned stuff from them. I met the OT while rehabbing an elbow from playing a bass that sounded amazing but had terrible geometry for me.

    At 65, I have learned to take this stuff seriously. Like I said, wish I had sooner...

    2. setup is key and it is a series of linked compromises. I personally like low action, light strings. I also have to play clean and deliberately. none of that thousand waterfalls crap...

    2a. It probably helps that in my case If I can't say it with 1/8th notes, it doesn't need to be said. I'd prefer saying it in 1/4, 1/2 or whole... personal style of trying to pare down to the fat juicy stufff and leave the fluff off...

    3.fret clack happens in a fairly narrow frequency band. That band varies with pickups, basses, fret mTerials, string materials. Get a great EQ (here a plug for the source audio prog Eq2) findthe band and surgically cut. Best bet is using a parametric with variable Q. You want a deep, steep notch, not some ham handed full octave kinda thing... now the FOH guy will be happy too.
    Eli_Kyiv, rollie 55, One Way and 11 others like this.
  3. NKBassman

    NKBassman Lvl 10 Nerd

    Jun 16, 2009
    Winnipeg, MB, Canada
    slightly higher action and higher string tension (or higher stiffness) will help to remove clack. Look for something in a hex core nickel-plated-steel type string.

    Also, pulling the string up (towards your face), VS hammering down on the string (towards the fret board) will help as well.

    Alternatively, you could also look at something like GHS Pressurewound strings, which have a very round-wound like tone, but way less zing.
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2020
    Guild B301 likes this.
  4. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    I had the same thing going on for 15 years of gigging. Tried to change, but couldn't. Adrenaline kind always won the battle and had its way with me. Then I switched to short scale basses, and started playing in a corporate/wedding/club band where I couldn't click, clack and buzz all over the place. I got retrained quickly, and can't tell you how happy I am about that. My suggestion therefore is to keep things as they are and really commit to making it work, or even going in the opposite direction so you have to work even HARDER to not sound like garbage :) . I always used to fear I'd lose my edge if I learned to play more softly. That didn't happen. I can still dig in like a madman, only difference is I now have control over when I do. And trust me, that's a great feeling.

    If you choose NOT to work on your technique - then higher action, heavier strings, and nickel will help. Flats will help too, but flats are no fun :) .
    Zbass82, Ostie, Artman and 6 others like this.
  5. This may be a case where you're trying to "have the cake and eat it too".

    I used to be in the habit of playing harder than I needed to, constantly fighting with heavier, stiffer strings. At age 63, and after four trigger release surgeries in the last four years, I finally got to the point where I had no choice but to learn to play with lighter strings in an effort to be kinder and gentler to my battle-scarred hands. This meant learning to play with a lighter touch, which took some getting used to, but the result is all worth it as it made me a better player by being able to play more cleanly and accurately.

    I personally don't like strings that are too flexible and "floppy" as I need a certain degree of firmness under my plucking fingers without being uncomfortably stiff for the left hand for fretting. So, I tend to go for hex-core strings of relatively light gauges set up with a medium-low action.
    RumbleBot, Low Crow, 4Mal and 2 others like this.
  6. Berberdeng

    Berberdeng Supporting Member

    Jan 26, 2020
    Machesney Park IL
    Yeah, I know hammering the strings isn’t the best technique. It’s so fun to play that way lol. So I was hoping I could compromise. It’s really hard for me to get the big thumps when I play light. I’ve tried. It just sounds like I take all the oomph out of each note. This is also why I don’t like playing with a pick. There’s always room for improvement, so I’ll take your suggestions to heart and get back to practicing!
  7. Berberdeng

    Berberdeng Supporting Member

    Jan 26, 2020
    Machesney Park IL
    Still I do want to switch up my strings. I’ll take all the opinions and suggestions I can get on that. I want something with clarity but not too bright, something that will compliment the PJ fender tone, and something where I can get some growl. Maybe I should try stiffer strings but I just don’t want to have to press really hard on the frets.
  8. GIBrat51

    GIBrat51 Innocent as the day is long Supporting Member

    Tone Twins 4.JPG Carvin LB-20 1.JPG ^^THIS^^ A whole lot... IMO, I have to agree; your problem is that you're trying to have your cake and eat it, too. I have my two Ricks set up in the classic Rick manner; very straight neck, and super low string height. Yeah, I can play fast - even with a pick - and, also in the classic Rick manner, I get fret buzz when I want it. But... that needs a very light touch. I have to play them differently from all my other basses to do it, and "digging in" on the Tone Twins is just asking for trouble - and a lot of unpleasant noise. If I want to play hard (and sometimes I do), then I pick up a different bass. My Carvin LB-20 loves being played hard - so, it's set up very differently from the Ricks; a lot more curve in the neck, and the string height is raised quite a bit. Bottom line? If you want really low action? You'll have to adjust your playing style - period. If you want to play really hard? Raise your basses action - period. Sorry, but Life is like that, sometimes...:meh:
    Eli_Kyiv and Low Crow like this.
  9. Berberdeng

    Berberdeng Supporting Member

    Jan 26, 2020
    Machesney Park IL

    *sigh* it is a sad cruel world where I can’t play like crap and sound good lol :crying:
  10. NKBassman

    NKBassman Lvl 10 Nerd

    Jun 16, 2009
    Winnipeg, MB, Canada
    I know exactly what you mean. I played that way for years and it's a great tone. Have you tried turning your amp up, or EQing in the sound you want while playing with a lighter touch?

    I think you owe it to yourself to at least try a stiffer set of strings. And I mean really try it... commit to playing them for a few weeks before you make any decisions on which way you want to go. You may find you get use to them after a few days. Your bass will likely need a setup if you're increasing string tension, at which point you should also adjust the bridge saddles to eliminate as much clack as possible while maintaining the action at a tolerable level.

    In my experience, stiffer strings does not make any difference to the left (fretting) hand at all. Right hand yes certainly, but I'd be shocked if you noticed it on your fretting hand.
    Berberdeng likes this.
  11. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Yep, could try higher tension. Could raise your action or lower your pickups if that is an option but you may not like that feel. What if you spend a few minutes of your practicing focused on your right hand? Maybe try playing unbearably slowly to trick yourself into a softer touch for a few minutes? Then over time you may increase your awareness of the harder attack which may replace the habit eventually.
  12. JW56789

    JW56789 Guest

    Feb 18, 2017
    So far in my experience (which includes my first 5 or so years of gigging in LOUD bands where I routinely BROKE strings from playing too damn hard), there is a parallel whereby the easier you play the lower action you can have, and the opposite, if you're whanging away on it, it's going just have to be higher. Strings may help just a tiny bit, but the real problem is your technique. Period. You can either ease up and let those knobs marked GAIN, MASTER GAIN, and so on do the work, or you're stuck where you are.

    Pick One.

    My advice would be IF you want to experiment with strings, go to something with a hex core, they tend to be stiffer feeling than round core strings, but there is no 'magic string' that's going to fix your problem. None.

    My best advice would be to take a new set of strings and your bass to a professional, first-class guitar repairman, and tell him you need a setup for the way you play. An experienced tech will correct relief, double check the nut and all the frets, see if there's any twist, does the neck need shimming, etc. If he's really good, after he's done this, he'll ask you to play it in front of him, and tweak it to fit you exactly. And once it's there, it's up to YOU.

    You want this done by an experienced professional, not the kid on the Repair Desk at Guitar Center or somebody's cousin that 'works on gee-tars'. Look for the guy that the pro players use where you live; they're depending on that guy to get it right so they can make their living. If you're in a big city, a free-standing shop that may be a Warranty Station for the major guitar companies. You want the guy where it's not his 'first rodeo'.

    (The ONLY real exception I know of to the Beat A Low Action Bass Hard: Alembic tells stories of the many axes they built for the late John Entwistle of The Who. Any vid you watch will show you he did not play lightly. Alembic, after the bass was finished, would set it up to a DEAD straight neck with an impossibly low clearance over the fingerboard. Virtually unplayable by mere mortals, yet the several times John was in NorCal to pick up a new one, he'd sit down, and play cleanly with no noise, except when he'd dig in to get rattle as an effect. Couple this that he'd play with the filters fairly wide open into amp rigs with lots of high mids and treble to get that 'Clavinet on Steroids' tone you can get with an Alembic, it was un-Earthly.)
    mikewalker, NKBassman and scuzzy like this.
  13. mattj1stc

    mattj1stc Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2009
    Dallas, TX USA
    I have a heavy touch too. I use fairly heavy gauge strings on my 5 string, which is a 35 inch scale. Specifically, I used the Kalium balanced set with the .150 B string. This allows me to play closer to the neck with low action and generate a fuller sound without clank in most situations. When I do find myself clanking, it’s almost always because I’m not being mixed correctly and can’t hear myself properly, so I’m digging in extra hard to try to compensate. In these cases, solving the problem requires an adjustment to the mix. It may not always be your fault.
    jkazam and Berberdeng like this.
  14. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    I have the same issue. As much as I try to lighten my touch, adrenalin will rule the moment some times. The clack is one reason I don't enjoy fretted basses, but they are a necessary evil because I do vocal work and need to have room for a little less fretting precision.

    I notice that it doesn't present as much when I roll off the tone (passive P bass), but I've recently started enjoying the other end of the tone spectrum, so ultimately raised my action on a couple of strings (was having the worst problems on the A and D strings - 5 stringer) a smidge to get through. It still happens occasionally, but not as bad as it was.

    It takes time, but I believe lighter technique is ultimately the best solution here. If you have spare instruments, raise your production bass action for now, but practice on a bass with very low action and focus on light touch. This kind of technique change will take along time to correct (it is for me anyway), so don't be impatient.
  15. Could always do like John Entwistle and just make the heavy touch and a bit of the clankiness you get part of your sound. Just make sure you don't drive yourself deaf like he did.
  16. scuzzy


    Feb 15, 2006
    Troy, MO
    If you play with a heavy touch and low action, heavier strings won't make a bit of difference, other than frustrate you because they don't bend like lights. They will still clack if you smack em. This will take an action or technique adjustment.
    Vinny_G likes this.
  17. scuzzy


    Feb 15, 2006
    Troy, MO
    I would get a straight neck as far as relief is concerned, so the lower fretting will be as comfortable as possible. Then I would raise the string height at the bridge so you aren't getting fret slap around the last frets. And if you dig in a bit closer to the bridge, string excursion will be a bit less, but will still have an aggressive sound without as much clack.
    DavC and JRA like this.
  18. Berberdeng

    Berberdeng Supporting Member

    Jan 26, 2020
    Machesney Park IL

    I will say that when I play at home the clacking is very minimum sounding, but when I’m plugged into the PA at gigs it’s like all you can hear at first. Then the sound guy gets all bent out of shape and kills all the mids until the bass is just booming and thumping, no more growl. I am not blaming him entirely, but it is very frustrating. It’s a problem I’ve been trying to solve for a long time now. I use the same sound guy for every show and he runs sound for even national touring bands. But he’s always somehow caught off guard by my bass...Makes me feel like I suck that much more lol
    mattj1stc and JRA like this.
  19. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Gold Supporting Member

    i think you're seeing the writing on the wall, OP! :laugh:

    OTOH: if you can come with a technique and setup that lets you drink while the bass plays itself = call me! good luck with your compromises! :thumbsup:
    rollie 55 and Vinny_G like this.
  20. BarfanyShart


    Sep 19, 2019
    DC Metro
    Those Rotosound/Steve Harris flats are heavy flatwound strings, or any other heavy flat, that you can dig into with low action and straight neck. I feel like I played similarly to you when I was younger, and if I had known then what I know now, I would have tried out this kind of setup.
    Berberdeng likes this.