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Getting physical with your bass

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by nonsqtr, May 5, 2004.

  1. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    How many of you play what you'd consider a "physical" style of bass? Do you whack on the strings really hard in the heat of a gig, or do you try to control it and keep things gentle?

    For those of you who like basses you can get physical with, what are the essential properties of the bass?

    For example, I like a bass that's heavy enough to stay put when it gets whacked around, or at least come back to rest in the right position. A Steinberger doesn't work for me for that reason, 'cause it's too light.
  2. lbanks


    Jul 17, 2003
    Ennui, IN USA
    I don't like to whack my ax; I prefer to stroke/lick/and rub it....[​IMG]
  3. I have developed a sort of thwacking style of slap as the lead singer in my band is always scared that I might start slapping and thus make us sound like an early 90s RHCP's rip off band. It's kind of taking the Doug Wimbish 'Flamenco slap' thing of hitting the strings with your fingers (as opposed to you thumb) but I can end up patting the E string in a seriously physical way.

    The effect is massive (especially through a big PA) and looks impressive too - but is almost like an anti-slap style. It's almost like the kind of way your hand might stirke a bongo or hand percussion - you can still bounce your hand a la a traditional slap style - but this just creates a serious jump on volume - I'd bet it sounds awesome on a low B.
  4. robe


    Oct 19, 2003
    i consider myself a pretty intense, hard slapper. Probably cos i'm into the older chili albums.
  5. CJK84


    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH
    I rarely slap - usually only as the last note of a song where a big, percussive tone sounds good. When I do, however, I slap fairly hard - again, it's to put special emphasis on that final note.

    In general, though, I try not to get physical with the bass because I have a hard time backing down. Overexertion is a problem for me.

    I have to constantly remind myself to stay relaxed or I will tighten up and my hands will eventually begin to hurt and then control and speed are problems.

    Wish I could be more physical, but right now I have to play with a light touch.
  6. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I try to keep my physical approach releaxed, and use just the ammount of force necessary. My slap and fingerstyle volumes are the same, and I never need a compressor.
  7. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    About as physical I get is when I'm doing some serious whammy bar action. That is necessarily pretty intense; there's about 4 inches worth of motion getting that thing really moving.

    No compressors for me either. Keep things relaxed and you won't have to worry about being sore the next morning.
  8. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Intense doesn't necessarily mean heavy handed. I have a fairly hands on, visceral approach but I'm aiming to dance with the bass rather than fight against it. Light gauge strings, a light touch, and moving all over the place :D

  9. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
  10. kaboom133


    Oct 19, 2001
    Latrobe PA
    I beat the heck out of my bass. I really like an agressive sound, and this gets it for me. I string my bass with GHS "telepone wire" heavy gauge strings, and I practically punch it at times.
  11. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. In the studio, I tend to be very gentle. That way I get precision and I can carefully control the sound. But live, I tend to beat the heck out of my bass. It's not necessarily deliberate, it just happens that way. :)

    kaboom133, what kind of action are you using with the heavy strings? Do you have it set up pretty high?
  12. +2

    Larry Graham is considered one of the best slap stylists out there and if you watch him play, you can see that he doesn't hit very hard; his thumb dances on the strings in a very controlled manner. Because of this control and grace he gets very fat yet precise tones. Of course, he has to hit the strings hard enough to get the right dynamics, but he doesn't pound on the strings by any means.
  13. adam on bass

    adam on bass Supporting Member

    Feb 4, 2002
    New Braunfels, Texas
    Endorsing Artist: Spector, GK, EMG and D'Addario
    I go nuts. I can't see any other way to put it. I feel what I am playing and I want people to see that. People are focusing on the slap portion of physical. I play with the same intensity with my finger and tap technique and well. Basses are ment to be played not hung on a wall to look at. I know several of my counterparts in town that are amazed I treat my basses like I do. They aren't cheap-eez either.

    Play the way you feel and it'll work out.
  14. I keep my physical exertion to a minimum. I don't move around much on stage, and I play usually play really light.
  15. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!"....

  16. kaboom133


    Oct 19, 2001
    Latrobe PA
    Well, when I first strung it with the heavy strings, the action was incredably high. One week, and many truss rod turns later, I got it under control. Now, it's not the lowest in the world, I don't like the strings resting on the fretboard like some do, but it's pretty low. The fairly low action and heavy strings make for some awesome sounding slides. :)
  17. Fliptrique


    Jul 22, 2002
    Szczecin, Poland
    Endorsing Artist: Mayones Guitars&Basses, Taurus Amplification

    i cannot play good without moving around, making silly faces, standing on one leg (?????) etc. etc. - i would say that my playing style is very physical, but i do not play hard... i can pluck the strings hard, but it`s still relaxed and almost under control... :)
  18. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    I hear that, loud and clear. Sometimes the physical aspects of the performance are exactly that (performance). It's probably something I could work on a little.

    What I've noticed is that after the first few songs, I'll get "a sound" that requires me to dig in a little. Not necessarily a massive grind, just something solid. After that, I don't want to lose that sound, so I just keep playing hard.

    It really only happens when I do club gigs with my cover band. Show situations are much more stable and controlled. For the most part. :) And there I'll usually have some help, so I can change basses whenever I want, that kind of thing.
  19. for me it depends on what is needed. some songs and parts of songs require a softer touch while others need the punch. as a song nears a crescendo, i play harder, sometimes switching from single notes to chords, but thumping it harder to get more sound out of it. that said, I'm not just beating on it, but doing it in a controlled manner; always conscious of the result.

    but it's also part of performing. i move around a lot on stage, constantly. so much, that if it is a subtle song that features the singer, i usually try to hide in the back or next to the drummer to not be a distraction. keeping moving helps me keep the groove moving and entertain people.
  20. I'm a real physical player, I often play acoutically with the electric because I am too lazy to plug in the amp so I tend to pluck hard. Then I started playing upright pluck electric with the same force, so now if I pluck inbetween the two pickups I get distortion. This is not perticuarly good because there is too much access tension which limits one's playing but I cannot stand the tone that comes from barely touching the string and making the amp do the rest.