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Hard rock light touch

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Zakmusic, Dec 25, 2012.

  1. Zakmusic


    Aug 1, 2010
    I used to dig in aggressively when i play hard rock. Though my endurance got better with practice, its really not a very comfortable way to play. Can someone suggest some "tried and tested" way to cut through with a light touch? I use a stingray HH and a AM fender jazz.
  2. Epitaph04

    Epitaph04 Bajo Supporting Member

    Jul 5, 2010
    Turn up the volume and mids?
  3. Turn up your amp, turn down the guitarist's bass EQ, make best friends with the drummer.
    Mikaelbass likes this.
  4. debris


    Oct 4, 2008
    Raleigh, NC
    I've heard that relying on/boosting your mids (and potentially, dare I say it, turning down the bass a little) can help when playing live. I've had some success experimenting with that in live settings.

    That of course depends on the frequencies your bandmates are dishing out. As was said, if your guitarist has a lot of low end, or if the drums are really deep and have a lot of attack, you may have trouble bringing out the bass.

    I've played some hard rock in the past, with a guitarist and drummer who both had fairly ordinary tone for their instruments (in terms of low end). I played a Stingray H out of an Ampeg 4x10 cab. I was much less sound savvy back then, but I remember being pretty satisfied just rolling up the high end. Using the bridge pickup (or a blend) on the HH might be helpful too, if you're not already doing that.

    Sometimes simple positioning can have a lot to do with how well our sound comes out, or at least how well you perceive your sound. Maybe move your amp around or stand in different places to see what helps. Putting your amp up against or closer to a wall emphasizes the bass more.

    If none of that works, you could ask your bandmates to turn down just a little. I realize that's a delicate matter, but it could potentially help round out the sound for everyone.
  5. u84six

    u84six Nobody panic, the bass player is here! Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2006
  6. jj4001


    Dec 27, 2010
    Providence, RI
    Hate to say it but a vintage Acoustic Control Corp. amp and cab will make it very easy to do this. The cab is the secret, as long as you can find one with original drivers that aren't blown.
  7. Varcolac


    Mar 31, 2012
    London, UK
    I practise with a very light touch- when I need to accent a note or line, just dig in more. It's all about headroom, I find. If your normal sound is pushing the limits of your body and equipment, you have nowhere to go from there. If your normal sound is using 50% of your physical prowess and 50% of your equipment's power,you've still got another 100% to call on when you absolutely must go "one louder."

    More mids, more volume, look at guitarists' EQs and keyboardists' left hands to ensure you're not getting stepped on by another player.
  8. Zakmusic


    Aug 1, 2010
  9. Jay2U

    Jay2U Not as bad as he lóòks

    Dec 7, 2010
    22 ft below sea level
    In the beginning, I hit the strings hard... Then I discovered amplification, compression and tone controls. My touch is very light now. I can play the fastest of fast. The equipment does the rest.

    Here's an example, just click the bassist > :bassist:
    My strings are hardly moving when I touch them. :bag:
  10. Rev J

    Rev J

    Jun 14, 2012
    Berkeley, Ca.
    Turn your amp up loud and when someone complains about your volume instead of turning your amp down lighten up on your touch.

    I know I'm making references outside of the Hard Rock idiom but there are stories circulating about Gary Willis holding clinics and getting an audience member to play his bass as they normally would and the other guy almost deafening the room.

    Here is a major part of the issue as I see it. People have been stupidly repeating the "Boost the Highs and Lows while Cutting the Mids" mantra for so long that we believe it to be true. Only about 10% of human hearing is in the high and low range. So we have been brainwashed to believe that this is the secret to great tone to the point where we have guitarists, bassists, drummers, and singers all fighting for the same 10% of the sonic spectrum.

    My solution dial in your tone where nobody else is. Boost your mids, turn up your amp, let it do the work, maybe even change to lighter strings, maybe use a distortion pedal as a booster.

    Rev J
  11. debris


    Oct 4, 2008
    Raleigh, NC
    Well put.

    As I failed to mention in my last post, I used to play a lot harder a lot more often, because that was what came naturally to me. I've come under the habit of using a lighter touch as I've gotten older--paying more attention to my energy output--and as I've explored playing with a pick. Also by playing some guitar.

    It's kind of unnatural at first, because you know that a heavier note will reliably produce a louder sound. But you'll find that you can really get the same result with a lighter touch as you develop finesse and learn to more effectively manipulate your gain and volume settings.
  12. Anonymatt


    Jan 3, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    I second making friends w/ the drummer. Glare at the guitarist as often as possible.

    Use dynamics. Sometimes it's enough to just be able to hear yourself. Imagine that you come just up underneath the cymbals, that you are a pedestal that magically appears underneath the feet of the other players' feet (like in a Mario game). Dig in when it makes sense.

    Different strengths of attack will have different harmonic content. Sometimes you have to be at the top. Basses sound great when hit hard, metal on metal. But then you gotta lay back. Achieve a dynamic sound and then challenge others in your band to stay with you. There must be a mutual desire to hear others' instruments. Lambast idiots that just want to get to the top and stay there. Diminish your ego and desire to be heard. Find the quietest thing in the band and try to hear it. Desire deeply to hear it. Sometimes your bandmates will not get the hint and this needs to be talked out. Don't drop the issue.
  13. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Watch a lot of Manowar vids.

  14. Sgt. Rock

    Sgt. Rock

    Apr 10, 2010
    Yep. Turn your amp up. But before boosting your mids, start by setting your EQ flat. Pick up the Jazz, dime the bridge pickup, roll off the neck pickup, and play as close to the bridge as you can. Now adjust your EQ as necessary. It may sound kind of honky when you're playing alone, but in a band setting or in a recorded mix it should cut through like crazy with minimal tweaking.
  15. Rev J

    Rev J

    Jun 14, 2012
    Berkeley, Ca.
    Here's another way of looking at it. I'm going to refer to Gary Willis again. Imagine your dynamics/playing hand touch on a scale of zero to ten. Zero being silence and ten being as hard/loud as you can play 90% of the time you should be playing at about 5. This give you plenty of time to adjust dynamics in either direction.

    I developed tendonitis when I was younger from playing too hard with a bad set up. Since then I started playing a better set up bass with active electronics and adjusted my technique and haven't had problems in about 15 years.

    Here's a way to practice lightening up your touch. Get either an envelope filter pedal which is touch sensitive set the threshold (Sensitivity) knob at slightly above the middle of your dynamic spectrum. While working on your right hand technique if you hear the effect kick in then you know that you're playing too hard. After a while of doing that by yourself it will become natural to play at that level and it will spill over into your actual playing.

    Rev J
  16. debris


    Oct 4, 2008
    Raleigh, NC
    Man there's some really good advice and philosophy showing up in this thread. Props to everyone who's contributing.
  17. Definitely look for the tonal areas that aren't being used. A light touch playing with sound that is going to be heard easily will be far more effective than competing with the guitar or drums and banging away like nobody's business.
  18. Lighter gauge strings will bring out the growl without having to hit those strings too hard!
  19. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Don't forget to tie the keyboardist's left hand behind his back.