Hitting strings soft vs hitting strings hard

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by drewsky2004, Oct 12, 2011.

  1. drewsky2004


    Dec 29, 2010
    I guess the question is, how hard is too hard? I've heard that you can hit the string very lightly to get a good sound so long as you have the right gear. Is this true? Because I have a 100 watt fender rumble, and at my band's practice space I crank the volume up to a little bit past halfway and I still have to play pretty hard to get a good clear sound. And honestly I wouldn't mind not getting any blisters lol.
  2. Jenra


    Feb 18, 2011
    Aalborg - Denmark
    On my gear (boutique bass, and a very good amp(if i must say)) i dont have to do anything, i barely touch the string to get sound and when i need extra power i hit it harder :)

    Do you pick, do you fingerstyle or even slap?
    In slapping i try to hit the same every time, to get it even as my pickups are quite aggresive while slapping i dont try to hit it harder (yet :p)
  3. LennyPenny


    Mar 14, 2011
    Of course a 100W amp isn't that much, but you're probably going to get blisters anyway. As your finger tips get tougher, you're going to be able to play with a softer touch while you're actually playing louder than you are now, if that makes sense. Maybe your fingers are just too sensitive.

    It's early here, so I'd wait for a more educated answer.
  4. MooseLumps


    Nov 4, 2007
    Turn it up. Too little volume for the application will teach you bad habits when it comes to dynamic control. If you can find a balance between the volume knob on the amp, the volume knob on the bass and your playing, you will be in a better position to be expressive. It's a whole other dimension for your playing. Great Guitar players understand this principal. You will see them adjust their guitar volume on the fly, and vary their dynamics to emphasize certain notes or passages. The danger of turning up the amp is having the power and not using it responsibly. It's more than enough to deafen you. Also, if you turn up and then everyone else does too, you are doing something wrong.

    A good rule of thumb is to try to match the drums closely, then boost the amp about 10% and roll down the bass' volume and your playing down to give yourself breathing room. This way, you can have both softer passages, and the occasional authoritative moment.

    tl;dr Turn it up, but play softer and ease off on the bass' volume a touch, this creates dynamic possibilities.
    rudy_zulkarnaen likes this.
  5. drewsky2004


    Dec 29, 2010
    Ok well here's another thing. I play fingerstyle metal. And pretty fast hard riffs. Here's just a sample of what we play:

    No Regard - YouTube

    And one reason why it does feel more comfortable playing hard is because our music is hard. I feel like really strong dynamics of hitting hard adds to this type of music. What do you guys think?
  6. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    My bass playing improved dramatically once I learned to play with a lighter touch.
  7. K2000


    Nov 16, 2005
    I think you're ready for a bigger amp, and the dude singing while playing the 5 string bass like a guitar w/pinch harmonics is pretty bad-ass.
  8. drewsky2004


    Dec 29, 2010
    Yea haha he's actually a bassist who never owned or played guitar and discovered that sound setting one day and out came those riffs.

    So yea, bigger amp and lighter touch?
  9. IncX


    Jul 23, 2007
    hey! i like this! very cool!

    im slightly turned off with the vocals bit... i suggest you guys get a dedicated singer so the bassitar can just play those killer riffs and not worry about writing "vocal friendly" lines
  10. germ_77


    Jul 16, 2011
    I would say go for a bigger amp dude, all the metal bands I was in I wouldn't even be heard pick playing over our drummer in a small room with a 100 watt amp, made that mistake once buying a fender bassman 100 which sounded loud as hell trying it out at the store, took it back the same day.

    Mellow music though I just take a small 100 watt out for still.
  11. drewsky2004


    Dec 29, 2010
    Nice...well I guess it's saving up money for one then!
  12. I try to hit the strings as softly as possible. The softer my "regular" volume is, the more dynamic I can be, I can really dig in and there will be a very noticeable difference in volume.

    I really don't like the sound of strings being slammed. Even by really good players.

    On the other hand, if you're ALWAYS playing super soft...it can get boring. I like to mix it up and when I'm having fun, I have a hard time not just digging in and smacking away.
  13. drewsky2004


    Dec 29, 2010
    Well tonight I'm gonna crank up the volume and play softer and see what difference it makes. And hopefully it will be much easier on my fingers!
  14. Playing softer only with a good amp?..:S +Volume dont necesary means "a good amp". You can play softer and turn up the volume of a crap amp and the technique work the same. Equipment shouldnt have influence in your technique

    Answering to the OP, What is soft playing? I guess its when you can hear every note with detail using the minimum effort as possible..
  15. niels125


    Aug 11, 2011
    I have a pretty soft touch, and when I took bass lessons my teacher would compliment me on my calm/soft and even plucking, compared to some starting students who would try to pull the strings off the bass.

    But when I joined my first cover band (with bandcoach), the bandcoach kept criticizing my soft playing.
    But that bandcoach was a total ass, when he was around playing in the band felt like doing detention work :)

    So i left the band and i'm back to my light playing (heard Chris from Muse also has a light touch)
  16. anonymous122511

    anonymous122511 Guest

    Dec 28, 2010
    Simple solution to that is keep the bass in its case.
  17. staindbass


    Jun 9, 2008
    sounds to me like the low end of the string stays the same volume wether you play hard or soft. but the mids and treble get louder when you play harder. a bass sounds more beefy to me when played softer. also less string clacks. but if i was playing rush i would hit them harder to get that metallic sound.
  18. schmig


    Nov 30, 2008
    I've been taking lessons for about 6 weeks, been gigging for 2 years, practicing for 4. The teacher has been pushing me to use a very light touch indeed. Once of this arguments is that with aggressive attack, you have a "lots of note" briefly and then it falls off....notes will sound better when more uniform in amplitude.

    That's all very well, I mainly see the advantage in having more control over right hand. One of his rules is that if you look behind the string, by the body of the instrument, you should never see any part of a finger behind the string.

    I've found this difficult lately in gigs where things go a bit mental - it's taking me a lot of training, with no results yet, in that scenario. I raised two blisters at last gig, as a result of playing with such light touch in all my practice time for the last 1.5 months..
  19. maxiegrant

    maxiegrant Bassist in Transition

    Nov 26, 2007
    Sellersburg, IN
    Well, I play pretty hard. I started my bass playing life with a Hondo bass amplified through a 30-watt Memphis amp. Hearing myself at all was a miracle.

    However, what I like to do now is play with a lighter touch and use the hand strength I've gained to control the dynamics. I do not like playing with my knobs during a song. I have way too much to do to add that into the mix.

    If you do want to play harder, you've got to get the strings up off the fretboard, or it will sound like ass. Look at how a double-bass is set up.

    Oh, and I also played DB for a couple of years in college, and definitely you have to have a firm attack to even make the strings sound at all. So that mentality worked its way into my approach from a pretty early phase in my playing career.
  20. anonymous122511

    anonymous122511 Guest

    Dec 28, 2010
    I think it's pretty hard for players who've learned to draw the sound out of an acoustic instrument to abandon that harder touch to play like Gary Willis.

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