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How does technique change tone?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by l0calh05t, Jul 5, 2002.

  1. (Almost) Everyone knows that technique affects tone but I wanted to ask what, in your oppinion, changes tone. (I'm talking mainly about fingerstyle now)

    I think it has to do something with picking/fingering position relative to the bridge and the amount of strength used. Perhaps you see this differently or consider other factors more important. Thats why I'm asking. (+ I haven't seen a thread about this yet )
  2. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Hm, tricky topic.
    There are countless factors, but IMO the main factor is a lighter, more controlled touch. It opens up the sound and makes it more balanced.
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Well I think this is the best argument for using your fingers as opposed to a pick. So I know that I can dramatically affect the tone by using my fingers in differnet ways, whereas the tone basically stays more or less the same with a pick.

    So ways you can change tone:

    Applying different pressure with your left hand - to get ghost notes.
    Pulling under the straings hard to get the harsh bright sound like "popping" .
    Hitting the strings with thumb or full hand slap.
    Using your thumb to play lower strings - possibly combined with palm muting, to get a rounder, deeper sound more like a DB.
    Artificial harmonics with your thumb as the "node" to get the same notes in different octaves and of course a completely differnet sound.
    Raking notes. etc etc

    Just to name a few - but there are loads more that I use all the time - much better way of changing the sound/tone than any pedals!! :rolleyes:
  4. Actually I was taking more about normal playing than about special techniques like slaping and artificial harmonics, but of course these are great reasons to use fingerstyle because these techniques are hard/impossible with a pick.
  5. bassmonkeee


    Sep 13, 2000
    Decatur, GA
    Just because something is hard/impossible with a pick doesn't negate its usefullness in certain circumstances.

    I've been a diehard fingerstyle player for since I started 17 years ago, and I have slowly worked pick playing into my bag o' tricks. And, I don't think the pick is a one trick pony, either. I get a drastically different sound playing at the end of the fretboard as I do when I palm mute and play between the pickups. I can also get some great artificial harmonics. Heck, I have even started to use the pick at a slight angle where you get some nice grindy roundwound noise in addition to the note. Every tool has its use.

    I agree with everything Bruce said about ways to change tone. Something he doesn't mention that I've been doing for the past couple of years is playing with my right hand over the last couple of frets using a slappy (not sloppy...:)) technique that is somewhat reminiscent of how Entwistle played (I hate having to use past tense :(). I also find myself using traditional thumb slap/pop techniques less (not that I used them much in the past, admittedly) while still getting the same sound. Most people would be hard pressed to tell the difference on record.

    Basically, move your hand around, use different parts of your fingers/hand, and vary your touch. If it sounds good, do it. Heck, my guitar player dropped his pick last night during a solo, and used the ear stem from his eyeglasses to finish the song. Sure, he could have just used his fingers, but some techniques are just for the crowd...besides....he's a guitar player--they're all goofy, aren't they?
  6. I tried to do exactly that for some time but didn't get it to work as well as normal slapping... mostly it sounded like sloppy technique :(
  7. Actually I expected that more people would answer this thread.

    Too bad
  8. changing the angle of your plucking fingertips can have a big effect on the sound;

    angling your fingers so that they brush over the strings produces less attack- good for "a remark you made"-style mellow fretless tones.

    but keeping your fingertips perpendicular to the string and plucking firmly produces more attack- I do this to get more of a pick-like tone - it's pretty tough on the fingers and requires hard callouses.
  9. That's more or less what I do but I don't use picks.
  10. James S

    James S

    Apr 17, 2002
    New Hampshire
    "The sound is in you hands".

    I assume sure we all have heard when a great player picks up a students bass and makes it sound incredible? Obviously different equipment sounds different, but your sound is mainly in your fingers. And not just your right hand.

    To answer this question thouroughly would take more space than appropriate here.

    One major factor in sound / tone quality is the attack of your right hand. Some folks "pluck" the string. Sort of popping it a bit usually by pulling away from the body of the bass. Others curve their fingers alot and roll pick like a classical guitarist or banjo player. Many bassists are taught to pull the string and after releasing it your finger should end up resting on the next lower string.

    As stated in earlier posts, there are endless right hand positions and each will have an effect on tone.

    All of this said, most people will develop a sound which is most like the bassist they listen to extensively. I don't mean just casual listening. A person how owns a Jaco CD may never sound like Jaco. Perhaps this listener does not even play bass. I mean the bass player who plays along with and immulates Jaco's sound.

    It is common today for students to not have "a sound". A good way to get to know your fingers is to do your practicing without an amp. Obviously some things depend on the amplified sound but most of your sound development will come from you fingers.
  11. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany

    Good point! I do that a lot too. You have to be careful not to overplay (pluck too heavily), but it's great for developing good tone.
  12. Mark Gollihur

    Mark Gollihur Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 19, 2000
    Mullica Hill, NJ
    Owner/President, Gollihur Music LLC
    I respectfully disagree. I often get compliments on my tone/sound, and I think it is largely because I pluck "too" heavily. It's become an integral part of my sound. It depends a lot on the music style and the individual. Unless your fingers consistently are bleeding at the end of a show or you develop wrist, hand or forearm problems, I think it's misleading to say that plucking heavily or lightly is right or wrong.
  13. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    yeah, i agree with mark. i sometimes dig in pretty hard to get the tone i like - pluck hard within an 1.5" or so of the bridge, and it's a great attack, almost pick-like, with more body and twang.

    the only issue there ime is that if you're not careful digging in can mess with your timing. still, though, just another tool for the toolbox.
  14. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    You're both right, I should've been more specific.
  15. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    The entire space betwen the fretted note and the bridge gives a massive amount of variation.

    Angle of the fingers around a vertical axis next to the strings

    How hard you pull/hit/pluck/stroke the strings. A lighter touch, diggnig in real deep (oh yeah! ;) )

    Nails, finger tips, fleshy part of you finger, thumbs.

    There must an absolutely infinite number of different ways to get different tones out of bass using fingerstyle. Considering what incredley dexstrous instruments hands are it's not surprising I s'pose.

    I'm a firm believer in "the sound is in your fingers", but I think of it as "YOUR sound is in your fingers"... and a decent amp and nice bass can make a big difference!
  16. I tend to agree with Howard, but I also agree with everyone else.

    Technique and feeling are by far the most important things in good tone. Close your eyes and let your hands do the talking.

    Even if you are the best in the world, though, a good bass and decent amp can make all the difference. I doubt even the likes of Mr. Entwhistle could make a 50$ Peavey Fury pumped through a 20 watt Crate practice amp sound all that good (better than most could, but the limitation still applies). Equipment does make a difference, but is only truly useful and beneficial when you are able to make the most of it.

    I don't mean to steer the thread in another direction, but equipment does make a difference (can anyone guess what my first rig was?? :).

    So....one technique I have begun to favor and rely on recently is dead notes. I have developed fast enough right hand speed where I can fill in alot of empty space with a kind of percussive popping of the strings. I play alot of Funk, so the percussion and stop-start quality of the technique makes it sound downright bad@ss. Play with dead notes on different strings, before and after sustained notes, just all over the place. It's also a good thing if you play in a power trio - fills in alot of space that would normally be reserved for rhythm guitar.
  17. At first almost no one was answering to this thread but this seems to have changed.

    Another question: Do you try to find a good tone by changing your way of playing or do you take the sound you get as "your sound"?

    I wonder because I have tried to change my tone by changing my way of playing... with success but I turn back every time and go back to my old style of playing but with a minor gradual improvement each time. (as far as i can recognize)
  18. Nothing wrong with that IMO too gear is not unimportant but I don't necessarily (sp?) want to discuss which is more important here.
  19. I responded in another thread about this same topic. I'm not an expert but I like experimenting with finger styles. I don't use a pick but I think some of the same principles would apply to that style also. Just play around with how hard to pluck or attack a string, then move up and down from neck to bridge. Notice how tone changes and how your attack will affect the tone? Then change the angle of your hand/finger to the strings, then again move from neck to bridge. Then I also change the part of my finger that I "pick" the string with, I get more of a sharp attack tone towards the nail (even using the nail) as versus using the meaty flat part of the finger=more of a full softer tone.(IMO)

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