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How has your technique changed over the years?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Blackbird, Aug 12, 2000.

  1. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    This is a question for the people who have been playing for a while (The longer, the better).

    I'd like to know if players have unconsciously changed some aspect of their technique over the years. I, for instance used to play over the neck pickup exclusively, to the point of almost playing over the fingerboard. As my fingers got stronger, I started putting my right hand over the bridge pickup most of the time. I didn't do this consciously. I just happenned to notice it one day. At some point it time, I also started to rest my thumb on the E or B string instead of on the pickup like I used to do years ago. Not coincidentally, my muting technique is also much better. My only conscious change in technique was from a two-finger pizzicato to a three-finger one, and even that has evolved into something that simply follows its own logic. Has anybody else experienced something like this?

    Will C.:cool:
  2. john turner

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

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    being self taught i went down a bunch o'blind alleys as i developed. i always plucked with thumb and index and middle, even from the beginning, but i used to occasionally plant my thumb on the bridge pickup cover of my ric when i used to play that bass, and when i moved to a jazz bass, the transition was a bit weird because of that. since i used my thumb alot, though, i didn't plant it that often anyway, so that wasn't that big of a problem.

    the first year that i played, i didn't use the pinkie on my fretting hand, but i changed that as i started playing songs that needed a minor 3rd stretch. i started with the ring finger on my plucking hand after i had been playing about 3 years. i started slapping about 6 years into playing, which was about 10 years ago. i'm still not too keen on my slap chops, i guess it's just not my thing.

    my plucking technique is sorta weird - i tilt my hand back sideways, so that the edge of my palm and the side of my pinkie will mute what i am not plucking. this causes my index finger to be extended as i pluck,but my middle and ring fingers are almost bent in half as i pluck. works for me, though.
  3. gmstudio99


    Mar 11, 2000
    Cleveland, OH
    I did the same as you, Big Wheel. Started over the neck pickup and have now drifted to the bridge. Also find myself achoring my thumb less.

    The biggest change is that I've significantly lightened up my right hand fingers. Using a very light touch adds all sorts of nuance and subtleness. That was developed as I started playing with jazz groups, where walking tempos can get into the high 200's (playing Bird & Diz tunes, especially!) It became "adapt or be defeated"...so I lightened up my fingering, got my left hand under control (no more flying fingers when not in use) and generally made everything more compact.

  4. I, too, find myself playing with a lighter touch. My problem has always been things that I do unconsiously that detract from my tone, like plucking too hard and digging in too much. Also fretting strings too hard and getting a lot clacking from the strings slaping against the fretboard. These things didn't matter as much when I was playing rock but since I've gravitated to mostly blues, jazz and swing the clacking is much more apparent and distracting. So I've lightened up on both hands.
  5. Chris A

    Chris A Chemo sucks! In Memoriam

    Feb 25, 2000
    Manchester NH
    I used to play in only the neck position, too, but now I move my plucking hand around depending on the tone I want. I'm still an anchor on the pickup or edge of the neck player, though. I slap a bit, but mostly I play fretless. I'm not one of those slap playing on fretless guys, either. The tone of that is just awful on my bass.

    Chris A.:rolleyes:
  6. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    When I first started to play bass, I had a tendency to finger pick almost onto the fretboard! I had to watch myself, because I'd move closer and closer if I wasn't conscious of where I was picking. When I joined a band that demanded using a pick, I tended to pick very close to the bridge. Seems like I had read one of my bass heores does that, Jason Newsted or one of them, so that's what I did. Well, after a long time doing that, when I went back to fingerpicking for a blues band, I discovered that the experience with a pick had rid me of the habit of moving toward the fretboard. So now I fingerpick closer to the bridge.

    Another thing, when I first started I paid little or no attention to strings ringing. When I joined that particular heavy metal band, the lead guitarist was a stickler about controlling ringing strings, so I had to learn to mute. I was really careful not to play open notes, although some would say that wasn't the way to go as it can slow down fast riffs.

    When I joined the blues band, I was careful to mute ringing strings, but moved my right thumb from resting lightly on unused E or A strings. That was in stark contrast to my early bass days in which my right thumb was stuck firmly on the neck pickup. Billy Sheehan said he did that in one of his instruction videos. He is a fanatic for having an "anchored thumb." Even when tapping, he anchors his tumb on the edge of the fretboard. As Billy Sheehan was my first bass God and the reason I chose to learn bass guitar, I did whatever he said on that video as if it were gospel.

    Now I know other bassists do things other ways and I've experimented with many techniques. Though I still admire Billy Sheehan, I've strayed somewhat from many of his teachings. Jason Oldsted
  7. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    I play anywhere from the bridge to over the end of the fretboard. Lots of tones between the two.

    I don't anchor my thumb in any one place, it's constantly moving depending on which string(s) I'm playing on.

    Being a fan of Percy Jones I've developed some fairly good muting techniques to choke or deaden notes, allowing a pretty wide dynamic range, lots of punch when I want it and lots of percussive capabilites.

    I play with different parts of my fingers. Fingers perpendicular to the string for staccato punch, using the tips, parallel using the pad of the finger for a more legato approach, works very well for fretless, very expressive. There are several other ways to play.

    Alternate positions have allowed me to play more with less hand movement. I've come a long way from playing boogie woogie lines solely on the E string:D

    Knowing where the different tones are on the bass and using them accordingly has been a big plus. Most basses I've played have a different sound when, for instance, you start a line on the G on the B string as opposed to the G on the E string.

    I play lightly which gives me tremendous range of volume and dynamics. For example I "could" use a compressor but I prefer to use a combination of left hand muting and right hand muting and semi-muting combined with different plucking techniques to go from a whisper to a roar with no actual volume changes on my rig. Choked notes and pinched harmonics are fun. When I slap it is with very limited right hand motion, I've found I don't have to do a haymaker like Louis Johnson to get an agressive, punchy sound. I prefer old school slap, where the thump mimics the kick drum and the pop can emulate a snare. Bonus: no extra batteries or patch cords:)

    I've always had a great ear for intervals (so I'm told), now I can apply that to my playing. I can play most of the music I've ever heard from memory because of this. I don't know how it works, it just does, an internal playback system. It's not perfect pitch, but I've never felt the need for that anyway.

    I don't play the bass when learning new music from a recording. I listen. Once it's committed to memory it's a piece of cake.

    I try not to solo if at all possible, I'd rather do it in conjunction with the rhythm section "without" losing the groove. I feel no need to be the center of attention. I've practiced on working chording and double stops seemlessly into grooves (when applicable).

    This is still obviously a work in progress, even after 20+ years, but I'm pretty comfortable with the bass. I'm not Victor...and I'm not trying to be;)

    The cool thing is, most of the above is now done without conscious thought. I just play:D
  8. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    ...all this time, I thought I was the ONLY guy at this site that rarely solo'd? Good post, too!
    Let's see...my technique has definitely changed over the years. Early on, I would never, ever had gotten any kinda props about being "fast". For a couple years, at least, I have heard some remarks about being "quick" coupled with "...it doesn't even look like your hands are moving". So that's the key...constantly thinking about what I'm supposed to be doing & being more disciplined about "technical" practice.
    In the past('72-'90), I merely learned the tune, embellished it somewhat, & played it in some band, concert, or studio thingee. Back then, I really paid attention to tone & slacked out on technique(probably why I'm no soloist). Also, for some reason, I usually practice with NO amp; as a result, my muting has always been pretty "good"...when I played LIVE(& LOUD!), I kinda freaked over the volume so I muted big time.

    I have spent hundreds of hours in front of the TV(watching the NFL & NHL)while doing plucking hand exercises...concentrating(when I'm not yelling at the TV)on strict alternation, rakes, & economy of motion kinda stuff.
    Also, as Brad said, exploring the numerous tones/dynamics on my instrument.
    I do need to spend more time on my fretting hand...I'm definitely a RIGHT hand player! :D
    Too, I'm still pretty heavy with my plucking hand; rather than cranking the amp up & playing lightly(ala Gary Willis), I keep the amp's volume slightly less than where it "should" be...I replace the "missing" volume with my RH(that's my volume control;-)
    In short, the biggest change for me has been the strict alternation of the index/middle of my plucking hand(when needed)+ economy of motion.
    ..and I'm gonna continue working on it until I get it "right". :D
  9. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    I hear ya, Jim. Even after all these years I feel like I'm still progressing. I think I'm a better musician this year than I was last year. It never ends and I'm glad it doesn't.

    I went through a "fusion" period way back when, where everything was fast and chops oriented. I think "Spain" was a good example of the time, lots of note on the head but, if you figure out the correct (or easiest) positions it's a breeze to play.

    Now I'm a proponent of playing the right notes at the right time. Too many times you get a roomful of chops players and end up with music from the blender. I love space, always have, and note economy is something I strive for, though on occassion... vrrrrrooom

    Leaving space is not only less work, it makes the group shine through, vs. the players.

  10. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Yeah, "Spain" may be easy(not!;-)on an electric...ever try it on an acoustic? :D
    ...and I do like SPACE(like Sun Ra sez, "Space is the place"). PLAYING the spaces doesn't equate to FILLING them up, either! ;) A note & a rest have(or should have)equal weight. I think I was first attracted to Latin Jazz 'cause of the amount of space; the bass doesn't play a lotta notes, but, whew...
    There are times I'm a note hog, though...I used to jam with a drummer(who sounded like a drummer + a percussionist in-one person)& a sax player in a sorta "free" environment.
    We had some fun practices(the drummer called them "workshops")...during that stint of time, I did learn a lot more about my shortcomings as a player/musician; and was I spent physically & mentally after each practice!
    ...those were the days! :D
  11. i find that i move my plucking hand around unconsciously to get different tones. when i need punch i play close to the bridge, and when i'm playing reggae i anchor my thumb on the neck, and i do it without really thinking.
  12. Interesting thread here guys. I guess the biggest change over the years for me is common sense. By that i mean making good decesions more often than bad ones, and being consistant. I have always been big into entertaining the crowd, but when i was younger, i sometimes went over the top. I have it now where i pick my spots and try to be entertaining but not distracting. I went thru a period a few years ago when i was really down on the music biz in general. I'm still a jaded little bird to a point, but i'm enjoying the gigs i'm doing now. I've always planted my right thumb on the pick up or the top of the pick guard, but, as is the case wit my Samick acoustic bass now, if nothing like that is available on a bass, i can play it fine and don't even miss it in a few minutes time. But, when i go back to a bass with a good place to "plant" my thumb, i do it. I'm a natural lefty, so i will never be as fast with my right fingers as i'd like. I use 2 fingers to pluck. but it's only very rarely that i can't get enough dexterity out of my right hand. Being comfortable with my style is another thing that has come over time for me. I've never been much into slapping or soloing in general, though i love using a cool lick at the right time. I was paid a real nice complimant by a rock guitar player who was brought in to augment the showcase we did at the Wildhorse last Thursday. As we were getting line checks, i played "The beat goes on" then played "Heartbroke" by Ricky Skaggs. After the sound guy said cool, he said to me, That was great, you are all about doing things right. I said, yeah, i mean, i've got the gig and what good does it do to play like a fool trying ti impress god knows who at a soundcheck when your not going to play like that during the actual performance. Trent
  13. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    If you eliminate most of the position shifts, I swear, "Spain" is not hard. I was pretty amazed at how "not hard" it was after I worked it out. It definitely isn't "Donna Lee";) On upright...no comment. Mine's in the basement, in three pieces :(
  14. gweimer


    Apr 6, 2000
    Columbus, OH
    This is one of those things that makes you think. I've actually started paying more attention to how I play since hanging around here (thanks, peoples!). Early on, I used to plant my thumb on a spot (it varied from bass to bass) that felt most comfortable to me. I also was prone to using only my 1-2-3 fingers on the neck. I consciously brought in my pinky over the course of a few months. My picking has pretty much always been 3-finger technique, with very little thumb or pinky. I had a couple of little tricks I liked to use, such as popping the open E with my fingering hand, or reaching over the neck and popping the open E on the third fret (actually, it was more like attacking it!). Nowadays, I'm a little more varied; the thumb isn't anchored so much, and spends a lot of time floating on the E string. Where I used to avoid them, I'm now playing with open string patterns more and more. I still use pretty much the same plucking technique, but I use more space between the neck and bridge than I ever did, and my thumb seems to like helping out every now and then. I'm finding more ways to accomplish a sound by varying my finger position and attack on the strings. My latest thing is learning more chordal things, so I've been playing with using both hands to fill out a chord; fingering the top three notes, and then doing a subtle hammer on the low E to finish it off.
  15. nanook


    Feb 9, 2000
    About the only change I have noticed in the last 35 years is that I'm playing with my plucking fingers further up the neck. I started out right over the neck pup and now I'm on the second fret away from the body.


  16. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000

    Will C.:cool:
  17. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    For me, experience brought with it diversity - my technique morphs from moment to moment to suit the sound/vibe/style that I'm working with. Any ridgid notions thatI had early on about where your hand should be anchored soon went, same with where along the strings to pick, and how to use tone controls and the balance knob... I now regularly use standard two finger picking, pick with my nails, use the nail on my index finger line a pick, slap and pop, occasional tapping (went through a phase when nearly all lines I played were tapped! :oops:), flamenco strums, palm muting and various uses of my other fingers while muting and picking with my thumb, and e-bow. Oh, and occasionally playing with a pick, normally an F1 pick...

    the specifics of each variation get worked out subconsciously - they move progressively towards smoother, more regular, controllable, recordable well muted lines, as I play and listen. My boundaries in terms of what I'm listening for are pretty wide, so sometimes mistakes are heard as music, and I try to learn how to repeat those sounds in a controlled way... :oops:)


  18. Player


    Dec 27, 1999
    USA Cincinnati, OH
    Nope, I've been consious the whole time :D .
    Mostly I've become a more in control player. I use to always try to play as many notes as fast as possible. Now I try to go for taste and complimenting the song. I have definitely made improvements in my plucking, slapping and fretting techniques, but the biggest change is note choice and placement. Maybe I've just calmed down. I am older you know. ;)
  19. graniteboy


    Aug 15, 2000
    I used to use a pick most of the time, because playing with the fingers proved too painful after long periods of playing. As I matured as a player, however, I began to appreciate the beauty of fingerstyle, and became more willing to put up with the pain for the sake of sound. Plus, the callouses that formed on my fingertips helped to make playing less of a painful ordeal with time. I didn't get into slapping until a few years ago, and I find myself fooling around with that quite a bit now. I've also been using my thumb, Sting-style, a lot more. I can achieve a very upright-like sound if I pluck with my thumb, and mute the string with my palm.
  20. Over the years I've learned how to be more song oriented.I enjoy being a team player,so, my basslines are more supportive and less flashy.As far as pick vs. fingers is concerned,I prefer my fingers cause my hands sweat alot at live shows and the pick tends to slip and go flying.

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