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How Light or Heavy Do You Attack?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by chaosMK, Apr 19, 2006.

  1. chaosMK


    May 26, 2005
    Albuquerque, NM
    Hi-fi into an old tube amp
    The other night I got dragged to some type of reggae show. I dug the bassist however, who was using a nice Modulus. I noticed that he used and extremely light attack and got some great tone- for that type of music anyway.

    However, as I paid more attention... when he did use a medium attack, it totally caused the amp to clip. I am thinking the way he ran his setup was maxed out on the amp to bring out the finer dynamics of his fingerstyle.

    On the other hand, I play progressive metal and use a totally different attacking style. I do some intense and aggressive slapping on the low-b string and also play a lot of machine-gun rhythms. I use a heavier touch for the heavier parts of my music, and also some compression. My rig is setup to give me an explosive punchy sound with smooth and rich highs for slapping, and low mid growl for fingerstyle. When I play light, I dont get the same type of dynamics as Reggae Master, due to how I am setup. So there is a play between playing style and setup.

    My questions are- How light/heavy do you attack? How is your rig set up (what are you trying to accentuate)? What style of music are you playing?
  2. I go for quite a smooth tone normally, so I play moderately lightly. I usually use the same EQ, and control the tone by changing where I pick (closer the the bridge for brighter sounds, sometimes right over the neck for a round harmonic filled tone) and changing the angle of attack. I'll pull into the bass more for softer stuff, and really attack across the strings for a punchier sound.

    Edit: only answered half the question... I play all sorts, from indie rock to jazz to trip hop. I almost always use the same EQ on my bass though, which is a slight boost to the treble and my high mids cranked right up. Because I play quite softly I need to do this to give it more definition. If I accidently hit too hard it sounds horrendous hehe, although it works great for slap too.
  3. flatwoundfender


    Feb 24, 2005
    I play pretty hard, but I do it dynamically just when I'm playing quitely thats as hard as some people get. But I have high action, heavy gauge strings, and I keep my pickups level with my bass so it all works out.
  4. BadB


    May 25, 2005
    AZ, USA
    I play too hard, but I try to play lightly. Keep telling myself to let the amp do the work.
  5. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    I work on my attack. I'm a pretty hard hitter, especially when I play live, and it's difficult for me break the habit. I've been playing stuff lately that's a lot more challenging, and if I'm in super hard playing mode, it can make some of the stuff next to impossible. Working towards total control of my attack at all times.

    Just saw a Chic video and watched Bernard Edwards for a while. He always had one of my favorite bass sounds - punchy, agressive, percussive and dead on. I was watching his right hand and damn - he had one of the lightest touches I ever saw. I somehow got the idea at a young age the the more aggressively you played, the more came out. I think it's actually the opposite now. Playing hard chokes out a lot of the sound.
  6. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    I play with a very light touch and a low action, little relief setup to match it. I usually keep the gain on my amp a little before 12:00 and adjust my volume to what I need.
  7. pointbass

    pointbass Jersey to Georgia Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    Endorsing Artist: FBB Bass Works
    I have a very light touch. Playing in a fusion trio (mostly jazz & funk based), I do a lot of kinda speedy unision lines along with ghost notes, palm muting, chording and other left hand techniques that are not "heavy attack" friendly.

    Similar to Bryan, gain usually at 12, volumes adjustments are made on the bass ....... :cool:
  8. rebelbass


    Feb 16, 2006
    New Jersey
    Once I'm warmed up I finds i play harder. I play in a southern rock tribute band; we try to stay a little harder edged (ala Skynyrd/Hatchet) than the mellower stuff (which I also love) because it goes over better in bars/clubs. I also run sound,so I usually don't warm up much (stretches) just plug,tune & play. My job,(besides holding the bottom,giving soloists something to play against,etc.) is to push the pedal a little harder,making the music more agressive. I find my volume starts out at one level by the middle of the set I sound like I turned up (matching the bands volume!) and progressivly gets a little louder (while still being dynamic). It's all from my hands and attack,playing harder!
  9. I play hard but am working on re-training myself to play soft and I can tell that my tone, timing, dynamics and speed are much improved when I turn up my amp "too loud" and control the volume with touch.

    If you set your volume so low that you have to play hard to get sufficient volume yo are eventually going to develope issues with your tone and technique.
  10. Kronos


    Dec 28, 2005
    Philadelphia, PA
    I play medium hard with a little compression and a mildly distorted tone. I play in a metal band, and I tend to dig in a bit more when the hard hitting parts come in. I also only play with one guitar player, so sometimes I find myself adding distortion and playing second guitar parts for harmonies. I switch between a pick and my fingers, but I play mostly fingerstyle. I don't slap/pop, simply because I'm not that good at it, and I don't think it fits well with the music we've written anyway. I run through a solid state amp, so I keep the preamp gain about 12, with my low mids and high mids boosted slightly. I get a really growly tone.
  11. I play metal funk (strange combo I know) so I'm slapping almost ever other note and I used to play excessively hard. I was practising and slapped my E string and broke it.
  12. knarleybass

    knarleybass Commercial User

    Apr 6, 2005
    Tustin, CA
    Owner of Ulyate Instruments
    Yes, let the amp do the work, I have a poweramp that is 1000 Wats per chanel, and I use two 3X10 cabinets, Keep the volume turned up nice and play with a light touch, it's great for the reggae type tone, also frequency wise it stays out of the way of the guitars and rounds out the kick drum. It's great!
  13. Groundloop


    Jun 21, 2005

    I used to have a very heavy attack, and a setup to match. Over the last couple of months I've been training myself to play 'easier' by lowering my strings and taking relief out of the neck, forcing me to use a lighter touch. I'm liking the results. I'm able to be much more expressive on both fretted and fretless now. For me it's been a case of "More from Less".
  14. All_¥our_Bass


    Dec 26, 2004
    Dynamics are my best friend. I use whatever is appropriate to the context, but overall I'll usually play in a medium attack with a pick. But sometime I'll fingerstyle and play harder, not enough to cause clipping, poping or distortion, just enough to give the strings that extra snap. I'm also a big fan of playing really really quietly and then out of nowhere... change from pianissimo to fortissimo!!
  15. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    I have strong feelings about this: To me, it has never made sense to use heavy-gauge strings, keep the action high, then bang the heck out of the instrument in order to get a sound out of it. I see a lot of cats, mostly younger guys, try to play like this. Seems to be some kind of thrash/punk fad...

    Guys, playing the instrument isn't supposed to be such hard work. It will tend to choke your tone. And over time, it will promote chronic injuries, such as tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome...

    Lower the action, use lighter gauge strings, play with a lighter touch, turn up at the amp. Then develop your technique, in order to take advantage of - and skillfully control - the added dynamic range that using such a set-up can provide...

  16. flatwoundfender


    Feb 24, 2005
    I don't bang the hell out of my bass but I do have high action and heavy gauge strings and there's a difference in sound that the amp can't make up for. And there's also the added dynamic range by the fact that I can play hard on my bass and I won't hear a bunch of metal in the sound, and I can still play soft so I'd say there's more of a dynamic range. As far as injuries go I guess people shouldn't play upright then.
  17. I play pretty hard. I find that once the full band is going, rocking out and I'm moving around stage, I cant help it. I think the problem is compounded by about a decade of practicing without using my amp... Naturally I play harder to hear myself.

    I'm perfectly capable of playing with a light touch, but it doesnt have the same "bite" and aggression for rock. I do lighten up when the band quietens down and we do more reggae/funk stuff, but if the stage sound is bad I'll probably still dig in more than is necessary.
  18. I play with a medium strong attack, when I'm playing at gigs which tend to be mostly rock, I can't help but start playing harder once I get into it.

    But when I'm playing to myself or something reasonably quiet in our set I turn the volume up a bit and play lightly. I reckon over time I can control my attack so I play very lightly all the time but I'm not really interested in learning now.
  19. Basshole

    Basshole Banned

    Jan 28, 2005
    I use absolutely no more energy than needed to create the tone I wanna hear. This include not only the fingerstyle of the right hand, but how hard I depress the strings with the left.

    I thus conserve energy, and expend only enough to get my tone.

    This lowers fatigue, and actually results in better tone from the instrument.

    I saw a clip from Gary Willis on this very subject the other day. Summed up my philosophy perfectly.
  20. Not4You


    Apr 6, 2006
    Funny I should see this thread...Because I finally hooked up with this metal/rock band. I would like to think that I have a medium attack, however I find myself playing a bit harder in the drop tuning I have found myself in. I usally play in standard tuning. I have light strings so I am very frustrated at my tone right now. The heavier attack combined with my current set of strings results in a "noiser" tone than I am use to. I am debating right now about going heavier but am unsure because it seems the band likes the heavy attack!!

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