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Just starting out playing bass

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Jonnyknowsbest, Mar 15, 2005.

  1. Jonnyknowsbest


    Mar 15, 2005
    I am just starting out playing bass guitar, but i have one constant problem. If i play a fretted note, when i let the string up, the open note rings out. What technique should i use to avoid this unwanted "hammer off"


  2. 5stringDNA


    Oct 10, 2002
    Englewood, CO
    I am assuming you don't want any note to ring on your pull-off? To stop this, simply mute the string with part of your right hand, or another finger, whichever is more convienent. A quick touch is all it takes to mute the string's ring. With practice this will be become natural and you won't need to think about it.
  3. Like he said it will start to come naturally... Practice makes perfect :D :bassist:
  4. tim99

    tim99 Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2003
    Welcome to talkbass. Please try to make the titles of your posts match what you want to learn about. It will help you get answers and will help others who may be interested in the same topic. Lots of people avoid the "Yo I am new and I know nothing" thread titles. But they might answer a "Help me with my fretting fingers technique."

    I play bass right handed. Fingerstyle. My right thumb dampens the two strings "above" the string I am playing right now by dragging up and down, my left fingers dampen the strings "below" the the one I am playing right now by laying accross the strings, and my left fretting fingers gently let up on the string so they dampen the sound as they come up off the fret and then the string. My fretting fingers do not "hammer down" onto and do not "fly away" from the strings. Also, my 1, 2, and 3 fretting fingers do not get more than 1/2 inch from the strings. My pinky is another story. It is from another planet and refuses to obey my commands and training.

    Even if you play with a pick, if you gently raise your fingers up off the fretted string and do not let your fingers get far from the fretboard, you can stop the sound you describe with practice.

    Start with letting up on the string just enough to relax the string up off the fretboard, resting your finger there for a moment, dampening the string. Then lift your finger up no more than 1/4 of an inch. Practice all your stuff this way slowly at first. Speed will come. The trick comes when you try to move your fingers independently of each other. If you fret all your fretting fingers on four frets, then raise your pinky, then the next finger without raising your pinky more, then the next finger without raising the other two more, etc. you can learn to move each finger independent of the others. Most people will raise the pinky and then raise the pinky more with each finger lift. Practice time it takes.

    I would guess that the timing of your fretting and plucking or picking is slightly off. If you fret the string with some force right before you pluck or pick you will hear a slight hammer on, and if you are late there may be a buzz but there will be some tone loss. Fret the note at the same instant you pluck or pick the note.

    Connect yourself to the bass. Play the string with your right hand and gently fret and unfret it with your left. Increase your timing and decrease your movement. The result will be tone improvement. And yes you can get fast doing this.

    Some people mute the strings with those scrunchy things women put their hair up with. You can put felt down near the nut and and it stops open strings from ringing, or you can put felt down near the bridge and it effects the ringing of all the strings. There was a thread about that:

    Vintage bass guitar mutes

    By "gently" in this thread I do not mean slowly. I mean move quickly but only a small distance. If you reduce the distance your fingers are moving, they do not have to move as fast to cover less distance, so there is less garbage sounds from the strings.

    I bet this gets moved to Technique...
  5. 5stringDNA


    Oct 10, 2002
    Englewood, CO
    that is a much more thorough explanation than mien Tim.. I am rather lazy. Good advice.
  6. Tim:

    I am just starting out too and, man, your repsonse was Awesome! I'm printing it out for further study. You should write a book.

    - Bob
  7. Growler


    Sep 26, 2004
    There should be a 'beginner FAQ' with these types of posts. I've been working on this for a while and its tough to overcome..


  8. tim99

    tim99 Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2003
    "...when you grip a golf club to take your first swing at a golf ball every natural instinct you employ to accomplish that objective is wrong, absolutely wrong." - Ben Hogan

    I frequently see bass players in bars and in music stores do three things that I do not see "trained" bass players do: 1. They leave their thumb up on the pickup all the time and stretch to all the strings. This means that the angle of attack on their plucking hand is different for each string, and the strings that are "above" the string they are plucking continue to ring. This also means that their plucking technique is based on a particular style and location of pickup cover, so it is not comfortable for them to play up and down the strings for different tones, and it is not comfortable for them to play a different bass or an acoustic bass that has different or no pickup covers. 2. They allow their fretting fingers to "fly away" from the strings as if they have been told to keep their pinky a maximum distance away from the strings as often as possible, so they get extra garbage sounds from thumping down on the strings and pulling off. This means that they will never get the good tone they want to have. 3. They play with their bass lower than the bass would naturally be when sitting. This puts the fretting hand and fingers in a position that is less than optimum.

    I avoided the use of the word "wrong", except in the Ben Hogan quote, because there is a thinking here that there is no "wrong". You are free to do what comes naturally. "Hey, whatever works for you." But violin is not taught that way. You will notice that all the violin players in a line hold and play their instrument in a very specific manner. Anyway, in this thread I am simply stating what I notice as a difference between self-taught bass players and "trained" bass players.

    One more thing. I mentioned that I "drag" my right thumb. I actually drag it when I am playing fast. It dampens the two strings "above" the string I am plucking because it gently rests against those two strings. But when I am playing slow, I rest my thumb on one string "above" the string I am plucking. Let's say I am plucking the second string of a five string bass. Playing that note over and over. My right thumb will be resting on the third string and against the fourth string. The fifth string is not touched by my thumb, but it was dampened by my thumb after I played it and as I moved down.

    If you practice your scales and arpeggios and fingering exercises slowly by using this plucking hand thumb rest technique to climb up and down the strings like you climb up and down stairs, as you get faster the thumb drag will come naturally and the strings "above" the string you are playing will be dampened as you move down the strings.

    If you practice your scales and arpeggios and fingering exercises slowly by fretting the note you are playing just right behind the fret almost on the fret, as you drape your fretting fingers on at least the one string "below" the string you are playing to dampen it, then relax the finger to allow the string to rise, leaving your finger in place for a just a moment to dampen the string, and if needed or if you want placing other fingers on that same string to dampen any harmonic that is created, then raise your fingers no more than 1/4 of an inch above the string, as you get faster fretting down and up you will get good tone and the strings "below" the string you are playing will be dampened as you move up the strings.

    Do not get carried away. If you are playing the third string of a six string bass, your fretting finger can rest against the second string and your plucking hand thumb can rest against the fourth string and you do not have to be in contact with the first, fifth, and sixth strings because you already dampened them as your moved up and down away from them when you played them. Do not try to choke every string at all times.

    So, what books can you practice from:

    Hall Leonard Bass Method Bass Scale Finder

    Hall Leonard Bass Method Arpeggio Finder

    Bass Fitness

    You can get these books from BassBooks.com, but it would be nice of you to support your local music store. If they don't have a book, ask them to order it for you.

    One last thing. When you are practicing scales and arpeggios from those books, you are not learning the names of the notes in those scales and arpeggios, you are practicing the fingering patterns.

    You should at least pay attention to where the "root" note is for each of these patterns so you can play these movable patterna at different places around the neck. One step up from that is knowing the locations of all the notes in a pattern by their scale degree number, and the next step up from that is knowing the scale degree number and the name of the note, and then finally, you forget all that stuff and play what you hear in your soul. I am not there.