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Live situations cause to to play too hard

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Matt Till, May 14, 2004.

  1. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    ... and I have weak fingers.

    The band I'm in plays usually from 10 PM to 2 AM with 10 minute breaks between sets. By the end of the night, my fingers are usually destroyed.

    When I'm playing at home or in any situation without drums, I lay it back, I play fairly light. But there's something about the live drums that causes me to play too hard. It's mostly the songs have me playing straight sixteenth notes during the majority of the song. On the songs with more feel to them, the ones that I'm alowed to groove a bit on, my attack lightens up. I've taken to playing with a pick on some songs, it does get a pretty rockin' sound as well. (Since it's a classic rock gig, my tonal influence is usually JPJ ;) ) But I'm not really great with a pick.

    Anyone else have this problem or any advice?
  2. Peter Lufrano

    Peter Lufrano Blues. and nothing but the Blues.

    Apr 18, 2004
    Berkeley, CA
    I had that problem when I started out because I didn't have enough rig for the gig.

    As soon as most drummers start, the dynamic range and SPL level goes way up (so far I have met only 2 drummers who could groove as well while playing quietly as they do when they are slamming it out).

    When I got my first gig, I had a smallish rig, that had always been fine for practicing alone or with no drums or wanking guitar hero's, and I had received advice that I would be fed through the house PA on most gigs, so not to worry about having a more powerful rig.

    Well needless to say, PA feed or no PA feed, when a drummer "gets excited", (and lets not even bring guitar slingers into the mix!) the stage volume goes way up. So I was hitting the strings much harder, digging in hard in a feeble attempt to hear myself.

    So you might want to consider using a more powerful rig, letting the rig do the work instead of your fingers.

    Anyway that has been my experience.
  3. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Turn up your amp. Turn up your amp. Turn up your amp. :p
  4. I agree with autofile and brianrost. Let the gear do the work so you're not digging in so hard.

    Also, setting up your bass(es) with a medium - to - light action helps... my latest bass is setup with low action and what a difference, it is so relaxing to play. My fingies love me for it. :bassist: :D
  5. Nick man

    Nick man

    Apr 7, 2002
    Tampa Bay
    Im gonna go against what most guys are saying here.

    I turn down my amp and attack the strings hard because it gives me the sound I want.

    There are other alternatives to turning your amp down and they are.....


    Just keep playing and eventually your fingers will not notce this abuse. I know you arent a newbie who just picked up bass and doesnt have calouses yet, but its the same deal. Being a diabetic who had to prick his fingers for blood test several times a aday really helped me, but even without that I would have had to just let my fingers develop resistance.

    Just stick with it. Unless your sound bothers you, no reason to change your technique.

  6. Well I know I play alot differently with my big rig than my small rig because of all the "headroom" in the amp. But you've got to watch that you don't just keep turing up and start a volume war on stage. Turn up but play light.

    Also, I always forget how well a pro setup makes the instrument feel,... if you haven't done it in the past year, give'r a try.
  7. CJK84


    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH
    I could probably be the poster child for overexertion during gigs.

    I'm trying to break the habit. And I don't think it's that my rig is too small.

    I just seem to get excited and, with the overall increased volume level, cannot yet relax the way I do at home.

    I'm getting better, but my progress hasn't been as fast as I'd like.
  8. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA

    This is exactly where I'm at. I end up being "too loud" because I've got a decent chunk of the mix, I'm just too... excited I guess.
  9. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    since I started wearing earplugs for practice & gigs, i've noticed i'm not playing quite as hard... I'm pretty sure this is a result of hearing more bass frequencies (i.e. my bass!) and less of those distracting guitars & vocals :)

    i'm not breaking my fingers hammering away to hear myself, and as a result i'm getting through the sets less fatigued, with the added bonus that the band sounds a bit more controlled & poised, a little less frantic and desperate

    also, I think that earplugs help detach you from the proceedings slightly, which is good if your 'too hard' playing is also a result of over-exhuberance/excitement :) (that and the fact that very loud music naturally stimulates adrenaline anyway)

    I think some basses (i.e. my Precision) sound best when played fairly hard, but there's no point expending all your energy so you can't play the last half of the gig properly
  10. I *had* the same problem, and I have a very big rig. Then I finally sat down, a few years back, and really got into the particulars of the setups on my basses, and whatnot. I use alot of effects. I got into how they are dialed in, so they don't "wash" with the guitar play. I got into how my pickups were set, and how that works in conjunction with the fact that I use alot of chords and stuff on the d &g strings. And, finally, I got a really nice compressor to keep all things in check. You'd be surprised how much more "commanding" your live tone can be when properly compressed. It's handy to reel in the transients and spikes that make your E & A strings too boomy, and strengthens your D & G strings, and makes them audible.

    Really eq the piss out of your rig too, don't be afraid of mids. Too many guys scoop mids because they want the heavy bottom rock tone. But that isn't gonna help cut in the mix.

    I'm not saying ladel the mids on, but you gotta let the bass "speak"...and mids is where it's at.

    So yeah, get your rig dialed in, get that bass setup as best as is possible, and see where you're at. then, if still not gonna work, you may need to upgrade. You need to wreak less havoc on yer fingers. You'll be better off down the road.
  11. dirtgroove


    Jan 10, 2003
    Taipei, Taiwan
    If I don't drink enough water- or if I smoke or drink, my fingers get twitchy and it's not so easy to play loose. If I drink a gulp of water between songs it makes a big difference in the amount of tension in my fingers and my right hand is more controlled.
    This probably isn't the answer you were after but it helps me.
  12. A very good point! I do the same thing. Not soda, not beer, but like water or powerade or something. Helps a WHOLE lot!
  13. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    I drink energy drinks at gigs. But that's because I need them to stay awake. I'm on a normal sleep schedule of 10 PM to 7 AM so when a gig doesn't have me home in bed until 3/4 AM I need it.

    Finger report: Had a gig two nights ago, went very well and my fingers are fine!
  14. clothsnake


    Apr 3, 2004
    i find that playing live does tend to make me 'hug' my bass more and attack it all the more vigourously.

    volume is important, but next time you play just drop your shoulders a bit and you'll be surprised just how much that takes the pressure off playing... especially for long periods.
  15. I'm in the same boat as a lot of you's here, but I think that I have figured out my problem. When I let my arms hang down for quite a while, the blood just pools in my hands, and my hands actually swell up and turn beat red, and I lose some dexterity. Every few songs, I elevate my hands, which allows the blood to go back where it belongs. It helps me, and if you don't wanna look weird while doing it, pretend to stretch or get the crowd going or something. So, move around, and have a good time! :hyper:
  16. bogart


    Dec 11, 2003
    big bear, ca
    I agree with nickman. I play with a very real aggression. Almost attacking my Jazz basses. After the last fifteen years or so, that style developed. By now my fingertips feel like rocks. Perhaps, you are that type of guy that wants a smoother lighter tone. If so, turn the rig up. However if you're at all like me and Nick, turn down and be ready for a lil pain on the road to bass master general status.
  17. RicPlaya


    Apr 22, 2003
    Whitmoretucky MI
    There are two reasons

    1. Your amp is too quiet or underpowered like many have mentioned and have to dog in to hear yourself.

    2. Or your just excited, and if your amp was pleanty loud you would blow out the mix because your digging in

    Keep your cool, don't loose yourself in the moment. Play steady and let your amp do the work. It's very hard for me to do sometimes! I want to dig in and jam, I use to be a drummer and I can't hammer on my bass like a drum kit.
  18. exactly. If you dont want that aggresive tone, and you care about your bass... then get more power in your rig, and play lightly. Im having the same problem right now.... I only have 4x10s and cranking it gets me by, but doesnt give me the desired tone... so im getting an extra 15 cab and im thinkin my probs will be solved. Ill have lots more power, and ill be able to play real gentle like i want.

    A good bass will give you that aggresive pop and thump you need as long as its setup right. Playing hard is not that smart unless your endurance is phenomenal. Because most people when they play hard, they end up thinking about how hard their playing- and then they arent making music- theyre thinking about their hands hurting.
  19. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA

    Wow, I never thought of that... good advice. Thanks.
  20. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA

    buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut... this can lead to arthritis and other problems with your hands. I don't know about you, but I want to still be playing the bass when I'm 60+ If I want the agressive tone, I go with a pick.