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Playing bass unplugged

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Dbregman85, Mar 16, 2014.

  1. Dbregman85


    Mar 16, 2014
    Do you usually practice bass unplugged? Do you think this affects your playing?

    I am one of those people, and I think I play harder because of it.

    The instrument is definitely designed to be amplified, but I happen to like the sound of an unplugged bass. I also love acoustic basses.

    Any thoughts on practicing unplugged or do you always plug in when you play, with headphones or otherwise?
  2. lfmn16


    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    Practice how you will rehearse and perform. No way you can hear all the little nuances without amplification.
  3. I noticed that when I practiced often with my bass unplugged when I was amp-less, when I got a new amp my technique had gotten quite a bit more heavy handed. I was hitting the strings way too hard and my muting had gone to crud.
  4. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    No. I don't see any point in that.
  5. i agree, practice plugged in
  6. Sav'nBass

    Sav'nBass What the .............. Supporting Member

    Jan 18, 2009
    Northern Va.
    Me neither. If I want to practice unplugged I grab the acoustic.
    raventepes likes this.
  7. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY
    All the time
  8. Ben Berd

    Ben Berd

    Dec 8, 2011
    Nottingham Pa
    The few times that I do this, I at least THINK I'm playing well. I'm actually just not hearing all my little flubs that I usually would through an amp. I would not encourage regular practice unamplified but it can't hurt to pick your bass and just mess around a bit occasionally.
    organworthyplayer337 likes this.
  9. petrus61

    petrus61 Supporting Member

    I don't do it because I hear ALL of my little flubs...the rest I just don't hear at all. An un-amplified electric bass is just a bunch of finger noise and fret clang with the way I like my setup anyway. There was this product around for a while that was basically a stethoscope that stuck to the guitar/bass body via suction cup. I forget what it was called but it sounded like a cool idea that would naturally "amplify" the instrument. I'd be cool with that.
  10. I do most of the time. I'm just working on finger-strength, figuring out songs, or things that aren't essential for amplification.

    However, I do record myself using headphones playing bass, guitar, and a drum track to get an idea of how I would sound with a full band by making proof-of-concept recordings. I further refine my technique this way.

    When I do use my amp, it's to figure out specific tone settings I prefer before rehearsing with my band, and more refining. And then I also record every rehearsal to figure out things that are and aren't working (balancing tone settings, technique, etc).
  11. zontar


    Feb 19, 2014
    I've found practicing without an amp is beneficial and practicing with an amp is also beneficial, and I would do both.

    For starters, sometimes it might not be possible to practice with an amp at times, and some practice is better than not practicing.
    I've also found that an amp can mask some of the little mistakes I make--but without the map I can hear them and work on them.
    But it is also good to practice how you use amplification.

    But not all amps respond the same way, so you need to be prepared to make quick adjustments if there is a difference.

    Of course if you are practicing to perform, spend a big chunk of that time practicing in the same manner you will be performing.
  12. Apolicious


    Jan 16, 2014
    Same. I think it's important to hear yourself amplified for the reasons mentioned above, but for simple strength exercises it's not strictly necessary.
  13. I use to practice sometimes without an amp and mostly with an amp and cab but I moved to headphones as an output from my sans amp di

    I think my playing has come on in spades with headphones because I am paying attention and responding to everything I hear

    Pick attack, rh muting and left hand technique , I am happy with progress

    Hearing my basses through a di is really different to headphones out on a practice amp
  14. joe vegas

    joe vegas Supporting Member

    for 40 years i've practiced my e. basses unplugged 99% of the time.
    it's given me a real sense of the instrument's subtleties, almost like playing a very quiet classical guitar.
    gigs are/can be intense/loud riproaring and deeply amped.. but practice is pretty much
    always uplugged. it just works amazingly great for me.
  15. fenix899


    Sep 11, 2010
    I've found that practicing unplugged (especially in a noisy environment) ruins my touch because there is a tendency to play harder in order to hear yourself. However, once you become experienced enough to know how much strength you need to put in in order to get the tone you want, mechanical exercises and less musically involved practicing can be done unplugged.

    I feel that practicing through a flat-response headphone amp is the best, because it makes you sound extremely unflattering. All the mistakes come out, and once you correct those, you can pretty much play on any amp/PA and sound great.
  16. OldDirtyBassist


    Mar 13, 2014
    I won't buy a bass, unless it sounds decent unplugged.

    Practicing with no amp does teach you control. Just don't do it all the time.
  17. cavscout19d


    Mar 17, 2010
    As someone who has irregular sleep patterns, I practice at all hours of the night/morning unplugged. I've gotten used to resting my chin on the upper bout near the strap peg and the sound basically resonates through your skull and bone structure. It's pretty loud too.
    You can definitely hear the difference between different woods playing this way.
  18. I do it all the time.

    I used to do that too. It's not good for your back though.
  19. ga_edwards


    Sep 8, 2000
    UK, Essex
    I think the biggest difference between unplugged and amplified is dynamic range. The amplified sound has a huge dynamic range compared to unplugged, which makes it difficult to to practice technique without an amplifier.

    However, this is where compression comes in...
  20. Apolicious


    Jan 16, 2014
    as a fellow insomniac (in the clinical sense) I have to give this a major +1. or a +9... I'm not sure what chord I'm looking for here.

    but in all seriousness, whenever I get a new instrument it spends about three days in bed with me. I periodically press my head against the upper bout, the headstock, whathaveyou, and just feeling how it resonates. you can feel every little bit of loose hardware, and hear strings that aren't set up exactly to spec.

    everyone says an instrument should be an extension of your body... so why not familiarize yourself with its characteristics unplugged?