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Playing cleanly...

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by geoffkhan, Jul 29, 2005.

  1. Hey guys,

    Lately I've been working on my fingerstyle playing, and I'm really trying to make my playing as clean as possible. I'm trying to fret the notes really close to get a cleaner sound and better releases, but I'm still hearing some extraneous noises. I've seen some people "cheat" by turning off all the highs on the EQ, but I don't want to do that. I do play close to the bridge, so I know about that.

    Would it help if I played quieter and turned my amp up?

    Could it also be a little related to my bass? I have active EMG pickups, and I've noticed they're really sensitive to very slight noises.

    Also I notice when I plug in an amp rather than going DI through my computer speakers I don't get as much fret noise and release and stuff.

    And tips would be greatly appreciated!
  2. christoph h.

    christoph h.

    Mar 26, 2001
    well, with "normal" technique i would expect noise to go up when turning up the amp. with that "light touch/loud amp" technique you have to control those noises much more.

    i believe gary willis' technique (total right hand muting) takes care of some of that problems, especially the release noise.

    if it's not too much, though, i think having some of that noise isn't bad. it adds a certain amount of character. i remember some studio pro (nathan east or chuck rainey, someone in that league), whose tracks sounded "like a truck" (mix engineer comment) solo'ed, there was so much noise, etc. but in the mix they worked just fine. sorry, i don't have a link for that interview.
  3. Tash


    Feb 13, 2005
    Bel Air Maryland
    Relax. Play lighter. Slow down.
  4. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    Great groove!!!

    But of course, this thread isn't about your groove. :D

    The problem is not with muting; it's with fretting.

    First, I would suggest lowering your action if possible. From the sample, it sounds like you may be creating extra noise by pressing down on the string. The harder you have to press down on a string, the more noise comes out. Don't ever "fight" the bass.

    It also sounds like you may be sliding a bit when you fret. I can hear it pretty clearly on the final note. Make sure not to slide within the note when fretting, even when playing legato lines. Always keep your fingers arched (but from the sample, it's pretty obvious that you do this. You wouldn't have the dexterity that you do if you held your fingers flat). Use the economy of motion. Unnessesary shifts will also create unnessesary noise.

    It's also interesting to note that I've listened to a lot of product samples at bass manufactuers' sites, and it's hard to believe how much finger noise is in the recordings. Carvin and Warrior's (who's even played by Keith Horne) samples come to mind.
  5. My action is already the lowest possible since I'm into the Vic slap bass stuff.

    My bass does make a tiny click noise when I fret a note, even when I fret it really slowly and quietly.

    >>Make sure not to slide within the note when fretting, even when playing legato lines.

    Thanks, that sounds exactly like something I need to work on!
  6. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Low action is a mixed blessing, on the one hand it enables you execute some funny stuff(vic slapping) easier, but on the other hand, you run the risk of rattling strings and/or creating more fret noise.

    But on the other hand, since it requires such a light touch, that's also not necessarily a concern.

    Personally, I know what you mean geoff, I've been focusing on cleaning up my playing quite a bit in the past few months, but ultimately, I'm not doing it because I think fret noise is bad(I don't, heck listen to vic's first album and tell me fret noise is bad) But because I'm trying to obtain a higher level of control over my instrument. When it comes to it, fret noises can add a lot of character and signature to a track that would otherwise end up sounding like any old chump.

    For instance, all the time I hear tracks with relatively groovy basslines but they are played with too much perfection and they are too 'tight' and too 'controlled' that, while the line is still groovy... it lacks a certain appeal ya know?

    For a GREAT example of this, check out this Roots Cut 'swept away' off of 'do you want more?!!?" HUB is a terrific bass player when it comes to playing immaculately clean and precise lines, but here his line is defined by the fret noise he 'allows'

    So, I'm sure you're aware of this stuff, but yea. Heh.

    The best way to clean up your overall playing is simply DO NOT settle for anything less. Basically, always have a metronome, and then, when playing through a routine, if you flub up in anyway, stop, lower the metronome a click or two, repeat until you don't flub up at all, then raise the metronome back up, and...etc.

    It's grueling, and it's time consuming, and it seems extraneous and overkill, but ultimately, if you're going for utmost perfection, you simply cannot settle for anything less. At least, in my opinion.
  7. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    But yea, the other point about fret noise that was touched on, is that while it may piss you off when you're practicing, people don't hear it live and people don't hear it on a record, it'll stand out if you're isolated but otherwise, it's pretty insignificant most of the time. YMMV
  8. Lowering your pickups may help some.
  9. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass ****

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    Playing cleanly just takes alot of practice, there's ALOT involved. Good hand position and smooth shifts, muting (with both hands) and lot's of dexterity to pull it all off. There are as many good techniques as there are good bass players on this one. I would suggest practicing very simple patterns, triads, fifths, octaves..stuff that happens in one position. Crank the high end up and go at a easy pace. If you got EMG's your bass is probably active, try practicing with headphones plugged right into your bass. It's like bieng in the studio in some respects, you can REALLY hear everything. In spending some time doing this you will naturally find ways to clean things up.
    You also said, "lately I've been practicing fingerstyle", which sort of suggests that you had been playing more pick before. If this is the case then just hang in there. There's alot of difference between the two and it will take some adjustments.
  10. Yeah, I practice with headphones a lot when I play late at night, so I do hear all those extraneous noises. I also do a lot of recording and listening back, because sometimes what might sound clean and precise in the moment could be less so when listening to it back.

    By "lately I've been practicing fingerstyle" is because I used to mostly practice slap bass. That was my main focus. I could play fingered bass fine, but I just never spent the time concentrating on cleaning up my finger-work. Never was really into playing bass with a pick unless it's palm muted stuff...

    You guys have given me a whole lot of good advice! Thanks so much for taking the time to post!!
  11. BassGreaser


    Aug 22, 2002
    Austin, TX
    I like the string noise. It adds to the sound. Listen to some jazz stuff, and you'll hear some of the rawest sounds... :D
  12. Steve


    Aug 10, 2001
    Funny how often struff like this crops up.....

    It's the stuff that..if you are classicaly trained..is addressed from day one and it get's beaten into you the entire time.

    Somewhere along the line...you picked up a little form niggle that you now have to go back and undo if it's bugging you.

    You can hear it better through the PC speakers because they are probably a little more "accurate". Try some Acme cabinets sometime..those things will send you to school in a hurry.

    Go back...slow down...pay attention to it....KEEP working on it...and one day..it will just stop. No quick fix beyond EQ.
  13. The slowing down thing is what I need to do. I can play fast, but for me, I feel that I shouldn't play fast unless I can play accurately and cleanly.

    A little noise is cool, but I want to be able to control the noise, like John Scofield.

    The other thing that's giving me trouble playing cleanly is the stretches. Towards the end of the neck, where the frets are bigger, it gets tough. It's that 1-5 stretch that's tough for me. I can reach it but I have to stretch a lot.
  14. JohnBarr


    Mar 19, 2004
    Central NY
    I think that's it in a nutshell.
    And you know how hard that is, right?

    Someone else mentioned that 'classical training' starts out drilling you with technique. It's a grind, but it's clear enough to me how valuable it is, now that it's too late :bawl:

    My problem is with lifting off a finger when crossing strings. Just can't keep the noise under control.

    Anyhow, those 3 goals are my mantra at this point.