Plucking finger position

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Craig Williams, Oct 14, 2021.


  1. Craig Williams

    Craig Williams

    Feb 13, 2019
    Part time bass player, mainly a guitarist. I got myself a 90's Fender Boner bass, Precision Plus. Really love everything about the bass but I find if I don't pick the strings (open fingers) down near the bridge, I get a lot of fret buzz. Admittedly I do have the action set fairly low and this is how I like it but I hate fret buzz. If I pluck the strings up towards the neck, obviously there must be a lot more string wobble, for want of a better word. As I said I'm only a rookie. Is this a normal thing? I see a lot of guys these days with what looks like a velcro strap up behind the nut. Is that to reduce buzz or harmonics or ?

    BTW Sting is one of my favorite bass players. Not sure how technically good he is but I love his sound and feel. I am interested in the way he plays with his thumb down near the back of the bridge.
     
  2. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    Loosen your truss rod an eighth of a turn. Test. Check action. Repeat as necessary.

    There’s more to it than that to get a good setup, but if you have a pretty good setup to start, when you need a bit more breathing room for the string to swing, add relief by loosening the truss rod.

    As seasons change, it is common to adjust only the truss rod to tweak the neck relief. Seasons change and the humidity with them and that affects the neck wood.
     
  3. Mushroo

    Mushroo

    Apr 2, 2007
    Plucking position is how we control our tone on the bass. Plucking near the bridge sounds different than plucking near the neck. If you prefer the sound of plucking near the bridge, then that is 100% permissible and okay. You have my blessing to pluck near the bridge if you want to pluck near the bridge. :)
     
    cnltb and dbsfgyd1 like this.
  4. Craig Williams

    Craig Williams

    Feb 13, 2019
    Im pretty familiar with set ups and pretty sure the fretboard / truss rod is set right. I don't believe in a lot of relief. I have a touch of relief from the pull of the strings. Checked it all out with a straight edge and the buzz if I get it is all along the neck, not just in one area or in the middle etc. The only adj I would make now would be the bridge saddles
     
    antfarm and vin*tone like this.
  5. dabbler

    dabbler

    Aug 17, 2007
    Bowie, MD
    "A lot of relief" is a subjective statement. But if you are getting buzz all along the neck, the first thing I would look at is nut height.

    As to your initial statement, I would say no, that is not normal. And WRT to your relief statement I would simply say, yes bass strings "wobble" significantly more than guitar strings so EVERY setup parameter is different (likely larger) for a bass.
     
    Mili and FatStringer52 like this.
  6. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    The other factor in the equation is your plucking technique. If you like super-low action (as I do), you need to (1) use a soft touch and let the amp do the work, and (2) make sure your plucking motion is pulling the string parallel to the face of the bass, toward the next string, rather than pushing the sting downward toward the bass. Your plucking fingers really don't have to do much more than brush across the top the strings to get a good sound. On the other hand (no pun intended), if you are going to really "dig in" with your plucking fingers you will have to add more relief and/or raise the strings.
     
  7. As @dabbler mentioned, " lot of relief" is subjective. If I were you, I'd set the bass up according to Fender's recommendations: neck relief @ .012 - .014", string height @ 6/64", pickup height @ 7/64" on the bass side and 5/64" on the treble side, and first fret action between .018 - .022". Make sure the bass plays well with these setup numbers. From there you can start to alter the relief and action to your specific playing style. I'd only change one of the settings at a time starting with neck relief. If you want the neck a little straighter, reduce the relief a bit. Check play-ability. If still playable when you get the relief set to where you want, then you can start lowering the action to your playing style. Always checking play-ability after each adjustment. This way you will find out what measurements you need for your style and will be able to reproduce them again and again.

    I also play P basses, prefer a clean sound and have a medium to soft attack. I found that the lowest I can get away with on my setup is with the relief set to a tight .012" (so maybe realistically .011") and a string height of 5/64" (just to where I can barely see the bottom of the 5/64" line on a string height gauge). Any lower and I start to get a little fret buzz, although some folks do like to have a little clank.

    Just remember, the larger bass strings need a bit more room to oscillate.
     
    Pilgrim likes this.
  8. Craig Williams

    Craig Williams

    Feb 13, 2019
    I don't know where Fender comes up with these measurements as their necks are probably some of the most inconsistent and difficult to get a good action on I have come across, certainly with guitars and 15 odd basses I have set up over the years. I am from Australia so imperial measurements don't mean a lot to me but doing some conversions but yeah I would have my string height a lot lower than 6/64 at the 12th fret and I certainly don't have a lot of relief, a tad. My expectations are probably a bit high but not really complaining about the action or string buzz as such. Trying to get the best of both world I would probably compromise with a little string buzz to get a lower action. I am happy with where the relief is and I could raise the strings on the bridge saddles higher if I wanted to. I was more interested in the dynamics of picking the strings down near the bridge and wondering if this is normal for most bass players or not. I actually think I like the tone plucked near the bridge also. On a guitar playing with a pick down near the bridge normally gives you a more treble twang tone. On my bass it seems more like a duller thud (which I like) which is the opposite. The strings seem to ring out and have more treble and harmonics played close the the neck which I guess for some guys is what they want. When I hear guys demoing basses on You Tube etc where there is only the bass I always notice what seems to be a lot of fret buzz and clanking. Maybe thats the difference between playing at home and at a gig where the volume is a lot louder maybe you don't notice any of these annoying noises like you do at home
     
    FatStringer52 likes this.
  9. SteveCS

    SteveCS

    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    The 'wobble' you mention is the excursion of the string - the amplitude with which is vibrates. When playing over the fingerboard you need to be mindful of the energy you put into your pluck. A given pluck applied in the middle of the string will create far more deflection than the same pluck made close to the bridge. As noted by @Mushroo above, plucking position is one of the main factors in generating and controlling tone, but you also need to modify your plucking technique accordingly.

    The fluffy 'scrunchie' mute at the nut will do nothing for stopped notes. It might help with damping open strings but then those strings become problematic if you want to actually play them. I would recommend you concentrate on developing an integrated muting technique rather than relying on even more equipment, however cheap.
     
    4dog and FatStringer52 like this.
  10. Craig Williams

    Craig Williams

    Feb 13, 2019
    I've certainly learnt a bit anyway, thanks for all the advice. I guess alot of these things we do unconsciously. Btw, in laymans terms what does the series / parallel switch to in terms of the sound. Fuller? Bassier? More top end etc? Im not even sure which is which when the switch is on / off. Is it like the difference say between a single coil and HB?
     
    FatStringer52 likes this.
  11. JKos

    JKos Supporting Member

    Oct 26, 2010
    Torrance, CA
    You're happy with the relief but asking how to reduce fret buzz. What are your current measurements for relief and string height? What type of strings? That matters, too, as some have a larger vibration pattern than others. Standard tuning or down tuning?

    As said above, play lighter and monitor the direction/orientation you are making the strings vibrate.
     
    legalbass likes this.
  12. Craig Williams

    Craig Williams

    Feb 13, 2019
    Who was asking how to reduce fret buzz? And I dont need to take measurements. Every neck is different, even on the exact same model. I can tell you my action would be around 1.5-1.8 mm low E on the 12th fret. Relief around 1mm. Strings 105 Daddarios. I have some Labella flats on order. 100s low tension. I did have some 105 flats on it but the Labellas extremely high tension and these P bass plus have an extremely thin neck. Felt they were putting too much tension on the neck
     
  13. JKos

    JKos Supporting Member

    Oct 26, 2010
    Torrance, CA
    You did in your first post.

    I am really confused about what you are actually asking for since you keep denouncing suggested solutions.

    If you are a rookie player (as you said), how do you know your setup is actually optimal for you? You seem to be locked into a setup that maybe isn't optimal or even correct. For example, how did you determine your preferred relief?
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2021
    96tbird, Mili, legalbass and 3 others like this.
  14. SteveCS

    SteveCS

    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    This is a lot of relief for an electric bass and could well be the cause of your problem. The concave fingerboard profile will mean that the higher frets will be too close to the strings when you are stopping lower notes and plucking over the fingerboard. Aim for something around 0.15-0.25mm then adjust the saddle height acordingly - they will probable need to go up a little.
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2021
    96tbird, Christophe C and JKos like this.
  15. JKos

    JKos Supporting Member

    Oct 26, 2010
    Torrance, CA
    Decades and decades of experience and how many thousands of basses built and sold? They are a reasonable starting point to start tweaking from.
     
  16. gln1955

    gln1955 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ohio, USA
    Fuller, I'd say. It should be pretty obvious when you switch between series and parallel.
     
    dabbler likes this.
  17. Craig Williams

    Craig Williams

    Feb 13, 2019
    I guessed 1mm but really the relief is fine. As close to dead straight as possible. There is barely any space visible using a straight edge and in any case the truss rod adj is maxed out. Not sure if you are familiar with these boner basses but they are an extremely thin and long (24 fret) neck and seem suceptable to tension. If I was getting buzz in only some areas like near the nut or in the middle of the neck I would be looking at relief or neck angle. I set up my guitars by feel and a straight edge. Taking measurements is pointless to me. I know if I set the string height to reccomended the string buzz would be gone, but the action would be higher than I like. The reccomended relief surprises me. I just sold a Fender Japan 60s US Jazz bass was impossible to get anywhere near zero to 0.012" relief on with 105s. Infact I can only remember one Fender bass Ive ever had that didnt have some obvious bow in the neck when sited down the neck. And once again I didn't complain about the fret buzz if you read my post. I was musing how the buzz is more prominent as you play up towards the neck
     
  18. JKos

    JKos Supporting Member

    Oct 26, 2010
    Torrance, CA
    Then the only answer to your issue is to play lighter. If you are so convinced your setup is optimal, we can help you no more. Enjoy.

    BTW, my basses are set up with 3/64" - 4/64" (1.19 mm - 1.59 mm) string height at the 17th fret even with TI flats and I don't have fret buzz issues.
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2021
  19. SteveCS

    SteveCS

    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    I run my fingerboards almost flat. I never measure but I can tell the difference between 0.2 and 1mm by eye or feel. With optimal setup I would say that buzz is something to be managed through technique - it only becomes 'prominent' if you allow it.
     
    cnltb, legalbass and Craig Williams like this.
  20. Craig Williams

    Craig Williams

    Feb 13, 2019
    I think thats my main takeaway from this post, and its something I had never considered that much before ie the direction I pick the strings, the velocity I pick the strings etc. Where I am playing towards or away from the bridge. Cant wait to test some of it out tomorrow
     
    SteveCS likes this.
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