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Sacrificing economy of motion for a fatter tone?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by hags2k, Jul 26, 2012.


  1. hags2k

    hags2k

    Jan 27, 2010
    I was listening to "In The Air Tonight" by Phil Collins recently and decided to learn the bass line. I confess I have a soft spot in my heart for some Phil Collins - the bass work is phenomenal on a lot of his tracks.

    Anyway, it's really only three or four licks in the last 30 seconds of the song that keep repeating, but there's a fun one in the middle that goes AGFAG CC, more or less (you can hear it here: youtube). I tried it initially in 2nd position with the open G string, playing it on strings 1, 2, and 3. Then I did it in 5th position, playing on strings 2, 3, and 4. The first method certainly requires less movement (only two fingers on the left hand, no four-fret reaches), but after recording myself playing it both ways, the second method sounded noticeably fuller, with more "thump" in the lows and low mids.

    I know many guys probably couldn't care less, but I'm trying to build better habits and clean up my technique, and this is just a good example I ran across recently that highlights a question I've had for a while - is it a bad idea to sacrifice economy of motion, something I consider a hallmark of good technique, for a (subjectively) better sound?
     
  2. phillybass101

    phillybass101

    Jan 12, 2011
    Artist, Trickfish Amplification Bartolini Emerging Artist, MTD Kingston Emerging Artist. Artist, Tsunami Cables
    I look at it this way. I've been playing for 41 years and have never had a problem with my hands except for braking my thumb playing football and a dog bite. I suggest to younger players to figure out multiple ways to play the same passage. This keeps my hands moving, my concentraion up and my hand does not get a chance to "lock up" Go for that tone that you like but if you notice it's causing your hands to bind up, give them a break. IMO postions are guidelines, like music theory. the rules were meant to be broken. Devise your own positions and you'll even find a greater economy of motion as well as the tones you want. Great players don't play like any one else. They play like themselves.
     
  3. hags2k

    hags2k

    Jan 27, 2010
    A very interesting perspective, I'd really not thought of it that way. Makes a lot of sense. The bit about concentration especially - I've fallen down a couple of times because I just started "going through the motions" without any thought about what I was actually playing, leading to a nasty moment of frantically trying to figure out what I'm doing or continuing to play after the song is over... ugh.
     
  4. FretlessMainly

    FretlessMainly

    Nov 17, 2010
    No, it's an excellent idea. Economy of motion comes into play for facilitating fast or difficult passages, or maintaining stamina through a 4-hour gig, but otherwise, it's a feather in your cap that noone sees.

    There are many here who will tell you that playing open notes is fine - and that is true sometimes - but playing closed notes wherever possible adds a uniformity of tone and timbre that I would consider to be much more of a hallmark of good technique than economy of motion. What's more important? How you look or how you sound?
     
  5. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    Well, Francis Rocco Prestia does it a lot. He prefers to make (likely) unnecessary position shifts in order to keep his left hand dampening going.
     
  6. Economy is a relative term. Use your own judgement to
    decide what is best. One of the main goals is the best sound
    but it is also imperative that you aren't killing yourself in the
    process. You'll figure it out.
     
  7. Gaius46

    Gaius46

    Dec 15, 2010
    Given your screen name I'd thought you'd be a fan of open notes. I'm also Fretless mainly and if I have a choice and all other things being equal I go for the open note.
     
  8. Hamlet7768

    Hamlet7768 Here to chew gum and rock. Still have gum.

    Jun 5, 2011
    Not really a bad idea. My main priority in my personal technique is being able to mute notes easily, so I prefer to move between two adjacent strings rather than skip a string, even if I have to move around on the neck.

    This may change if/when I try to sing too...
     
  9. Snarf

    Snarf

    Jan 23, 2005
    Glen Cove, NY
    I tell ya, as soon as I jacked my string height up and started digging in, my sound and pocket improved DRAMATICALLY. I bought into the cult of hyper-low action, ramps, and buzzing strings and thought that was the way to go. BOY was I wrong, and my career is benefiting from my ability to produce good tone, instead of economical mechanics.

    So moral: Don't just do what sounds good, do what sounds BEST.
     
  10. JimmyM

    JimmyM

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I think there's a point you can take it too far, but there are just some sounds you can't get without putting some energy into the strings.
     
  11. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Braintree
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Depends on the situation, motion is part of the 'flow' of music, in being smooth, it is said "motion begets motion".
    All this means is it is easy to get more smoother or a different movement from something that is already moving.
    For us as players it can be the elbow or the wrist adding in a swinging motion to fire the hand and fingers though a piece. It can add some speed much in the way the end of a whip crack needs a motion before it to create the crack.

    So I would treat it as a playing technique to add light and shade to your playing as it can be effective in some cases, where as Jimmy says you need some emery in the strings.

    Here is a clip that shows and explains that very thing, but it is about adding motion to create that energy Jimmy mentioned.

    http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=z84PeNimEmU
     
  12. hags2k

    hags2k

    Jan 27, 2010
    Good point - there's definitely a difference in sound of fretted vs open notes. (I wonder why instruments with a zero fret aren't more common...)

    I was doing a few examples of this while my girlfriend was watching me practice, and she thought the difference was fairly stark between passages played with a lot of open notes vs the same passage with fretted notes. She generally tended to prefer the sound that I preferred, which is strong evidence in this highly scientific experiment of mine ;)

    I definitely prefer the sound of fretted notes, but recently I was playing the opening/main riff from "Livin' on a Prayer" and I honestly think it sounded better playing it with open notes, which I'd never tried until a few days ago - the contrast between the higher strings and the open E is greater, and seemed to follow the sound of the studio recording better. Go figure.
     
  13. hags2k

    hags2k

    Jan 27, 2010
    +1
     
  14. Jazzkuma

    Jazzkuma Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2008
    In my opinion always favor tone/sound and groove over economy of motion. If you can play it in closed position with no problem then you should play it that way. However you don't want to hurt yourself, so you gotta practice.
    It's a great sign that you start to question these things because it means your ears/ playing is maturing.
     
  15. HaVIC5

    HaVIC5

    Aug 22, 2003
    Brooklyn, NYC
    This, this, and more this.
     
  16. FretlessMainly

    FretlessMainly

    Nov 17, 2010
    I'm not sure why you'd think this. The timbre of a note is in how the fingering hand stops the note.

    I do use open notes if necessary, but open notes don't speak. Closed notes reflect the personality of the bassist.
     
  17. henry2513

    henry2513 Supporting Member

    May 9, 2011
    Los Angeles, Ca
    Hehe I'm still a member of the cult.

    I've made it work though, not through anything I developed on my own but by coping Gary Willis's technique. Imo the angle at which your fingers pluck the strings has everything to do with getting a good sound with that setup, I can still dig in pretty hard.
     

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