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String buzz when lifting fingers

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by marulo, Oct 8, 2019.

  1. marulo


    Oct 8, 2019
    Hello lads!

    I'm kind of new to bass (but by no means new to playing music) and I borrowed a Hofner Ignition. All is fine and dandy, the only problem I'm really facing is the fret buzz. It doesn't seem to be the classic "finger too far from the actual fret", because it only buzzes when I lift my fretting hand fingers to mute. For instance when playing the simple intro line to Psycho Killer, the buzz is almost unbearable and I don't really want to continue playing, until I know if it's a problem with my technique (bad habits :c).

    I have several theories, one is that because the Hofner Ignition is partially hollow, it could be just a really unfortunate case of resonance. Or it could be a problem with the action/neck bend, tho I don't really want to screw around with that (it's borrowed).

    Any idea why? Advice? Thanks :D
    Mark White likes this.
  2. Mark White

    Mark White

    Sep 10, 2019
    A newbie here too, coming across the same issue. And in the absence of more knowledgeable replies...

    What I've gleaned so far is basically that this is normal - big bass strings vibrate (more than, say, guitar) and insufficient pressure causes buzz, so in releasing pressure to mute big strings, they buzz momentarily. The solution seems to be use right-hand/finger muting, though there maybe something that could be happening with left-hand technique that I'm missing too.
  3. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    every beginner encounters buzzing, its nothing to despare about.
    1.) Identify if the buzz gets amplified. Many basses when unplugged have some buzzing that does not translate and need not be a concern.
    2.) practice left hand finger pressure
    3.) practice right and left hand muting
  4. RCEdwards

    RCEdwards Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2015
    The problem may be slow release of your fretting finger and/or lack of coordination between releasing your finger and plucking or picking the string. If you pluck before the fretting finger is clear, you will get a buzz sound. I practice a simple exercise of 1-2-3-4-3-2-1, etc. with my fretting hand fingers at a steady speed where I do not get the buzz. Hope this helps.
    RustyAxe likes this.
  5. Mambo's advice and linked videos are what you need to focus on. It's a matter of physically controlling the instrument.
    dramatwist likes this.
  6. Mark White

    Mark White

    Sep 10, 2019
    The comments here seem to be referring to buzz when fretting a note to play it. The OP (and me) are asking about buzz that occurs when muting a note with the fretting hand after playing it.

    Eg: I play a G on the E string and want to cut the note off after playing it. When I raise the fretting finger to provide string damping, the act of lessening the pressure causes buzz before the note is damped.

    For me this comes from using this technique on guitar, but I get the idea the thicker strings on bass mean that a different technique is needed, or am I just lessening the pressure too gradually, or just that it isn't really done and right hand muting should be used instead?
  7. Qlanq


    Jul 9, 2007
    Right hand muting.
    Look into the Floating Thumb Technique. Very useful.
    I had the same problem as you had. Was quite a quick fix.
  8. /\/\3phist0

    /\/\3phist0 Life: It's sexually transmitted and always fatal Supporting Member

    Also fretting hand mute with finger behind (between fret and nut) finger that is fretting.
    Qlanq likes this.
  9. Mark White

    Mark White

    Sep 10, 2019
    This is where I went with it, though it still feels like there's something else that can be done with the left hand...
  10. Mark White

    Mark White

    Sep 10, 2019
    I'll have to try this as I can't see how fretting behind the buzz stops it. Though muting with other fingers on the same string isn't something I'd considered, so I suppose that fretting with the index finger, and muting above that with the middle/ring would work.

    I'll experiment - thanks :)
    /\/\3phist0 likes this.
  11. videos of your problem?
  12. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    left hand mute is not done by lifting the fretting finger up,
    It's done by putting other fingers down. Perhaps that's your error?

    A quick you tube survey shows most bassists covering Psycho Killer are using the right hand to mute during the verse.
    That first A note on the 5th fret is typically fretted with the pinky (in the vids i saw),
    so there's no left hand fingers available to stop the string.

    to left hand mute Psycho Killer you'd have to fret the A with something like your index finger
    and use the rest of your left hand fingers to stop the string
    which would make the subsequent E and G notes a bit harder to execute

  13. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    Just to check my own technique (because I have played long enough so I don't have to think about technique), I picked up my bass to play this line. The result? I disagree with you. I mute the notes by lifting my fretting finger (pinky, in this case) just enough so that the string does not contact the fret. No buzz. There is the possibility that if your finger is right over the fret you may end up with a harmonic - but no buzz.

    This leads me to suspect that the OP is lifting his finger too much, so that the finger actually loses contact with the string.

    BTW, does the guy in that video have a damaged pinky? If not, he should learn to use it...
  14. marulo


    Oct 8, 2019
    Hello! I am not lifting my fingers too much, they stay on the string the whole time, but just enough to not fret the actual string. It's midnight over here, so I can't currently record the problem, but I'll try to get it as soon as possible.

    Also I found another fella (who also seems to have a 'problem' with his pinky), who uses the lifting technique and you can pretty clearly hear a slight buzz. So just imagine that, but about 10 times worse.
  15. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    Yes, I hear that. At that level, it is nothing to worry about.
    And I can actually find that buzz on some notes, not all. It's that short measure of time during the lifting of the finger, when the string is vibrating against the fret. Most of the time, it's not objectionable "in the mix." I think the remedy is to lift the finger faster. Different strings and/or higher action might help.
  16. Yeah you could fret the 5th fret with pinky, ring, or middle finger (preferably pinky) and have your remaining fingers on the string behind the 5th fret (over 4th, 3rd, and 2nd). Leaving those fingers on the string while you lift the pinky could help the stop the fret buzz.

    It’s too much in that video, even in a mix, I think.
  17. Matty Koff

    Matty Koff

    Aug 21, 2014
    In all reality.. there are three things that could be the culprit here. Bass setup - string height and neck relief and fretwork, EQ (if you turn your highs up enough it's easy to hear metal on metal, also rolling off the tone can get rid of some of these noises), and of course your technique.

    Find a guitar tech or luthier to help you set your bass up, ask them to let you observe the process.. if your neck is too straight, you can get some fret buzz, if a fret is too high, it can buzz or mute notes, and you can have your frets leveled. If your highs are boosted, or your tone is at full, the more you'll hear that fret buzz, if even with a proper setup, and tamed highs and tone you're still getting a buzz.. examine your technique, how you mute, and how you fret a note, as well as how you pluck the string.
  18. SunByrne


    Aug 29, 2019
    Pearland, TX
    Yeah, but they're playing it "wrong." The main riff is played on open A, not fifth fret of the E. (Obviously, that's the same note, which is why I put "wrong" in quotes—I know it's not technically wrong. Bear with me.) This is literally the first song I ever learned and so I looked at every bit of live footage of Tina Weymouth playing the song that I could find, from like 1978 to the 2012 HoF induction, and she always plays it on open A. You can play the whole opening riff with just your plucking hand except for the G. Sometimes she takes her left hand completely off the bass except for when she plays that G, so it's very close to a one-handed riff.

    But it's pretty staccato, so you can't just let those As ring until the next one—gotta mute 'em. I do it with my plucking hand (which is what Tina does when she takes her left hand off). Alternate-finger plucking, and right after you pluck with one finger, the other finger goes onto the string (but doesn't pluck right away) so it stops ringing and you get that abrupt staccato. There's really no fret muting necessary because the only note you fret is that one G, and that one rings out a bit anyway, then gets muted when you pluck through the next A.

    And yes, the buzzing in the second video is clearly audible at the very beginning, but once the rest of the band starts up I can't really hear it anymore, so if that's all you're getting not a big deal. 10x worse might be, but pretty much the whole problem goes away if you aren't fretting that A in the first place.
    SLO Surfer likes this.
  19. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    I think I know what you mean. Say you play a G on the E string with your pinky and after playing the note and lift up your pinky slightly to mute the sound you get a buzz, right?

    I have this sometimes on my upright bass. But that's because the strings are higher. So maybe the action of your bass is too high?
  20. Mark White

    Mark White

    Sep 10, 2019
    Exactly. There have been a few helpful comments in the last couple of days and it seems like suggested approaches are:

    Right-hand mute - this is what I have been doing (in general play as it's not me playing the Psycho Killer riff)
    Lifting the fretting finger - I have experimented with this and I can do this with no buzz if I'm fretting very lightly, and getting the lift quick and to a precise height, which suggests this is just down to practise.
    Muting on a string above a higher fret - trickier for me and took a while to figure out how little pressure is needed to avoid buzzing on a whole different fret. But again, it seems like something that will come with practise.

    So I think I'm good now with a couple of new things to practise :)
    Les Fret likes this.

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