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String Clacks

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Tage, Aug 6, 2004.

  1. Tage


    Sep 17, 2003
    I'm sure this had been addressed before, but I wasn't sure what the search keywords would be.. So bare with me ;)

    Whenever I play faster bass lines, such as the intro to Around the World by RHCP, I find the strings make an audible clacking sound whenever I press them down against the fret. Now, because of the speed involved I'm depressing the frets fast and hard, so my question is this:

    Does the problem lay with the way I'm playing the bass, or can it be remedied by some manner of adjustment to the bass itself (strings, bridge adjustments, etc.)?
  2. Steve


    Aug 10, 2001
    Yes.....and yes.

    Common problem with 3 solutions.
    1. Play lighter
    2. Raise the action
    3. Use less treble.

    Any one choice of a combination of choices will work
  3. I suggest playiing lighter or raising the action just a little. When you really dig in on low action this noise will occur as you have noticed, the lighter touch you have the less fret noise you will hear!

  4. I think I know what you're referring to. Not so much the clacking sound from your picking hand striking the strings too hard, but more of a clack when you're fretting different notes on the fingerboard?

    If so, I'm wondering if perhaps your action is a bit too high. I was experimenting with various string height actions on a bass not too long ago, and I had the action up higher than I usually like it, mostly because I thought it needed to be higher since I was picking with my fingers. Well.. since I had to depress the frets farther and faster to keep up a fast pace, I too noticed an undesirable clacking sound.
    I started LOWERING the action a bit at a time, until I reached a point where I could fret faster without the clacking, and still not have fret buzz or the clack from picking the string too hard.
    I'm not sure if this makes any sense to ya, and I know it is reverse of what the other knowledgeable bassists are recommending.
    For what it's worth..

  5. Tage


    Sep 17, 2003
    Exactly. I actually play pretty lightly with my fingers on my picking hand, but the clack is from the string smacking against the fret.
  6. Zirc


    May 13, 2001
    Los Angeles
    yOu CaN pLaY LiKe FiEdLY maN!!!!11!11oneoenone

    God it's hard to type like an idiot.
  7. dugonbass


    Aug 8, 2004
    Try a little more relief in your neck. In other words, loosen the truss rod about a half turn or so. I like my action as low as I can get it and find that the CLACK you hear could actually coming from the string your finger hits below the string you're plucking. For instance, you play a G(5th fret) on your D string and there it is...CLACK. It may be the A string hitting the fretboard. Try whatever note or notes you hit that cause that and then try to isolate that string from the one below it and see what happens. Also, make sure your saddles match the radius of the pickup end of your neck. This will make quite a difference. Good Luck
  8. bizzaro


    Aug 21, 2000
    Tage, If I understand you correctly, Magneto is on the money here. The other's that have suggested raising your action, or setting your truss rod with a bit more up bow will only make your problem worse. Then you will have to push the string down harder and it will enhance the clacking sound you are describing. Lower your action if you can, and keep your fingers close to the strings. IE: Play in a mirror and see your if fingers are flying around. Try and play so you can hardly tell they are moving so to speak. If your fingers are way off the fret board it is harder to control your touch when fretting. May I suggest playing some stuff with only your left hand. Experiment with the the force and sound you produce with your left hand only. And try and play almost directly over the fret. Hope this helps. :eyebrow:
  9. dugonbass


    Aug 8, 2004
    You do realize that by giving your neck a little relief you can actually get the strings closer to the neck, not farther. This gives the strings more room to wobble(which they do) in the middle of the fretboard. You can't achieve that with a completely flat neck. You'll get buzz, and I like a little buzz, and clack either at the highest reaches of the neck or toward the middle. Unless you want to completely change the way you play give it a shot. I'm serious about the string below the string you're playing producing the clack. And it's necessary to adjust your saddles to the same radius as your neck at the neck/body joint. I've always been a player who likes the lowest action I can get and have set-up several basses for local and touring players that come through the area so all of this crapola comes from experience. Good Luck!
  10. bizzaro


    Aug 21, 2000
    Only if you follow it up by adjusting your saddles, and it is still a question of balance between the two. He is discribing the clack the string makes when it hits the fret under the finger fretting the note, not the string vibrating against the frets. At least that is how I read it. It is a technique problem. You can't adjust your bass for how hard you slap the string against the frets when you are fretting! You can do things to mimimize the effects. Turning down the treble, and lowering your action may help, but mostly it is his technique that needs work IMHO.
  11. Tage


    Sep 17, 2003
    What I meant by clacking was the clack of the string against the fret when I play it, not the buzz :)

    I guess you're right, it would have more to do with my playing style, but I have notice that my action is pretty high so I'll have to adjust that when I get the right allen wrench.
  12. I hear where you're coming from. And some of the others may be right about adjusting neck relief, etc, but the bottom line is that your "clack" is coming from your fretting fingers pushing the strings down against the frets.
    There is the question of whether you need to adjust the truss, or lower the string saddles at the bridge. If your action was fine at one point, then you notice it higher at the same tune, then this is an indication of a needed truss adjustment. Usually needs to be "tightened" just a bit. If you're trying to get a new bass setup right and it's never felt right, it might require a combination of truss and bridge adjustment.
    Some of this clacking sound can also be "amplified?" by how bright and tinny a sound you're using. All tiny noises are more audible, even the CLACK.
    But regardless, when I had this type of problem, getting the strings down a bit lower really helped with this. There's that magical sweetspot where you can find the right fret action versus picking action. Just take little steps to achieve it.

    Good luck..
  13. dugonbass


    Aug 8, 2004
    Here's a shot of what I mean by adjusting the saddles to the countour of the neck. Just click on the pic to enlarge it.
  14. AntWhistle


    Jul 26, 2004
    Norwich, UK.
    If you're always getting & noticing finger noise try switching from roundwound strings (I presume this is what you're using) to halfround/groundwound strings. They have a roundwound sound but with a smoother feel and less finger noise.

    Maybe not the most handy idea, but I'm aproaching from a different angle on this :ninja:
  15. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    It isn't the bass.

    Focus on fretting the strings closer to the back edge of the fret and less in the middle of the fb between frets. The fleshly part of your finger will better serve as a mute to suppress the clatter.

    Also only fret with as much pressure as you need to get a clear, ringing note. Over pressure is unneeded and slows you down.
  16. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    QUOTE=bizzaro]...and keep your fingers close to the strings. ... Experiment with the the force and sound you produce with your left hand only. And try and play almost directly over the fret. [/QUOTE]
    IME, this will do the trick. I still have clack problems when I forget to keep my finger close to the strings - all the time!
  17. Razman

    Razman Supporting Member

    Feb 10, 2005
    Orange Park, FL
    Hi Tage,

    I too have this problem to a certain extent. I have a Dingwall Z1, and have the neck set with very little relief and the action is pretty darn low and I still get some clacking. Technique and where I play on the neck contribute the most IMO. I play the bass riff to Creed's "What If" high on the neck, around the 12th fret. That is where I get it the most. Finger placement between the frets isn't really adjustable here. The height of my E and B strings are just over 2mm above the fret, and my bass has banjo frets. Playing lighter helps slightly, but when you're live, playing a song like that, who can play light?? Palm-muting a tad kills it altogether for me however. If I hammer down hard on the headstock end of the neck I'll get a little, but not much. I plan on eventually changing out my pickups. I don't think that will help, but it may have some effect on it. I hope this helps.

  18. Hmm, the left hand causes the clacking right? Then lowering the action might be the way to go. This means less distance between your fingers an the fretboard (you can also be aided by keeping your fingers close to the strings and ready to fret). Of course, if your strings are set too low, you may get right hand clacking (your strings being plucked too hard and hitting the frets - not buzzing). It's all about finding the balance between comfort and buzz/right hand clack.
  19. Steve


    Aug 10, 2001
    If you raise the action and it goes away..it's the the plucking hand.
    If you raise the action and it gets worse...it's the fretting hand.

    It's been my experience..that when you really look HARD at whats going on...most all of that clack doesn't come from the fretting hand...or the string you pluck... unless you're really bearing down way harder than you ever need to. Most all of it comes when the finger on your plucking hand gets stopped by the string below and it slaps against the last fret of the fretboard.