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Tips to play extra clean?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by vindibona1, Apr 4, 2020.

  1. I'm at that point where my bass playing has improved enough that I have to start paying more close attention to detail. I'm now (only) beginning to develop an ear for the sound that I want to get (not quite there yet). And while I don't see myself in a "rock" band, I want to pursue more musical theater and perhaps at some point even recording. As I listen to the pros that I want to emulate, everything I'm hearing is super clean. And while I can play most of the stuff that's put in front of me, sometimes it's not as clean as I would like it to be. So I'd like to know what some of you guys think about, or how you approach your bass so that every note becomes clean and clear and precise, with no buzz; just pure bass tone with controlled attacks.

  2. Having a good setup on your bass, and being aware of your muting goes a long way. Also, most (nearly all) of the recorded bass parts you hear make judicious use of compression.
  3. Setups are good. Working on muting technique. I need to learn a lot more about using compression. When I do acoustic gigs my DI/EQ box has a "soft compression" feature that I like a lot. I am not sure how to use compression for bass yet. I've also just begun learning Reaper and would put it on a par with learning Photoshop; the only difference being that when PS came out it had few features (only 1 undo), so the learning curve was incremental. With Reaper is so complex that it seems like I have to swallow half the enchilada before I can do anything with it.
    AGCurry likes this.
  4. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    Chances are good that you're listening to music played by studio musicians. These guys have reached a level most of us will never attain.

    On the other hand ... if you listen to any bass track soloed, you'll likely hear some noise - clanks, squeaks, and the like.

    Aside from making sure your instrument is set up properly, I think the key to attaining a clean sound is in (sigh) practice. Find some lines which challenge your ability to play them cleanly, play them slowly enough, and determine what is the challenge. Overcome said challenge, increase your speed.

    I don't know about compression, because I play mostly double bass... ain't no compression if there ain't no amp.
  5. As Mr. Curry said, practice is the main thing. You don't HAVE to use compression, but all recordings get some during the mixdown to even out the tone and sustain. You can achieve the same clean sound on your own over time when you play live. Having said that, I recently put a Seymore Duncan compressor into my signal chain and it makes everything sound like a recorded part. Plus it's super easy to use and is very subtle. A lot of compressors have way too many settings. Ain't nobody got time for that.
    PennyroyalWe and Zoobiedood like this.
  6. rohi

    rohi Lead Lined

    Mar 1, 2018
    slightly OT, but Reaper is awesome. It has an “undo history” like photoshop, so don’t be afraid to “break” a song, you can always undo it.

    Timing and note length are great places to start working on to get clean playing.
  7. Timing I have pretty much down. I've been playing semi-professional trumpet for decades. Note length and attack is something I'm working on. I'm only beginning to become attentive to the nuances of bass. I'm still struggling to know what I want to hear when I'm working on slap technique. A lot of it is getting dialed into the nuances of the sounds that make one sound like a professional.
  8. Dirk Diggler

    Dirk Diggler Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Anytown USA
    Really simple, practice, repeat, you'll get there eventually.

    I will disagree with the need for a compressor, you can play clean without tools, much more control possible with your hands.

  9. Dee-man

    Dee-man Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2004
    SF Bay Area
    A compressor will often make your notes clearer and pop out, which highlights mistakes, just FYI.
    JohnJenkins and dune like this.
  10. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    If you ever get the chance to listen to isolated live bass tracks, you'll quickly realize that studio tracks are a completely different thing than what happens out in the world of live performance. Live isolated bass tracks (I just sent in one for Easter services - we're doing a distributed virtual band thing) are clanky, growly, and noisy to some extent. Sure, work on getting cleaner - we all do that. Just don't expect your bass with rounds and a decent setup to sound like an Old Precision with 30 year old flats, sky high action, and the tone rolled off - most studio tracks utilize something of that order and/or a lot of rolloff of treble stuff on the track.
    Jackcrow and Anthony Fury like this.
  11. fourstringdrums

    fourstringdrums Decidedly Indecisive Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2002
    Wash your hands, which is good advice for everyone
  12. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music.


    Last edited: Apr 4, 2020
  13. Ironically enough, your own signature answers that question...
  14. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music.

    Last edited: Apr 4, 2020
    SactoBass and Spin Doctor like this.
  15. dougjwray


    Jul 20, 2005
    Good fretting hand form cleans things up a lot.
    Don't let the palm of your hand touch the back of the neck, and let only your fingertips touch the strings.
    Bahjark and vindibona1 like this.
  16. There are times and genres you can just let things fly. And I get that in a live setting a lot of other instrumentation, voices, drums hide a lot of imperfections. But I think that if auditioning for a musical theater gig, or even playing the gig itself, the MD doesn't want to hear a lot of crap in your sound.
    gebass6 likes this.
  17. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    To me it's mostly a matter of clean technique, good ears and patience - breathing whilst playing.
  18. Two things:

    1) Practice. Practice again. Practice some more.
    Concentrate not so much on getting all the notes at speed but getting the notes to sound clean. Slow down, practice making sure your muting is up to scratch and the notes are plucked evenly etc, making sure that any changes in dynamics are because you want them there, not because they just happened. Only try faster after you can play cleanly slowly. Use a metronome.

    2) Listen to the isolated bass tracks of your favourite tracks. Many are available online, on youtube and other places... and you'll find that many are not very clean at all! However, once in the mix, they work. This is not to say "hey, don't worry about playing cleanly!"... do try to play cleanly, but don't lose heart if it takes you longer than you'd like.
    Dabndug likes this.
  19. TJH3113


    Jun 15, 2015
    New Windsor, NY
    I haven't read through all the comments so someone may have already touched upon this, but I think one of the most important things to consider when striving to play "extra clean" would be to focus on your muting techniques. Striving to get the best possible sound out of each note is very important, but so is ending them cleanly and precisely, as well as keeping the chatter behind them to a minimum.
    XtraFancy, mcnach, Bahjark and 3 others like this.
  20. You know, in all the tutorials that mention muting, I think not enough focus is on muting technique and different ways to apply muting. Usually the subject of muting is glossed over with someone saying "use the floating thumb", or "lay your thumb against the strings". I think muting is much more subtle than that. I have a large curvature in my thumb, and while it doesn't anchor anywhere and largely lays across the strings, there are sonic gaps where the strings don't get muted while I think I'm going the mechanics correctly, but the result is insufficient. Are there any instructionals that focus solely on muting?
    VernRumseyIsGod and Ellery like this.

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