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Tone from your fingers

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by boglej2, Mar 6, 2008.

  1. boglej2


    Dec 3, 2007
    Dublin, Ireland
    Heres my question, i jus wanna hear a few opinions without expressing mine first, plus i haven't decided how i feel yet!!!

    "How much of your tone comes from your fingers??"
    i feel i get a lot of tone from mi fingers specially wen soloing
  3. DanielleMuscato


    Jun 19, 2004
    Columbia, Missouri, USA
    Endorsing Artist, Schroeder Cabinets
    I posted about this recently... I'll find it and copy & paste:

    Here's my post in context:

    and copied below...
    I think an interesting question would be, how much of your tone do you think is in your fingers/technique?

    I would put this at about 75%. I still sound like "me" whether I'm tracking with a '64 P-bass or my MTDs. I think that after technique (presuming we're talking about a dry sound), it would go, in descending order:

    2. type of cab (10%)
    3. type of amp (5%)
    4. type of strings/composition (3%)
    5. type of pickups pickups (2%)
    6. type of onboard preamp/center frequencies (2%)
    7. types of woods/grade of woods (2%)
    8. hardware (like bridge weight/composition) (<1%)
    9. other factors like action, etc that don't fit into any other category (<1%)

    if we're talking about a recorded tone, I would place the voicing and character of the microphone, and also the placement & pattern, etc, somewhere around 5.5, and the recording preamp around 1.5.

    This is all IMO/IME. I know that I still sound like "me" whether I'm playing an MTD or a Modulus or a Bongo or a Jazz or a vintage P. Flea is another good example... he still sounds like himself on a vintage P, a Modulus Flea, or a vintage Stingray. It's in your hands.

    Anyway, as my drummer says facetiously whenever I ask him about my tone, "It sounds like a bass. What do you want me to say? Just play the damn thing." :bassist:
  4. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI

    What Dave said. I sound like me whether I play my Ric or my P. 2 very different instruments.
  5. Same here. Unfortunately. [​IMG]
  6. Ten Four One

    Ten Four One

    Dec 5, 2006
    For uprights, a surprising amount. For electric, not quite as much. I get different tones just by using different *parts* of my fingers - dead on or at an angle (with my hand tilted diagonally towards the neck) or by using my thumb instead of my index and middle fingers.

    That said, I'd put it at MUCH less than 75%. What makes me unique as a musician isn't the amount of meat on my fingers or the specific way I attack the strings, it's the note choices, where on the beat I play, what bass I choose to play, how I EQ the amp and so on. My quest for tone never involved building up more or less callouses on my fingers, but always on finding the right bass & amp.
  7. hunta


    Dec 2, 2004
    Washington, DC
    +1. I'd put it at much less than 75% too. You can have an amazing tone, from great equipment, and have no clue how to play. Yes the fingers influence your sound/tone, but to get "that sound" you have to have it "in here". I can play through terrible gear and make it sound pretty good, but it isn't just my fingers doing it.
  8. sonicnuance

    sonicnuance Commercial User

    Aug 30, 2003
    California, USA
    Engineer & Owner, Sonic Nuance Electronics
    As someone said below, for upright it is a large amount. For bass guitar it is a mix.

    Recently I changed from a Fender Precision to a Stingray. The tone changed a LOT. I don't think I could have gotten that with my fingers on the Precision. Perhaps by EQ. My point is your fingers are important but eq/instrument is a factor as well. How much? I'm not quite sure
  9. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    I think people talk about 'tone from fingers' because it's a way of explaining that the main reason you sound like YOU is because of YOU, not your equipment...

    it's less about fingertips (and pick thicknesses) than it is about phrasing and note choice (like the others said).. i'd sound like ME on a kazoo because it all comes from my head
  10. scottbass

    scottbass Bass lines like a big, funky giant

    Jul 13, 2004
    Southern MN
    I agree in overall rank order but not explicit values with what Dave said. He said 75% from fingers/technique, 15% from amp/cab, which leaves 10% for the bass itself (with 3% of that 10% coming from your choice of strings).

    Now if the question were what % of your overall sound (which includes where on the beat you play, how you divide up your 16th notes, etc.), yeah, then 75% (or more) is the human factor. But the question was what % of tone, which includes finger angle and attack and damping/muting but not a lot of the rhythmic aspects of the human factor.

    Maybe 50% human factor, 30% amp/cab, 20% bass itself. Statements such as "(I) sound the same playing my StingRay as my P bass", in addition to implying the player uses the same rhythmic techniques on both basses, might also imply the player modifies the "tone" factors of his technique in order to compensate for the difference in inherent tone between the two instruments. Also, I EQ my amp/cab differently when I play different instruments. Am I doing that to accentuate the differences between the instruments, or am I doing that to compensate for the differences between the instruments?

    I don't know the answer to that question. I always thought I different combinations of bass/EQ for different styles of music, and I was therefore trying to accentuate the differences. But who knows, maybe I am actually (and subconsciously) minimizing and compensating for the differences.

    IMHO, YMMV, etc.
  11. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    It's exactly that.
    I don't think you can make stats for this.
    I can get my tone and sound just the same from pretty much any bass.
    Some just make the job easier on me.
  12. DanielleMuscato


    Jun 19, 2004
    Columbia, Missouri, USA
    Endorsing Artist, Schroeder Cabinets
    I tend to EQ out the differences between different basses. I have this "tone in my head" that I go for subconsciously with both my technique and my equipment, regardless of what style I'm playing or the song.

    It's not something I do on purpose, but if I'm playing a bass like a Gibson EB-3, I notice that I tend to play closer to the bridge (with my right hand), trying to get a more articulate sound, and I also EQ my amp for more clarity, since my "sound" is more MTD/Modulus.

    FWIW, I'm not talking about note choice & phrasing, but simply tone: angle of your fingers, how much of the nail you use, where you play along the string (closer to the neck or closer to the bridge), etc.

    I should probably mention that I came over to bass from a classical guitar background, where all instruments sound pretty much identical and your "signature" tone is entirely dependent on your technique. (Of course, I'm exaggerating, but you get my point.)

    Obviously one can hear the difference when I play a P with flats versus my MTDs, but what I'm saying is that my technique is by far the #1 factor of my tone. If you take a normal P-bass-with-flats/Fliptop player and put him through my Schroeder rig with my MTD, and put the a chart in front of him, he's going to sound much more different (IMHO) from me playing that same chart, using my technique, on a P-bass-with-flats/Fliptop rig.

    Actually, I'd like to hear that in a blind A/B.... hmm....
  13. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I grow organic carrots and they are not for sale
    A lot of my tone is my line6 bass pod ... but a lot is also my fingers ... I can get similar sounds out of a Ric, a pbass and a jazz bass ...

    but a bass like a Gibson EB0 will sound quite different ...
  14. mothmonsterman


    Feb 8, 2006
    I pretty much sound the same on anything unfortunately.
    When i find that magic bass that makes me not sound like... well... me i'll let you know.:D

    though the tone is quite different between my Vester P bass and my Warwick.
  15. El-Bob

    El-Bob Supporting Member

    Oct 22, 2006
    Hamilton, ON
    i personally would say 33% of my sound comes from my picking: where i pick and how hard. another 33% from my bass: that includes strings, woods, pickups, settings on the basses tone and volume controls, etc. i would put another 33% on my amp/eq/effects, although it's hard to say with effects because with enough distortion from my turbo rat I'd say it makes up 100% of my sound:p. i guess that the other 1% probably comes from the weather, or the day of the week, or maybe what i had for breakfast... the point is - i sound ALOT different with a different bass, and different EQ settings, but there's a characteristic of my playing that never changes, and that's what comes from me.
  16. newfuture


    Jul 13, 2007
    The majority of my tone comes from my fingers / pick. Exceptions of course for things like distortion, chorus/flange/phase, delay, ring modulation etc... Next largest factor is instrument followed by amp.
  17. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    There was a time when one had to really learn how to play an instrument. My 1st bass was an Epiphone; my 1st 'real' bass was a '64 P-bass...both had dead spots galore, etc meaning I had to learn the in's & out's of those things.
    Fastforward to the mid '90s...my girlfriend wants to learn how to play so she buys a decent new bass...I will say she got a pretty OK tone pretty quickly (w/ a pick, a decent amp, decent strings, etc). IMO, she didn't have to pay the dues of learning on a log like I did.
  18. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Plus the amount of 'pressure/force'.

    Not comparing URB to electric ('cause I've owned an URB since '76 & it's still a beast that I cannot play)...there are some of us that approach the EB as an 'acoustic' instrument with microphones (pickups). I practice a lot with no amp &, IMO, I sound the same when plugged in...only louder. ;)
  19. dreadheadbass


    Dec 17, 2007
    i think if i had to break it down like everyone else i would say

    10% EQ
    5% strings
    5% amp and cabs
    80% my fingers and technique

    i own 8 bass's at the moment (been eyeing another one up recently) and with the exception of the fretless i can dial all my bass's in to sound pretty much the same
    ok granted some sound a bit warmer some have a bit more punch and some have more growl but the "tone" is still unmistakable as being MY tone yet if i hand it to someone else that tone instantly dissapears

    never underestimate the tonal power of the index and middle finger
  20. Vanceman


    Feb 14, 2007
    So. Cal.
    75% fingers....

    Does the fretting hand have any effect on the tone? I know that sometimes I push down harder than other times, not sure if I hear a difference.

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