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'Tone Is In The Fingers.' Ugh.

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by shufflebass123, Feb 28, 2021.

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  1. shufflebass123


    Feb 19, 2019
    In the new issue of BPM, they awarded the 'best player of the year award' to this guy who, in the interview, outed himself as one of those dreaded 'tone is in the fingers' guys. Anyone with the sense they were born with couldn't possibly believe that to be true. To believe that, you'd have to be able to look yourself in the eye and believe that 'The Waiting' or 'Turn Turn Turn' would sound exactly as it does if TP or Roger McGuinn played a Les Paul or a Tele on those records. You would have to believe that every Motown Record would sound exactly as it does if Jamerson used a Rickenbacker. The entire successes of Rickenbacker and Fender as companies is predicated on the idea that nothing on the planet sounds like a Ric guitar/bass and nothing on the planet sounds like a Strat/Tele/P Bass. And nothing does.

    I'm not looking to have a debate. If you believe this and we both live a million years, you'll never convince me. You can play me a record I've never ever heard before and if it uses a Strat/Tele/P Bass/Ric I can tell in 2 seconds flat. Nothing on the planet sounds like those instruments. Your fingers have zero to do with it. People play those instruments specifically to get those sounds. Everyone knows this.

    But my question becomes: Why do people say this? How do they actually believe this? Are they confusing tone with style? Or have they lost their minds? Or is it something else? I've always been curious about this.
    L-1329, cracker973, dagrev and 21 others like this.
  2. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    So you don't want a debate, but you want someone to explain to you why many people think you're wrong? And no matter what they say it won't change your mind? What exactly is the point?
  3. shufflebass123


    Feb 19, 2019
    The point is I'm curious why people think that. Knowing that there is a specific Rickenbacker sound for example, and knowing that there are people who think that tone is in your fingers, there must be some reason that people thtink this. One person told me on No Treble that they think that those people confuse tone with style. It could be that or something else. But I'm looking to get to the bottom of this. That's the point.
  4. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    There is no "bottom of this", you've opened a bottomless can of worms full of nothing but subjective opinions. Don't expect resolution / agreement. Learn to just let it go.
  5. Spidey2112


    Aug 3, 2016
    Definitive proof where groove is.

  6. Lammchop93

    Lammchop93 Supporting Member

    Feb 4, 2007
    Louisville, KY
    A big part of it is in the fingers, and you’ll never conceive me otherwise. I’ve yet to find anyone else who sounds like John entwistle.
  7. ProbablyTooLoud


    Aug 1, 2020
    This is a really easy answer. People say this because you can totally change your tone depending on where and how you pluck. It's not rocket science. It's easy to get different tones with your fingers. You being able to tell what guitar someone is using doesn't change that fact.

    Also, this is nonsense, bro:

    "To believe that, you'd have to be able to look yourself in the eye and believe that 'The Waiting' or 'Turn Turn Turn' would sound exactly as it does if TP or Roger McGuinn played a Les Paul or a Tele on those records."

    Totally false. I don't gotta nothin.

    I believe that tone is in the fingers and is also affected by the guitar. These are not mutually exclusive thoughts.
  8. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    People say tone is in the fingers because...a lot of it is. Geddy has played a P, a Wal, a Rick, a steinberger, and a few others. He can pick up any bass, and he’ll sound like him. I can pick up any of his basses, or any of mine, and I’ll sound like me.
  9. gebass6

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

    Your SOUND is in the fingers.
    Your TONE is in the bass's wood (don't start!)construction method,electronics and strings.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2021
  10. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    A large part of this is "style", but tone is part of style. It's not all just note choice, phrasing, and timing - position of the fingers, particularly use of fingertips and edge of nails, makes a huge difference too. If I pluck with the meat of my fingers (accentuates bass and "thump"), I get a totally different tone than if I start with the string right up against the nail and pluck with both finger skin and nail tip (accentuates treble and "snap").

    I can usually make a decent guess on what kind of instrument someone is using just by the tone, but I can also often make a pretty decent guess on who's playing, also by the tone.
    Tim Braun, Fred P, Bonsist and 13 others like this.
  11. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    If tone isn't in the fingers please show us you getting a good one without using yours.
  12. gebass6

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

    You cannot make a Gibby EB0 with flats sound like a Rick 4001 with rounds by changing how and where you pluck the strings.
    L-1329, ooglybong, Iristone and 18 others like this.
  13. BarfanyShart


    Sep 19, 2019
    DC Metro
    "Tone" is kind of a broad word in this concept. Obviously the guitar (mostly the strings and electronics) influences the profile of harmonic information in the pitch, and the decay of the note. Also different guitars are capable of different setups, which might influence what notes you choose to play and what kind of technique you use.

    But these factors don't really matter much when it comes to the overall sound of your playing. Your articulation, note choice, length of note, placement on the beat, muting, ... that stuff matters more to what you actually sound like as a player.
  14. Hounddog409


    Oct 27, 2015
    Because its true.

    I sound like me regardless if I am playing my RIC, G&L, Tbird, or Stingray.

    And I can make them all sound the same in a mix if I turn those nob things on by bass and amp.
    Bonsist, avi, ooglybong and 11 others like this.
  15. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    True, but completely irrelevant. Conversely, using a different bass cannot hide the differences in where and how you pluck the strings. They are two equal, but independent, factors in the generation of tone.
    tri2bob, bozric, cchorney and 8 others like this.
  16. I've been backing up a well known mandolinist for years. I've heard him play great instruments and not great instruments. No matter. He always sounds great. I've played those same instruments and they never sound nearly as good. Go figure.
  17. InstantEctobass


    Feb 18, 2018
    Wow... ok?
  18. BassFalcon


    Nov 18, 2020
    Not a single one of us “tone is in your hands” types would ever make this claim. So far you’ve got ad hominem attacks and straw man arguments. Debating ideas clearly isn’t your strong suit. I already know I’m wasting my “breath” here but to condense the idea for you; by saying tone is in your hands most of us mean that there are near infinite variables in your hands and how you employ them to make sound. For instance right hand angle of attack, how much finger meat you get on the string, length of nails, muting style, finger length, etc. etc. all of these add up to your “sound”. That sound translates through any instrument you play, as evidenced by the Geddy Lee example above. That is what is meant by “your tone” is in “your hands”. Similar to your speaking voice. You could feed your voice through a great number of effects and filters and different mics etc. but you will still be easily identifiable to those who know your voice.
  19. LOL, turn off all your pedals and overdrive. Then smack the bass hard with your knuckles, pluck sharply with your fingernails, pluck gently with the flesh of your fingertips and play aggressively with a pick. If all that sounds exactly the same, I'll believe you are correct.

    In other words, you don't seem to understand what people mean when they say this.
    Bonsist, snworks, p-hill and 34 others like this.
  20. AboutSweetSue


    Sep 29, 2018
    Tone is the end where all variables meet. It’s not just in your fingers. The player variable is just one of quite a few.

    So, I think the correct statement is that tone comes from a collection of elements that meet and create the end product.

    The reason why people say “Tone is in the fingers” is because a lot of humans speak in generalities with the assumption of the listener being able to dissect the broad brush. The importance of player impact on tone should not be understated, though. A lot of tone IS in the fingers.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2021
  21. Chris Breese

    Chris Breese Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    Farmington, IL USA
    Maybe someone has said this already, but if anyone picks up a bass - a P bass for example - a good player will be able to pluck it, pick it, slap it, etc, in a way that brings out the tonal characteristics that make the bass sound like a P bass. Or J bass. Or a Ric, etc. And make it sound good.

    I don’t believe “tone is in the fingers” means Jamerson could pick up a Ric and make it sound like his P bass. I bet he could’ve made it sound good, though. Me? Probably not.

    Just my thoughts.

    I really wish I could pick up my J bass and make it sound like I think it’s supposed to sound, which is based on all the sounds I’ve heard on all the records, YouTube, etc.
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    Apr 14, 2021

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