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Turn Up n' Play Soft?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Nu11nV01D, Mar 1, 2013.

  1. Nu11nV01D


    Jul 8, 2011
    Hey folks. I've been gigging around town for almost a year now, and now that I'm in front of people more often and challenging myself with new, more difficult songs, I have to assess my technique situation because it seems like I've hit a rut.

    I see videos of bassists all the time where is seems like they're plenty loud but they're supper light on the notes. Slap bass, too, barely moving their right hand and getting amazing tones.

    So here's the question: When you're plugged in, let's say 10 is the loudest volume you can play without touching any knobs, so if you were just slamming fingers on the strings.

    How close to 10 do you play? Because I play at around a 9 and I think it's having on adverse effect on my ability to bounce and move around the fretboard.
  2. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    On the bass? 10 for passive, 8 for active.
  3. RoeyHaviv


    Apr 1, 2011
    Charlotte NC
    Endorsing Artist: Vigier guitars, Pigtronix Effects
    First- make sure your bass is set up right (relatively straight neck, low action, pickups are close to the strings..), Fresh strings help with that also.

    Now you can set your gain right (how strong of a signal is coming in to the amp).

    A compressor can also help but if you squash your bass too much with it you will loose dynamic range (also with too low action).

    if that doesn't help, maybe you need a louder amp.
  4. I usually crank the bass gtr volume and adjust the amp volume to what I think might be the loudest volume needed and then back the volume down with the bass gtr so I can control the volume from the bass gtr thereafter. I do something similar with the amp EQ - I adjust the amp so it’s as trebly as I want it and then use the bass gtr tone to roll some off, again giving me better tone control form the bass gtr and if needed only need to make a minor on the fly adjustment at the amp.
  5. billgwx


    Apr 10, 2009
    Centereach NY
    I turn up loud enough to be able to play softly and still have good control over dynamics. That could be any number really depending on the entire setup.
  6. JoeWPgh


    Dec 21, 2012
    How hard and where you pluck the strings has as much to do with your tone as anything else in your signal path. If you pluck too softly you'll tend to get a less driving tone, but you'll be able to set your action lower. If you pluck too hard, you won't have the headroom to emphasize a note.
  7. uhdinator


    Apr 20, 2010
    I practice thru my studio monitors at low volume or headphones thru my recording system. Plus recording has revealed where technique is lacking and has made my playing better. Many play to aggressively to get volume when playing live and technique goes out the window as the stage volume masks a lot of things caused by poor technique.

    You get better dynamics having the amp louder and playing lighter more evenly and you have the dynamics when needed by digging in a bit when needed.
  8. gavinspoon


    Feb 11, 2008
    Cardiff UK
    I'm at about 9.5

    Saw a stoner rock show last week from the very front of the the club. 2 bands, both with awesome loud aggresive bass played with fingers. 1st band the guy was at about 3, second the guy was about 4.

    I think that if i'd played through either of their rigs with their settings and a pick i'd have blown up their speakers.

    For what it's worth i think they both had better tone than i do. So light touch and lots of amp does work very well when done right. It's got me thinking about reining it in a bit.
  9. gavinspoon


    Feb 11, 2008
    Cardiff UK
    I think he means how hard do you hit the strings on a scale of 1 to 10. With 1 being the lightest tickle and 10 being as hard as you can physicaly hit them.
  10. Stevorebob

    Stevorebob Well... I Am Here, Aren't I? Supporting Member

    Sep 29, 2011
    Los Angeles
    9 to 10. But I'm not bragging. I try to play softer with better technique; I just can't restrain my excitement.
  11. Hamlet7768

    Hamlet7768 Here to chew gum and rock. Still have gum.

    Jun 5, 2011
    I tend to play round a 8 or 9. I just like the clanky sound I get with it.
  12. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I do what the song dictates. If it sounds better playing hard, I'll play hard. If it sounds better playing lightly, I'll play lightly. But lightening up and letting the amp do the work is definitely easier on your hands and can sound quite massive in the right hands, plus you can play fast stuff faster. I'd say master it all, and then you're not stuck if you need to change your approach.
  13. Nu11nV01D


    Jul 8, 2011
    Thanks for the replies guys. Looks like I need to suck it up and just get better, can't blame my lack of dexterity on hitting the strings too hard.

    That being said, I will practice all those different ways. Should be fun.
  14. 1 to 10? about 6 or 7... If you play too hard you cant play fast, so when you play lighter to achieve speed you lose volume and intensity. I prefer playing with a medium touch to get an even sound when playing slow and fast..
  15. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Definitely a light touch guy here. In fact anymore if I let another player get on my bass I turn my amp down at least 30% by default because it's almost certain he'll be playing a lot more heavily than me. They also usually wind up clicking and clacking because my action is very low and there's not much clearance over my pickups.

    Not that I won't dig in when the situation calls for it but that's the exception, not the rule.
  16. JoeWPgh


    Dec 21, 2012
    I would encourage the OP to develop a light touch. For dynamics and versatility, I find it easier to dig in and play harder when desirable than to pull back and play lighter. But I realize I tend to dig in, so maybe it's me. With a bass set up with low action for a light touch, you can move your right hand closer to the bridge when you want to dig in. (I suspect most of us tend to do this instinctively.) Anyway, that's my advice to anyone who hasn't picked up my bad habits
  17. jeffgnr90


    Aug 4, 2011
    definitely a 9-10 for meh
  18. PaulieBe


    Jun 25, 2011
    Los Angeles
    This is an interesting issue. I have noticed this new style of extremely light right hand work- especially in the electric, solobass and fusion-y community. Almost a guitar finger-style picking technique at work, using all or most of the right hand fingers and thumb and clearly very low action. I can see that it takes a great degree of skill and practice to achieve this technique and while I can appreciate the great amount of woodshed it requires to get there, I am not personally a fan of the resulting sound. I find it a bit precious and anemic.

    Before I continue, clearly this is a taste issue and that is mine. So IMO of course.

    But I think that great bass tone requires a strong right hand whether fingers or pick- even on electric bass where electronics and volume are there to do a great deal of the heavy lifting for you.

    There is of course a point at where physics take over and playing too hard works against you. The string 'plucks out' or is strangled by the attack. That is not what I am speaking to. Consider Jaco- he did not a have a delicate right hand by any stretch, nor did he use low action. I think a lot of the (non-genius, if there was any!) part of his tone is due to this. A very strong approach and a bass set up in the sweet spot to handle the power. And of course practice to find the dynamic range within that parameter. My 2 cents.
  19. this
    i wouldn't dare to play reggae with anything more than barely touching the strings. when playing funky stuff i tend to attack the strings more aggressively
  20. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist ZOMG! I'm back from the dead!

    Jul 30, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Yup, I usually save the hard playing for picking and such. If I'm playing with my fingers, I'm trying to go for clarity since I don't have as much attack when I play with fingers as opposed to a pick. A note coming out clearly is more important to me than anything else when I'm playing. Not to mention, a lighter touch typically means less hand fatigue in the longrun :)

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