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Using Fingers Sounds Like Slap - How To Fix?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Quadzilla, Oct 11, 2005.

  1. Quadzilla

    Quadzilla Supporting Member


    I've gone between fingering and using a pick over the years. My issue is something that I've struggled with for years. When I use my fingers for plucking, anytime I start to play with any aggression what so ever, I get this slap type sound. I can pluck lightly, but when the pace picks up and it's an aggressive song, and I get into it, I get that sound. I'm not sure if it's a product of my fingers being so long and not really tappered on the ends, or what. Unless I play very lightly, I get this. So I typically resort to a pick a lot, but don't want to. Not sure how to fix this.

    I guess if I were in an original band, it probably would not be an issue, as this could be my "trademark" sound cause it just feels so natural for me, but I play in a cover band.

    Any of you out there ever deal with this issue? Again, sounds very much like just this side of slap (without the pop). I've tried a couple of things, but nothing seems to work. :help: So either I fix this some how or just keep using a pick on harder songs and using my fingers on lighter songs. Occasionally, my just short of slap tone from fingering sounds good on some songs, but on others, it sounds "plunky". Again, help!
  2. Turn your volume way up, that's what helps me not dig into the strings too much.
  3. Two things to think about here.

    1: Either turn up the volume on your amp so you don't have to dig in so hard.

    2: If that doesn't work for you, and you find you still dig in quite hard regardless of your amps volume, then you can lower your pickups, and perhaps raise your action to avoid the strings hitting the pickups and fingerboard.

  4. I think either your action is too low, or you have the wrong type of string for your style, but its probably both. That's my gut feeling of what's going on here.
  5. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Don't hate me, Fred, but the answer is the same old thing... practice. If you can play at one pace without making noise, you should be able to play at any pace. The bright side is that once you get this under you belt, you'll trip people out.

    I played in Columbia last night and did exactly what I'm talking about. Played my oldest Brubaker with really low action and I got the same sound you're describing ONLY when I wanted to. We were doing all kinds of whack stuff on this gig including going to extremes dynamics wise. At one point we were playing so softly everyone in the place got extremely quiet... just to hear us. We'd go from that to a series of random high volume hits, going back and forth volumewise. Made drastic tempo changes without affecting volume.

    Here's the main "problem" or issue... when you're dealing with a light touch you have a much narrower window to work in, meaning the difference between paying cleanly and clanking is so close it's harder to control.

    Turning up the amp and keeping the volume up on the bass forces you to control it with your hands. Trust me, not only can it be done, it's one of the best tools you can have in your arsenal. More control is a good thing.
  6. Tim__x


    Aug 13, 2002
    Alberta, Canada
    Cut your nails, cut them regularly.
  7. phxlbrmpf


    Dec 27, 2002
    I'm not sure if his strings are too low, personally, I find that if my action happens to be a bit too low, I get even more buzz when playing with a pick than I do when I play fingerstyle.
  8. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Where are you plucking when the tune's pace gets 'aggressive'?
    If it's near the neck or over the, say, P-pickup...FME, you will get the 'popped' thing via plucking(certainly a viable technique that I don't see enough of anymore).

    If you like 'digging in'(& I don't blame you)...try plucking more towards the bridge for those 'aggressive' times(where the strings are more taut).
  9. phxlbrmpf


    Dec 27, 2002
    Don't think you're "not allowed" to use the neck pickup when the going gets tough, though. I solo the neck pickup for some of my band's heavier songs that I feel need a woofier sound. I just have to lighten my touch a lot. Try it yourself. Being used to a MM-style bass, it took me quite a while to get it right. I don't think you're going to run into any volume problems as soloed neck pickups tend to be pretty much loud on basses with soapbars.
  10. Quadzilla

    Quadzilla Supporting Member

    Man, you guys were awfully buzy while I was sleeping! Anyway, I'll give all of the above a shot. I'm not sure if the volume thing will help. I hate getting into volume wars with my other band mates and I really don't think it's so much of a volume issue as it is of a controling my hands and learning how to properly pluck strings vs hitting the tops of with my fingertips when things start speeding up in a song. My nails are kept short, so I know it's not that either. I guess I just need to really buckle down and focus on controlling my clanks and plunks when things get moving. The strings do hit the frett board and possibly the pups too.

    It's strange that on slow beat songs, I have no issue with this at all but almost can't stop it from happening on the fast ones. Moving my fingers towards the bridge seems to help but also softens the tone quite a bit. I'd hate to raise the action, but I can try that too, but have played with higher action before and it does not help a ton (maybe a little). Again, thanks guys! Feel free to point out other things since reading this follow-up. Thanks again guys!!!!
  11. There's your answer. That's what makes the slap sound. The whole idea of slapping with your thumb is to make the strings hit the frets.

    Turn up your volume. It'll FORCE you to play with a lighter touch, so you don't end up with a volume war.

    Again, it's all about practice and control. (I have this same problem sometimes, I know the frustration)
  12. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    I disagree with the "turn up and play with a light touch" advice. I like to "dig in" when I play, too. It feels better to me. I have my action a little higher than most, but it allows me to dig in more, which I like.

    Sounds to me that you have a similar style. I would suggest raising your action a bit.
  13. JazzBassvb


    Aug 5, 2003

    I can dig really good and I still have a nice even tone when anchoring my thumb on my bridge pickup (I play Jazz basses) when plucking the E string, then I move my thumb to the bridge side of the pickup for the strings. My fingers end up right in front of the bridge and with the strong tension in that area, it won't give the strings room to 'bounce' around.

    It works for me.

  14. Dan1099

    Dan1099 Dumbing My Process Down

    Aug 7, 2004
    Also, when you "dig in" are your fingers pushing the strings into the body, or pulling them parallel with the body? I find that if I lay my fingers flat across the strings and push the strings into the body to pluck, i get the sound you are talking about, whereas if i use the more "correct" approach, pulling the strings parallel with the body, i get much cleaner.
  15. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass ****

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    I think Brad may have the best answer for you. It's tough to know exactly what you are doing but it sounds like your attack is so fast and aggressive that you are in fact "slapping" the strings, you're just using your fingers and not your thumb(which by the way can be a very good approach if that sound is desired). What makes the slap sound happen is not only how fast and hard you hit the string, but equally how fast you release or "get off" the string. Moving toward the bridge where the string tension is greater is good advise but in the end I think you need to iron-out your right hand technique so you can play assertively without altering your tone so much. If your fingers are really long I would suggest angling you hand inward so your fingers point toward the neck a bit and work on making your "stride" shorter and tighter. Keep your fingertips closer to the strings so they don't have to move so far to strike, this should give you more control but it may take you some time to get back up to the speed you're used to.
    Good Luck!
  16. The Clap

    The Clap

    Jan 5, 2004
    Scottsdale, AZ
    Aside from playing more lightly with intention, you could try raising your action a bit as well.
  17. Quadzilla

    Quadzilla Supporting Member

    This pretty much describes my issue to a "T" I believe. I think that when I play soft, I pull the strings parallel but when I dig in and play at a fast pace, I push the strings into the body, causing a slap/plunk type of tone. Again, sounds ok on some stuff and like crap on other stuff. I'll validate that I'm doing this when I get home. If that's the case, I guess that I'll have to work on my technique and make sure that I start pulling the strings vs hitting them with my fingers.
  18. Dan1099

    Dan1099 Dumbing My Process Down

    Aug 7, 2004
    I have the same problem. And I'm slowly overcoming it. A floating thumb technique seems to keep my fingers oriented in the correct position better. You could try that and see if it helps.
  19. The Clap

    The Clap

    Jan 5, 2004
    Scottsdale, AZ
    Generally you do want to strike the strings 'downward' as in, towards the body of the bass. Pulling the strings parallel to the body gives a much less bassy, punchy tone. Obviously everyone plucks the string somewhere in between those two extremes, but I try to pluck the strings towards the pickups.
  20. Dan1099

    Dan1099 Dumbing My Process Down

    Aug 7, 2004
    I find that if i do press the strings toward the body, i get string rattle, buzz, etc. I find that if I pull the strings parallel to the body, I get a rounder, cleaner tone.

    I dont understand why playing "towards the pickup" would give you more bass. :confused: