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What is sustain?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by capnjim, May 6, 2010.

  1. capnjim


    Mar 13, 2008
    So I just picked up a super clean amazing neck thru 1976 Ibanez artist.
    When I pluck the open A string, average weight, I can hear it thru my Roland cube 30 guitar amp for 26 seconds.
    Even then, when I put my finger on the string..I can still hear it "stop"
    Is this good sustain?
    I never quite understood when players talk about good sustain...its pretty darn rare I go 20 seconds between notes.
    So..I throw down the gauntlet and fart in your general direction!!!
  2. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    "Good sustain" in my definition is sustain that lasts a long time while still retaining decent volume. A plucked string can ring for a minute or more, particularly if the other strings aren't muted (they will begin to vibrate sympathetically, which can make the initial string vibrate longer still), but the volume that comes from this sustaining note may be so low as to be of no use. Long, "good" sustain isn't of much use to most bassists anyways- as you said, not many bassists need to hold a note at volume for 20 seconds.
  3. This is sustain for days

  4. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    generally holding a note for that long isn't what sustain is all about - it's more the consistent tone post attack even if just for a sec or so. too many basses sorta "thud" (which is fine in the world of muting, flatwounds, or just wanting that tone which is cool in itself). Good sustain also comes in handy when playing a riff (sometimes of one note) with varying note durations to have a consistent tone throughout. I like a bass with some sustain - not a big fan of basses that sound like someone is hitting wet cardboard with a mallet.
  5. capnjim


    Mar 13, 2008
    funny..after posting this and watching the end of the Habs kicking the Pangwens butts...I picked up the bass......
    Two hours of sustain!!
  6. snyderz


    Aug 20, 2000
    AZ mountains
    You sure that wasn't pickup hum?
  7. DerHoggz

    DerHoggz I like cats :| Banned

    Feb 13, 2009
    Western Pennsylvania
    Sustain is completely overrated.

    For instance say its the end of a song, and the guitarist and I hit one last note/chord and let it ring out. If I don't stop my sustain, it will go on long after the guitar has died out. This means I have to mute the string, and it takes a good deal of effort to make it not abrupt, and make sure it is a smooth fade-out.
  8. Blueszilla

    Blueszilla Bassist ordinaire

    Apr 2, 2003
    The Duke City

    Or turn the volume down slowly.....
  9. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    +1 you have to get your fade out technique a bit better with some sustained last notes. sometimes i hit the harmonic to stop the note but not just kill it, other times i do the volume knob trick or a very gradual palm mute.
  10. darkstorm


    Oct 13, 2009
    Long sustain lets you mute the string when you want, but more importantly it indicates very good construction and pups with excellent sustain char. Unlike some pups who have either overly fast or jerky and sudden note fade out. There are times when letting a note ring out several seconds is good. This can act as a bridge or for a parts end where music should fade out rather then just stop. Of course theres times when you want allmost or no release. Where you want sudden note stop. This is best done by fretting hand and picking hand mutes. Long sustain ability lets you be more expressive since it lets you shape the note fade out as desired. Anyone who also wants to be able to play melodic bass can do it better with long sustain available. Just a guitar players sometimes let notes ring longer then other times as part of melodic expression.
  11. Bongolation


    Nov 9, 2001
    No Bogus Endorsements
    It's the vibrational energy of the plucked string staying in the string rather than being transferred into the instrument. It's actually that simple.

    It's not always a good thing. Aside from physical inefficiencies, sustain is inversely proportional to complex tone; it's just another factor in the great compromise.
  12. p0werslav3


    Feb 21, 2009
    Phoenix, AZ
    +1 LOL :D
  13. James Jamerson is the best exemple of the perfect sustain!

  14. Staccato

    Staccato Low End Advocate

    Aug 14, 2009
    Defined: "to keep in existence; keep up; maintain or prolong."

    Do you practice vocal exercises? Practicing holding a note for an extended period (difficult for smokers) can help your endurance. Same idea, different instrument. Singing along w/ the white keys on a keyboard will keep you honest if it is tuned correctly.

    Now, without thinking about the (why) technical reasons for a guitar note ringing for a long time, think about when and where you want a prolonged note in your solo, or portion of a given song.
  15. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    Sustain to me is how long a note persists.

    It's rather overrated, too. Almost no one plays notes that last more than one second. many of the great musical numbers of the last 50 years were performed with basses having mutes under the strings which damped notes in less than 2 seconds.
  16. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    +1 for pilgrim. sustain is greatly overrated. like you said, how often do you need a note to sustain for 26 seconds? i like a note to hang in for a second or two then go away, unless i'm using overdrive. then i like it to feed back and howl ;)
  17. xxfaux_punkxx


    Mar 18, 2010
    personally sustain comes in handy at the end of songs. I always like to hold the final note for as long as I kind. Even add some vibrato from time to time
  18. Yakob


    Nov 15, 2009
    Philadelphia, PA
    Too much sustain is just as bad as too little sustain. I prefer a nice balance.

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