Jump to content


Please note: You can easily log in to MPN using your Facebook account!

The attack of the bass


Rocky McDougall

Recommended Posts

This is, to many of you, a very elementary question, However; in my 50 years of playing, I have never used the word "attack" nor have I ever heard any of my contemporaries use this word. So, I call on my Low Down friends for your explanation of "Attack" as it refers to bass playing.

Rocky :rawk:

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb, voting on what to eat for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb, contesting the vote."

Benjamin Franklin

Link to comment
Share on other sites



  • Replies 8
  • Created
  • Last Reply

The word attack is used to describe how a note begins.

 

Now I'll give you a whole spitload of technical bullbleep.

 

A plucked string instrument has a relatively fast attack. You pluck or pick the string and the note starts almost immediately.

 

A bowed string instrument has a slow attack. From the time the player draws his bow across the string to when the note reaches it's loudest volume takes a little while.

 

The string players who play on pop music sessions are a whole different breed than those who play with orchestras because they can adapt to the rhythm section and not sound like they are dragging behind.

 

Wind instruments are somewhere in the middle (or all over the place) which can make it challenging for a big band drummer and bass player to keep the band together.

 

From the earliest days of synthesizers (and I saw this on the first Moog synthezisers around 1970, a filter called an ADSR filter has been used.

 

A---(Attack) The parameter which sets time until it reaches the maximum volume of the sound from a performance start.

 

D---(Decay) The parameter which sets time until it shifts to a "Sustain" level from the set point of "Attack".

 

S---(Sustain) "Decay"after, as long as the performance continues, the parameter which sets the volume which is sounding.

 

R---(Release) It is a parameter which sets time until it stops that sound sounds from the time (the pad was released) of ending a performance.

 

Changing any of the parameters can change make an instrument sound drastically different.

 

Listen to something that was recorded and then played backwards, like some Hendrix or the occasional Beatles guitar solo. When the note is flipped around the hear the note swell in (from the decay) and end sharply (from the attack).

 

Just because none of your buddies ever uses these words doesn't mean they don't know about the concepts intuitively and I'm sure that people are varying their picking and muting techniques to change the attack, sustain, release, etc.

 

Happy thanksgiving, Rocky.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So.....the tension of the strings, the tuning, the technique of the plucking fingers and last but not least, temperature and humidity all "could" effect the Attack. Oh, and the temperment of the player.

 

Thanks Jeremy for your great reply. I now realize that I knew the answer but was unsure of the word.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. We do have a lot to be thankful for.

Rocky

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb, voting on what to eat for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb, contesting the vote."

Benjamin Franklin

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guitar players will use the word "attack" to describe how they strike or pluck a string with a pick; lightly, forcefully, etc. I think they do it so they don't feel like such sissies for playing a guitar - you know, like when we talk about shifting bits of digital information using words like "rip" and "burn..."

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

An envelope filter pedal responds to the attack by the player.

The harder the attack, the greater the effect. With a soft attack, you might not get any effect. There is usually a sensitivity control that can be adjusted to the particular player's general style.

 

Using one of these pedals will do wonders for giving you control over how much attack you give each particular note.

 

p.s. I am stuffed to the gills! I was invited to 3 dinners. I went to 2 today and am going to another one tomorrow.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So if I have my setup to play 'soft', does that change my attack or does it change how it is perceived?

 

At a recent gig we recorded our band into an 8-track recording unit. We took feeds from: invidual mic channels from the PA desk; the mic'ed drums; the mic'ed guitar amp; and the 'effects out' line from my amp.

 

I was playing into a 210 and to get volume was driving my amp hard. To get an acceptable (to me!) sound in the room I need to roll back the treble on both the bass and the amp and boost the mids a little.

 

But the direct feed that went through the recording unit turned out to be very soft in isolation. A bit like the full-bloom reggae sound - all on the neck pickup, treble rolled right back, full and long sustain.

 

When you hear a second recording from a free-standing recorder in the room, I sound tight and locked to the drummer (mostly....!)

 

When you hear the recording through the 8-track unit the big, soft, rounded sounds give the impression I am really dragging behind the beat.

 

Is this likely to be a perception caused by the longer notes or is it more likely to be just pointing out a genuine drag that is less noticeable in my FOH sound?

 

Cheers

 

Graham

www.talkingstrawberries.com - for rocking' blues, raw and fresh!
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sorry, I can't really answer your question Graham, although I don't think there is anything wrong with your playing. If you are going direct and need to roll off treble for your stage sound, next time do it all on the amp and leave the bass controls alone.

 

If notes are long on the recording, it means you really are playing long notes and maybe that doesn't come through on the recording made at the back of the room. I'd actually say that long notes are good: most people seem to play their notes too short in an attempt to make them punchy. As we all now know ;) ,the punchiness comes from the attack, not the decay. You could always play shorter notes next time you record if you think they sound better on the recording.

 

If the recording is multiple tracks, try equing your bass track differently.

 

Meanwhile, I found this picture that I'm sure we will all enjoy:

 

http://g.sheetmusicplus.com/Look-Inside/covers/3427108.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I try to play reasonably long as there is a lot of space to fill with only one guitarist.

 

I think I need to study both recordings and analyse exactly where my note positioning is. It may be a matter of perception. Maybe I need to play a little more ahead than I do now when playing long.

 

And yes Jeremy, I can see the resemblance.

 

<-----------

 

Can't you?

 

Cheers,

 

Graham

 

 

 

 

 

www.talkingstrawberries.com - for rocking' blues, raw and fresh!
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...