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Plucking higher strings closer to neck to even-out sound?


PhilMan99

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I play flat-wounds, with a fair amount of compression, distortion and low-EQ. I find that to even-out the string-to-string sound-quality (timbre), I have to pluck the higher strings closer to the neck (and lower strings closer to the bridge). Note: I play a 6-string bass.

 

I know that because of the higher frequencies of the higher strings, and my "bottom-heavy" EQ, boosting the mids/highs (or cutting the lows) will even-out the volume; but I'm not asking about volume-level.

 

As asking about the "sound" (vibe, man!) of the string. It is well known that the same note (frequency) differs in tonal characteristics depending on where you play it (string/fret). On my 6-string, though, I really like having a single hand-position (since I tend to read charts).

 

Does anyone else pluck the higher strings further from the bridge to "even-out" the tonal characteristics?

 

Note: I posted this early this morning, but I don't see the thread. I think there was a "server hiccup"...

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Have you tried adjusting the pickup heights?

 

If it's a two pickup instrument, raise the neck pickup on the high string side and raise the bridge pickup on the low string side.

 

It's pretty impractical to move your hand position every time you play across the strings. I've never seen anyone do that.

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Originally posted by jeremy c:

Have you tried adjusting the pickup heights?

 

If it's a two pickup instrument, raise the neck pickup on the high string side and raise the bridge pickup on the low string side.

 

It's pretty impractical to move your hand position every time you play across the strings. I've never seen anyone do that.

I was hoping you'd weigh-in; I love free feedback!

 

I've definately adjusted the pickups - my problem is more the overall harmonic mixture, though, not simply volume.

 

I kind-of suspect is my lower-end Ibanez not giving me the deep "buttery" sound I'd get from looking and looking until I found the right instrument (probably Fender Jazz). Still, I was wondering if the "floating thumb" technique was sometimes extended to move to/from the bridge as well. Guess not!

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One escapable fact is that thin strings sound different to thick strings - it's better to work with that tonal variety than fight against it.

 

I'm very precise about where I play notes - it's a balance of where is easiest and where sounds best - and will move out of position to play that note on a thicker or thinner string depending on my tonal preference.

 

As you have six strings, are you generally playing across the neck instead of shifting?

 

Alex

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Originally posted by C. Alexander Claber:

...cut...

As you have six strings, are you generally playing across the neck instead of shifting?

Alex

Yes, I really like to keep my hand in one place, because reading chord-charts, it is hard to shift.

 

I learned on a 4-string '73 Jazz (purchased new), and really love the sound of hearing the high-notes on the D & G string up at the 12th fret and higher. Unless I pluck further from the bridge, the G & C strings on my 6-string bass sound "thin".

 

Based on the responses here, this is "normal", and I really need to change fret-hand position more often (shift). :(

 

I'm thinking the title for this post should have been: "Is the C string on a 6-string bass to 'thin' sounding to even bother with?". ;)

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I play a warwick corvette 6 string with stainless steel roundwound strings and to be honest plucking position only produces the tone that I'd expect across the strings ie bass towards the neck and treble towards the bridge. The timbre of a note varies with the string that it is played on but not volume on my bass.

 

On my GK head I set the bass + low mid at 12 and the High mid + treble at between 1 & 2 depending on the room. I find that the high c adds width to my sound and playing. Definitly does not take away from it!

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When I stopped liking the tonal quality of my D and G strings, I stared playing more up and down the E and A strings. It depends on what I'm playing, of course, but of late I've found I like the fatter, deeper sound of the lower strings (also playing mostly passive basses these days). Though, like you observe, this isn't always practical when reading. I do sometimes slide my right hand forward to pluck the G string closer to the octave to make it fatter - if the note stands out.

 

I did also raise the G side of my pickup on my Sterling to balance the tonal response across the strings. I had also found that the volume on the E string was louder than the G, so it helped balance that as well. I haven't done this on my EB-3 or Jazz though.

 

Maybe you could use a heavier guage string set for the top strings and a lighter guage set for the bottom. Don't know if there's a maximum tension difference across the strings, though, beyond which one shouldn't go to avoid twisting the neck - probably not an issue between adjacent guages, e.g. medium and light.

Good luck

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Another thing to consider: The further your pickups are from the strings, the quieter AND thinner the tone - and vice versa. The lighter you pluck the thicker and deeper the tone - and vice versa.

 

So if you lower the pickups on the bass side and raise the pickups on the treble side, not only will it make the high strings louder and thicker compared to the low strings, but you will also have to pluck more softly on the high strings to keep them balanced volume-wise with the low strings, which will further fatten their tone.

 

Alex

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Originally posted by PhilMan99:

Yes, I really like to keep my hand in one place, because reading chord-charts, it is hard to shift.

I imagine this is like the singing and playing challenge - it's not easy when you have to leap 12 frets mid vocal! But it gets much easier with practice.

 

It might be worth revisiting some songs you already know and adjusting where you play the notes based on getting the best sound possible rather than what's easiest to play.

 

Even on my very nice 4-string there is a huge difference between the sound of, for instance, the low D on the 10th fret E-string, 5th fret A-string and open D-string, and whenever I play that note that tonal consideration carries just as much weight as the position I'm already in.

 

In particular bear in mind that the tone of any note is more noticeable when playing long notes rather than short notes, especially in terms of the quantity of lows and the general thickness of the sound. So during a riff I may stay in one position but when I hit the last note of the song I shift position to where the final note sounds fattest.

 

But to reassure you, check out some Anthony Jackson clips on youtube - he's the original 6-string player and he still comes up against this challenge.

 

Alex

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Many thanks for the great responses here! I fear I've gone as far as I can "twidling knobs". Guess it's time to focus on the "real work" (my hands).

 

I still want to try-out some other basses. Something just doesn't sound right with this 6-string SR496 Ibanez of mine. No matter what strings I put on, the sound is still "bleah".

 

When I was shopping before, I felt much more at home on a 5-string Fender Jazz, but for some reason, I really wanted 6-string. I may want to revisit that thought...

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smaller strings arent going to get as much of a punch. its common sense really. you could potentially adjust your pickups, but i think each string on the bass is unique..I tend to play stuff up higher on the lower strings when it really has to punch you in the chest. i tend to play lower on the neck on the higher strings if i want a really clean sound. its all a matter of experimentation. just messs around a lot. you will figure it out.
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Originally posted by PhilMan99:

Many thanks for the great responses here! I fear I've gone as far as I can "twidling knobs". Guess it's time to focus on the "real work" (my hands).

 

I still want to try-out some other basses. Something just doesn't sound right with this 6-string SR496 Ibanez of mine. No matter what strings I put on, the sound is still "bleah".

 

When I was shopping before, I felt much more at home on a 5-string Fender Jazz, but for some reason, I really wanted 6-string. I may want to revisit that thought...

yeah work those hands man. it takes practice. but, once you get it..you've got it. It kind of takes being fearless of messing up too. The best thing i can tell any musician...is dont be affraid to mess up..especially if you are JUST practicing. if you are scared to do some crazy stuff.. you never will do crazy stuff. its just music..its not like you are sky diving..lol..be crazy it, its not going to hurt you.
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The final issue is one of midrange resonance - and I suspect that's where your Ibanez is lacking. If the body of the bass isn't resonating with each note, then you end up hearing more string and less wood, which equals a less consistent, less fat and less interesting sound. Not much you can do about that - stripping the paint of my cheap old Hohner caused a whole load of tone to appear but that's rather drastic action to take.

 

Alex

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Originally posted by C. Alexander Claber:

stripping the paint of my cheap old Hohner caused a whole load of tone to appear but that's rather drastic action to take.

Alex

Maybe that is why some of the old battered basses with hardly any finish left on them seem to sound so good.

Rocky :bor:

"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

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"No, I can't imagine how i could move my hand posistion from string to string."

 

sorry whoever said that is a moron! I do all the time mayeb not EVERY string but i play a 5 string and with my higher nots i actually play farther from the neck! IT all depends on the sound you want though. WIth a six string i can see on the higher one why you would want to play really close to the neck. you probibly dont get a sound doing it farther.

 

Do you???

Feel the Vibration of the bass
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http://re2.mm-b1.yimg.com/image/905849799

 

Feel_Grooves1

Didn't anyone tell you it's rude to call people names?

 

My impression of the original post (since it referred to tonal differences between strings) was that it referred to changing hand position with all/most string crossing. This is extremely impractical.

 

You're talking about something else entirely.

 

Kind regards,

 

Phil

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Originally posted by C. Alexander Claber:

The final issue is one of midrange resonance - and I suspect that's where your Ibanez is lacking. If the body of the bass isn't resonating with each note, then you end up hearing more string and less wood, which equals a less consistent, less fat and less interesting sound. Not much you can do about that - stripping the paint of my cheap old Hohner caused a whole load of tone to appear but that's rather drastic action to take.

 

Alex

Definately one aspect of the matter! In my case, my bass's body is a rather soft mahogany, with an open-grain "oiled" finish. Additionally, the body is physically small (compared with a P or J). Sadly, as a hobbiest (I play for free at Church, worth every penny!), I can't afford too much gear.

 

I'm experimenting with sounds, so hopefully folks will excuse my meandering thread here, but in spite of my bass's limitations, I was able to improve some of the string-to-string balance by:

* Flattening the EQ a little (but still with lots of bass, since I'm experimenting at (private) practice volume). Note: Avoidance of exclamations of "well DUH!" much appreciated. ;)

* Changing ratio between input and output volumes (on my Fender Bassman 200). High input volume (gain), and low output volume gives more "drive" (distortion). Low input volume and high output volume gives more "oomph" (headroom?).

* Holding the strings a little tigher against the frets when I want that deep meaty sound. I tend to have a "wimpy grip", which works OK for fast riffs, but for slower groovin' bass-lines it lacks "muscle" because the string "rattles" against the fret, sounds bad, and dies-out quickly. [Note: this is presumably not "fret buzz", due to uneven fretwork; just a "wimpy grip".]

 

As you can tell by my 200W amp, I'm not playing the "big gigs", but I still like to sound as good as I can...

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Originally posted by Feel_Grooves1:

"No, I can't imagine how i could move my hand posistion from string to string."

 

sorry whoever said that is a moron! I do all the time mayeb not EVERY string but i play a 5 string and with my higher nots i actually play farther from the neck! IT all depends on the sound you want though. WIth a six string i can see on the higher one why you would want to play really close to the neck. you probibly dont get a sound doing it farther.

 

Do you???

I could have sworn BDfM was being sarcastic...

 

Alex

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Hmmm, I think that there are other alternatives to moving position.

I can get a lot of tone adjustment hitting the string with more or less flesh, the brighest being the "corner" of the finger, the dullest being the full finger. This works for plectrums too.

I would save moving position for expression rather than uniformity.

-- Michele Costabile (http://proxybar.net)
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Good to hear we're getting somewhere - I'm a great believer in thinking and adapting to solve problems rather than spending money!

 

Did I say use more neck pickup and/or pluck closer to the neck? Maybe try some exercises where you pluck in your default position but then pluck close to the neck whenever you have a sustained note on the high strings.

 

And try turning your bass EQ down even more - that will make the biggest difference of all.

 

Alex

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My hands wander a bit, searching for the best tone from every string. It's never been a rule, exactly, but I will play a "Jaco" bridge tone when I need it, or a fat over the fingerboard tone when I need it. Sometimes, I think, in the same song!

 

It is a well known phenomenon in URB with bow technique. We often talk about the "tone tripod" in bowing. "Speed-Proximity-Weight: Choose any two."

 

Speed is the bow speed, proximity is the distance from the bridge, weight is the amount of arm weight we put into the string. The balance of these three factors (2 independent variables, 1 dependent) produces the needed tone.

 

One example (there are many) is that if I need to play a long passage under a slur where I cannot change my bow, I must use a slow bow speed. For a given weight (which equals volume) in order to slow the bow down, I must move the bow closer to the bridge.

 

Complicate that by learning that each string on a bow instrument responds best with a slightly different speed. Bowing on my G string is twice as fast as bowing on my E string.

 

These bowing decisions are made sub-consciously by seasoned players, but they learn them as they tackle increasingly difficult music in the learning process.

 

Because of my URB experience, I find my fingers wandering (and even my striking speed changing) a bit on electric. I suspect most seasoned players do this, but don't even realize it.

 

I just checked out this theory by studying the Video of John Entwhistle playing a solo. Of all bassists I've seen, this guy is the least active...his arm seems welded to the bass; his feet seem welded to the floor. In this video, he is playing a "neck" tone...far from the bridge. However, his hand follows a natural arc, so that low strings are plucked virtually over the fingerboard, whereas higher strings are plucked virtually over the neck pickup. A subtle difference to be sure, but I wager that this was a subconscious decision by The Ox.

 

Tone is indeed different string to string; we don't have to move our hands a lot to balance that tone. Our hand, moving at the wrist, describes a natural arc that tends to balance the strings.

Yep. I'm the other voice in the head of davebrownbass.
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Actually I wasn't being sarcastic. I was talking about moving your hand posistion along the length of the string while playing a phrase. Not as a technique to alter tone for an entire tune or phrase. You're already moving your hand vertically by changing from string to string I really don't see any reason to add another varible by moving horizontally at the same time.

 

If you need to do this for some artistic reason, have at it.

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Originally posted by PhilMan99:

Originally posted by jeremy c:

Have you tried adjusting the pickup heights?

 

If it's a two pickup instrument, raise the neck pickup on the high string side and raise the bridge pickup on the low string side.

 

It's pretty impractical to move your hand position every time you play across the strings. I've never seen anyone do that.

I was hoping you'd weigh-in; I love free feedback!

 

I've definately adjusted the pickups - my problem is more the overall harmonic mixture, though, not simply volume.

 

I kind-of suspect is my lower-end Ibanez not giving me the deep "buttery" sound I'd get from looking and looking until I found the right instrument (probably Fender Jazz). Still, I was wondering if the "floating thumb" technique was sometimes extended to move to/from the bridge as well. Guess not!

Are you using a BOD XTL? Most of the patches I use seem to kill the sound right in that range. My low-end Ibanez is actually fatter in that range that my USA Deluxe Fender Jazz. What gives?
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Originally posted by Aldena:

Are you using a BOD XTL? Most of the patches I use seem to kill the sound right in that range. My low-end Ibanez is actually fatter in that range that my USA Deluxe Fender Jazz. What gives?

Actually, I do often use a Bass PODxt (bean), but for practice, I'll use my DigiTech Bass Squeeze or nothing.

 

With the BODxt, I really only use one patch, which I created myself:

* Tube preamp with some "drive"

* Bass Driver (SansAmp "clone")

* Some EQ

* Some compression

 

I don't notice any problems specific to the BODxt, but I'm no "bass rocket scientist".

 

For me, at this juncture, the "trick" seemed to be:

* Less Bass EQ, more volume on the power-amp (as opposed to input-gain).

* Continuing to pay attention to how the strings are plucked (and fretted, since I have a "wimpy grip").

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