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Old January 14th, 2013, 05:03 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Fretting technique

I'm new to bass (but a long time guitar player). I'm finding on my cheapo bass I have to be very careful to fret the notes close behind the frets to avoid extraneous noises and buzzing. My bass is less forgiving than my guitars in this respect.

Is this normal for basses in general (something to do with the fatter string diameter?), or is it a set-up issue on my particular instrument?

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Old January 14th, 2013, 05:15 PM   #2 (permalink)
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It may be a finger presure on the string issue. Bass take slightly more pressure on the string to get a good tone without buzz. Since you are a long time guitar player you probably know what a good set up should look like, even on a bass?
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Old January 14th, 2013, 05:32 PM   #3 (permalink)
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roundwound strings (my favorites) are very buzzy on bass if you don't fret correctly. you are on the right track, holding close to the fret. your action may be too low as well, are the strings buzzing on the fret you are holding or the one in front of it ? if you genuinely use the whole fretboard, set-up on a good bass is nearly as picky as a good guitar.

try to avoid using your pinky to fret by itself for now. everywhere your pinky frets use your ring finger as well. some guys even use those together even where you might normally use the ring finger. it doesn't hurt a thing if it helps you play cleaner, and if you want to play bass well, you must play it clean.
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Old January 14th, 2013, 07:18 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I just loaned a bass to a good guitar player friend of mine. He immediately plays it very heavy handed. I told him to easy up and play with a light touch. That cleared up a lot of his fret buzz issues. So not only do you have to hold the strings down tight, try lightening up your attack with your right hand. If you really want to lay into it, you may want to raise the action.
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Old January 14th, 2013, 07:26 PM   #5 (permalink)
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roundwound strings (my favorites) are very buzzy on bass if you don't fret correctly. you are on the right track, holding close to the fret. your action may be too low as well, are the strings buzzing on the fret you are holding or the one in front of it ?
I am using round wounds. I'll have to check which fret it's buzzing on. I just noticed buzzing while recording, and I was focused on getting a clean take rather than checking the set-up. Finger pressure seems to be part of it. I was able to get cleaner takes if I paid careful attention to my fretting - both pressure and placement close behind the frets. But then I wasn't able to free my mind up enough to get nice and loose and fully into the music. I guess it's a matter of practising the technique stuff until it comes automatically and I can then just play.

As for the action, I did the set-up myself and I'm no expert, but it's much better than when I first got it (second hand). The intonation was way out, and the action was too high. I may have lowered it too much. Is there a standard height that I can measure at the 12th fret? One thing I'm not confident about is adjusting the truss rod and fretboard curvature, so I left that alone.
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Old January 14th, 2013, 07:28 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Are you trying to use the tip of the finger like on a guitar?

Watch a bassist, they use the pad of the finger
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Old January 14th, 2013, 07:30 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I just loaned a bass to a good guitar player friend of mine. He immediately plays it very heavy handed. I told him to easy up and play with a light touch. That cleared up a lot of his fret buzz issues. So not only do you have to hold the strings down tight, try lightening up your attack with your right hand. If you really want to lay into it, you may want to raise the action.
Cheers. So it's easy on the picking hand, harder on the fretting hand (and more precise). I'm sure my technique is a big part of it, and but most likely the set-up could still be tweaked too.
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Old January 14th, 2013, 07:30 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Are you trying to use the tip of the finger like on a guitar?

Watch a bassist, they use the pad of the finger
You're right! I'll try that too. Cheers.
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Old January 14th, 2013, 07:38 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Flatwounds and a well cut nut will go a long way towards fixing the prob. At least it did for my cheapo SX.
But yea, lighten up. Let the amp do the work.
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Old January 15th, 2013, 08:11 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Longer string, wider vibration pattern. If that makes sense. Any bass/guitar will play well if it is able to set up properly.
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Old January 15th, 2013, 08:24 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Two things to consider and both have been covered so I'll just reinforce them.

Set up; It's critical if you want to play clean with as little effort and as little buzz as possible. To a certain degree the lower the action the better. It doesn't affect tonality as much as it does on a guitar and it's much easier to fret precisely which eliminates fret buzz. The least amount of neck relief and lowest action without fret buzz will help you. Leaving a little buzz like you might do on a guitar will annoy you a lot more on those bigger heavier strings. Especially of you're playing rounds.

Technique; You already figured it out. Fret as close behind the next highest fret as possible. It's not gonna buzz behind your fretting finger only in front of it so fretting directly behind that higher fret increases the pressure over that fret and eliminates the buzz.

Welcome to the low end kiwi!
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Old January 15th, 2013, 04:07 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Cheers Soulman, and thanks everyone else for your advice. I've downloaded a couple of guides to setting up a bass, so I'll have a look at the neck relief when I get a chance and see if I can fine tune the set-up. The rest is in the fingers eh. Oh yeah, the low end is a good place to be ... No widdly wee down here!
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Old January 16th, 2013, 09:23 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Being a guitarist, I set up my basses like a guitar, very low action.
This does mean they won't slap, but I can't slap anyway so no problem: they will pop.

If you are a guitarist you will already have very strong hands, so no need to strangle the neck on a bass, just enough pressure to stop string against fret.

Biggest problem is reach: a guitarist has a tendency to play bass in the middle of the neck, never reaching up to the nut. Move the bass across your body so you can reach: practice sitting. A bass is heavy, there's no need to practice whilst standing unless you need a dancing partner.
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Old January 17th, 2013, 07:56 PM   #14 (permalink)
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A bass is heavy, there's no need to practice whilst standing unless you need a dancing partner.
Well they are kinda cute and curvy
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Old January 18th, 2013, 09:01 PM   #15 (permalink)
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my bass weighs the same as my tele. it's a guild b-301, i bought new in 1977. solid mahogany neck & body, a bit neck heavy, very lively sound with a lot of "wood" tone and a very hot pickup. studio engineers hated it. i usually played the yammie with active electronics in the studio.

still frequently play it sitting in with a house band whose bass player often can't get back to town in time to make the whole gig.
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Old January 19th, 2013, 03:59 PM   #16 (permalink)
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try to avoid using your pinky to fret by itself for now. everywhere your pinky frets use your ring finger as well. some guys even use those together even where you might normally use the ring finger. it doesn't hurt a thing if it helps you play cleaner, and if you want to play bass well, you must play it clean.
+1. Try to think of your hand as being like a Mickey Mouse hand with 3 fingers and a thumb. I keep the ring and pinky fingers together almost constantly, specially on the upper thicker strings. Both fingers can exert more pressure, which should negate any fret buzz on the attack. Fretting close to the fret is also good for less buzz. And yes, a bass requires more fretting pressure than a guitar.

De-fretting is another chance for buzz on a bass. A slow release will produce an almost "hammering" buzz as the string continues vibration during "partial fretting" (for lack of a better term) where there isn't sufficient fretting pressure. Release should be quick, but it is also important to leave a finger on a string to muffle, as basses are noisy instruments due to the sheer size of string vibrations being transferred to "un-muffled" strings in the form of a sympathetic vibration.



Playing a bass clean means muffling all the strings not being played.


You can use your plucking hand to successfully muffle "un-used" strings. I use the strings as a thumb rest; If I am noting on the A string my thumb is on the E string, the D and G strings the thumb is on the A. To muffle the E string while the A is a thumb rest, I wrap the other thumb over the neck to touch the E. To muffle the bottom strings I usually use my fretting fingers to touch the lower strings while fretting the top strings.


Hope that helps..
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Old January 20th, 2013, 09:28 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Remote advice is always hard as we can't see your technique, but remember it's a guitar not a hunting bow. You don't need to twang the strings, let the amp do the work. Once you've developed strength, you can dig in and go for it.
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