A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Striking the strings

I just read through the first half of Essential Bass Technique while in bed. It didn’t put me to sleep. What it did, actually, was show me quite a few things about body mechanics. One of these ideas made me want to write, while its still fresh in my head.

I was on the part of the book dedicated to striking hand technique (hey, I’m lefty, so I’m not calling it right-hand technique). It provided me with a revelation about striking the strings.

Sometimes, when I practice, I get fret buzz. This can be reduced a bit by playing slower, and my belief is that it also has to do with my lack of knowledge or application of muting. I mute only a little, with my striking hand, and only by resting my thumb on the string before the one that I’m playing (the thicker string). Essentially, the G string never gets muted.

So, I’m reading, and I get to the part where the book goes over striking the strings. It goes over some hand position stuff, and talks about opposable thumbs, which we all should have, being humans. It shows several pictures of how to strike the strings, and how not to strike them. What you want to do is strike and pull through so that your finger lands on the pad of the thumb. The thumb is like a landing pad. This way, you maintain a consistent space and motion.

Now, by doing this, you’re essentially making the strings vibrate parallel to the frets. If you were to lay the bass flat and look at it after striking the strings like this, they’re moving left and right, above the neck, never touching it. If you strike the strings incorrectly, maybe because your reach is off by a bit and you’re snagging the strings with the tip of the finger instead of the pad, then you’re changing the direction of vibration so that the strings move up and down. That means, they’re jumping up into the air and down into the neck. They’re perpendicular, not parallel. This causes them to slap against the frets, which in turn produces fret buzz.

Yeah. A bulb went off in my head after reading that. I’m sure that I need to master muting, but I thought about it, and I’m certain that I’m suffering from this when playing the G string, especially on the higher frets. I’m going to slow things down a bit during practice and see if I can identify it explicitly and correct it.

Hopefully, this helps some of you in reducing fret buzz. I’ve never thought about the direction in which the strings vibrate before, but it makes sense. Thank you, Peter Murray.


One response

  1. Pingback: HLBM 18: Notes on the A-String & River Roadhouse | Ugly Bass Face

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