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Tips For A Better Tone

Discussion in 'Music Education - Share your knowledge here!' started by Florin, Oct 3, 2018.

  1. Florin

    Florin Warwick Forum Administrator Staff Member

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    They say "the tone is in your hands", but what does really mean?

    In my case it means two things:
    1- I am looking for some speciffic sound characteristics while playing, and- very important, I actually listen carefully to my bass while playing.
    2- I constantly adapt the technique to get that sound.

    Yeah, it is pretty easy :)

    So the sound have 3 parts to follow:
    1- the attack. First thing you hear when you pluck the string.
    2- the "body" - The FAT sound that comes after
    3- sustain/ note length

    While we are all listening to the "Attack" part of the sound, not all of us are aware of the "Body" of the sound, and how the sound develops.

    1- Attack- it may sound weird, but to me it is not the most important part of the tone. I get some slappy noises, and clunks and klings :) I don't care, and I think they make my sound more alive. If I am playing straight 8ths or 16th bass line, I hear all kind of random note attacks.
    Because the bass drum attack really matters. And as a trick, I rather listen and react to bass drum timing than force myself to be stable rhythmically. It means I LISTEN (this is the magic word) until I hear the bass drum, then very fast I pluck the string, so I am always a bit after it (just a bit), so in the mix you actually hear the kick, and then the body of my bass. Does this make any sense?
    That allows me to follow any drummer, no matter how he plays. Also I noticed that (except some speciffic genres), it sounds tighter when the bass is a bit after the beat, while playing before the beat sounds like you are rushing/ don't control the tempo, and playing on bit ruins the kick sound. So I don't care too much about my attack part of the sound, and I don't really care about me being the rhythmic lead, I just listen and follow the drum. I react fast to the stimulus. Kind of :)

    2- the body- this is very important, and I focus a lot on it while studying or playing with the band. That part of the note is not linear - Boooooooooooom! It is more like Baoouuuuuuuuum :) It has a developpement. It's like a rhythm inside the rhithm.
    I hope that makes any sense to you because I don't know how to explain other than this :) If you dig in the string a bit, you hear the sound having a rubbery bounce, baouuum, baouuuum baouuuum. And I do my best to keep THAT elastic, cyclic developement of sound consistent each note. Higher strings require different finger attack (add more "meat" of the finger) than lower strings usually. So no matter what string or position I play, I constantly listen and adapt my technique to always listen a big, fat, and consistent from note to note- BAOUUUM, BAOUUUUM, while playing. It may sound obvious, but it's not :) Usually people focus on attack more, and little or not at all on how fat the body of the sound is. And they have a steady attack, but a pretty inconsistent bass line. While my atack sounds sloppy- kling knlong glang kneng, but the body of the bass is always the same each and every note.
    That's the part the sound guy follows as well, so if you are inconsistent he will set your volume for the highest/ better parts. Sound guys always set the volume so your higher sounding notes are in the mix, so playing consistent will keep your bass THERE in the mix every note, while not listening and controlling your note's fat body will make your bass disapear in the mix, and complain later about soundguy being shitty, gear being bad, etc.

    3- Note length- even if this doesn't really have to do with the sound, it makes you sound good or bad :) We all focus on playing right on time, but not all of us focus on ENDING the note on time, and this is pretty important.
    Try it on your self, use a straight drum loop, 4/4- Play 1 and 2 (kick) stop 3 and 4 (snare) STop the note exactly when the snare comes in, so the bass note does not goes over the snare sound, and does not stop too early either. Just on time. Not that easy to do, but having this control improves your playing like... A LOT, and it is also perceived as "sound" from the listeners :)

    I hope it helps some of you, it helped me a lot knowing those tricks.
    It is about adding and extra- step in your playing. Not only Think- Play, Think- Play. But Think- Play- Listen- Adapt, every note.

    Try playing slowly a scale, and focus on having the same fat sound on all the strings, you will know what I mean :) It's not that hard when you get it. Record and listen to yourself to have better result, use your phone.

    I hope it helps,

    Flo
     
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  2. Florin

    Florin Warwick Forum Administrator Staff Member

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    Extra note- by playing after the bass kick I mean this: Kick drum has a note length too. Short, but it is there. I kinda play "inside" that bass drum note. Somewhere after the initial attack, and before the kick drum sound ends.
     
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  3. Hardy

    Hardy Good Vibe Sponsor

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    He, I‘m training that all atm at home. Actually for weeks in a row. The longer I train the more ambitious I get. I record this, check it and send it to a bass teacher who gives me further advice. One good hint was to play with a hard clicking metronome, not with a drum computer. It’s indeed not easy to play steady and follow these three steps Florin described! You quickly realize that hitting the click is one thing but that the right volume and tone length are the harder tasks to solve. Also it’s a good possibility to check the whole playing technique. After 12 years I‘m relearning it all.

    Our singer has a good ear for band sounds btw. He always kicks my ass if I play before the bass drum click. He hates it, especially because it actually drives our drummer to gain speed. Some years ago I was the one who controlled the speed of the band and I used that effect consciously. But our drummer became much much better with his timing and I am the one who has to watch out and to listen.

    Yesterday I asked some musicians how we sounded. They clapped their hands and said it was „bääm bääm bääm“! That made me very happy even though it means that mistakes became even more audible.
     
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  4. Hardy

    Hardy Good Vibe Sponsor

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    One more thing: if you start to practice: start slowly! 50 bpm, not more! Yes, in the beginning it’s a pain in the ass to play a scale for example that slowly. And for two or three months you should not increase the speed! It takes its time to work out.
     
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  5. Florin

    Florin Warwick Forum Administrator Staff Member

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    Look, I think at the end of the day (except you are really a dedicated hardcore guy) it should be fun. More fun- more time spent with the instrument, and that's by far the best way to improve.
    Metronome- It must be used wisely. Metronome does not help you follow the drum, or lock with the drum. I use youtube vids with drum loops some of them are really "humanized" and this is a great training. Having an inner steady tempo is great, but the ability to listen/react/play after the drum beat is a different skill, and real drummers are not steady.
    I use metronome to make my subdivisions steady.
    50 BPM is a pretty generic term. Depends on the subdivisions on your bass line /exercice. What are you playing, quarter notes, eights, 16th? Instead, I noticed that the best way I can use the metronome to improve is to set it to play each beat that I play. And I use between 80 and 100 for each note. So let's say you learn Hysteria by muse, that's a 16th note groove. If you play it at 50, that's 200 for each note. I just keep this simple rule of setting the metronome at 90, and play each note with each beat. That's actually way slower than 50, and helps me control the subdivisions. If metronome beat quarter notes, you will play 1st note on time, but most likely rush last one. Using metronome playing each subdivision makes you groove like a tank. Increase slowly the tempo, 5 bpm each 10 minutes, until you go to 200-300, then set it up to beat eights (one metronome beat each two notes you play), and focus on keeping the same vibe. Only after this I set the metronome to play quarter notes, but usually at this stage I switch to drum loops, because they are way more useful than metronome, and usually have all the subdivisions too there (hi hat, etc)
    No matter how the drummer plays, you should follow him, and play in that "ZONE". If he rush, that's his fault, if you are not following him that's your fault. Rushing him or slowing him down is a no- no, because you don't lock with the drums anymore, and that's much worse that the whole band rushing which can actually be pretty musical.
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2018
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  6. Florin

    Florin Warwick Forum Administrator Staff Member

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    A very, VERY cool trick I use to improve my playing, is something I call "The trampoline" :))))
    You know, at gymnastics, when the athlete first stomp hard on a trampoline before the actual jump/ exercice?
    I play hard the last note in the bar, equal, or sometimes even louder than first beat on 2nd bar.

    So instead of Taddada Tadadada ... etc, I play TadadaTA TAdadaTA TadadaTa etc.
    This is extremely effective and musical in rock music, but I use it everywhere. It gives a "moving forward" vibe to your groove, and prevents you from rushing the last note, which is the way many players do.

    That's a trick that will improve the way you sound an feel instantly :) Just try it :) Many seasoned rock players do it unconsciously, probably you are playing that way already, but good things happen if you are aware of that.

    Flo
     
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  7. Hoggles

    Hoggles Supporting Member Good Vibe Sponsor

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    Good stuff guys. I haven't been in a band for 1.5 years now...and admittedly, my practice has dwindled as a result. Some really helpful advice here.
     
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  8. jester

    jester ocdemon Moderator

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    Thanks heaps Flo for your *priceless* tips.
    I hate the bass in front of the kick too, I describe it as "the bass throwing up before the kick". :) It has the potential to get really ugly. HOWEVER, certain players use it on certain styles of music and it works well in those situations.
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2018
  9. kimgee

    kimgee Wenge Taste Tester Good Vibe Sponsor

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    Great info Flo and Hardy! Thanks for the tips.
     
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