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I find if I'm playing faster riffs - say Hysteria by Muse - I sometimes find that I hear a clunking, metallic sound as I fret. That is, the string hitting the fret. So if I fret at the 7th and then play open repeatedly, I hear the sound of the string hitting the metal bar of the fret.
It's not that I'm fretting on the actual fret, but more the speed of the changes means that I get the metallic sound on string-on-fret.

How can I avoid this, bar learning to play fretless? (Which I really want to do, if I could afford another bass)

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Not a complete answer since I haven't verified this, but you might try using some EQ to fix this. It might be possible to notch out the fret noises at least somewhat by reducing the frequencies where the fret noises are happening. It would likely change your sound a bit, though, particularly if you like a lot of high-end in your bass tone. –  neilfein May 28 '11 at 14:14
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3 Answers

From my experience of playing faster bass, I have found changing the action to be the best option. What you want is a high action, so that when you fret the string does not come down and hit the fret as hard, reducing 'clunk.' Remember that you will need to check your intonation when you have changed the action, so that the bass stays in tune with itself. If others disagree, then I'm cool with that, but I personally found this helped my playing quite a bit. Hope this helps :)

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Wouldn't a higher action necessitate faster motions with your fretting hand, increasing the sound? –  neilfein May 28 '11 at 14:10
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The rule of thumb I've always gone by is that lower action => fast, higher action => more precision. –  Barry Jun 2 '11 at 12:39
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When you fret a note make sure that your finger is as close to the edge of the fret as possible; literally right next to it; this will instantly give you a cleaner sound; the closer to the metal you get the purer the note, this applies to all fretted instruments and all styles of playing. (the edge towards the bridge, not the nut)

Do this consciously until you do it automatically; slow down your playing if need be until you have it.

You might want to pay attention to how hard your hitting the notes; only you know how hard you currently hit them though, so I cannot really comment. Concentrating on the above technique will definitely help make you a clearer and more accurate player.

Action has been covered so the the other possible thing you could do, is turn up your amp ;)

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Play slower.

If you are clanging and banging around it means you are playing something too fast.

Gotta practice it slower until it gets clean and quiet, THEN get it up to speed.

There might be some gear related issues, but if those are taken into account and you are still clanking away, slow down until you can play it without it.

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