I picked up the bass a few months ago, and I've noticed that when I'm playing something, the strings make loud clicky sounds when they hit the fret. This happens especially when I'm trying to play something fast, and when I jump between strings. How can I prevent this from happening? What could I be doing wrong?
Bradd has mentioned the two places where the string is most likely to be auidibly hitting the strings. Another couple of suggestions I have for reducing the direct 'left hand' noise made by the string where it's fretted -
- Work on having your left hand 'think ahead', so that you're not rushing to fret the note just before you play it; instead, the relevant finger has got there well before time.
- a low action at the nut will reduce the amount of click for the positions near the nut.
Again as Bradd says, low action at the high frets will make it more likely for the string to clatter against the frets at the end of the neck, so you may want to raise the bridge saddles a little, as well as focusing on playing less hard (with your right hand). The latter may mean you need to turn your amp up a bit too, so you can play gently and let the amp do the work.
As No'am Newman mentions in a comment, bass clanks aren't a bad thing in themselves - I harness them in a couple of ways: - accenting strong notes in a bar with a bit of right hand 'clank' - setting my bass up so that the string hits the high frets briefly at the start of each note. coupled with distortion, this gives a great snorty rock sound. Of course if you don't want clanks, that's fine too.
Also, bear in mind that not all the clanks and clicks you hear acoustically will actually make it into your signal chain. You can reduce a lot of noises by turning down the tone on the bass.
There are two likely causes for this, depending on where the strings are clicking. If they click directly under your fingers, from the force of your fingertips striking the frets, then work on reducing the tension in your fretting hand. Proper fretting requires very little tension or force. Keeping it minimal will reduce percussive noises and will also reduce fatigue and the likelihood of injury.
If the strings click or buzz against the neck farther from your fingers, then the problem might still be tension, but in your plucking hand instead of your fretting hand. When playing fast, loud, or dynamic music it is easy to over-pick which can make the strings slap or buzz against the strings. Low action or low neck relief will exaggerate this noise, so you might want to adjust your bass setup in addition to easing off the picking hand.
From an instrument maker's point of view: aside from how you play, the setup of the bass makes a difference. There's always going to be some amplitude of string vibration that will buzz somewhere; it's a matter of taste what that amplitude is. The lower the action, the easier it is to fret and the less problems with intonation, but the easier it is to buzz. The higher the action, the less buzzing, but the more effort and possible intonation problems.
Of course, you want your action to be regular: no high or low frets, nut and bridge appropriate, etc. Get it checked out if you find differences between different fingered notes.
Topo pre-empted my first thought - turn down the treble on the amp or guitar.
Those clicks would make it seem like you're hammering on too hard with the fretting fingers. Hammer-ons are a regular part of guitar and bass playing, to be able to play legato, but also so you can drink your pint while still playing the bass line in a gig. Hammer-ons don't need to be sledge-hammer-ons, though. The note will still play when you press down less harshly. Try all sorts of different attack modes, and a lot of the click will disappear. Of course, sometimes you'll want it, so go back to your original mode of playing.
Another cause may be the strings are too low, and are catching on the next fret or three, although often, this will manifest itself in a rattle as well. You may also be pulling the string up away from the finger board before letting go - sort of mini bow and arrow style. That's a common way to play when you're slapping and popping - it's the pop. A slap is also percussive in a different way, when you hit the string down onto the finger board. Again, that's percussive, and will produce a click, albeit a different one.
I'm with Tim, I think you're squeezing too hard. Try this, place your finger on the string and press very, very gently until the string just touches the fretboard behind the fret. Keep playing the string with your right (I presume) hand all this time. Notice the left hand pressure you needed when the note first comes out clear. That the most pressure you need to exert, even when paying fast.
If you keep squeezing too hard or too fast, you will at best tire quickly, at worst risk hand strains or injury and speaking as someone who has had hand surgery, I don't recommend it.
This type of sound is solvable by either playing softer with the playing hand (not hitting the strings so hard) or doing some EQing. If your bass has a treble control, turn it down. Same with the amp or any pedals.
But the best solution for things like this is to solve it at the hand and not gloss over it with effects.
Adjusting your playing style for a given situation will not only open up your bass for new possibilities, but make you a more versatile player. You can then use the clanky sound to accent other notes without sacrificing treble in your normal tone.
I used to have the same issue, hitting the strings far, far too hard and always getting the clank. I've since lowered my action and learned to play a lot softer. I can now get that clank without too much extra effort and play fast lines with soft strikes of the fingers, which is way easier than trying to hit hard during a fast passage.
Adding a final comment to the great replies so far: practice how you let go of the string.
A lot of comments around fret buzz will rightly point out the importance of a setup, the truss rod, proper fretting technique, etc. But there's also a tendency for new players to focus intensely on getting the the placement of the fretting fingers right, only to buzz on the release.
Playing slowly to a metronome, just doing whole notes, playing and releasing, is a good practice to see not only how softly you can place a note, but release it. Be mindful of the relationship of your plucking fingers too, and see that you're pulling across, and not up, against the string. You will find a magic sweet spot with your fingers to both play short plucks (with the plucking finger also acting as a mute on release) and longer sustains.