How hard should I be plucking?

Hey All, during my practice sessions with headphones, I’m not sure how hard I should be plucking the strings. I could turn the volume on my amp up and pluck very lightly or would it be better to turn the volume down a bit and pluck harder? I’m very new at this and I want to make sure my technique is correct from the start.

Thanks in advance for your insight.

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I’m also relatively new to bass and wondering this as well. I’ve noticed that plucking too strongly can cause the strings to rattle (against the frets?). Should we just play as zen as possible and Leave-it-up-to-the-Sound-Guy? :laughing:

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In my experience for general plucking it’s better to worry about consistency than volume for two reasons. First you/the-sound-guy can always adjust volume/gain as necessary, but perhaps more importantly for dynamics. Dynamics is the practice of deliberately playing at different volumes throughout a piece for dramatic effect. If you’re taking the Beginner to Badass course there is a lesson on dynamics in Module 9.

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@fosskers and @Steve_A . . . how hard you pluck is a matter of personal taste, and would depend on what type of music you’re playing along to . . . :slight_smile:

Like so many other things, there’s no “right” way to do anything.

Cheers
Joe

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@Steve_A

Are you using a headphone amp OR headphones plugged into an amp?
If using a standard amp your volume control on your guitar should be almost at maximum (I have mine at 75%).
I am using a Rumble 100 AMP and my GAIN is at 8 o’clock and the MASTER VOLUME is at 1/4 ie. 9 o’clock.

When you say pluck are you talking about your fingers or a pick?
If you are talking about fingers I would say that you are not so much plucking but sliding your finger across the string until it comes to rest on the next string or against your thumb.
You do not pluck/pull up on a string on a Bass.
Hope this helps.

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My headphones are plugged into my amp.

I am plucking with my index and middle fingers. I don’t know all the terminology yet so forgive me if I misspoke. I do slide my fingers across the strings the way you described and they come to rest on the string above the one I’m playing or if it’s the E string, my fingers land on my thumb.

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Sounds like your plucking technique is fine, @Steve_A. Just keep practicing! With practice, you’ll get better at plucking with the right amount of force for the tone you want to achieve.

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Hey Mike, that makes a lot of sense. Maybe I should stop worrying about it and just keep practicing. :laughing:

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Some good advice in here already, but the one thing I’ll add is that I’ve been told that it’s easier to play fast if you play lightly. So being able to pluck lightly will enable you to play faster bass lines, as well as allow you better control of your dynamics (light when appropriate, strong when appropriate, vs only being comfortable plucking strong) as was mentioned.

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That’s a good point. I think I heard or read somewhere that Steve Harris (of Iron Maiden) plays with a very light touch and just turns up the volume on his amp to compensate. What’s known as “letting the amp do the work”.

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Had a boss/head chef in my college days when I used to cook in our dining hall kitchen.
When you asked him how long to cook something, his answer was always “you cook it 'til its done, man”. I had thought he was being an a$$ at first but then realized he wanted me to learn when it was done.

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Exactly what I was thinking of @Mike_NL. It might have been in Josh’s “Reasons Steve Harris kicks ass” (or whatever he titled it) video, or it might have been some other Steve Harris interview or something…

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@Steve_A

Well it sounds like it is just lack of experience and as others have said it will all come in time with practice. Just don’t give up :slightly_smiling_face:

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you can do whatever you want, but there are advantages to plucking lightly. mainly it’s far less fatiguing and you have a wider dynamic range. absolutely let the amp do the work, turn it up!

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I’m relieved to read these responses. I prefer having a lighter touch on the strings and it seems to suit the jazz and blues that I want to learn to play.

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This is true, @skydvr and @Mike_NL . . . :slight_smile:

Steve Harris and John Entwistle used this technique much to their success. I would just love to really crank it up, but I don’t think my neighbors would appreciate it. :grin:

Cheers
Joe

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I think you should definitely aim for plucking lightly, and turning the volume up. (Same way you should aim for light touches with the fretting fingers as well.)

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Agreed, @akos . . . :slight_smile:

Which brings up a good point: you can’t fret lightly unless your action is low enough so that you don’t have to press very hard on the strings.

@Steve_A and @fosskers might want to check their action.

Cheers
Joe

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@Jazzbass19

So true.
I have had to adjust the neck relief on my Bass twice so far in April because of seasonal weather changes.

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My approach is what some others have said. I crank the volume all the way up on my bass, use the pre-amp/amp to adjust as necessary, and pluck lighter. This leaves me headroom that I can control if I want to accent a note or the song requires more to it. I would be careful of digging in too much or you start getting a “clacking” sound like you are slapping at the strings when that’s not the intent. It’s something I still work on.

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