What’s up with sustain? We often talk about how to improve sustain and how that’s a positive thing. Through-neck, high mass bridges, wood choice, tuners, strings, nuts, etc, etc. But then we play eighth notes in up tempo grooves, i.e. very short notes. And those notes are played one at a time with the other strings carefully muted. Where do we need the sustain?
Isn’t the bloom of the note what we hear, feel and that supports the music? Our bass notes are short and specific, bonding the rhythm and the harmony. The note attack and how we then stop the note create the vibe.
My question is then, is sustain for the bass just a marketing gimmick? That’s extreme, but if a bass can produce a clean harmonic for a couple of bars, isn’t that more than enough sustain for what we would ever need?
Not picking a fight here, it’s food for thought. It always seems to me a paradox to want more sustain and play short, well defined notes.
You can always get rid of sustain if you want to (e.g., by muting, or a sponge underneath the strings etc), but you cannot generate it if there isn’t any sustain to begin with (e.g., if you have dead strings, or the construction of the bridge is faulty and so on).
You can only dose and apply in the desired quantities something you have - you can’t generate sustain other than what the instrument already provides.
(Well, there might be some pedals which could provide something like sustain, but it ain’t practical in most cases).
Depends on what you are playing and how you are playing it. Sometimes, I like to sustain a note for a bar, it allows the other instruments to shine a bit. Actually, it’s one of my favorite tricks in a 12 bar blues jam. Sounds really good contrasted to the guitar and drums (if you only do it once), it sounds really smooth and purposeful. But I’m a bit unconventional–to say the least…
For guitars you have sustainiac pickups, those are pretty awesome. For guitars sustain make more sense, but I love having decent sustain on my bass too. It’s just very subtle and the noisegate comment is a good point.
@Al1885 just curious why did you want a noisegate in the first place? I see it more valuable for hi gain guitar stuff, for bass I guess it’s quite nice with fuzz. I’m eyeballing the NSG and Decimator.
Just to get rid off some single coil hum, it does in the way but not what I think. It silences all at idle but once I play, all comes back. It doesn’t really matter at that point because other instrument will cover the hum.
Sustain is like a lot of things: whatever you have is good enough until it’s not good enough. There are several songs i play that have some sustained notes that play over several bars and i never think too much about them. Recently I was playing the songs on a bass i rarely play, that has flatwound strings on it and i definitely noticed the lack of sustain.
Other than that I’ve never seen it to be much of an issue… I think heavy mass bridges and other things that people do to improve sustain are hugely overblown and unnecessary for most people.