Oh, that’s my nail. Duh.

So, I’ve been working on memorizing my first official bass line, which I (think I) mentioned in a recent post. I haven’t quite got it to the point where I can play along yet, though I do remember the progression. I will though. Mostly I’m still thinking about it too hard, so when I miss a note, or fall off target, it’s very hard to get back on track again. The play-along I’ve been trying to get through makes me realize since the majority of the riff is all right around the 7th fret, if I lose my place, it’s only when he shifts to the 5th or 9th fret that I’m able to see where I’m supposed to be and pick up again. So, it’s a work in progress, but it really just amounts to repeating it another hundred times until I’m basically dreaming in ‘Stand By Me’. It really only took about 3 or 4 play-throughs to remember. It’s pretty simple, but I don’t think we can really say we ‘know’ a song or part of a song until we’re able to play along with the original recording. So, while I know the progression for ‘Stand By Me’, I won’t say I’ve officially added it to my repertoire until I can play along with the recording reasonably well.

I have noticed something in working on the riff though, in the silence with just it and nothing else going on to distract me from the actual sound coming out of my bass. There’s a variance in the sound I’m creating. Sometimes it’s a percussive thump. Other times there’s a bit of a twang.  I think since, up to now, I’ve mostly been playing whatever Rocksmith has to offer, which is, by definition, pretty much all rock music, I haven’t really been listening closely to that. When I heard it, I assumed I didn’t fret quite hard enough, or was in the wrong place on the fret.

Well, when I’m alone with my bass in a quiet house before the roomie gets up (this only lasts for about 15 minutes a day, but I have been taking advantage of it to play the bass unplugged), I can really notice that different way I’m hitting the string, and look more closely at what’s going on.

That’s when I realized the more ‘twangy’ sound is happening when my nail hits the string. I never considered that possibility because I keep my nails as short as possible. But, even with super short nails, if your finger curls inward just so, it is apparently possible, and even likely, that that nail is going to hit the string for a more pick-like sound.

So, as I continue working, I’ll be paying attention to that. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with your nail hitting the string if that’s the sound you’re going for, but I’m pretty sure it should always be intentional, so I’ll be using ‘Stand By Me’ to fine-tune how I’m plucking the strings, I guess, while I work on embedding it so deep into my brain that I don’t have to think about it anymore.

Until Next Time, basic motor skills are on the practice agenda. 🙂

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6 thoughts on “Oh, that’s my nail. Duh.

  1. I know exactly what you mean. I’ve spoke about this with my wife and with some other people in the past. I keep the nails on my striking hand really short, because I don’t like the twangy sound. Its guitarish to me. I like more of a hum from my bass.

    If you sit and play, and your chair has arms, you can also put the end of the body against an arm and the vibrations act as an amp. I do that sometimes. I’ve heard people say they can also do this with a wall, but I’ve never tried. Its fun to hear the little differences that traveling vibrations make though.

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    1. I cut mine about twice a week. They get in the way if I don’t, but even that short, I apparently tend to hook my finger on the rise, which makes the nail hit the string at the end of the pluck-instant twang. Actually pretty handy for punk, but it should definitely not be accidental, so need to pay closer attention.

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      1. I pluck somewhere between the fingertip and pad, so it doesn’t seem to happen to me unless the nail grows out a little. The only time I ever get any nail in on purpose is when I’m messing around with upstroke/downstroke stuff with my fingers for fun, but I don’t know if its something I’d ever actually use.

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      2. It may be a habit caused by the uke. Smaller instrument might lean me towards a more curved finger position when playing melody, so when I move to bass, I might be acting as if I have less space than I actually have. That might not be the reason, but it’s possible.
        I do tend to fret and strum too hard on guitar, so it can also be related to just needing a gentler touch, too. (Actually almost wrote about guitar power chords instead yesterday, in a very similar vein, but my thoughts on that aren’t fully formed yet.)

        Whatever the case, because of the way my fingers are lifting away from the string, unanticipated twang is sometimes happening. It seems to be more about the way I’m coming away from the strings than going into them, but further experimentation is needed to be sure.

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      3. I do kind of a “running man” motion with my fingers when attacking. Mine are slightly curved as well, but the running motion (or even galloping like a horse) lets them curl above the string on the return and then extend again as needed.

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      4. Yeah, I’ve been mentally thinking of it as ‘more like petting, less like pulling’. I think it’s a tendency to pull my finger in toward my palm further than would ever be necessary, but I need to experiment a bit before I’m certain.

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