After my last post, tonight, after spending a few minutes running through the 3 songs in my ukulele repertoire, I decided to pick up the bass and try to sleuth out what I was doing that was making my fingernail hit the string. Of course I used ‘Stand By Me’ to do it, because two birds, one stone? Uh, yeah, obviously.

And, it turns out I’m doing two separate things, one of which only happens when I play sitting. I’ve attempted to take pictures of these two things, but bear with me, getting an angle where you could see what’s going on was fairly tough.

First you’ll see the picture of me sitting.

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See how my fingertips are sideways?
When I sit, my fingertips approach the strings from an angle, and I end up plucking the strings more on a 45 degree angle, this puts my nail in prime territory to create twang.  I do hold the bass lower when standing than sitting. Yes. I have read advice to not do this, but…boobs. Sorry guys, there is really no good way to word that. I have found both guitar and bass excessively cumbersome to attempt to play at boob level. It just doesn’t lay right. It’s not like I’m hanging the thing at my knees, but there is a height difference, which is why I make efforts to play standing as often as possible.

That said, I don’t know, maybe I have ape arms or something. When I try to play seated, it’s like my arm gets jammed up. Unless I cranky my elbow all the way to ear level, it just doesn’t seem to have enough room to not come at the strings sideways. I do know I have a shorter than average torso, which is obvious when you have to buy hip rise jeans if you don’t want to be sporting an Urkel-style sense of fashion. I’m petite, but I seem to be basically made of limbs, which may be part of the issue. I have to figure out how to navigate the difference between standing and sitting to compensate for the peculiarities of my individual biology.

So far, the only answer I’ve come up with is really counter-intuitive. By tilting the neck of the bass closer to my body and the body of the bass further away while seated, my plucking hand gets a little more room so I can approach more vertically. There has got to be a better answer, but I haven’t found it yet.

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Looks like I’m using just the barest tip of my finger here. No wonder my nail sometimes hits the string…
Then, I stand up. Both of my arms have plenty of room to move around now, but even so, when I come up through the strum…I’m not quite sure how to word this, so bear with me… it’s as if I have too much follow through. My finger goes from sliding across the string to turning into a hook on the way up. And, as it departs the string, that’s the moment when my nail might happen to hit it by virtue of that curling sort of motion.  It might correct itself if I try to approach the strings further onto the pad of my finger.

On the up side, I’ve accidentally discovered a happy middle ground between that percussive bass thump, and the more twangy pick style, which might, inevitably, turn out to be a versatile little bit of knowledge to keep in my back pocket. Just by hitting the strings with a different part of my finger, I’m able to pull out some totally different sounds.

Until Next Time, all knowledge is good knowledge.

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