Bass: pick or fingers

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by Aussie Mike, Feb 16, 2008.

  1. Aussie Mike

    Aussie Mike Member

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    Currently doing some pre-production with a cool producer. But he's all about the bass being played with a pick.

    I think for some of our more punchy rocky songs it does work well, and the mix sounds good. With some of the slower more ballady songs the fingers are better.

    Our bass player has never used a pick. And I don't know of too many bass players that do, and I've always looked down on bass players that used a pick!

    Am I being a snob, or does a pick really sound better in a mix?
     
  2. devinb

    devinb Member

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    I've recorded a little bass in my time (as a player, and not an engineer), and I have to say I like the finger as well, and don't regret using it.
     
  3. KCWM

    KCWM Member

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    When I record, when I want a "rounder" sound, I play with my finger. If I want a shaper sound or the bass to stick out a little more, I go with a sharper sound and play with a pick.
     
  4. jefesq

    jefesq Gold Supporting Member

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  5. elambo

    elambo Member

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    Depends entirely on the type of song. Picked, it's brighter and has a sharper edge with more punch. Sometimes that's good - sometimes bad - but it is the producer's job to decide.
     
  6. Bassomatic

    Bassomatic Silver Supporting Member

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    90% of the time is fingers here.

    Unless your bassist is really comfortable with a pick, it would be a mistake to push for its use, imo.
     
  7. 6789

    6789 Member

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    It depends on the sound you want. I prefer the bass played with a pick.
     
  8. nosignal

    nosignal Member

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    absolutely up to you, but as said before, if you want the bass to stick out more without doing any drastic eq'ing, a pick is the way to go. i mix it up within the songs i record usually.
     
  9. devinb

    devinb Member

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    I've always been a fan of bass sticking out in ways other than a sharp attack...
     
  10. Aussie Mike

    Aussie Mike Member

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    He's said "ok, let's A/B it".

    Then we do the song once with pick, once with fingers, and then without changing any settings (EQ, pickups, compression etc) he says "see, the pick stands out more!".

    And I kinda think, "well duh".

    But he seemed to say that MOST bands use a pick with bass. And I don't know whether they do or not in the studio, but on stage i find it's less common to use a pick.
     
  11. devinb

    devinb Member

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    If the goal is just to stand out, I can think of a lot of other awful things you could have your bassist do.
     
  12. Zero Point

    Zero Point Member

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    Up to your bass player.

    Countless magical songs were done with either. :)

    And sometimes even Jaco, who played with Crazy instead of a pick... (God bless your soul, Jaco.)

    -ZP
     
  13. elambo

    elambo Member

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    Spoken like a true bass player:AOK

    Most producers/engineers wouldn't want it sticking out too much in ANY way.
     
  14. theohartman

    theohartman Member

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    at the risk of pissing off a producer or engineer or two, how it's anybody's business but the bassist's to make that call is beyond me.
     
  15. Aussie Mike

    Aussie Mike Member

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    I think it's a band decision, in consultation with the producer. Well, that's what it will be in our case. Depends on the band, some have clear lines about who has a say about what.
     
  16. elambo

    elambo Member

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    Are we talking album or live?

    If the bass player is responsible for the "sound" of the record, then he SHOULD be making that call, but typically record companies will put that decision into the hands of the producer, someone who's not the bass player or the drummer or the singer, but instead responsible for the synergy of the entire band as a whole. A particular player tends to put too much focus on their own instrument and that's not good for the song. Same reason film directors don't edit their own footage - they'd never be able to cut any of it and the movie would be 9 hours long. Better to give these decisions to someone who's listening to the song, not just their own instrument. If the bass player can honestly be that objective, he SHOULD be deciding whether to use fingers or a pick
     
  17. elambo

    elambo Member

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    That's the best way! As long as everyone agrees. How has the collaboration been going?
     
  18. Zero Point

    Zero Point Member

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    I hate to be subjective here, but a good producer or engineer can make either a picked bass or a fingered bass work. It IS the choice of the artist. In my opinion, as soon as a producer or engineer makes decisions on how something should be played, that is when the music starts to suffer.

    Great producers and engineers, such as Bob Ezrin, Alan Parsons, and James Guthrie; take what the band does and improves upon it. And this is where the magic is. Don't expect to go into a recording session as a producer or engineer and think you can make decisions such as how a bass player plays. It's just not going to work out. And the band will start to resent you.

    The band pays the bills ;)

    Just pop the bass with a limiting amplifier (LA2 or 1176 style), or a nice opto comp. Adjust the 1 khz area for that sweetness, and control the attack with EQ around 700 hz. Easy peasy! :JAM

    -ZP

     
  19. elambo

    elambo Member

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    Actually that's exactly how the producer enters a recording session. But you're viewing it as a hostile takeover whereas a good producer won't make these kinds of demands, just suggestions, but educated, based on the bigger picture.

    I imagine a producer like Rick Rubin wouldn't say to Flea that he needs to pick the bass instead of use his finger, but I could see him saying, "I think your part should cut more in the chorus" and Flea would decide how to achieve that, possibly switching to a pick, or vice versa, or whatever. He's the expert about his own axe, but he wouldn't necessarily have known that the bass needed to cut more in the chorus.

    Yes, they'll resent you if your suggestion is the wrong choice. They'll thank you if it's the right one, especially if it wasn't the obvious choice. **** producers fall off the planet every day. Good ones keep moving up the ladder. But it's short-sighted to think that they don't play a major role in the development of an artist, band, or album.

    But since when does the band pay the bills??? The record company handles that. All of it. Including paying the producer, engineer, studio, hard production costs, promotion, etc. I'm not saying it's the perfect scheme, but it's how it works, and it DOES work for most bands.
     
  20. eyeteeth

    eyeteeth Member

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    Good points. I spent years tweaking my sound to where i can get attack with my finger much like a pick. Proper compressor settings is key. I have in the past used either depending on what the song called for... but both the groups I'm working with currently unanimously agree that I can play faster, AND cleaner with better tone using my fingers than i can with a pick. That's not to say I couldn't rework my bass rig to reverse that, but I prefer to play with my fingers. As an amateur producer, I can say that is also not usually the case. Most players I see don't have the attack but are still trying to play aggressive music. I'll work with them on technique and tone, but never force anyone to use a pick... as a bassist, I just can't do it.

    However, I will say the band ALWAYS pays the bills. Even if the initial payments are from a label, the band is responsible for paying them back... think of it as a loan. Including the studio and producer, that all comes out of the Band and is part of their recoupable.
     

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