Communities

Writing
Writing
Codidact Meta
Codidact Meta
The Great Outdoors
The Great Outdoors
Photography & Video
Photography & Video
Scientific Speculation
Scientific Speculation
Cooking
Cooking
Electrical Engineering
Electrical Engineering
Judaism
Judaism
Languages & Linguistics
Languages & Linguistics
Software Development
Software Development
Mathematics
Mathematics
Christianity
Christianity
Code Golf
Code Golf
Music
Music
Physics
Physics

Dashboard
Notifications
Mark all as read
Q&A

Why do bass guitarists avoid open strings and double bassists don't?

+6
−0

Some bass guitar players seem to avoid playing open strings in most situations, reportedly for the reason of the sound.

Open strings are generally not avoided when playing double bass, although the two instruments have a number of commonalities, and are sometimes even substituted one for another.

  1. Can someone familiar with both instruments describe which construction features of each of those instruments, and how, are affecting the sound of a plucked string (or of a string otherwise played without using the bow) so that the double bass sounds quite uniform between open and stopped strings, while the bass guitar perhaps has less of the same uniformity?

  2. I assume that complete avoidance of open strings would make an instrument harder to play, as well as waste some otherwise playable scale length. Would a zero fret construction on a bass guitar, especially a fretted bass guitar, equalize this effect away altogether?

I do realize that the difference in expressivity between open and stopped strings can never disappear completely; for example the left hand vibrato technique is quite different on a fretted versus fretless instrument, and an open string cannot do either. Thus if I need vibrato articulation, I can't use an open string on a double bass, the same as on a bass guitar. So I'm not looking for completely eradicating the difference between open and stopped strings. I'm rather trying to understand the mechanical background behind why some bass guitar players avoid open strings and why bass guitar nuts cannot do what double bass nuts apparently can do, if a difference in instrument construction is involved.

Why does this post require moderator attention?
You might want to add some details to your flag.
Why should this post be closed?

4 comments

Probably tone. On uprights everything just sounds good, not the case with electric. It may have something to do with the pickup(s) being in a place that can be a harmonic node or anti-node, creating a feeling of inconsistency depending on how high up the neck the note is played. Or it can be as simple as the tone of a lower string sounding better due to the vagaries of amplification. OTOH I've seen funk bassists make extensive use of "open string scales". Pete W‭ about 2 months ago

@Pete W. - Pickup placement certainly does affect different stopping positions (frets) unevenly. But I still wonder. Jirka Hanika‭ about 2 months ago

If the pickup was in a place wrt the nut, such as an antinode on a particular harmonic (1/4, 1/5, ... of the scale length), one could just move the pickup about one centimeter toward the nut and every "forbidden fundamental" would move one fret toward toward the nut, too. Which would enable open strings: there is no minus first fret to be affected. Although of course, there might be other downsides with that pickup placement. Jirka Hanika‭ about 2 months ago

I've actually wanted to experiment with this and an oscilloscope and/or spectrum analyzer, I have everything for it but never got around to doing so. Another strange observation, is that some basses with a single pickup sound just great, or at least don't give me this feeling that the tone varies along the neck in the same way. Which might suggest the issue is with harmonics being somewhat out of phase in multiple pickups. If there's a good explanation I'd be interested. Pete W‭ about 2 months ago

0 answers

Sign up to answer this question »

This community is part of the Codidact network. We have other communities too — take a look!

You can also join us in chat!

Want to advertise this community? Use our templates!