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Alembic Club » Owning an Alembic » Fun Stories » Archive through December 05, 2003 » B- vs. E-string damping on Alembic Essence 5-string? « Previous Next »

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Username: biobassman

Post Number: 1
Registered: 5-2003
Posted on Friday, May 30, 2003 - 12:24 pm:   Edit Post

Hi, Last weekend I bought my first Alembic bass = an Essence 5-string (built in '92)... a real eye (& EAR ! ) opener after many years of enjoying my '69 Fender P-bass (& more recently a 5-string Squire 'Pro Tone' which I bought last year to figure out if I could get into playing a 5 string). Normally when playing the 5-string I keep my thumb resting on the E-string (when plucking on A,D or G strings), moving it up to B-string when plucking the E-string, & up to top of front pickup when plucking the B-string. However, the alembic seems so responsive that I can detect a steady/slight drone from the undampened B-string when I have my thumb resting on the E-string (while plucking A, D or G strings). This became more apparent while recording with my band last night. I'm a finger style player & I would appreciate advice from the experts on best ways to dampen B versus E-strings on the Alembic or similar 'high end' active basses. thx, willy

p.s. my rig includes Eden Highwayman WT-500 head, DBX compressor, Eden 115T & 210XLT cabs.
Username: paul_boulet

Post Number: 24
Registered: 8-2002
Posted on Friday, May 30, 2003 - 1:10 pm:   Edit Post

Ok Ė Iíll take a stab at it! The opinions expressed here are my own and Iím not expecting the necessary agreement of anyone else who may chime inÖ I add the disclaimer because this bridges the 4 vs. 5+ string debate so Iíll just provide my own experience and go from there.

I play predominately 6 string fretless, with occasional 5 string fretted after having played typical 4 sting for many years. Accounting for sympathetic string noise is the significant playing style difference that becomes required when you add on that additional sting. For the six-stringed animal, I had to completely change my right hand style to dampen string w/o pushing toward Carpal Tunnel.

For the low B end, I have learned to drop my thumb between the B & E to dampen both simultaneously. Then, when playing in the upper register on the higher strings, I shift my right hand position so the right edge covers all of the strings that Iím not playing. I do this for my 5 sting now out of habit but Iím sure itís required just to a lesser extent.

I have also had a ramp installed on my instruments so I can base right handed shifts on an elevated position. If you never seen one of these thereís an absolutely beautiful example of a Rogue 5 for sale on eBay right now that has one.


I find this very helpful for pulling tonal variation from right-hand shifting while also offering a little assist for dampening as well.

I realize that this was more of an answer than first asked but thatís just me when I get started.

I hope it helped for what itís worth.

-Paul (Leo)
Username: biobassman

Post Number: 2
Registered: 5-2003
Posted on Friday, May 30, 2003 - 2:28 pm:   Edit Post

Paul (Leo), many thx for your input & advice; very much appreciated -> As you point out, avoiding 'sympathetic overtones' on undampened strings seems to be a critical aspect of the 5 & 6 string bass technique. I'll try out your combined B/E string damping technique this p.m. Also, I had never heard of (or seen) elevated 'ramps' btwn pickups... quite interesting.
take care,
Username: paul_boulet

Post Number: 25
Registered: 8-2002
Posted on Friday, May 30, 2003 - 3:12 pm:   Edit Post


Gary Willis is the notable player of the day who has taken the whole ramp concept to furthest extent Iím aware of. Iím a real big fan of his playing and it was his example/instruction that turned me on to using them myself.

Hereís a link to his web site where he goes into detail on his setup and how he uses it.

-Paul (Leo)

BTW: There are a lot of Paulís around here so we all have our little parenthetical unique identifier Ė in case you were wonderingÖ
Intermediate Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 117
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Sunday, June 01, 2003 - 2:02 pm:   Edit Post

After coming from a four string, the one thing most people don't bring up (after moaning about finding the perfect B-string, their old amp ain't up to this, the fingerboard's too wide/narrow, etc.) is this mostly left-hand problem of the 'extra' string(s) ringing until you learn to mute them effectively as part of your now-expanding technique.

This is why the 'classic' neck taper was good for me: The string spacing was close and the neck wasn't very wide. I live close to a SamAsh store who's had a John Pattitucci Yamaha in stock for a very long time. Aside from the awful pickups, I'm convinced it's because it's the widest fingerboard I've ever tried, and I have big hands.

I use a variation on what you do: I tend to rest my thumb BETWEEN the E and B, the A and E, etc., instead of upon a string singly. I had to learn to pluck more across than 'into' the strings, as well. I come from a piano background, so the idea of lifting out of each stroke is ingrained, as well as not letting anything keep 'ringing' that's not part of the passage at hand.

I hope this is useful.

J o e y
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 62
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Monday, June 02, 2003 - 7:17 am:   Edit Post

Speaking of Pattitucci; if I recall correctly he uses his fourth and fifth fingers to mute the E and B stings.

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