Have you ever been playing a gig or been in a band practice and found your bass sustain a little lacking?
This is most commonly going to be apparent on slower songs with long held notes. You play the note and by the end of the bar it feels like the bass has just died away.
This is likely to happen in a band setting when there are other instruments playing around you. It doesn’t take that much of a drop in your bass volume to fall away behind the music.
Improve Your Sustain
So the big tip I have for improving those held notes is simply to increase your volume and play lighter!
The reason for this is really simple. When your average playing strength is quite hard you’ll get a very strong attack at the start of the note as you hit it but then it’ll quickly decay to a lower sustain and release.
Consequently, when you set your volume on stage, you’ll be judging the loudness by the strongest part of the sound. The attack.
So, to improve your sustain, simply raise the overall volume so that later sustained note is higher. Then, by playing lighter we avoid the initial peak. Hey presto we get a note with a higher sustained volume.
One other extra little tip I should mention is that you can decrease that initial attack even further by playing with the thumb away from the bridge.
The thumb is less likely to have a hard callus like the fingers and you can use more of the flesh for softening the tone.
By moving away from the closer to the neck we use a looser part of the string instead of that tight area near the bridge. Again, this helps to soften that initial thump and provide a rounder tone.