Playing Open / Jazz Chords With Distortion Sound Awful For Me
montecristo
Jul 9 2008, 04:47 AM
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Hey guys,
My problem is that every time I put high volume with high distortion on my amp, and play either open chords and/ or jazz chords for example, the sound sounds terrible - like very messy and unclear. My amp is a Line 6 spider. I was wondering if this is a common problem when playing chords with distortion on... Is the best way to play chords (other than power chords) to turn the volume / distortion down on the amp?
Thanks for any input to help me solve this tone issue :-)

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RIP Dime
Jul 9 2008, 06:33 AM
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I think it's just the amp, tube amps are very articulate with chords, even with lots of gain; my Valveking pulls it off nicely.

EDIT: Forgot to say, the opposite is usually true for solid state or modeling amps, very messy, just pure cacophony.

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This post has been edited by RIP Dime: Jul 9 2008, 06:34 AM


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fatb0t
Jul 9 2008, 01:48 PM
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I disagree with RIP Dime.... Have you ever tried to play a major chord barred with full on distortion (like screaming lead tone)? It sounds god awful, you can't hear the suble nuances of the chord I find. Something about major barre chords seem to just come out horribly wrong with distortion.

However, distortion for a 5th chord or power chord sounds amazing! Only 2 notes (or three if you put the octave in there)....not much to muddle up. When you're hitting six strings for the barre chord it just sounds crappy I find.

I mean this is an art though, you can roll down the distortion to just get a little crunch and crank the amp to get some compression (only applies to tube amps) - then you might be able to pull it off.

I think if you use distortion of open chords and use it tasteful every once in awhile the distortion can work - but I find you can't play a whole progression like that....

Any instructors have any input on this?

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This post has been edited by fatb0t: Jul 9 2008, 01:50 PM
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Ivan Milenkovic
Jul 9 2008, 02:55 PM
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When two strings are played on distorted channel, other than two notes that they produce, they produce a third note too. When you strum a chord of multiple strings than all the strings produce these added overtones and it sounds dissonant because not all intervals produce notes within a scale - thus being disharmonic. If you for example strum pure intervals like octave 4th or 5th, you get a note that is in harmony with the interval so powerchords are often used on heavy distortion because of the clarity they produce.

Also a note here, that tube amps and pickups specially play an important role here too. If a pickup is of pristine quality, and tube amp is involved, the chord will sound much clearer because of the pure accuracy of the tone transmitted from string vibrations.

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This post has been edited by Ivan Milenkovic: Jul 9 2008, 02:55 PM


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Marcus Siepen
Jul 9 2008, 05:03 PM
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I agree with Ivan, not only the quality of the amp matters here, the pickups play a very big role in this too. I love my EMG 81s exactly for this reason, they give you a very defined and clear tone with high gain amps while a lot of other pickups that I tried before resulted in a very muddy sound.

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Guitar1969
Jul 9 2008, 06:49 PM
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I agree with the others - it depends on alot of things including the distortion settings, guitar, amp. I use distorted open chords all the time, along with power chords, but it depends on the musical situation and style). Mostly open chords used for a part where I want the sound to sustain for awhile(not numerous fast chord changes).

But all in all , most use power chords when playing heavy distortion passages.

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RIP Dime
Jul 9 2008, 10:24 PM
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QUOTE (fatb0t @ Jul 9 2008, 01:48 PM) *
I disagree with RIP Dime.... Have you ever tried to play a major chord barred with full on distortion (like screaming lead tone)? It sounds god awful, you can't hear the suble nuances of the chord I find. Something about major barre chords seem to just come out horribly wrong with distortion.

However, distortion for a 5th chord or power chord sounds amazing! Only 2 notes (or three if you put the octave in there)....not much to muddle up. When you're hitting six strings for the barre chord it just sounds crappy I find.

I mean this is an art though, you can roll down the distortion to just get a little crunch and crank the amp to get some compression (only applies to tube amps) - then you might be able to pull it off.

I think if you use distortion of open chords and use it tasteful every once in awhile the distortion can work - but I find you can't play a whole progression like that....

Any instructors have any input on this?


All my expiriences playing barre chords with distortion have been good, it produces a nice washed out sound and can establish a major or minor key when used in context. It doesn't get the punch of a powerchord, but then again it's not meant to. Maybe it's because the way I use it, I don't use full chords on the dirty channel the same as I would if I was on the clean channel. So ya, I never strum full chords as I would when on the clean channel, but I use them here and there to create a washed out sound to contrast the punch of power chords.

On a side note, I like to use major or minor diads on the low strings with distortion aswell, actually a major diad on the low strings with distortion produces a disharmonic sound(like what Ivan was saying), but I like to use that because it's so uncommon, and can produce a cool effect if used in the right context.

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IDontWantMyUsern...
Jul 10 2008, 12:48 AM
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I have heard that the power chords actually were invented by The Kinks if my mind isn't messing with me now blink.gif
It was made just because of what Ivan told, at least I think so tongue.gif

If you want to play open chords or jazz chords, try to turn the volume down on the guitar itself? It will only decrease the distortion, not the volume you know smile.gif

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Pablo Vazquez
Jul 11 2008, 10:24 PM
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QUOTE (Ivan Milenkovic @ Jul 9 2008, 10:55 AM) *
When two strings are played on distorted channel, other than two notes that they produce, they produce a third note too. When you strum a chord of multiple strings than all the strings produce these added overtones and it sounds dissonant because not all intervals produce notes within a scale - thus being disharmonic. If you for example strum pure intervals like octave 4th or 5th, you get a note that is in harmony with the interval so powerchords are often used on heavy distortion because of the clarity they produce.

Also a note here, that tube amps and pickups specially play an important role here too. If a pickup is of pristine quality, and tube amp is involved, the chord will sound much clearer because of the pure accuracy of the tone transmitted from string vibrations.

Sure, I agree!

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Muris Varajic
Jul 12 2008, 05:02 AM
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Depends of tuning as well,and it depends A LOT!
Per example if you fret the note,usually it might go just a
little higher of perfect pitch,specially if you do barre.
And this little move (you cannot hear is as a not tuning)
is just enough to make the whole mess.
Some players tune certain strings a micro step bellow
just to avoid this problem.
And type of distortion is important as well,
EQ,cuts etc....needs lot of tweaking. smile.gif

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Bogdan Radovic
Jul 12 2008, 10:28 AM
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Safest way is to play those chords on a clean channel/settings is it fits your song profile...

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Marcus Siepen
Jul 12 2008, 10:28 AM
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Yup, absolutely true, tuning plays a huge role in this of course.

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Kristofer Dahl
Jul 12 2008, 10:51 AM
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QUOTE (Ivan Milenkovic @ Jul 9 2008, 03:55 PM) *
When two strings are played on distorted channel, other than two notes that they produce, they produce a third note too. When you strum a chord of multiple strings than all the strings produce these added overtones and it sounds dissonant because not all intervals produce notes within a scale - thus being disharmonic.


That's interesting - I have never thought of it that way. Makes sense though!

QUOTE (Muris Varajic @ Jul 12 2008, 06:02 AM) *
Depends of tuning as well,and it depends A LOT!
Per example if you fret the note,usually it might go just a
little higher of perfect pitch,specially if you do barre.
And this little move (you cannot hear is as a not tuning)
is just enough to make the whole mess.
Some players tune certain strings a micro step bellow
just to avoid this problem.
And type of distortion is important as well,
EQ,cuts etc....needs lot of tweaking. smile.gif


Muris you strum some chords with lots of distortion in your "junk medley" - they sound great inspite of the many simultaneous notes, with your settings!

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