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> The Sweet Spot Of Tone
Ben Higgins
post Nov 12 2014, 12:00 PM
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We've all heard the cliche "The tone is in the fingers". Different people can play through the same gear yet sound unique. I think this is easier to detect with lead guitar playing, stuff that requires personal expression. There was a video shared recently about this, yet the differences were not easy to detect mainly due to the fact that they were just playing a simple power chord progression. If we were to give a group of guitar players the same phrase to play, they wouldn't sound the same. The amount of pick strokes may differ, some may use a slide where some may not. A bend, a pull-off. Different ways to reach different notes.

But I wanted to hone in one specific aspect of tone and that is what the picking hand is doing. Btw, when I say 'picking hand' it doesn't mean we're focusing on alternate picking, it's just that 'right hand' isn't always applicable if somebody is left handed and we're modern and all inclusive here ! So just remember that when I say 'picking hand' that also encompasses strumming, muting and everything else that this hand does.

Have you ever noticed how when you've experimented with different hand positions (and pick positions, angle etc) that the tone changes ? Sometimes for the better but sometimes for the worse. It's a matter of personal preference of course but anything that gives me a thinner tone is 'worse' to me. My ideal tone is wherever the thickest, clearest signal is found when the string is picked. The note has to be the dominant signal with as little unwanted overtones as possible.

Try this:

Making sure you're on the bridge pickup, start picking really close to the bridge. Hear how the tone is much thinner here ? But also can you hear how the lower strings vibrate and interfere with the cleanliness of the high strings ? Try tremolo picking on the high E with your hand near or over the bridge.

Depending on the level of gain you use, you might notice a slight dulling of the notes due to interference from the other strings vibrating. In the mix this might not be an issue but unaccompanied it will be apparent. This type of stuff is worth knowing if you're predominantly a 'distortion' player.

You may be totally fine with the tone and the extra noise that comes from playing close to the bridge but if you're not then you may want to counter act the noise, change the tone or both. One way of doing both is to bring your hand to the middle, between the end of the fingerboard and bridge. This should give you the 'thickest brightness', if that makes sense ? But it is also affected by the angle that your hand is in relation to the guitar body. If you bring your hand in so that your thumb is closer to the strings then you should get the best control over the tone. You should be able to keep the lower strings quiet so they don't interfere with anything you're playing on the higher strings. It will also change the way the pick meets the string. Keeping the pinky side of your hand close to the strings in the usual muting position, bring your thumb side in and out, seeing how the tone changes as you pick.

Now bring your hand closer to the neck. Normally people don't tend to play here for everyday general playing but they might pick close to the edge of the fingerboard, or even on it, for effect. It gives a slight hint of neck pickup doesn't it ?

As I said before, it's totally a matter of taste but if you bear two things and mind, tone and muting control, then you might find that you have more options to influence the sound of your guitar playing than you realised !


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klasaine
post Nov 12 2014, 04:13 PM
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Giant +1000 on this Ben.

One's picking hand position on the strings, angle in relation to the strings, strength (or weakness) of attack, type and thickness of pick will have more influence over your tone than any guitar, pedal, amp or modeler.

*Using that tone control thingy once in awhile is also a good trick.


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Todd Simpson
post Nov 12 2014, 06:43 PM
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+ 1 Billion!!!

Ben NAILS IT here big time. The secret sauce of getting great tone really does start in the fingers and muting/pick control is a BIG part of it.



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Ben Higgins
post Nov 13 2014, 06:19 PM
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Cheers guys, I hope more up and coming players take the time to give it some thought and attention - it really does make a big difference


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