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View Full Version : Technique To Sustain (string sympathetic vibration control)


doctrane
07-17-2008, 06:12 AM
Being an ever developing player, as most of you are, and relatively new acoustic player, sometimes I wonder whether I'm treading into frontiers that are a definitive part of playing acoustic guitar, controlling my instrumental voice. I've notice that notes particularly on the (b,e) strings created sustain vibrations particularly from lower (e,a,d) strings but at certain frets. What I do sometimes when I'm playing chord melodies let's saying, or maintaining chord tones while I then scale,arp,pent,line,motif out from it >> creating I guess a more complete (orchestral), sound. In the process, again I've noticed naturally accuring sustains on those (b,e) strings that I guess deal with where I've contacted the lower strings and the octaves of those notes.
So particularly an e or a or d on those upper strings create sympathic vibrations which add to the sustain. But to finesse that same effect on other notes, I literally place holding points on those octaves on the lower string and it seems to create similar effects.

Is this part of playing acoustic guitar where you place I'd say (silent) contacts on other strings to effect the sustains and effects on other notes.

Is there a particular, systemitized method for doing this, is it more trial by error, doing as I said (contacting octave points, perhaps, on multiple strings, perhaps the 4th(s), 5th(s) >> but basically experimentation

as part of ones technique. In the process of again, creating chord melodies, etc. this sometimes happens naturally (contacting other low strings) >> effecting the sustain (sympathetic effect). But talking about doing it, purposefully, knowing that if I don't let's say a first finger barre contact on the lower e that that upper e won't ring as much which is what I want it to do in the musical context.

So is this a part of guitar playing, which of course is exciting, or is this a part of my guitar that's lacking and should be sustaining without me doing this?

What I'm saying is also that as playing get's easier and easier, it seems to get harder and harder (more complex) and there seems to be many ways to coax a sound from the is instrument that are wonderful and beautiful. From ringing to thuds, from bells to funk, from shrill and balls and bends and cries, to dissonant ringing to counter melody and on and on.

Sometimes I think it's me working to hard on an instrument that's lacking, or this is exactly what it's about, supposed to be like. It's not easy to play but it can be wonderfully easy to handle what's not easy and doing it and telling beautiful musical stories

doc

tadmania
07-17-2008, 06:21 AM
You're on to something very good here. Using sympathetic vibrations can have great effect on your sound. Really, it is these kinds of tones that make for a full-sounding guitar in many cases (whether we realize are hearing them or not). Using them with some volition, we can make strides in developing our playing without "learning" anything radically new. All we have to do is listen and recognize what is happening, and then use it when we play.

Helps to have a good quality instrument, too. Plenty of those around here, I've noticed.

doctrane
07-17-2008, 08:12 AM
You're on to something very good here. Using sympathetic vibrations can have great effect on your sound. Really, it is these kinds of tones that make for a full-sounding guitar in many cases (whether we realize are hearing them or not). Using them with some volition, we can make strides in developing our playing without "learning" anything radically new. All we have to do is listen and recognize what is happening, and then use it when we play.

Helps to have a good quality instrument, too. Plenty of those around here, I've noticed.

Yes this is true!
I just noticed that when I was playing that when I landed on some notes (some motif), that at certain places they'd ring out (sustain) and other places they'd not sustain. When I created a passive placement on a lower string with let's say a barreing finger, the note would ring again (sympathetic vibration would happen).

My question is, is there a methodical approach to controlling this, or is it more of a trial by error? And Is this one of the many parts of 'playing an acoustic guitar'?

Joe's Corsage
07-17-2008, 12:52 PM
i know what you mean. the blind blake dvd i have is showing me something similar that was lacking in my playing. i find myself having to change my instinctual fingerings so as to allow for syncopation between the two distinct lines. i am typically a travis picker that uses three fingers and a floating pinky but i find myself having to mute and let ring in different places than i am used to.

if i don't, it sounds horrendous. =) for a good example of what you're talking about, laurence juber's masterclass dvd talks alot about sympathetic vibrations and tones, and he has lots of beautiful chord voicings to match.

Brent Hutto
07-17-2008, 01:35 PM
I'm a beginner who struggles with simply getting my left-hand fingers in the correct place and drawing a good tone from the strings with my right. So proper muting is at the current time a further requirement that I'm just not up to integrating into my playing.

That said, fortunately there are many fingerstyle tunes that I think are lovely and fun to play which actually benefit from long stretches of letting everything ring. A lot of "Celtic" tunes in DADGAD or (my favorite) CGDGAD are constructed to wonderfully utilize open strings ringing, either after being played or sympathetically. And some plain folksy songs in standard or Drop-D tuning move slowly enough and have gradual chord movements that let me play them "correctly" with only an occasional need to damp between phrases.

So if you like the kind of music I do, slow fingerstyle ballads, you can get by without much damping technique at all. At least on an acoustic guitar, I find on my Telecaster just about everything has to be damped eventually because the sustain is so extreme. But I am currently unable undertaken some of the more rhythmic- groove-oriented bluesy type songs that I one day hope to add to my repertoire.

doctrane
07-17-2008, 01:57 PM
this sustain is more of that ambient reflective sound that comes from the vibration of the (e,a,g) strings which has it's own qualities). It's not so much the sustain I'm after but that shimmer that you get from that effect. The open string (alternate tuning) does work well for that. I'm trying to incorporate that concept knowing way's to duplicate that effect on any note any fret (more so the (b,e). I found for the most part that at least with the high e, fretting across to the low e will cause a sustain shimmer (because of the octave sympathetically resonating.

Brent Hutto
07-17-2008, 02:08 PM
doctrane,

I think the main thing you're hearing is the shimmer from two nominally unison strings beating together as their pitch moves from perfectly consonant to slightly apart.

One of my favorite songs ends a beginning section and then ends the piece on the same little figure. It's involves thumbing an open fifth string (A) on the first beat of the measure which is a whole note. Then with the fingers you alternate the third string, fifth fret (C) and open second string (B) as eighth notes before ending on the fourth string, seventh fret (A) which is an octave with the lower A that's still ringing down on the A-string.

If you put a little arm or wrist vibrato on that fretted A it beats with the last little dying bit of open A below it and provides the sweetest, cute little ending for the song. Or at least to my ears it does.

doctrane
07-17-2008, 02:43 PM
doctrane,

I think the main thing you're hearing is the shimmer from two nominally unison strings beating together as their pitch moves from perfectly consonant to slightly apart.

One of my favorite songs ends a beginning section and then ends the piece on the same little figure. It's involves thumbing an open fifth string (A) on the first beat of the measure which is a whole note. Then with the fingers you alternate the third string, fifth fret (C) and open second string (B) as eighth notes before ending on the fourth string, seventh fret (A) which is an octave with the lower A that's still ringing down on the A-string.

If you put a little arm or wrist vibrato on that fretted A it beats with the last little dying bit of open A below it and provides the sweetest, cute little ending for the song. Or at least to my ears it does.


I'll try that >> and
I'm referring to let's say, when you play open high e string and stop it and you still hear ringing >> that's actually the low e string vibrating, and if you touch it, you'll feel it and that will stop the sound. If I play a on the high e, it resonates the a string. If let's say I move to a b, then there's no shimmer. My strings might be wrong, but the overall thing is to find a string that when you passively hold it, it creates a node that induces vibration. Well I try or will try to remember that fingering so I can induce that effect on any note, any fret, whereever possible... Something like that.

and my question was perhaps what these fingerings might be, etc. Your effect is a welcomed one and I'll try it. Maybe I'll look for that post (Effects on Acoustic Guitars) or should post one if it doesn't exist. There probably are numerous, numerous ones, from harmonic touches (12,5,7, 14th, frets) etc. whatever :)

Brent Hutto
07-17-2008, 02:49 PM
That's what I'm calling "sympathetic" ringing. I find that my B-string gets excited by a lot of different notes and chords on other strings, probably because it's the largest unwound string plus B is the fifth in an E-major or E-minor chord so those two E strings on the guitar are always pumping out energy on E and its harmonics. I sometimes get a really high pitched harmonic of that B going on my Telecaster and its really loud.

Let me tell you...get a good resonant, ringing electric guitar with some kind of single-coil pickups that aren't wound too hot and you'll hear every sympathetic vibration that is possible and hear it in spades.

rick-slo
07-17-2008, 08:48 PM
For more sympathetic ringing of course you have the open tunings to delve into. Also in playing, even though lets say only a string or two are plucked, having the whole chord shape in place (may require using barres more often) increase it. However I often spend more time damping out sympathetic ringing on a number of pieces because it is cleaner sounding (more noticeable in a recording) to give notes their due and then get rid of them. What works best depends on the particular piece being played.
Rick

mmmaak
07-17-2008, 09:04 PM
What works best depends on the particular piece being played.
Rick

I think that's it in a nutshell. If I'm understanding you correctly, doctrane (and I read your post twice trying to get a better comprehension :D), you are referring to overtones. There was a recent discussion on this topic. I think it's here:

http://www.acousticguitarforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=128924&highlight=overtone

Some guitars such are Goodalls are prized for their rich overtones, while other players may prefer a more fundamental-sounding instrument.

doctrane
07-18-2008, 06:28 AM
I know I know I do sometimes get
verbose or incomprehensible, but I'm sure there's a spark of truth within my attempt to explain...

Yes certain guitars for certain musical purposes!

Well I did find a simple answer experimentally, very simple and that is, basically either hit the low e fret line for either same fret of the high e or g, or or possible same fret on the a or octave (eg. Wes Montgomery - parallel 8ths (passive on the 8th), that will set up vibration. And yes sometimes we dampen our notes (palming the bridge), or buzz the note (slight palming - (aka Al Di Meola), or open tune or manipulate to find whatever you want.

Hey I'm trying to make it all musical
A nice hard callous can be a great asset to ringing out the harmonics too (with a straight harmonic note )

Acoustic has been a great way for me to be able to play anywhere (portability!) vs having to always plug in my LesPaul in one crowded room, upstairs, with the door closed).
Nicer to be able to sit on any couch, any where and play at 2am >> or just to practice, if I can't sleep and need something to quiet my soul

Also acoustic toughens up my hand which is great for dominating the electric, and acoustic can be very very magical indeed

Whatelse will I discover. Actually I"m fooling with playing lushlife (strayhorn), or some wes montgomery (Polka Dots And Moonbeams
Four On Six
West Coast Blues
In Your Own Sweet Way ), yesterdays, so what, >> all the jazz standards / that's one of my goals >> to build up that repetoire and play it (Mingus - goodbye porkpie hat), etc.

and then there's everything else >> blues, bluegrass, gratefuldead, bluegrass standards, whatever >> or just play and see what comes out

I'll stop being off topic now
But thanx for listening, whoever read this to this point. I just get passionate sometimes, maybe a bit excessive and frenetic :)

tgif
doctrane

Ovaltitan
07-18-2008, 07:09 AM
I know I know I do sometimes get
verbose or incomprehensible...

An obsequious tendency to erudite articulation often leads to obfuscation.

mmmaak
07-18-2008, 08:03 AM
An obsequious tendency to erudite articulation often leads to obfuscation.

Hey! No big words, please. Non-native English speaker here :D

doctrane
07-18-2008, 09:54 AM
An obsequious tendency to erudite articulation often leads to obfuscation.

i'll try harder to be succinct

AirKuhl
07-18-2008, 10:30 AM
Sympathetic vibrations can come from relationships between notes on different strings, whether open or fretted, and also from the natural resonance profile of the guitar itself.

The former is something you can learn to use (or avoid) via technique. You've already noticed the strong overtones of open strings. One nifty thing that's not commonly discussed is the subtle overtones produced as your fingers leave the strings when fretting at harmonic nodes on the string.

The guitar's innate resonance is one of the primary ways many people differentiate the characteristics of various guitars. This is hard to predict, often subjective, affects the overtones and natural harmonics, and is one the the things that give guitars different "vibes", even if they are of the same brand and model. We've all played a dud version of a highly desired guitar, and also been amazed at how good some cheap guitar sounded. These unpredictable resonances, either sympathetic or at odds with ones technique, are one reason that happens.

doctrane
07-18-2008, 12:01 PM
Sympathetic vibrations can come from relationships between notes on different strings, whether open or fretted, and also from the natural resonance profile of the guitar itself.

The former is something you can learn to use (or avoid) via technique. You've already noticed the strong overtones of open strings. One nifty thing that's not commonly discussed is the subtle overtones produced as your fingers leave the strings when fretting at harmonic nodes on the string.



Getting familiar with your own instrument and it's qualities is one of the wonderful joys that comes with playing it, definitely.

With regards to 'fingers leaving strings at harmonic nodes' are you saying that your fretting let's say at 5,7 or 12 >> the other fingers have different tonal nuances than let's say at other less active nodes, depending on of course your touch of the string and how your release are graduate into it's tension on whatever fret?? Explain

rick-slo
07-18-2008, 12:41 PM
With regards to 'fingers leaving strings at harmonic nodes' are you saying that your fretting let's say at 5,7 or 12 >> the other fingers have different tonal nuances than let's say at other less active nodes, depending on of course your touch of the string and how your release are graduate into it's tension on whatever fret?? Explain
This is an easy one to hear by fretting the third (G) string at the seventh fret about a third of the way back to the 6th fret. Play a solid note and lift off medium slowly. Now do it again the same way but fret with your finger immediately behind or even right on top of the seventh fret and lift off and you with hear clearly the second harmonic.
Rick