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Old 02-20-2018, 11:07 AM
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vindibona1 vindibona1 is offline
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Default What I'm learning in old age after decades of playing

"I see", said the blind man, as he picked up his hammer and saw.

You'd think after decades of training and playing music one could still overlook the obvious? Mea culpa. It seems that I'm having "an epiphany of the obvious". And I got to this point quite accidentally. I'll save the anecdote for later on.

What I've discovered is that I had no idea what I wanted to sound like. I've played a lot of guitars and, some I've liked and some not so much. And I've heard "the tone is in the fingers" ad nauseum, but somehow overlooked the most important thing: THE TONE IS IN THE HEAD FIRST! The fingers will do what the head tells it and the guitar simply responds in kind.

To cut to the chase (for those that don't want to read the following anecdote), I've discovered that my touch is just too heavy! Perhaps that's why I like guitars that project and like to hear my sound well in a monitor. When I can't hear myself well in a mix I tend to automatically play heavier than usual.

What I'm learning is with my various acoustic guitars is that when I get too heavy I bring on unwanted overtones. These unwanted harmonics I believe come from the guitar being driven too hard and not totally in alignment with the strings' overtones and resultant harmonics. Most people might not even hear that. I heard it forever and thought it was mostly the guitar's fault when all along it was my heavy handed technique. I've known of this issue for some time, but never imagined it was my technique that was driving the problem. And some guitars were better than others at masking my heavy handed technique.

Those that don't want to read the anecdote, stop reading here...

What brought me to this point surprised me. I was asked to play bass as a ringer in a school musical. I have a bass guitar but I/ve never owned a bass amp. I got the bass so I could lay down recording tracks. The school provided an amp, but it was a Roland keyboard amp. What I quickly realized was I didn't know what I was supposed to sound like? I thought it might be good if I just finally bought an amp. In my research I realized I didn't even know what I was listening for! After further research I came to the ultimate realization that I have to first figure out what to do with my hands. In experimenting with a bass, where my experience is limited, I found that I could get closer to the sound I wanted in all genres if I just lightened up my touch. I'd seen that advice a few times on some of the bass players' videos but it suddenly hit me like a bolt of lightening.

And then it got me thinking about my guitar playing. And so I've been trying to lighten up my touch. And in doing so I've found that I can milk a lot more sweetness out of my guitars. But the real evolution that will occur as I play more is that I'm striving to hear the sound in my head first, then proceed to try to get it to come out of the guitar. And while I have several guitars, maybe I only really need one?

Thanks for taking time to read this.
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Old 02-20-2018, 11:41 AM
barricwiley barricwiley is offline
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What a great read.
I would love to read more of your well earned thoughts and unintended perhaps advice.
appreciated.
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Old 02-20-2018, 04:21 PM
Mr. Jelly Mr. Jelly is offline
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Yup ... I get what you are saying. My issues are that I want / like / need an easy playing guitar. Which takes me to extra light strings. When I'm learning new stuff I tend to play harder with my picking hand. These practices don't work together well. Once I have things down though it is a constant focus to pick lightly with my picking hand. Also to pluck the strings not pick through them. And yes I need to hear myself when I play.

Thanks for the story.
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Old 02-20-2018, 04:38 PM
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Guitars vary in sensitivity. Some bloom (mainly on the bass side) only when driven. Overtones vary more with picking angle of attack and
picking distance from bridge than volume in general. Also it may be more about sympathetic string vibrations than overtones per se.
Appropriate duration control with string damping is important to clarity. And etc..

Recording yourself a listening back is very helpful to gauging how the sound and performance in your head matches reality.
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Old 02-20-2018, 07:09 PM
David Rock David Rock is offline
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Vindibona1:

Thank you for this post! It is probably a thought we should all ponder. I am with you wholeheartedly on this one. I have been trying to move from three guitars to one [well played] guitar for years.

You may have the answer to that. Cool!

Derek:

Your response is good. If I were a debater, I would try to decipher the physicality out of your thought. That is recording yourself is a good thing, but in my experience there are too many variables involved to get consistent feedback. Every day the sun comes up differently. Every room is different. Every everything is different. But certainly if we hear it in our head first that is a good thing.

Trying to replicate our mind's ear...now that might be where the art begins and the rest of the chatter ends.

Good thoughts. I don't know where it leads but am interested to read and then apply. Knowledge is important, but dead, based on past experience. Learning is different, always fresh and new.

Be well all,
D
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Old 02-20-2018, 07:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rick-slo View Post
Guitars vary in sensitivity. Some bloom (mainly on the bass side) only when driven. Overtones vary more with picking angle of attack and picking distance from bridge than volume in general. Also it may be more about sympathetic string vibrations than overtones per se. Appropriate duration control with string damping is important to clarity. And etc..

Recording yourself a listening back is very helpful to gauging how the sound and performance in your head matches reality.
All this is true... But in the thought process I believe I've coined a phrase that seems to keep coming back at me... "Epiphany of the obvious". I'm going to keep it short initially, but it could get lengthy. Get some coffee, this could take awhile.

The Andy Powers/V-Class bracing thing, with him claiming "improved intonation" got me thinking (more than usual). In his response to Tony Polacastro he said that we need to "rethink the concept of intonation". AND HE IS RIGHT! It's been under our noses the whole time and just accepted the what-is. We really don't much discuss the concept of guitar bodies abililty to generate harmonics... and how aligned and in-tune those harmonics, sympathetic, resultant and otherwise might be. What he seems to have been working on is ways to bring guitar bodies more in tune throughout the harmonic spectrum with the overtone series of the strings. Think about the signature sound of the Martin D28. Has anyone noticed that their "signature sound" produces overtones that are a little off in some areas from the string harmonics? [I just used the D28 as general example, but we hear this in many guitars, particularly vintage models. Use any vintage brand. Harmony? Kay? Silvertone? ]. And (using the Martin example) why the HD28? What's different about that model from the D28 and why?

Less expensive guitars tend to sound less lively than "better" guitars, no? Why? Because they seem to produce harmonics that don't quite jive with the strings overtone series. How can that be? If you think about it logically, as notes get higher the strings get shorter (which you can see as frets get closer together. As a trumpet player when you get up in the upper register the notes are so close that sometimes it's hard to separate them- and playing them in tune often requires alternate fingerings. So, it stands to reason that the overtones, comprised of higher notes need to be very precisely in tune to produce their own harmonics. But is it possible that the a guitar body isn't equipped to vibrate sympathetically to those overtones???

Case in point: I can sing on key and if I'm not asked to move from note to note quickly or accurately I can sing pretty well in tune. But even so, nobody is going to pay me to sing for them. While I can sing the fundamental notes in tune, my body will not let me produce the proper resonance and overtones that would make a pleasing tone. I'd love to sing with a rich, warm, round voice. But that ain't going to happen. Not because my vocal chords won't let me hit the notes. But because my body just isn't equipped to resonate properly to make pleasing vocal sounds. It's the same thing with guitars. It comes down to wood selection and how the wood is manipulated to make is more susceptible to sympathetic vibrations that will allow it to resonate with an aligned response to the fundamentals and overtone series of the strings. So while I can take voice lessons and improve my technique to the point where people won't run when I sing, there's only so much that can be done. And this resonance thing. As a small factoid, Barbara Streisand, as beautiful as she was in younger days, never had her nose fixed for fear that it would change the resonance of her voice.

And thus you have some other stuff that I've pondered in my old age. Temporarily dismounting soap box.
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'72 Martin D-35
'74 Alvarez Yairi DY77
'90 Alvarez Yairi DY71
'81 Epiphone PR-755s
Old Yamaha DX7
A bunch of Strats and LP's and Tele and a bass and some random trumpets


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Old 02-20-2018, 07:51 PM
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Enjoyed your post. And, I love “Epiphany of the obvious". I love when that happens
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Old 02-20-2018, 09:12 PM
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Don't know the validity of all that. A little magical thinking and hocus pocus like some of Taylor's V bracing claims. Regarding the ideal harmonic series stringed
instruments don't follow it accurately (especially stiffer steel strings) anyway due to inharmonicity. Want more spot on overtones then play on extra light gauge
strings. Also as we know room acoustics have a large influence on what finally makes it to our ears, what tones are amplified and what tones are suppressed
(as well as reverberations).
As we get older our hearing loses detection of higher frequencies - hard to judge the "accuracy" of our sound interpretations compared to those younger.
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Old 02-21-2018, 02:04 AM
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Very interesting post - thanks. On the other end of the scale, I have been told on a few occasions that I play with too light a tough and this negatively impacts my tone. I tend to be a little lacking in attack and so lose “fatness” and roundness of tone when I play fingerstyle. As a result I am trying to play louder and with a firmer tone to generate more string movement...
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Old 02-21-2018, 02:05 AM
N+1 N+1 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vindibona1 View Post
To cut to the chase (for those that don't want to read the following anecdote), I've discovered that my touch is just too heavy! ...

What I'm learning is with my various acoustic guitars is that when I get too heavy I bring on unwanted overtones. These unwanted harmonics I believe come from the guitar being driven too hard and not totally in alignment with the strings' overtones and resultant harmonics. Most people might not even hear that. I heard it forever and thought it was mostly the guitar's fault when all along it was my heavy handed technique. I've known of this issue for some time, but never imagined it was my technique that was driving the problem. And some guitars were better than others at masking my heavy handed technique.
The above is what stuck out and resonated for me. I know I'm too heavy. I gradually put heavier strings on all my guitars because (I thought) they sound better that way, but of course there's a drop-off in playing comfort as a result. Truth is, I think - they sound better that way when I play them, mainly because I'm too heavy-handed.

My guitars also tend to be prone to weird squeaks and sitar-ish twanginesses that seem to emanate from the nut or the saddle (so of course I automatically blame them), but which are almost certainly due mostly to my lazy and heavy playing technique.

Thank you for drawing attention to this. I am going (to try) to rethink the whole business.
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Old 02-21-2018, 04:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vindibona1 View Post
"I see", said the blind man, as he picked up his hammer and saw.

You'd think after decades of training and playing music one could still overlook the obvious? Mea culpa. It seems that I'm having "an epiphany of the obvious". And I got to this point quite accidentally. I'll save the anecdote for later on.

What I've discovered is that I had no idea what I wanted to sound like. I've played a lot of guitars and, some I've liked and some not so much. And I've heard "the tone is in the fingers" ad nauseum, but somehow overlooked the most important thing: THE TONE IS IN THE HEAD FIRST! The fingers will do what the head tells it and the guitar simply responds in kind. .
Great epiphany!
Check this out, he's saying more or less the same thing:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_7DgCrziI8
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Old 02-21-2018, 04:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wrighty View Post
Very interesting post - thanks. On the other end of the scale, I have been told on a few occasions that I play with too light a tough and this negatively impacts my tone. I tend to be a little lacking in attack and so lose “fatness” and roundness of tone when I play fingerstyle. As a result I am trying to play louder and with a firmer tone to generate more string movement...
I could be misunderstand the op but I think they are referring to how they fret the strings not how hard they pick. But with both hands there is a balance and how hard you pick/pluck/fret/ does effect tone.
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Old 02-21-2018, 08:44 AM
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vindibona1 vindibona1 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wrighty View Post
Very interesting post - thanks. On the other end of the scale, I have been told on a few occasions that I play with too light a tough and this negatively impacts my tone. I tend to be a little lacking in attack and so lose “fatness” and roundness of tone when I play fingerstyle. As a result I am trying to play louder and with a firmer tone to generate more string movement...
Quote:
Originally Posted by JonPR View Post
Great epiphany!
Check this out, he's saying more or less the same thing:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_7DgCrziI8
Thanks Jon. Hal Galper is right on the money. We get so involved in the mechanics that we often forget about the music and even forget that what we are trying to make sounds- very nuanced sounds.

In retrospect I see how I've approached things and I understand what I did. I'd find a guitar that sounded good with the (less than optimal, musically unaware) technique I was using. I'd take it home and try to dial it in a bit better without truly evaluating my technique. What's changed that is, counter to my belief I bought an acoustic guitar sight unseen (my 814ceDLX). By all accounts I was expecting it to sound like an 814ce- on steroids. The adirondack bracing (and whatever individual properties this guitar has) made it nothing like a 814ce. No booming bass. Tighter sound. Less overall perceived volume (from the player's position). I've tested strings. I've run a Tonerite on it. And yes, all of those things improved my perception of the guitar. And picks! I learned how many different sounds I could make with different picks; with thicknesses, bevels, etc. And then the bass thing opened my eyes and is making me evaluate what I really want to sound like!

To be honest, I'm not sure yet exactly what I want to sound like. But perhaps that's because I like to play different styles of music. Fingerstyle, strumming/rhythm, (beginning to learn) bluegrass, light jazz. I've learned to listen deeply for resonant harmonics and how different brands/models and different strings respond in this regard. But I still haven't formed a mental picture of the sound I want to reproduce. I guess that's all part of where I'm at now.

I'm interested to know where other players are in their journeys.
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'72 Martin D-35
'74 Alvarez Yairi DY77
'90 Alvarez Yairi DY71
'81 Epiphone PR-755s
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A bunch of Strats and LP's and Tele and a bass and some random trumpets


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-Boosted from Farmers Insurance
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Old 02-21-2018, 02:22 PM
JAMKC JAMKC is offline
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Default epiphany

As our friend Vindibona knows I am a complete hacker at guitar so far. New player, little skill so far. But funny enough, just last night, I spent 45 minutes playing various song parts VERY lightly to allow myself to hear my daughter on a speaker phone. If I played loudly at all she couldn't here me a lick. The softer I played, the easier the convo AND my chords, etc. sounded MUCH(!) better, clearer, "more musical" (something Vindibona has spoken to me about)!
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Old 02-22-2018, 01:27 AM
Wrighty Wrighty is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mbroady View Post
I could be misunderstand the op but I think they are referring to how they fret the strings not how hard they pick. But with both hands there is a balance and how hard you pick/pluck/fret/ does effect tone.


Possibly - but he refers to the guitar being “overdriven” in his original post, which tends to refer to tight hand technique. There are also several more references to right hand / attack impacting resultant harmonics in the following posts, all of which led me to believe he was referring to right hand and not left.

Perhaps OP could clarify?
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