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How do I get a clean tone?

Bill McNeillBill McNeill Seattle, Washington, USANew
edited January 2006 in Gypsy Picking Posts: 70
I'm a few months into the rest stroke technique and while I can definitely play louder, it's come at the expense of a very noisy tone. There's a lot of extraneous sound, either from the string I'm coming to rest against, or a background buzzing of open strings. This isn't due to mechanical problems with the guitar, but is clearly noise that I am introducing.

Have other people had the experience of a "noisy" period when learning this technique?

What can I do to get a cleaner tone? Of course, the answer is always practice, practice, practice...but I'm wondering if there are any specific techniques to try. For instance, in the book you discuss brushing the strings with the backs of your right hand fingers to get a sense of where your hand is in space; do you also do this to damp out strings that shouldn't be sounding?

Comments

  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,814
    My guess is that your old picking technique wasn't as aggressive as the rest stroke picking. Hence, no buzz. The force of the rest stroke is probably driving the string a lot harder then you're used to. So while the set up on your guitar may have sounded clean with your old technique, it probably needs to be changed to compensate for the more aggressive rest stroke style. This is totally normal...different set ups work better for different techniques. In general, rest stroke picking sounds better with higher action. Whe I first started learning rest stroke picking I had to raise my action a lot.

    Good luck!

    'm
  • BarengeroBarengero Auda CityProdigy
    Posts: 527
    Whe I first started learning rest stroke picking I had to raise my action a lot.

    Agreed, raising the action a lot helps a lot against noise. In my case I squeezed a creditcard under the bridge of my guitar for about two weeks to get familiar with that high action before I brought it to my luthier. He couldn´t believe that I was in earnest with that high action but I insisted. I am very pleased with that high action now.

    But still I have another problem that billmcn mentioned, too. It is the noise of open strings. I think this has nothing to do with the action. I am not speaking about hitting an open string with the pick, but often there is noise from the open string after I lifted my finger from the fretboard, like a "pull off"-effect.

    Is there anything I can do/practice against this kind of noise?

    Best
    Barengero
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,814
    Barengero wrote:

    But still I have another problem that billmcn mentioned, too. It is the noise of open strings. I think this has nothing to do with the action. I am not speaking about hitting an open string with the pick, but often there is noise from the open string after I lifted my finger from the fretboard, like a "pull off"-effect.

    Is there anything I can do/practice against this kind of noise?

    I'm fortunate to have a guitar tech genius work on my guitars....he's really experienced with Selmers and does the best bridge work I've ever seen.

    I had an open string sort of buzz like that....sort of a fuzzy sound. Sometimes that can be the first fret buzzing. But if your action is high then it's probably the bridge. If the slots aren't cut right they can cause the string to make some funny Sitar like sounds...that's probably what's causing the problem.

    Good luck!

    'm
  • trumbologytrumbology San FranciscoNew
    Posts: 124
    In my bedroom Rawk God days, I played a Gibson with a tune-o-matic bridge and often kept the outer edge of my right palm planted on the bridge.

    Unfortunately for me, I think I learned to dampen strings very well with this technique, which is worthless for playing Django Jazz.

    I'm still working on damping now, using whatever flesh is convenient on both right and left hands while I try to keep my Gypsy picking technique relatively orthodox on the right hand. I sympathize with the forum members above on this problem.

    Neil
  • Craig BumgarnerCraig Bumgarner Drayden, MarylandVirtuoso Bumgarner S/N 001
    Posts: 794
    Try playing closer to the bridge. For me, this requires a stronger picking technique to get the string to resonate nicely (the closer to the bridge, the less leverage on the string) but the overall result seems to be a brighter, more cutting sound and maybe even louder on a lower action.

    After having the action up over 4mm, I'm down to about 2.5mm with only a little string buzz. What is left is the good kind of buzz, when I want it. If a string buzzes too much while playing, pick a little closer to the bridge (thanks Tom!). Besides being easier to play, the lower action seems to help on the aforementioned open string noise resulting from an accidental pull off as well.


    Craig
  • Bill McNeillBill McNeill Seattle, Washington, USANew
    Posts: 70
    Thanks for the advice. For the past couple months I've been picking closer to the bridge, though I've held off on raising the action on my guitar. Partly out of laziness, partly because I don't want to make it any harder to play. However, I think Michael's suggestion about the set-up is a good one, and had an experience that confirmed it this weekend. On Sunday I went to the local guitar shop to try out my basic Gypsy-Picking repertoire on a couple of Gitanes and was pleasantly surprised by how much better I sounded. My lead lines were relatively buzzless and the rhythm playing no longer sounded muddy and chopped. Even after mentally discounting for the effect of a novel instrument that always makes your guitar-shop playing sound better, the difference was tangible.

    Though I've been coveting Selmac clones for a while now, I hadn't seriously considered buying one. I know that about 95% of the tone comes from the player, and the Taylor flatop I have right now, while definitely unsuited to this style, is a quality instrument. A solid player could get a great gypsy jazz sound out of it, and it seems lazy and self-deluding for me to try and buy the right tone. On the other hand, I'm not a solid gypsy jazz player yet, and I don't have the experience of playing the rest stroke on a variety of instruments, so a mismatch of guitar to style may be more of a confounding factor for me that someone more experienced. Buying a Gitane may be lazy, but some strategic laziness on my part may be useful, because to master this style I need all the help I can get.

    I'm also not sure how much of this is due to the Selmac clone per se, and how much is just a difference in set-up. I might be able to get the same effect by playing with the action on my Taylor, though the Gitanes had the right sound with an action that felt as easy as what I'm currently used to, so there's probably something to be said for having the whole instrument crafted for a particular style.

    Obviously, to a large extent I am just rationalizing a decision to buy myself a new toy. But not entirely, I think.
  • nwilkinsnwilkins New
    Posts: 431
    hey Bill, no need to rationalize it - although players all have their own distinctive tone, guitars can make a big difference - why else would so many GJ players play a Selmer style guitar? It is definitely worth it if you can afford one, as they play and project quite differently than other guitars, which in turn forces you to play a bit differently.
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