Tips, Techniques, Examples about my favorite musical instrument, the Twelve-String Guitar.

If you play guitar check out Playing Technique, or Strings / Setup. There are also some interesting posts about guitars at, you guessed it, Guitars.

If you want to spread your musical talents around, you will find some good info at Recording.

Marketing - meh - I'm probably the world's best bad example. Although you could find funny stuff there.

I've made some music videos through the years, and you can find them and other interesting music at Music I Like, Music I Play.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Tone, tone, tone

The guitarist Allan Alexander emphasized this above all to his students. And while I paid attention to "tone, tone, tone" while playing the classical guitar, I fear that I haven't been so faithful to this tenet on the 12-string. But I wondered why the recorded sound was so scratchy and shrill while the guitar sounded very nice while I'm playing. Either the guitar sounds significantly different between the front, listener position, and from above, in the playing position, or perhaps there is some psycho-acoustic event going on that alters the sound as it travels from the guitar to my brain: I hear
what I think I'm playing, not what I am playing.

Well I just got a set of ear canal phones, EtymĂ°tic ER4S, that feature a good amount of isolation and used them last night for monitoring the microphone sound. I thought that finally I could use these to find a good mic position - good recorded sound seems to elude me. Well surprise, surprise: the guitar tone sounds horribly scratchy no matter where I position the mics. These earphones must suck; but no...a quick listen to NPR and a CD reveals pristine sound - not as sweet, perhaps, but at least as clean as my Grado SR-60's. So I cannot blame the horrible tone on the earphones - my tone really is scratchy. But with some careful right hand work I can get some good sounds to come out. The best tone is using the bit of nail on my thumb and a particular angle.

There seems to be a fine line between having the monitored sound so loud that it always sounds crappy, and having it so soft that the guitar's direct sound bleeds through. The earphones do isolate pretty good, but one can still hear the guitar slightly with the phones in the ear canal but the sound turned off. I tried adjusting the monitored sound so that when I walk around the room the sounds of walking sounds about normal volume, and when I play the guitar, it also sounds about normal volume. The right and left mics come through in reverse so I might try swapping the earphones around to see if this helps the illusion.

My hands are pretty dry, and they generally run cold, particularly in the colder and drier months. My nails have been filed down for a while so that the finger strike uses the skin. I did this to get a softer sound, but the effect seems to have been the opposite: the dry cold skin scrapes across the string making a very unpleasant sound. It will take a couple of days to grow out some good nails. In the meantime I'll do more work on getting "tone, tone, tone".

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