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Developing one's "Guitar Ear"


Darcy H

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Well I jumped into the whole guitar scene pretty late in life. First I had to make the single-coil vs. humbucker decision, and went with a Strat because of SRV, Hendrix and Clapton. First amp was one of those modelling deals that didn't sound half bad but wasn't quite there, and now I'm loving every minute I spend with my Blues Junior, but it wasn't always this way.

 

First I was trying to get a smooth acoustic tone out of my Strat and it was some time before I could reconcile with the rather harsh "bite". (I played acoustic for some time before going electric). There was a pick-up change, a pretty decent pedal that "smoothed" things out considerably, but I always found the guitar's tone (or sound, not what's "in the fingers", the "sound" of my guitar and amp combo) to be overly bright. I was forever rolling back tones and trebles and combining the pups to smooth things out. I'd never dream of venturing into the nasty realm of the bridge pup.

 

But as I've been playing, jamming and listening to the guitar playing of my hereos more intently, I seem to be finding and going for that brightness that I found offensive more and more.

 

Now either my ear as a guitarist is developing, or my speaker is breaking in, or my ears are now shot from numerous loud jam sessions. :)

 

Just wondering if anyone else has gone through this sort of a transformation.

www.myspace.com/darcyhoover
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(By the way, what kind of strings do you use? You might prefer a pure-nickel (wound) string, as opposed to a nickel-plated steel/alloy; and I find the round-core construction (and pure-nickel wrap) of DR "Pure Blues" strings to be extra warm and consonant sounding...)

 

You know the common phrase, that you "break in" a given article? Sometimes, the "breaking in" is a two-way range of change.

 

I have had a hard time with even extremely subtle fret-buzz, the normal amount that usually isn't very perceivable through an amp (especially with any overdrive or distortion), like you've had with perceived harsh brightness. I'd tend to dial-in way too much neck-relief and too high of an action on even guitars with impeccable fret-jobs, and the ultimate result would be a sort of homogenizing effect making all guitars I played sound a little too alike, removing too much of their personality and character by focusing on a metal strings 'n' hardware emphasis... am I making any sense here? Too much of the "growl" and woody envelope was traded for sustain and clarity.

 

A Tele or a Strat often sound and play best with little or no relief and a spanky action that has some subtle fret-buzz in the mix; it adds a little more "growl" in there. I was making quasi jazzz-axes out of everything I set-up with bowed necks, heavy strings, and medium-high action!

Ask yourself- What Would Ren and Stimpy Do?

 

~ Caevan James-Michael Miller-O'Shite ~

_ ___ _ Leprechaun, Esquire _ ___ _

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Acoustic/electric will always have a tonal difference & I had a similar degree of adjustment, though more for playing technique than tonal reasons (I actually was always trying to find ways of making acoustic guitar sound electric, to the degree that's possible).

I do know what you mean abou the timbral spectrum, though, & still roll things back compared to other players.

 

The biggest change I had to make for electric besides the lessened need for physical wrangling of the instrument, was the sustained quality of electric. Having notes "sing" more & realizing that I not only didn't need to play so many notes but that I could alter the quality of a single, sustained note is something that it took a while to affect my playing.

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Originally posted by ellwood:

Well I'll tell you what I think is happening! You are becomming a BETTER more experienced guitarist! As you play cleaner and apply better and better technique, you are wanting to hear more high end, because you are loosing sloppy technique. There is nothing wrong with your ears, your just getting better! :thu:

Which means you'll need more guitars, right Lee?

 

I could have used your Tele today. I was learning a song with a distinct, high-end, plucky Tele sound. My LP just wouldn't give it to me.

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I'm beginning to think that our ears evolve or change. I can relate to what you're saying Buzz.

 

When I started playing, I was always trying to make my tone rounder, or fuller, giving it more bottom end. Part of that quest was satisfied when I dumped my 80's JCM 800 50 watt combo. At reasonable volumes, I just couldn't get enough bottom out of that amp. I switched to Fender and Musicman amps about 15 years ago.

 

In the past several years, I've noticed that I'm allowing my tone to get brighter. Part of it is that I'm trying to cut through the band's mix at more reasonable volumes. Really, the way to do that is by finding the frequencies that are unoccupied by the other instruments. There seems to be the most room in the higher frequency range.

 

Don't get me wrong: I'm not letting my tone get shrill. But, compared to what it once was, I've certainly allowed it to get brighter.

 

To use as an example a name you brought up, Buzz, if you listen to Clapton throughout his career, his tone has varied. It seems to ebb and flow in terms of going from bright to thick to bright and so on. In the Yardbirds and Bluesbreakers, his tone seem bright. In Cream, his tone seemed thick. Through the 70's, his tone seemed bright. Then, in the 80's his tone went toward the thicker end. In recordings since "From the Cradle", I think he's headed toward a brighter tone again.

 

Ok. I'll stop rambling now . . .

Vinny Cervoni

vcbluzman@hotmail.com

www.bluzberrypi.com

www.42ndstband.com

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Caveman: I have an aversion to slight fret buzz as well. I tend to stay away from guitars that are prone to that with the exception of Gretsch hollowbodys. I love them enough that I'm determined to put up with the fret buzz when I'm playing unplugged.

My ears are losing the ability to hear highs. I cannot relate to your discovery, HFX. No matter where I'm playing on the fretboard, I always drift back to the open position to hear that deeper full sound that my ears can still love.

bbach

 

Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.

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HFX Buzzz:

 

Oh yeah. I think you hit every point.

I have just recently started to notice all the things you mentioned.

 

I've noticed the more I play and listen to music. The more define and accute my hear becomes. I don't think it is from a hearing loss.

 

The problem I now have is being in a room with a lot of diffent people talking. It's like hearing voices in your head. I can pick out the different tones of most of the peoples voices and find myself analysing thier voices and forget to concentrate on the conversation I'm supposed to be listening to.

 

Even worse, if any music is playing, I get totally involved in listening to it and seperating the diff instruments in my head and analysing the ryhthm. I'm off in my own world.

 

If any guitar is in the music, you can pretty much forget about any interaction with me, I'm too busy processing the guitar and trying to figure out what he/she is playing and how.

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I think the "guitar ear" you mentioned is the most important thing. It's actually half your brain and half you soul. With out the "guitar ear" we would not be able to play the guitar or appreciate the guitar playing of others.

 

Having no "guitar ear" would be like having no soul or no brain would be comparable to sitting in you living room listening to Zamphir or Kenny G and thinking: "Wow, I've got to tell all my friends abou this great music". Yep, you are in Hell!!!!!!!

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I think your ear probably does change.

 

When I got the Ibanez Studio with the V2 humbuckers, I felt they were 'way to dark for me. I took them out and had various pups in there, my favourite being the DeArmond Gold Tone.

 

However, I've put the V2s back in, and now I *love* them. They don't seem too dark at all, just gutsy, but still with plenty of highs.

 

However, if I could get a couple of Gold Tones again..........

 

Geoff

"When the power of love overcomes the love of power the World will know Peace": Jimi Hendrix

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/default.cfm?bandID=738517&content=music

The Geoff - blame Caevan!!!

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I have meantioned this before but never have gotton any dialogue going on it, our tone as guitar players changes or is perceived to have changed when you play with a keyboard player. Have any of you guys ever noticed that? I have a Blues project band that is now guitar, bass and drums and a rock group that is guitar, drums,bass and keyboards. With the same rig and guitar my tone settings are VERY different. The effects that I use are used in a completely different way between the two groups. With the keyboard player all my settings are not nearly as dark they are much brighter to sound correct in the mix. The Blues project band requires me to play much darker and the effects are rolled off more. Playing with a keyboard player is a completely different animal.
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Regarding tone... In my more youthfull days, I don't think I every used the neck pup except when its volume was turned down and I could shut off my "rig" by simply flicking the switch or do that cool VH on/off effect. Everything was bridge pup and distortion. Now a days I find myself playing clean through the neck pup much more often.

 

Also, as we age our hearing naturally loses high frequencey sensitivity.

"Spend all day doing nothing

But we sure do it well" - Huck Johns from 'Oh Yeah'

Click to Listen to Oh yeah

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Originally posted by rw2003:

Regarding tone... In my more youthfull days, I don't think I every used the neck pup except when its volume was turned down and I could shut off my "rig" by simply flicking the switch or do that cool VH on/off effect. Everything was bridge pup and distortion. Now a days I find myself playing clean through the neck pup much more often.

 

Also, as we age our hearing naturally loses high frequencey sensitivity.

Nope, as I just said in another thread, the reason is you are becoming a better guitar player! and more important you are becoming a better musician, when you take the time and work with your tone, your ear is becoming that of a experienced musician!!! :D
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Re: Ellwood's comment just above, I think that's bcause 2 instruments that play in the same pitch range need to differentiate their tones if the player's want to be better heard.

I note that one of the bands he mentions has only one guitar but even when 2 guitarists play together they usually stay out of the same range or play different roles.

With a guitar/keyboard combination that's not always the case.

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Originally posted by d:

Re: Ellwood's comment just above, I think that's bcause 2 instruments that play in the same pitch range need to differentiate their tones if the player's want to be better heard.

I note that one of the bands he mentions has only one guitar but even when 2 guitarists play together they usually stay out of the same range or play different roles.

With a guitar/keyboard combination that's not always the case.

Right D, it is not that apparent when on stage. But in a recorded play back it is most astonishing! I haven't played with another guitar player in a band in a really long time, well except on the rare occasion the keyboard player grabs a guitar and does a acoustic/electric thing with me. I listened to the play back the first time I remember and thought it was maybe the way the mix was picked up by the recording mikes, so next night I went out into the venue with the wireless and MAN there it was, made the adjustments and my tone just jumped out where it should be with the keyboard player.
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