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What is sustain? Probably a simple question


PeeMonkey

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In the physical world, sustain is an instrument's ability to continue sounding an audible note after the sound engine ceases. In the case of a guitar, it is the length of time a note sounds after being plucked, picked, or strummed. The more solid an instrument is constructed, the longer it will sustain. Vibrations in parts of the instrument that don't produce the sound simply siphon off energy that could continue the string's vibrations.

 

In an electric instrument, sustain includes the preceding physical component, but adds the ability of the pickup to "hear" string vibrations. Power in pickups is tricky. Produce too powerful a magnetic field and you risk dampening the string's ability to vibrate. (The magnetism actually slows the string prematurely.) But a weak magnetic field loses it's ability to pickup string vibrations before they die away.

 

In a completely electronic instrument, such as a synth, sustain describes how long a note is held before it begins it's final decay. This can be attained by holding a key down, pressing a sustain footpedal (Simply programmed to sustain all notes until it is released.), or by programming a measure of sustain in the actual sound preset.

 

Given this is a guitar forum I assume you mean the first two definitions, but thought it might be helpful to contrast them with the electronic description.

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

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An electric instrument's ability to sustain will definitely affect your ability to create intentional feedback. If a note begins dying away quickly, it will take more SPL's (level) from your amp to produce intentional feedback.

 

Depending on what timbre you're looking for, an electronic compressor can produce as much sustain as you wish. For roots rock, low gain timbres, however, a compressor will ruin the sound.

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

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