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Tone Tip From Gibson

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(@gnease)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 5058
 

Gabba-

there is really no such thing as simple harmonic motion for a string. the only time a string is close the simplistic vibrational models on paper and in our heads is when the amplitude displacement ("back and forth" max offset) is very small. while displacement is small (the usual model/case discussed), a number things don't vary much over the vibrational cycle, including the tension and the effective lengths at fundamental and harmonics. as the string is excited more and allowed to swing over a wider lateral distance, the instantaneous tension changes, becoming greater at the extremes as compared to when the string is moving through the center point (rest position). what does that do? it effectively causes the instantaneous vibrational frequency to change over the course of the cycle. it's not snake oil; you can observe the effect on an electronic tuner -- many get more "confused" or read higher for aggressively plucked (but not yet buzzing) strings. if the shift in frequency were slow with respect to the vibrational frequency, then the aural effect might be a smeared or indistinct note. but it's not a slow change. in fact, it happens twice for every full cycle of the vibration. that means the effect (most of it, that is) is really noticeable at the second harmonic of the fundamental. the wider the vibrational displacement, the more energy created at the second harmonic ... as well as other even harmonics. so the fundamental-to-harmonic ratio is changing depending upon how hard the string is played. I'm gonna call that a timbral change.

a second change in the string's behavior related to vibrational displacement is the effective length. a string's anchored endpoint looks less like a perfect fulcrum the more it is flexed. the string is effectively shorter at wider vibrational displacements due to the inherent stiffness of the string. this too imparts subtle changes in the instantaneous frequency of the string related to the multiples of the vibrational cycle => more effects at and on harmonics. something that is less apparent is the effective length of a string may not be the same at the fundamental and each of the harmonics. that means the harmonics many not be perfect integer multiples of the the fundamental. again, that changes as a function of how hard the string is plucked => timbral change. one of the easiest ways to hear all this happening is to pluck notes in various ways on heavier strings and listen closely for subtle beat notes. they occur when the fundamental and harmonics are not perfectly related. the effect changes with the power of the "pluck".

or maybe I made up all of this.

-=tension & release=-


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(@ricochet)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 7850
Topic starter  

To add a bit to what gnease just said, the bending effects of real (as opposed to ideal) strings mean that as you go up the harmonic scale, each harmonic is progressively sharper relative to the fundamental frequency. The effect is larger with relatively thin, loose strings than with larger strings tuned to the same pitch, which are stretched tighter. The closer the string is stretched to its breaking point, the more closely it approximates the behavior of an ideal string, and the more in-tune its harmonic series. That's a reason that some folks prefer the tone of fat strings.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."


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(@dan-t)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5072
 

Greg,

You make a good argument for your case, but do you have to be so rude about it? After reading both of your responses to Gabba Gabba Hey, it seems like you have an axe to grind against him for some reason.

"The only way I know that guarantees no mistakes is not to play and that's simply not an option". David Hodge


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(@anonymous)
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Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 8306
 

Gabba
buncha stuff
or maybe I made up all of this.

but what does that have to do with string height?


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(@wes-inman)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5599
 

Wow. Pretty scientific stuff going on here.

I raised the strings on my Strat and Tele recently because the strings make less of a metallic sound. Gave them a smoother tone, especially the bass strings. Why? Who knows, and I don't really care except they sound better.

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


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(@gnease)
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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 5058
 

Gabba
buncha stuff
or maybe I made up all of this.

but what does that have to do with string height?

can't get the extra displacement if you don't raise the strings -- they'll slap the frets first. raise the strings and you can play a bit harder. the result is more harmonically rich, even on an electric. if you keep pushing harder, what Ric describes eventually occurs, and it starts to sound worse, but most strings are also fret slapping by that time, even if higher.

-=tension & release=-


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(@gnease)
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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 5058
 

Greg,

You make a good argument for your case, but do you have to be so rude about it? After reading both of your responses to Gabba Gabba Hey, it seems like you have an axe to grind against him for some reason.

fair point, Dan. maybe I've been a bit rough. hate to see a valid idea dismissed, as many new players may never read past "snake oil" and "silly."

-=tension & release=-


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(@gabba-gabba-hey)
Reputable Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 355
 

Gnease, your argument is still based on playing dynamics. Quotes:
"fundamental-to-harmonic ratio is changing depending upon how hard the string is played."
and
"the effect changes with the power of the "pluck"."

I didn't disagree with that. In fact, that was my point earlier in the thread:
Certainly agree that higher strings can be played more dynamically, but it's the increased dynamics that can improve timbre, not string height by itself.

The article implies that changing string height - by itself - has a noticeable affect on tone. To wit: "Play your guitar a while like this, and notice how much more ring, richness, and sustain you get out of it."

Call it "psychoacoustics" if "snake oil" wasn't sophisticated enough ...


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 Ande
(@ande)
Honorable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 659
 

Play nice, guys.

I agree with not having a low-as-possible action on my electrics. Because sometimes I wanna beat them a little harder without them hitting the frets. So I'd say, in much more laymanlike terms than grease, that I get some tonal and dynamic options out of slightly higher action that I can't do with the same guitar when it's shredder low.

It's not just the string height, it's what the string height lets me do.

Best
Ande


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(@scrybe)
Noble Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 2246
 

Isn't the difference between "string height affects tone" and "what string height lets me do affects tone" really just semantics?

Seems to me that asserting either of those propositions amounts to affirming what the Gibson page said.

Ra Er Ga.

Ninjazz have SuperChops.

http://www.blipfoto.com/Scrybe


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(@gnease)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 5058
 

Gnease, your argument is still based on playing dynamics. Quotes:
"fundamental-to-harmonic ratio is changing depending upon how hard the string is played."
and
"the effect changes with the power of the "pluck"."

I didn't disagree with that. In fact, that was my point earlier in the thread:
Certainly agree that higher strings can be played more dynamically, but it's the increased dynamics that can improve timbre, not string height by itself.

I agree, but far more is going on than the string just getting louder. the timbre will change. if your point is that it wouldn't change if the player didn't play harder, I'll say it's an irrelevant distinction, as the instrument changed in a way that allowed it to operate in another fashion -- even if it required user interaction to make that happen: higher action "invites" the player to strum/pluck/pick a bit harder which results in manifold timbral changes from what the player does in exciting the string to how the string and guitar react. it's not all easily separable, and most people -- including the author of the article like to think everything is simple cause-effect. it's not.

The article implies that changing string height - by itself - has a noticeable affect on tone. To wit: "Play your guitar a while like this, and notice how much more ring, richness, and sustain you get out of it."

I think you are meaning he says "set up your guitar like this, and play it as you did before, and notice how much more ..." and disagreeing. technically, you may be right -- on an electric (acoustic is another discussion), but the technical correctness is trivial here. if the original setup inhibited the ability to get that better tone -- from contributions by both player and instrument, then the new setup is delivering tonal improvement.
Call it "psychoacoustics" if "snake oil" wasn't sophisticated enough ...

psychoacoustics is snake oil? recommend you google that. there are a few companies that purposely indulge in a lot of pseudo-psychoacoustics, a.k.a. "better sound through marketing" (ones name rhymes with "hose"), but psychoacoustics is pretty real and interesting stuff, and also the the basis of some very impressive lossy compression (cellphones, iPods ...), EFX pedals, surround sound, loudness contours for volume controls, audio taper pots ... etc. some is better than others, no doubt, but the applications of p-a have produced some amazing results.

-=tension & release=-


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(@gabba-gabba-hey)
Reputable Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 355
 

I agree, but far more is going on than the string just getting louder. the timbre will change.

Ah, but in an instantly noticeable way to most people? That's what I've been arguing against. To me, it's like the fretboard wood argument ... probably makes a difference, but can you really tell in a blind test? Personally I think changing pick gauge or material makes a more audible difference.

And LOL about the "hose" speaker co ...


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 cnev
(@cnev)
Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 4478
 

AAH ha Gabba Gabba gave me a great way to highjack this thread regarding tone. I had a lesson yesterday and I'm not sure how it came up but my teacher asked what gauge pick I was using and when i showed him, ( Ithink it was a .73mm) he cringed and told me to throw it away and use a heavier pick. He says he tells ALL his students to use a heavy pick as it really affects the tone especially on the low E and A.

He says the thin picks aren't good for anything but very light strumming and most of the time he can control that with how firmly/loosely he holds his pick and he uses a 2mm pick. I've heard him play many times and he can play anything with that pick.

Now maybe it's just the power of suggestion but I had been thinking lately that my low E string always sounded a bit muddy.

My next move is to go back to the 1 mm picks I used before.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


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(@aleholder)
Trusted Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 52
 

I'm going to geek out for minute as I find this to be very interesting discussion. I'd like to know if the effect is the same if you were to lower your pickups instead of raising your strings


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(@trguitar)
Famed Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 3711
 

Well it's all interesting stuff and I'm not going to argue with it. That said, I use thin picks, 9's for strings and like a low action. I think I make this sound very nice for the music style that I play. I'm not going to change though and for one simple reason ummm or should I say one simple acronym. OCD. I've been doing this for over 30 years and it is what feels right to me. Yes, heavy strings, no interference with the string travel and a heavy percussive plectrum ... thats why a piano sounds so good. :?

"Work hard, rock hard, eat hard, sleep hard,
grow big, wear glasses if you need 'em."
-- The Webb Wilder Credo --


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