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Maximum Sustain - Opinions Wanted!

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Scrybe
(@scrybe)
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Suppose you're playing electric guitar in a small ensemble. Say, maybe a quartet-septet, of piano, dbl bass, maybe some horns, and drums. Or something like that. I want to know all the possible ways of increasing sustain without either having to buy a new guitar/amp (pedal purchase is fine, however...), or turning up really loud (we want the ensemble instruments to be balanced but lots of sustain on the guitar. Playing techniques, pedal combinations, etc., are all good.

How do you create maximum sustain in these settings without playing everything with e.g. an E-Bow? Not that I'm against those little devices, I've just no interest in delving exclusively into that realm. As a starting point for ideas/a vague representation of what I'm after, Jeff Beck doing Drown In My Own Tears is a pretty good idea of what I seek.

Thanks!

Ra Er Ga.

Ninjazz have SuperChops.

http://www.blipfoto.com/Scrybe


   
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Ande
 Ande
(@ande)
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Get a guitar that...wait. You said you didn't want to get a new guitar. I don't believe you, but...

I'm in the market for a compressor pedal, as the compressor effect in my digital pedal seems to give the kind of increased sustain that I want. (But I'm not really a fan of digital.) Some kind of a boost, maybe an EQ might also help?

I'm imagining something fairly clean and jazzy- what kind of sound are you going for?

Aside from things like an Ebow (which I really don't understand) it seems like when playing clean(ish), sustain is mostly down to the guitar itself- heavier bodies seem to sustain more, as do thicker necks, fixed bridges, etc. Have you decided which guitar you'll be playing?

Best,
Ande


   
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Blue Jay
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Nice to see you around Scrybe.

Maybe you could seek and try out the Digitech, here. Or there. :lol:

http://www.google.com/products?hl=en&rls=com.microsoft:*:IE-SearchBox&rlz=1I7DACA_en-GB&q=guitar+sustain+pedal&revid=182733680&resnum=0&um=1&ie=UTF-8&ei=w0zXSrS3HIeIMa7lwNkI&sa=X&oi=product_result_group&ct=title&resnum=1&ved=0CBgQrQQwAA

Seriously, what I was looking for here was the pedal version of the onboard guitar sustainers, with 9 volt active circuitry, maybe Sustainiacs, but they can go a little overboard. http://www.sustainiac.com/

I mean they give too much sustain, in my limited testing and experience - it was quick, 'cuz I just put them right down, as the previous note/chord keeps holding, while you've just got to move to the next.

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Dan Lasley
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Heavier strings will help...

Compressors are good for this, but they can be tricky to use.


   
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greybeard
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Heavier strings will help...

Compressors are good for this, but they can be tricky to use.
They are also a death-bed for dynamics, unless used sparingly.

It's possible that you'd get some extra sustain, from a tube amp, by turning it up to 11 and adding something like a Weber Mass to pull the output back to an acceptable level.

I started with nothing - and I've still got most of it left.
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Moonrider
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Suppose you're playing electric guitar in a small ensemble. Say, maybe a quartet-septet, of piano, dbl bass, maybe some horns, and drums.

How do you create maximum sustain in these settings without playing everything with e.g. an E-Bow?
Thanks!

A compressor will allow you to sustain a note longer. The settings for maximum sustain wouldn't sound very good in a traditional jazz setting though. You'll be better off working on your back and forth vibrato (along the length of the string - NOT side to side) to help the notes stay alive longer. Possibly even go up a string gauge so there's simply more vibrational energy to start with.

For most jazz comping and soloing, the natural sustain of a decent guitar is more than sufficient. You also want the natural dynamics that a compressor will squash out. Keep in mind that holding a single note for 8 seconds is 4 bars of 4/4 at 120 bpm. I don't know too many axes that can't hold a note that long - except for the chipboard Estebans.

Playing guitar and never playing for others is like studying medicine and never working in a clinic.

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gnease
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I'm not part of the max sustain club, but when playing slide I sometimes want very pure, glassy, sustained notes. I use a combo of compression, distortion and overdrive. the last two judiciously and usually in a single pedal. I've also found that compression is very nice for chickin' pickin', as the dynamic gain brings up finger noise and harmonic content nicely -- not always a good thing, but great for this style. I like distortion/OD pedals that have a dirty/clean mix control. this gives more tonal flexibility and allows for cleaning more "organic" sounding guitar.

compression is not always a dynamics killer. good compression pedals allow one to preserve the nature - though not the entire dynamic excursion -- of the attack well enough to give the ear a good "taste." this is done by delaying the onset of compressing action (adding a time constant to the attack). the gain release will be determined by a separate setting. in the end one balances the amount and nature of the attack with the length of sustain and the volume of the sustained note.

I will disagree with Moonrider (this is rare!): In my experience, the friction of the string against the fret in a side-to-side vibrato will increase the longevity of a note better than axial vibrato. maybe Moonrider's frets are smoother than mine. ;-)

other possibilities:
* get a volume pedal and use it the to sustain notes by starting rolled off a bit and "pedaling louder" over the life of the note.
* a little wilder: use feedback -- it's all about gain, not necessarily loudness. if you are using a feedback-prone guitar v close to the amp, you will not need to turn to max volume. use the whammy bar to control the feedback, as it is frequency dependent.
* buy a Fernandez Sustainer system for one of your guitars. it replaces one of the pups.
* use 'verb and delay effects to "stretch" your notes.

in choosing among the guitars you own, here are a couple sweeping generalizations that may help, but are not guarantees: choose a guitar relatively heavy guitar with mahogany or similar body and neck -- meaning the opposite of a Tele. something about mahogany softens the attack and spreads that energy out over time. some players describe this as the signature LP "bloom." I am tempted give all sorts of advice about solid versus (semi-)hollow, string-thru bodies and stop tailpieces, but the fact is one can find guitars that should be "dead" that sustain surprisingly well and the occasional LP that is a dud. so YMMV.

oh yeah: my compressor is T-Rex CompNova. my distorion/OD pedals are Voodoo Lab Sparkle drive and/or T-Rex Moller. both these distortion/OD pedals feature a clean/dirty mix control.

-=tension & release=-


   
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Ande
 Ande
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Last night was listening to, and then trying to play, a little SRV. More sustain than you usually hear from a strat.

I seem to remember that he used 11s or 12s- thick strings, action medium, seems to be a combination that does well for sustain. And a bit of overdrive. (It was "the Sky is Crying" that I was working on- sometimes he used a LOT of overdrive, but that isn't my fave SRV sound.)

Best,
Ande


   
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CitiZenNoir
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I'm with Greg, in that I don't know about MAXIMUM sustain.... increased sustain is something else though.

I just got back from Ill, so I got to play the 71 Strat thru my amp earlier....
I found that it sounded pretty good in channel 1's low gain input (low gain gives it more of a jazzy tone 8) ).
Channel 1 is also the vibrato ch.
I had reverb about half up and some vibrato on there and it was sustaining single notes really well.... I was very impressed.

Of course, it's a setting that I've played the 88 Strat thru and didn't get that much sustain.
Fact is, that the 71 sustains better.... and [not to open a can of worms] a major factor in that equation is the Indian Rosewood fretboard. (Which is what causes the characteristic bloom and slower, sweeter decay on my 71 Strat, and I would argue has a key role in the LP's blooming notes as well.)

I cant say that I agree with Greg about Mahogany bodys/necks.... I had my old SG, and it wasn't all that great of a sustainer.
Mahogany body/neck, Braz RW fretboard.... of course, that might have had something to do with me over-oiling the FB :roll:

On my amp, the effects are all tube driven, and so turning them up [seems to add more gain] (is this true, Greg?)

So, IMO.... More gain, reverb, vibrato or delay, and a 'non dud' guitar with a 'dry' Indian RW board should get you there.

Ken

ps - a thicker neck is also a contributing factor of natural sustain :wink:

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begins to live more simply without"
-Ernest Hemingway

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Scrybe
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Topic starter  

Will have to do a lot of experimenting...

Ra Er Ga.

Ninjazz have SuperChops.

http://www.blipfoto.com/Scrybe


   
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CitiZenNoir
(@citizennoir)
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Greg wrote:

"in choosing among the guitars you own, here are a couple sweeping generalizations that may help, but are not guarantees: choose a guitar relatively heavy guitar with mahogany or similar body and neck -- meaning the opposite of a Tele. something about mahogany softens the attack and spreads that energy out over time. some players describe this as the signature LP "bloom."

So I was thinking more about this.... And having posted that Thicker necks also contribute to natural sustain,
I'm going to have to say that thicker necks are probably a major factor in natural sustain.

Greg suggested a Mahogany body/neck combo, and having owned one myself, I had to disagree with that.
My SG was about a 66 I believe, and it had the 'slim tapered' 60's neck.
It had to be about the thinnest, skinniest neck I have ever played.
I feared that I would someday, snap the headstock off with the strength of my left hand alone!
Not a very good sustainer.

Greg also suggested staying away from a Tele type guitar.... Have to disagree there too.
My 71 Strat could be lumped into that catergory, I'm sure.... and it has excellent sustain!
And I don't think it's a freak of nature, ie. one that shouldn't sustain, but does.
It's a well built guitar with high quality woods and materials.... No mahogany.
It has a highly resonant ash body, with an Indian RW FB.... on the THICKEST maple neck I have ever seen on a Fender.
It sustains forever, and has a wonderful note bloom and sweet, slow decay.
So much so, that it dictates how you play! Which is unlike my 88 Strat, which you have to PULL each and every note out of.... a sort of struggle.

Greg mentioned Les Pauls having good sustain and blooming notes.... IIRC, they usually have pretty fat necks and RW boards.

IMO - A fat neck will give good sustain regardless of FB material.... A maple neck will have little to no bloom,
where an Indian RW board will deliver the most bloom.
Braz is renowned for being the greatest FB tonewood ever.... in the two guitars I've had with Braz boards, they seem
to be the most neutral, less obtrusive with their 'own' coloration. Which can be a good thing. Depends on what your after.

So, after all that.... I suggest finding a resonant guitar you like, and fitting it with a FAT neck.

Since you like modding guitars, that should be right up your alley :wink:

Ken

"The man who has begun to live more seriously within
begins to live more simply without"
-Ernest Hemingway

"A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"
-Orson Welles


   
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CitiZenNoir
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Of course, on the other end of things:

My old SG had the Vibrola/Lyre style vibrato tailpiece, which is a sustain killer.
So, knowing that it has two known sustain killing pieces (the thin neck/Vibola trem), we should not be surprised
that it didn't have good sustain, regardless of body/neck tonewoods.

My 88 Strat has the 3rd generation saddles, with the thin inertia block.... not great for sustain at all.
Add to it the thinner 'modern C' neck profile and maple fretboard.... and again, we shouldn't be surprised
that it's not that great of a sustainer.

My Ovation Custom Balladeer has a massively heavy neck, but that's the metal in it.
It has a large and sharp 'V' profile neck, which as big as it may feel, I don't think there's a whole lot of wood there.
It also has an ebony FB, which has a fast decay and no bloom.
The top is cedar, and of course the back and sides are a bowl of plastic.
It has very little sustain.
Not at all like a wonderful Indian RW back & sides acoustic, with a good lotta wood on the neck.
Again - No surprise that it doesn't hold a note.

My 60's Harmony Stratotone has a Trapeze Tailpiece, with a RW non-adjustable floating bridge.
It's a hollow body of Maple sides/back, and spruce top.... That alone pretty much insures a dry tone with little sustain.
It also has a fat neck, and Braz board, with the really old open back button tuners.... no rod in the neck.
Because of the neck it has a bit more of sustain than I would think.... still, not fantasic though....
and I wouldn't expect it to be.

My 71 Strat though:
It has the old original first generation saddles with the original fat and heavy inertia block - fantastic for sustain.
Add the fat neck, Indian RW board, extremely resonant ash body and it's no surprise that it sustains forever (straight into a clean tube amp at low volumes) and has the most beautiful note blooms and sweetest decays.

it's kinda like they say about reading the Bible - it all has be taken together with the other books and not out of context.

Tonewoods and components have their characteristics, but how they work together is what makes them magical.
Knowing and accepting that will lead to bliss.

Good luck,

Ken

"The man who has begun to live more seriously within
begins to live more simply without"
-Ernest Hemingway

"A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"
-Orson Welles


   
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TRGuitar
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I would think any kind of distortion pedal gives you the ability to have distortion and sustain without loud volume right? Maybe I'm over simplifying this, but I can crank up my distortion settings on my pedals and turn the amp down low, I still get the distortion and sustain but not the volume. Oh yeah, it sounds better loud and tubes distort and sustain a lot better .... power soak / attenuator? Don't know if thats what you are looking for but thats what I would do. If you mean clean sustain, well then compression.

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grow big, wear glasses if you need 'em."
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Ande
 Ande
(@ande)
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And some kind of a boost pedal?

I've never had one, so am not sure- but was playing with my EQ the other day, and found that by lightly moving up the parts of notes that die first (high end on my axe, but I'm sure yours won't be just the same), I got an increase in sustain.

I'm wondering if this would work with a treble boost?

Best,
Ande


   
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