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Help a newbie acoustic player understand how to get rid of string squeak?

Scott Whigham

Member
Messages
3,528
I'm a long time electric player who just purchased his first acoustic. I'm going through the "which type of strings to use" experiment right now and I'm hearing a fair bit of squeakiness that is more than what I hear on the electric. My guess is that the acoustic strings are just amplifying more of what is there anyway...

So what's the strategy for eliminating as much as possible? I figure there are four options:

  • EQ'ing some of it out - hard to do but possible for recorded takes that are great and have only minor issues
  • Buying strings of a certain material or with a certain coating
  • Buying a product that supposedly reduces the squeak yet does not hurt the overall tone
  • Changing up my technique
I'm doing #4 above right now - I've been able to minimize it on some songs by just adjusting how the song plays (i.e. not letting all notes ring as long as possible and, instead, stopping the note to pick up my finger and move it rather than just slide it). But I figured I would ask and see if there were other opinions.

What do you guys do?

Thanks :)
 
Messages
8,093
Many folks use the coated strings and they probably help in this department. How 'bout wiping your left-hand fingertips down the side of your nose for some lubricant? I do that. Or don't worry about it. I have seen Andres Segovia and Christopher Parkening and both had a fair amount of string squeek going on.
 

Scott Whigham

Member
Messages
3,528
Interesting - I'll try that approach. I've got a few recordings to put down and I want it to be as squeak-free as possible.

I have these John Pearse Phosphor bronze on it now and, while they sound great, they squeak much, much more than the 80/20s I had on before.

FYI: I play mostly a fingerstyle or what I think they call flatpicking but more of a jazz/blues feel. Not really much strumming.
 

Scott Whigham

Member
Messages
3,528
Okay - good to know! Thanks :)

I did ask a friend who is a classical player and she said the following:
On the nylon strings, when they are new, it's tough to avoid ALL squeaks. But, you can avoid sounding like a mouse if 1) pressure is enough on slides (you need just enough pressure) and 2) a slight tilt of the finger (usually, the middle joint needs to tilt a little but toward the head stock) when you shift, and I mean slight. This would be easier if I could show you!!! I have no idea if I'm making sense. Of course, having a callous does not help the situation, hence the very slight tipping of the finger or fingers. If we're talking a steel string acoustic, then I can't help you there. But, I'm guessing it's a similar concept.
I'll try the coated strings and see if that helps too!
 

sahhas

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
18,273
about 12 yrs ago i attended a master class by christopher parkening, it was very interesting.
there was 1 student who played a piece (can't remember which) and then he'd critique it.
one thing he said to this one girl about her performance of the piece was that she was doing a lot of sliding to a lot of the notes, and in the process was getting the string squeaks. he talked about how in the piece she played it was very distracting. it can be good in places here and there, but too much is overkill. he recommended to her to lifting her hands and moving to the different positions instead of sliding to everything.

i really learned a lot listening to his critique of players, and i'm in no way a classical player.
some thoughts for you...
 

Scott Whigham

Member
Messages
3,528
he recommended to her to lifting her hands and moving to the different positions instead of sliding to everything.

i really learned a lot listening to his critique of players, and i'm in no way a classical player.
some thoughts for you...
Thanks. That's what I had been doing but there are just some passages that need the slide. Unfortunately I have one song that starts out super quiet with slides :(

Good news is that my friend's suggestion does stop the squeak entirely. It's just hard to do. At least it works though!
 

buddaman71

Student of Life
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
12,930
Elixir Nano Web Phosphor Bronze Strings are by far, the very best all-round strings I've ever used. Smooth and sleek feeling, excellent sound and amazing string life.
As for technique, properly arched left hand position, reduced sliding from position to position and a little bit of right hand muting during position changes will all but eliminate string squeek.
 

Kappy

Member
Messages
14,033
Deliberate and extremely slow practice of passages where you're squeaking, making extra effort to lift the fret hand from the string after sounding the note, but just enough to allow you to slide to the next note without squeaking (after all, you don't want to develop the bad habit of lifting your fret hand too much), over and over and over again will help some.
 
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12,083
Some 'string squeak' is unavoidable. Some can be reduced through judicious EQ.

If the object is for it to go away, you have to pick up your fingers, in between positions. No sliding allowed. Older, not yet dead, strings, are favored over new strings.
 

Scott Whigham

Member
Messages
3,528
Thanks again to all. Here's a question: I'm only on Set #1 of my "Test out these five brands/types of strings" and it's a Phosphor Bronze set (John Pearse). No matter how correct my technique nor how much I lift my hands (nor how much lube I use from the side of my nose!) seems to get rid of enough of the squeak. I've been playing long enough that I know what "right" is and I think I'm doing it right - but still this squeak is just crazy bad.

My question to you is whether or not pure Phosphor Bronze (not 80/20) are known to squeak perhaps more than others? I still have another 2-3 days left on my test for these strings so I don't want to take them off just yet to try out 80/20s or coated.

Thanks!
 

Scott Whigham

Member
Messages
3,528
Oh - and just as an example of how squeaky these are, my picking hand makes squeaks whether I finger pick or plectrum! It's just odd how squeaky this particular set is - it just makes me wonder if it's just normal for this string type. If I was doing mostly strumming and/or playing with a band it wouldn't be noticeable but I play solo/instrumental fingerpicking mostly.
 

D.G.

Member
Messages
724
Some squeaking is simply part of the acoustic sound.

In recording, use a ribbon mic. Live, if going into a microphone, ignore it. Live, if using a pickup, eq at the board/amp, or use a magnetic pickup like a Baggs M1 or Fishman Rare Earth. Acoustically, alter your technique slightly, and the older the strings get, the less squeaky (i.e. bright) they will be.

But mainly, ignore it :D
 

thesjkexperienc

^^^ I made this guitar^^^
Messages
4,753
I just cant get along with coated strings and if I were in a situation where I needed to eliminate it I would get a product called Fast Fret that lubricates the strings and fretboard for easier fingering and almost no string noise.

I do notice I squeak more after playing electric for a while, so I think hand strength and technique have a lot to do with it.
 
Messages
302
"Dr Ducks Ax Wax and String Lube" may help eliminate string squeak. You could try some of that stuff. It's a good product anyway.
 




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