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Les Paul ringing/string noise when palm muting (audio inside)?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by starbelly, Aug 1, 2020.

  1. starbelly

    starbelly Supporting Member

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    Hi all,

    I recently got my first Les Paul (2007 Les Paul Studio), and although it's super fun to play, I'm noticing an annoying ringing/string noise when I'm palm muting. As a long time metal player, I'm no stranger to palm mutes, but for some reason, they are super noisy with this guitar. The ringing is coming form the G, B, and E strings, and there seem to be two ways to get it to stop:
    1. Mute unplayed strings with the fretting hand.
    2. Try to also mute the G, B, and E strings with the picking hand when palm muting (which is awkward).
    Here's an example of what I'm hearing, where I'm muting with my fretting hand, then taking my fretting hand off the strings so you can hear the sound.

    The funny thing is, I tested out 3 of my other guitars and none of them have this issue; I can palm mute noise-free without muting unplayed strings with my fretting had, or awkwardly trying to mute all strings with my picking hand. None of these other guitars have a Les Paul style bridge.

    So, what's going on? Some possibilities that come to mind include:
    • Picking too hard and making those strings ring out.
    • Bridge pickup being too high.
    • Action is too low.
    • Truss rod has too little relief.
    • Strings ringing behind the bridge.
    Any feedback would be appreciated, since this is super annoying.

    EDIT:

    Here's a video example.

    In order I am:
    • Palm muting the E, A, and D without dampening the G, B, and E with my fretting hand
    • Palm muting the E, A, and D while dampening the G, B, and E with my fretting hand
    • Showing that I am palm muting the E, A, and D with my picking hand
    • Wrapping my hand so that my picking hand is palm muting all strings
    • Palm muting the E, A, and D while dampening the G, B, and E independently with my fretting hand
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2020
  2. TL;DR

    TL;DR Member

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    You have a microphonic pickup
     
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  3. Thesleepstalker

    Thesleepstalker Member

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  4. silverhawk

    silverhawk Member

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    WOW. In forty plus years at the bench I've never heard anything like that.
     
  5. Jimmy3Fingers

    Jimmy3Fingers Member

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    It's possessed...

    ...or screaming for vengeance.
     
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  6. Tootone

    Tootone Member

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    @starbelly ....

    when the screeching starts, are you releasing/relaxing the palm mute?

    Or are you playing it the same all the way through?

    Edit: how does it sound when you just play unmuted power chords?
     
  7. starbelly

    starbelly Supporting Member

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    I didn’t even know that was possible. Is there any way I could rule that out? The sound goes away when I mute with my fretting hand, or cover all the strings with my picking hand.

    The ringing begins when I remove my fretting hand that’s muting the G, B, and E strings. Normal power chords sound fine.
     
  8. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Member

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    Any easy thing to do is get some scotch tape and wrap it around the strings between the bridge and tailpiece, that would rule this out. Does it happen with both pickups, or just one? Does it screech any other time?
     
  9. Tootone

    Tootone Member

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    It might be when you relax your left (fretting) hand muting you are setting up harmonics, especially if your chugging is also strumming the G, B and E strings. Also, you are clearly playing at very high gain. No offence, but that could just be down to bad technique.

    Try only striking the strings you want to hear (E, A and D?), and mute with your right hand "heel" against the strings near the bridge.

    Its only a suggestion... there are other things it could be, but eliminate technique first.
     
  10. starbelly

    starbelly Supporting Member

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    I’ve been playing metal pretty regularly for over 15 years, I’m not sure it’s my palm muting technique. This only occurs on the Les Paul, and not on any of my other guitars.

    I’m only striking the E, A, and D, and your advice is basically palm muting 101. I know how to palm mute, haha.

    I’m wondering what is specific about this guitar that is causing the issue I’m describing, and how I may remedy it. One person suggested a microphonic pickup.
     
  11. Tootone

    Tootone Member

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    Yeah... sorry. I read your first post again, and was going to edit the one above.

    It could be microphonic pickups, but then you would hear loud dissonant squealing pretty much all the time when playing at high volume/gain.

    I have a 2002 LP Studio which has a hot 498T Bridge. Same pickup in my LP Custom. I am guessing it will be the same in your LP, if stock. I think they are of the wax potted variety, which should eliminate microphonics unless they melted in the sun at some point previous.

    Another thing it might be is your pickup is very close to the string near the bridge and your palm mute is pushing the strings down in contact with the pole pieces.

    The 498T is very hot, so can still produce bags of output without being so close to the string. An easy thing to try is just get a screwdriver and lower the whole pickup another 3-5mm away from the string. Then repeat your test. Worry about tonal set up later.
     
  12. CoachD

    CoachD Member

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    Play without plugging in the guitar. Can you still hear it?
     
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  13. starbelly

    starbelly Supporting Member

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    A few updates:

    I used a fretwrap between the bridge and the tailpiece and it did not solve the issue. It mainly occurs on the bridge pickup, but also occurs a bit on the neck pickup. I'm not sure what the likelihood of both pickups being microphonic is.

    My 2007 LP is one of the faded ones that comes with Burstbucker Pros, if that matters. As I mentioned above, it occurs with both pickups (less so with the neck), so I'm skeptical if they're both microphonic. I will try lowering the bridge pickup.

    I can't hear it when it's just the guitar not pugged into anything.
     
  14. starbelly

    starbelly Supporting Member

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    I tried lowering the bridge pickup a bit, and it made no difference. Pretty stumped at this point.
     
  15. Tootone

    Tootone Member

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    Does any of this happen when playing "normally"?

    If you played a non-muted part, say AC/DC Back In Black.... does everything sound normal?

    It sounds "a bit" like very high 2nd/3rd fret harmonics... with some train brakes thrown in.

    Maybe run through some eliminations process.

    - Change Cable
    - Change amp
    - Change pedal
    - Change guitar (but play same).
    - Change volume
    - Change gain

    and so on. Eliminate all the things it definitely isn't.

    Very puzzling o_O
     
  16. PartoftheDark

    PartoftheDark Member

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    Sounds like specifically your B string is trying to take flight. Are your les paul pickups significantly hotter than the ones on your other guitar? I kind of wonder if they're just representing a lot more gain. Also, I kind of wonder if the pickups are just getting a little microphonic after the years. If it's the 490r 498t set, they're potted, but maybe you've been really wailing on it since 2007 and it's starting to loosen up. Something's resonant with the B string in a big way though.
     
  17. starbelly

    starbelly Supporting Member

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    They’re BurstBucker Pros in this case. I’ve never had a guitar with a Gibson scale length, and it feels like my hand needs to be a little farther forward than I’m used to for palm mutes.

    How would I diagnose whether my pickups were microphonic?
     
  18. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Member

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    I don't know what fretwrap is but I'll take your word for it. You could also try the same thing between the nut and the tuners.

    As said above, it's probably just one string/note/sound that's trying to take off, I'd try and isolate which one it is. I'd then re-seat that string at both the nut and bridge and see if that does anything (basically lift it up, give it a little shake and set it back down). Let's say it's the B string, then you should be able to get that sound to activate by playing that same note in other positions on the fretboard.

    Understand, something is vibrating/rattling. When a pickup is microphonic, it's part of the coil (the wires wrapped around the magnet in your pickup) being loose and vibrating. Wax potting can solve this, but as mentioned your pickups are probably already lightly wax potted (and you say it happens with both pickups, and both being microphonic is unlikely). Sometimes it can be an issue of the pickup cover vibrating against the inner bobbins, in which case wax or some other kind of adhesive can help (but again, unlikely to happen with both pickups). You could try pressing down on the pickup covers as you play and see if that has any affect.

    Further down the line you have other things like loose pickup rings, loose retainer wires on the bridge (not sure if your LP has those), even stuff like little bits of metal being stuck to the underside of your pickup (finding chopped ends of wire and guitar strings under there are more common than you'd think). Also, you didn't say how you recorded that. If you're running through an amp a microphonic tube (most likely preamp section) could do that. Turn the amp on and tap each tube lightly, and if you can hear it clearly through the amp that might be your problem. You could try tapping the pickups as well.
     
  19. starbelly

    starbelly Supporting Member

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    @dewey decibel

    I can chug on the low D, A, and D and mute the G, B, and E individually with my fretting hand. The ringing occurs when any of the strings are unmuted, but in order of most contribution, it goes G, B, then E.

    It may be the way my palm sits on the LP bridge for palm muting; I’ve never had a guitar with a bridge/scale length like this, and I notice that I’m really only muting the D, A, and D strings. Perhaps I’m just chugging hard enough for the vibrations to be exciting the other strings and getting them to rattle.

    I tested a few amps, and the issue occurs everywhere, so it’s not the amp.

    Thai is mostly an issue when palm muting the open low strings, since when I’m palm muting anything else, my fretting hand is usually dampening all other strings. It does come out from time to time when I’m playing though if I’m ever not dampening the strings depending on the shape of my hand when I’m playing.

    I live right next to a great music store, I’ll probably just bring it in tomorrow and see what they think.
     
  20. Sweetfinger

    Sweetfinger Silver Supporting Member

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    I can't get the OP's sample to play, but as far as squealing, yes, they will go away when you're playing. As soon as you give the amp a string signal that overpowers the feedback, it will amplify that until the string energy fades. The textbook example of this is Black Sabbath's "Live At Last". Every song begins with Iommi turning his volume up. You immediately hear a microphonic squeal which goes away as soon as he hits a note.
    In certain relatively quiet or slower parts you can hear the microphonic squeal trying to reassert itself, particularly in between the notes of a "chugging" pedal note.

    With high gain, other mysterious things can happen. The pickup springs can oscillate and be picked up. A stray piece of cutoff string or strands of steel wool can cause problems.

    That weird Twilight Zone/early Columbo TV episode soundtrack music you can make by plucking the strings behind the nut? When you hit a chord, it energizes the strings behind the nut. Usually you're not hearing those but those vibrating strings can shift that energy back into the main string length if it is not being played or well muted, particularly with a well cut nut slot. I had to put a rubber band behind the nut on a recording session to keep those notes from ringing out.
     

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