Smoothing out the pick attack

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by Super Locrian, Dec 22, 2017.

  1. Super Locrian

    Super Locrian Member

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    I am trying to get a more fluid, less percussive guitar sound. Obviously legato techniques will help, but it's not always easy to get a consistent tone for longer runs between the slurred and the picked notes. I don't like a very low action because I feel the tone suffers, but with the higher action the legato techniques are harder to execute.

    So I am wondering if I could try smoothing out my pick attack. I've recently changed from JD Jazz II to Jazztone picks, and it's definitely an improvement.

    Basically I want to get my guitar lines to sound more like a clarinet and less like a banjo :) Any advice appreciated!
     
  2. Mit

    Mit Member

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    My first thought is some digital device.. Maybe there is some pedal that gives you that "note emerges out of thin air" - sound.
     
  3. Bob Womack

    Bob Womack Member

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    There are basically two ingredients to the Eric Johnson-style attack-less violin sound: compression and gain. That sound can be attained a few ways: The earliest was was to flog a non-master-volume tube amp until it and your ears bled. The tube amp's power amp contributed the compression through the maxed-out power tube and the sagging tube rectifier. Both reached saturation and could no longer provide any gain. The result was that the amp could support the sustain phase of the note, albeit with compression, but it couldn't provide the additional gain necessary to support the bloom of overtones and dynamics at the start of the note. Meanwhile the medium-gain preamp created a soft distortion that was smoothed and rounded out by the compression of the power amp.

    The next historic phase of lessened pick attack was when the master volume amps came out, allowing you to shove the first gain stage to the wall and use the saturated preamp tubes to smooth off the pick attack. Of course, a certain brash distortion comes along, but that was the sound of the period.

    Then MXR put a small compressor in a pedal and allowed a certain amount of the pick attack to be smooth off, even without distortion and half of David Gilmour's lead sounds were born.

    Eric Johnson gets his attack-less sound by driving a Marshall to the hilt and hitting the front end with a Butler Tube Driver. Tones of gain and the compression of a Marshall.

    You can also get it in the modeling world by choosing a tube amp model, setting it to the fine edge of distortion, and hitting it with a compressor.

    Hope that helps.

    Bob
     
  4. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    I got a free pick with my Snark tuner, and that pick produces a decidedly smoother attack than my other picks. Bit too thick to my taste though for rhythm guitar work.
     
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  5. p.j.

    p.j. Member

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    A non-digital device that does that is a volume pedal.
     
  6. p.j.

    p.j. Member

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    Eric uses his "bounce" picking technique to get a smooth attack. He kind of "bows" the strings.
     
  7. Melodic Dreamer

    Melodic Dreamer Member

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    An effect like the Pog would work.

     
  8. Flyin' Brian

    Flyin' Brian Member

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    I do realize that this is The Gear Page, but the answer to the question is not gear. It's technique.
    It requires initial and ongoing practice.
    It requires warming up, not just for us old guys, but for everybody.
    And it requires finding the right pick and then getting off of the "flavor of the day" pick merry go round..
     
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  9. splatt

    splatt david torn / splattercell Gold Supporting Member

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    some loose thoughts, since we can't see nor hear you playing.

    play lighter with your RH; turn the amp up to compensate.
    roll-off some high-end from your guitar's tone-ctrl to mask some attack.
    lower your pickups, gaining a little..... errrmmm, "distance".
    maybe play much lighter with your RH, with a thicker & warmer string.

    but, which electric guitar has you thinking that higher action automatically makes for more better tone? perfect action is almost always best, unless you're really into that "power & struggle"-thing, in which case i get it.
    so..... which amp are you playing?

    use RH fingers instead of pick?
    or use a thicker pick, using a rounder tip & less of it at the string-contact (fingers low-down on the pick, as near the tip as you can get w/o doing unnecessary string-damping).
    also, maybe avoid hard plastic picks, maybe: delrin, various woods, horn, acetate.
     
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  10. toddincharlotte

    toddincharlotte Member

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    I assume you've experienced with pick attack angles? I know a few "shredder types" dig the pick at roughly a 45 degree angle. You could possibly experiment with pick angle.
     
  11. Pedro58

    Pedro58 Supporting Member

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    What Brian said. Technique. Figure out which famous guy has the sound you're looking for and then go from there. EJ has what I think you are describing, and it has as much to do with his technique as it does the gear. Maybe more so.
     
  12. splatt

    splatt david torn / splattercell Gold Supporting Member

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    yeah, maybe..... but (at least) in that old video example of eric's playing, i'd say that delay + reverb --- 2 pieces of gear you might simply purchase, but whose techniques you'd still need to learn & practise --- seem to play quite an obvious role in the overarching 'masking' of his pick-attack.
     
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  13. Melodic Dreamer

    Melodic Dreamer Member

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    I agree with everything you said, but if someone is wanting something as extreme as say the Rosenwinkel video in my previous post you are going to have to purchase gear. I've known a few people chasing a flute type sound. You can't get that sound by picking technique alone.
     
  14. BriSol

    BriSol Member

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    I find it interesting that people went to Eric Johnson rather than Allan Holdsworth in answering the question.

    The technique answer is simply lighter picking. The guitar answer is to roll back the tone knob. The amp answer is to lower the treble. The fx answer is reverb and delay. If Eric Johnson really is our reference, the guy basically cranks Marshalls with the treble backed off and smears it in gobs of reverb and analog delay, which inherently has the effect of softening and warming the tone.
     
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  15. Flyin' Brian

    Flyin' Brian Member

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    I agree. If you're looking for a certain sound more like another instrument. But since the OP was only talking about pick attack and a less percussive sound, I still have to maintain that in order to achieve that, technique is more of a focus than gear.
     
  16. Tmidiman

    Tmidiman Member

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    What is your guitar, effects, and amp? Type of music for this tone? I need to understand where you are now to see if I can get you an option to try.
     
  17. Sammo

    Sammo Member

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    Splatt, do you have any insights of Allan Holdsworth's use of multiple delays (from his huge rack days to UD Stomp and Magic Stomp) where he had almost random like repeats pattern that are quite loud. Combined with his technique it also masks pick attack and I think it's big part of his tone. Do you know if there is theory behind his approach or did he just stumble to it by experimenting.

    Thanks!
     
  18. Super Locrian

    Super Locrian Member

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    Thanks for the advice splatt, those are helpful pointers. Going up in pick size helped a lot. I will start working on relaxing my right hand. About action - I've probably become accustomed to fighting my guitar a little with a higher action, so when I play a guitar with low action it sounds awful. I guess I'm kind of schizophrenic in my goals, sometimes I want to sound like a blues player who's really digging in, other times I want that effortless fluid legato sound.

    I am currently working on Paganini's Moto Perpetuo as an exercise in stamina and therefore also relaxation.



     
  19. Super Locrian

    Super Locrian Member

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    I think the multiple delays Holdsworth used were mainly used for his clean chorused tone. There is a "recipe" on this page , as far as I can see, it's 8 parallel delays from 23.5-47.5 milliseconds.

    Octal Chorus- On Custom
    FX Level - 100%
    Dry Level - 50%
    Balance - 0
    Speed - 0.06
    Depth1 - 30.0ms
    Depth2 - 30.0ms
    Wander Speed - .06
    Depth - 10
    Delay A - 23.5ms
    Delay B - 38ms
    Delay C - 30ms
    Delay D - 47.5ms
    Delay E - 23.5ms
    Delay F - 38ms
    Delay G - 30ms
    Delay H - 47.5ms
    Spread 10

     
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  20. Sammo

    Sammo Member

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    I have UD Stomp and yes, there are 12 chorus presets by AH that are for clean tones + 2 presets for swell effects. But there are also nine "Stereo Enhanced Solo Patches" that are similar in many ways to chorus presets regarding delay times and panning but without modulation. And they sound great.

    I'm looking at UD Stomp manual and all eight band chorus presets also have also longer delays (300-450ms): four short delays for chorus and four for echo (lower level than chorus, though).
     

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