Noisy guitar strings

Managing noise is a huge part of playing guitar. There’s a fine balance between having some extraneous sounds come out of your instrument which, in turn, give it “character,” versus extra sounds that sound like garbage.

Classical Guitar

As a classical guitarist I’m often trying to let notes ring as much as possible to get a legato sound. At the same time, I’m constantly muting strings (particularly the basses) so that other harmonies don’t ring in to new chords.

One bit of noise that is almost impossible to deal with is the scratchy sound produced by bass strings when you slide your left hand fingers across them. The bass strings are wound, so your fingertips create this scratchy sound as the slide across each winding on to the next. To combat this there are really only a couple options: lift your left hand fingertips when moving positions or use lightly polished bass strings. Much of the guitar repertoire can be cleaned up by simply moving while lifting your left hand fingers enough so they don’t glide along the basses. However, that is not possible in many pieces, particularly with composers like Villa-Lobos who write in the glissandos and are likely looking for that connected, greasy sound between notes. The second option, using lightly polished bass strings, has its merits. The wound parts of the strings are slightly sanded down so they are not as rough/prominent, so the noise is greatly reduced. I think these strings are fantastic for recording, but tend to die pretty quickly when using them in for everyday situations.

Electric Guitar - Distortion!

I was recently recording for an upcoming Music Joynt collaboration using my Epiphone Matt Heafy Signature Les Paul which has been heavily modified. The guitar is outfitted with Fishman Fluence Modern pickups, which are some of the best distortion pickups on the market today. They are super heavy when distorted while still maintaining the clarity of individual notes.

I noticed when I soloed my individual rhythm guitar tracks that certain tones rang out between my chugs on the low B string. When I re-recorded the parts, it kept happening! In a mix, with other instruments, it’s not noticeable at all, but this is something I want to “fix.” In other words, I don’t think these ringing overtones or errant strings add “character,” they just slop things up.

In many behind the scenes recording videos of metal players recording rhythm and lead guitar parts, I’ve seen folks using fret wraps. Apparently these help reduce the errant ringing of strings during recording, giving guitars a more defined sound.

Here’s an example of one that I am going to purchase, then report back on:

Notice I’m getting the MKH wrap to use with my MKH guitar. I’ll report back soon!