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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

Three Golden Rules for Making a Good Tone

Carlos interviewed on Radio Nuevo Leon Monterrey, Mexico, 2009

Making a good tone is the most important consideration for attracting the attention of a listener. Forget about virtuosity, that comes second. Don’t agree? Well let me put it this way: what do you prefer to listen to, an expressive piece played with good tone, or a virtuoso showpiece played with lousy tone? If you prefer the first option read on, if you prefer the second please don’t turn away, give me a chance, and read on too!

The three golden rules are:

1. SMooth Surface

2. Sensitivity

3. SMart Spot

If it helps you remember, think SMS + S + SMS.

Here is more about each of these headings:

1. Smooth Surface
If you play with nails keep them as smooth as possible. Use an emery board and afterwards a fine sanding paper to smooth your nails completely. Shape your nails so that some 50% of them come into contact with the string before sliding off. The contact point with the string is with the inside of the nail or the tip of the finger depending on the context. By context I mean style and speed.

In free-stroke technique “scoop” up the string with the inside nail and “push” the string at an angle as horizontal as possible to the guitar top, just missing the string behind, but only just.

For rest-stroke I suggest the same approach to the string, only this time you come to rest on the lower string.

2. Sensitivity
Keep an open mind on the methodology of tone production. Experiment with very small changes to approach. Listen acutely to your sound, especially in difficult passages and when playing high up the guitar. Be relaxed, and relax the fingertips. Don’t play loudly – yet. Lean over the sound hole to hear well the sound you are making, or rest your ear on the side of the guitar. By doing these things you will develop an extra sensitivity. With sensitivity comes good tone, and with extra sensitivity comes your very own especially good tone!

3. Smart Spot
One of the key factors in making a good sound is resonance. The guitar resonates most deeply when a maximum number of harmonics and sympathetic vibrations are set in motion on playing a note. There is one spot on each string where this happens. It is less than a centimeter across and is usually somewhere between the middle and edge of the sound hole. Let’s call it the smart spot.

You can find the smart spot by playing rest-stroke repeatedly along this area of string until suddenly you will feel the whole guitar vibrate. This should become your “default” position for playing, with plenty of variety added ranging from extra sound-hole to ponticello. Return to your smart spot with frequency, for it produces the deepest tone and consequently the most pleasing sound.

This has been my rough guide to the three golden rules of making a good tone.

16th March 2013, Kochin, India

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Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=2274 .
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