A Classical Guitar Tone Experiment – How to Change Your Sound
Here’s a special treat for you today. In just a few seconds, you will have a better sound on your guitar.
Not only will you have better sound, but you’ll also have more control over the sound of your guitar.
And what can you do with more control over your sound?
- You can play more with more beauty and expression.
- You can create more contrast in the music you play, so it is more interesting.
- You can make your sound rich and full, so anything you play sounds more advanced.
The possibilities abound.
Even if you are a fresh beginner, or you have zero classical guitar skills, this will level up your playing.
(This is why accomplished players always get help. You can grasp concepts in just a few moments that you may never discover on your own.)
So what’s the trick?
Here you go….
90 Seconds to Better Guitar Sound
For this experiment, you only need your right-hand fingers. Your left hand can take the day off.
If your left hand gets squirrelly, you can tie it behind your back.
And if you don’t have a guitar handy, just visualize the exercise. Next time you pick up your guitar, you can give it a go.
The Current Lay of the Land
First, play as you normally do.
Listen to the sound. Is is bright or dark? Full or thin?
Look down at your hand as you play. Where is it in relation to the soundhole, the neck, and the ends of the strings?
Don’t change anything here, just notice where you’re doing by default. This is your starting point. Your autopilot.
Sound Experiment Number One
Part One: Now move your hand closer to the guitar neck. Go all the way over the hole, close to the end of the neck.
You can even go further, over the frets, just for fun.
Play here. How is the sound is different than before? Does it sound warmer and fuller?
(Full Disclosure: It may feel funny to play in a different position than you usually do. That’s normal. Any change will feel strange at first. Just go with it.)
Part Two: Next move your hand down to the ends of the strings, by the bridge. Play here.
Does the sound here sound tinny and bright?
Congratulations! You’ve just explored one of your biggest “tone knobs.”
If you want a warmer sound, play more over the hole. If you want the sound to cut through crisp and bright, play by the bridge.
Okay – next experiment…
Sound Experiment Number Two
Go back to your default position. Play again as you normally do.
Notice how your fingers play the strings.
Do you pluck:
- straight across?
- at an angle?
- How straight or how angled?
Now for the experiment: Explore the extremes of the angles you can play the strings.
First, play straight across the strings. How is the sound? Is it bright and shiny?
Next, play at a severe angle to the strings. A 45-degree angle at least. Or even more. How is this sound? Is it warmer and fuller?
Now go back and forth between the two. Warm-bright-warm-bright.
Mix and Combine
Now you can mix and combine all these factors.
- You can play at a heavy slant to the strings up close to the neck, over the sound hole. This is the warmest, wooliest sound you’ll get.
- And you can play straight across the strings down by the bridge, near the end of the strings. This is like a harpsichord – metallic with less sustain.
- And you can do the opposite: straight across the strings near the neck, or with a slant near the bridge.
Practice going back and forth between the neck and bridge. And vary between straight and angled playing.
Get curious and explore the different sounds you get.
Apply this to music
If you have a piece you enjoy playing, now is the time to make it even better.
Decide what type of sound you’d like to hear in your music. Then play with that sound.
Just for fun, play your piece (or a chord, or whatever) with different sounds.
(You may need to slow down to hold it together with the new hand positions. That’s fine.)
How does the music change when you vary the tone quality this way?
Small Tweaks Can Make All the Difference
In a matter of minutes, you’ve just added loads of variation to your playing. You gained a valuable tool that you can use for every piece of music you ever play.
Going forward, this is now an arrow in your quiver. You can pull it out anytime you like.
And there are many of these types of techniques. Small changes can make a big difference, and you can use them forever.
Even if you don’t change anything else about how you play guitar, this will still help you sound better.
Next Steps and More Ways to Sound Better
In The Woodshed® Classical Guitar Program, you’ll find loads of exercises and methods to level up your playing.
These are useful and pragmatic. No “busy work” or fluff. Everything is strategically chosen and organized to make the biggest difference for you. And in the most time-efficient way.
Your sound will improve. Your speed will increase. You’ll learn pieces faster, with a deeper understanding of the various ingredients.
You don’t have to change everything in your playing. Only if you want to. But small adjustments can act as big levers to move you ahead.
Especially if you’ve felt stuck or stagnant, you can dislodge the block and free the flow forward.
Enjoy this Tone Experiment, and have fun bringing new life to your music!
Hi, I’m Allen Mathews.
I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
Click here for a sample formula.
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