8 ways to sound better right now – for free! by Shawn Demots
Though there is a lot of great gear on the market, you don’t always need to spend serious bucks on the latest boutique gear to improve your tone. Here are eight easy ways to sound better instantly without emptying your wallet.
2. Hit the strings harder.
A lot of musicians play quite a bit softer than they really need to. Obviously you don’t need to whack the bejeezus out of the thing but a little force is good, especially if you’re playing energetic music. If you notice a lot of string rattle and hum, you might need stiffer strings and higher action.
3. Check your right hand technique.
It’s natural to focus on your left hand since it’s doing the more complicated stuff. Nevertheless, your right hand is where your tone comes from. Try picking at different spots closer and further away from the bridge. Try every pick you have, playing the same riff each time. Hit the strings with the pick as near to parallel to the strings as possible for a fat tone, angle the pick for a thinner tone. Finally, try creating pinch harmonics by holding the pick so it’s just barely sticking out from your fingers. The idea is for the string to hit the flesh of your thumb right after striking the pick.
5. Enjoy the silence.
Try to eliminate every bit of background noise possible. Turn off your computer, TV, stereo, washer, dryer, fish tank, etc. Muzzle your spouses, roommates, children, and pets. Make a sacred space for you and your guitar to become one.
6. Move your amp or guitar.
Try moving your amp into a corner, setting it on a chair, tilting it back, or pushing it up against the wall. Does your speaker cab rest on casters? Take ‘em off and annoy your neighbors with the massive low-end thump! Acoustic players, try changing the place where you play. You might find that your bathroom has an awesome slapback echo.
7. Use a delay pedal to work on your timing.
I find practicing with a metronome to be torturously dull, so I like to use a delay pedal instead. Set it up for a single repeat and turn it up loud. Trying playing something that is straight eighth notes like the Cars or the Ramones. Bass players can pick just about any AC/DC song ever created. You’ll find you naturally lock in with the delay you’ve set. Notice that if you speed up or slow down even slightly, every note sounds messy. Relax and concentrate on the feeling you get when you’re in sync with the delayed notes.
8. Plug and unplug all of your cables a few times.
Musical instrument signals are fragile things. We’re talking about millivolts here; they make a hearing aid battery look like a hydroelectric dam. Once a month or so plug and unplug all of your cables a few times to clean the crud off of the contacts. You can use electrical contact cleaner if you have some, but simply plugging and unplugging could be the key to a brighter and clearer sound.
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