GRcade Musician's Club - Do You "Do" Music?

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Victor Mildew
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PostRe: GRcade Musician's Club - Do You "Do" Music?
by Victor Mildew » Mon Jul 20, 2020 2:33 pm

I'm trying to work out if you're saying it's not something to use there. I have a perfectly firm index finger thank you very much :datass:

I love it as a way to do hammer ons and pull offs on the E string, with some open strings in the middle, then while doing that you can hammer and pull with other fingers while still having the open stuff. When used with some targeted finger picking it cam sound beautiful.

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PostRe: GRcade Musician's Club - Do You "Do" Music?
by Green Gecko » Mon Jul 20, 2020 2:37 pm

Yeah I'm saying that's what it's useful for, some people use it for barre chords where they basically can't fret all 6 strings with one finger. So they fret the bass E with the thumb and the others using the finger i.e. A 4 fret barre. When clasping the neck like that between thumb and forefinger with the pressure needed to fret the strings, not only is requiring more work and strain on the hand/wrist but it restricts mucle movement for the three remaining fingers meaning it's not possible to fret certain closed chords. It's a valid technique of course just sometimes applied in a counterproductive manner.

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PostRe: GRcade Musician's Club - Do You "Do" Music?
by Victor Mildew » Mon Jul 20, 2020 2:40 pm

Ah ok i get you now. Yes i used to do something like thst when I first started but with just fretting the E leaving the other two open. I took me a while to get the strength in there for proper barre chords. Sometimes I have to switch to it if I get a really bad cramp while playing (like you're in the middle of recording and can't stop).

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PostRe: GRcade Musician's Club - Do You "Do" Music?
by Squinty » Mon Jul 20, 2020 2:53 pm

There is a huge difference in difficulty to barre chords on an electric, in comparison to barre chords on an acoustic. I remember I couldn't hold an F major chord on the acoustic for very long at the start. This was after years of playing electric.

Actually at the very beginning, I thought all acoustic playing was going to be a complete piece of piss. I could not have been more wrong. I find it much harder to play. I can get away with a lot more on electric. There's nothing really like being humbled.

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PostRe: GRcade Musician's Club - Do You "Do" Music?
by Victor Mildew » Mon Jul 20, 2020 2:59 pm

Acoustics vary wildly in neck shape and thickness too. Some nylon stringed ones I've played have had the room for 8 strings so wide was the neck (I think it was a classical guitar). I've all but banned myself from playing my electric any more, I play 99% on my new-ish acoustic (I've had that a year now, where does the time go :dread: ) and the difference in my playing is incredible really. I just laughed the other day that I was able to almost effortlessly play a complex section half concentrating while looking out the window, that I've never once nailed on my electric. Not being able to hide behind effects and a load of noise is humbling.

I put some fresh posh strings on the accoustic the other night, it sounds strawberry floating gorgeous.

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PostRe: GRcade Musician's Club - Do You "Do" Music?
by Lime » Mon Jul 20, 2020 9:49 pm

Since I'm getting more into recording now, there's a few things I'd never really considered before that I'm not sure if I need to think about/address.

One of them is about cables (cables!)

I'm sure we all have thousands of cables, always the wrong length, with wrong connectors, and you end up with a Frankenstein's monster of a collection of cables into adaptor into gender changer and extension. I'm pretty sure none of this is any good for the signal you're trying to carry.

I'm trying to sort out my studio space once and for all - I'm going to get an audio interface with more inputs to prevent the endless plugging and unplugging, and since it'll (hopefully) be installed in one place I need to get the correct cables to hook it up from various instruments.

XLR is fine, I believe all our cables are balanced and good quality.
What I'm no sure about is jack leads for other instruments. I've always just used normal jack to jack leads, but I'm reading about 'balanced' jack leads. Should I be using these? and in what situations?

For example, so I need a balanced jack lead from guitar to effects pedal, and/or from effect pedal to audio interface? Will it really make a difference?
What about from my keyboards (I have a Roland Fantom X8)?
What about from my Ipad - I'm using the stereo headphone out, into stereo phono lead into a pair of phono to jack converters at the moment. Can I get digital audio out of it?

Should I not bother with this, since the cable runs are typically 2-3 meters or so.
I hope the above makes sense! Please ask any questions if anything's vague or unclear!

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PostRe: GRcade Musician's Club - Do You "Do" Music?
by Green Gecko » Tue Jul 21, 2020 2:46 pm

Victor Mildew wrote:Acoustics vary wildly in neck shape and thickness too. Some nylon stringed ones I've played have had the room for 8 strings so wide was the neck (I think it was a classical guitar). I've all but banned myself from playing my electric any more, I play 99% on my new-ish acoustic (I've had that a year now, where does the time go :dread: ) and the difference in my playing is incredible really. I just laughed the other day that I was able to almost effortlessly play a complex section half concentrating while looking out the window, that I've never once nailed on my electric. Not being able to hide behind effects and a load of noise is humbling.

I put some fresh posh strings on the accoustic the other night, it sounds strawberry floating gorgeous.

I know I might sound like a dick saying this, but yeah starting on acoustic I definitely noticed how more "free" it was to play stuff on an electric as the neck is just much smaller and "faster". But by playing on an acoustic neck (nevermind steel strings which I still struggle with it!) you really strengthen the muscles and stretch everything out.

I didn't really start to learn any "electric" songs until many many years later and then I found I could surmount just about anything because the left hand works just didn't phase me at all, all that needed working up was the speed. I played some very fast classical pieces but more down to the left hand work. Some South American runs in things like Villa Lobos' Preludes for example meant I could span the neck on one or a few strings, in between fretting large chords - so shifting between runs or quick succession of notes and broken chords. All of that shifting between different left hand techniques multiple times in the space of a single bar just meant that, after about a decade I could manage most left hand fretting with a few weeks of practice.

It's ironic but one of the best things I can recommend an electric guitarist does is play some classical music on an acoustic guitar, because not only are you having to push your muscles a bit more and stretch further whatever you play, but you have to focus on that depth and clarity of every single note, the instrument is more prone to fret buzz (or just could be a gooseberry fool guitar, either way it's encouraging you to focus on clarity rather than speed, effects or other things). By playing slowly and taking your time trying to - for example, in order to get a comparable sustain on an acoustic you MUST fret notes for longer and allow bass notes in homophonic sequences for example "ring out" longer to get the harmonies to happen - really get those notes to sing, it's all honing technique that can't be flubbed over by distortion or delay/reverb or something else.

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PostRe: GRcade Musician's Club - Do You "Do" Music?
by Green Gecko » Tue Jul 21, 2020 2:51 pm

Lime wrote:Since I'm getting more into recording now, there's a few things I'd never really considered before that I'm not sure if I need to think about/address.

One of them is about cables (cables!)

I'm sure we all have thousands of cables, always the wrong length, with wrong connectors, and you end up with a Frankenstein's monster of a collection of cables into adaptor into gender changer and extension. I'm pretty sure none of this is any good for the signal you're trying to carry.

I'm trying to sort out my studio space once and for all - I'm going to get an audio interface with more inputs to prevent the endless plugging and unplugging, and since it'll (hopefully) be installed in one place I need to get the correct cables to hook it up from various instruments.

XLR is fine, I believe all our cables are balanced and good quality.
What I'm no sure about is jack leads for other instruments. I've always just used normal jack to jack leads, but I'm reading about 'balanced' jack leads. Should I be using these? and in what situations?

For example, so I need a balanced jack lead from guitar to effects pedal, and/or from effect pedal to audio interface? Will it really make a difference?
What about from my keyboards (I have a Roland Fantom X8)?
What about from my Ipad - I'm using the stereo headphone out, into stereo phono lead into a pair of phono to jack converters at the moment. Can I get digital audio out of it?

Should I not bother with this, since the cable runs are typically 2-3 meters or so.
I hope the above makes sense! Please ask any questions if anything's vague or unclear!

The thing you need clarity for here is the type of cable being used, not necessarily the connector.

For an XLR cable you have 3 cables inside, for a basic "instrument cable" you have two, positive and negative signal.

In XLR, beside positive and negative you also have a second cable which is used to capture noise alone (together with phantom power voltage to power certain microphones e.g. Large diaphragm condenser or electret mics) and then essentially subtract this "empty noise" signal from the + positive signal, giving you a cleaner signal. This is what "balanced" actually means.

However, a balanced cable does absolutely nothing if the equipment is only accepting the basic +/- signal, regardless of whether it has XLR female or male connections.

Guitars are 99% of the time NEVER balanced so don't bother using a "balanced" Jack (TRS - tip ring sleeve, as opposed to unbalanced, which is TS Jack - Tip Sleeve only) on those. Most keyboards/synthesisers aren't either. However, on higher end instruments they sometimes are so its worth

A balanced TRS Jack cable can also be used to carry a unbalanced stereo signal in one cable, but this is rarely actually implemented. But you can use the exact same cable to carry a mono signal. You can also use a TRS Jack-fitted balanced c

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PostRe: GRcade Musician's Club - Do You "Do" Music?
by Victor Mildew » Tue Jul 21, 2020 3:05 pm

I didn't know you could get homophobic guitars. What's next, black face pianos?!

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PostRe: GRcade Musician's Club - Do You "Do" Music?
by Green Gecko » Tue Jul 21, 2020 3:07 pm

Lime wrote:Since I'm getting more into recording now, there's a few things I'd never really considered before that I'm not sure if I need to think about/address.

One of them is about cables (cables!)

I'm sure we all have thousands of cables, always the wrong length, with wrong connectors, and you end up with a Frankenstein's monster of a collection of cables into adaptor into gender changer and extension. I'm pretty sure none of this is any good for the signal you're trying to carry.

I'm trying to sort out my studio space once and for all - I'm going to get an audio interface with more inputs to prevent the endless plugging and unplugging, and since it'll (hopefully) be installed in one place I need to get the correct cables to hook it up from various instruments.

XLR is fine, I believe all our cables are balanced and good quality.
What I'm no sure about is jack leads for other instruments. I've always just used normal jack to jack leads, but I'm reading about 'balanced' jack leads. Should I be using these? and in what situations?

For example, so I need a balanced jack lead from guitar to effects pedal, and/or from effect pedal to audio interface? Will it really make a difference?
What about from my keyboards (I have a Roland Fantom X8)?
What about from my Ipad - I'm using the stereo headphone out, into stereo phono lead into a pair of phono to jack converters at the moment. Can I get digital audio out of it?

Should I not bother with this, since the cable runs are typically 2-3 meters or so.
I hope the above makes sense! Please ask any questions if anything's vague or unclear!

The thing you need clarity for here is the type of cable being used, not necessarily the connector.

For a proper XLR cable you have at least 3 cables inside, for a basic "instrument cable" you have two, positive and negative signal.

In XLR, beside positive and negative you also have the shield wired up which is used to capture noise alone and then essentially subtract this "empty noise" signal from the + positive signal, giving you a cleaner signal. This is what "balanced" actually means. A third cable /pin carries phantom power voltage to power certain microphones e.g. Large diaphragm condenser or electret mics.

However, a balanced cable does absolutely nothing if the equipment is only accepting or transmitting the basic +/- signal, regardless of whether it has XLR female or male connections. Noise will always be present in those signals to some degree and might pick up interference from, for example, mobile phones, FM radio or mains hum.

Guitars are 99% of the time NEVER balanced so don't bother using a "balanced" Jack (TRS - tip ring sleeve, as opposed to unbalanced, which is TS Jack - Tip Sleeve only) on those. Most keyboards/synthesisers aren't either. However, on higher end instruments they sometimes are so its worth connecting that up to an audio interface or mixer with BALANCED inputs too. You can also do this in stereo by using two cables.

A balanced TRS Jack cable can also be used to carry a unbalanced stereo signal in one cable, but this is rarely actually implemented. That's why balanced cables are sometimes referred to as "stereo" cables as opposed to "mono" ones. But you can use the exact same cable to carry a mono signal. You can also use a TRS Jack-fitted balanced cable to carry an unbalanced mono signal like a guitar - it won't make any difference though. More often, for equipment that has stereo capability, you have two seperate (Ideally balanced) outputs to use either balanced or unbalanced TRS Jack cables with (or sometimes XLR - the only different in this case is the connector used).

XLR connnectors are useful because they are solid connections that also lock in. One manufactured to good tolerances will take effort to plug-in and "click" satisfyingly into place, and have strain relief. If you want versatility, get some adapters (unreliable to be honest) or XLR to TRS balanced cables. Neutrik are generally regarded as the best connectors and the best instrument cable is Van Damme XKE instrument/microphone cable. Neutrik brands also include REAM.

In short, use a heavily insulated standard instrument cable for a guitar - wether it's balanced or not, it doesn't matter.

Some top end microphones used balanced circuitry, which is rare, so use those with XLR connections and balanced cable, because this will help eliminate noise, improve signal to noise ratio and thus dynamic range. But this will only matter if your equipment - together with everything else in the signal chain, is balanced.

For example, you should also (if you can) use balanced cables, whether XLR on both ends or perhaps TRS Jack on one end XLR on the other, to connect your studio monitors so you have little to no audible "hiss" coming fromy your monitors when your interface is on. I have this, and it's nice.

Most super carboid pickup pattern vocal mics e.g. Shure SM58 are not balanced, so for these it will not matter.

Connect good quality keyboards/synthesisers and other kinds of "electronic" equipment (including outbound hardware) with balanced cables.

Balanced cables don't generally cost that much more than unbalanced one so, if you're unsure, or you want to be able to use the same cables in a future set up where more and more of your equipment is balanced, studio grade stuff, then just buy them. They will still work with unbalanced gear and generally be better quality anyway.

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PostRe: GRcade Musician's Club - Do You "Do" Music?
by Lime » Tue Jul 21, 2020 3:41 pm

Green Gecko wrote:Loads of useful things, as always!


That's awesome. I've taken a look at the specs for the Fantom and it doesn't look like it has balanced outs - but I also discovered it has a digital out - which I should be able to make use of if I end up getting super obsessive about this. Looks like I need a phono lead of some kind to hook it up to my new audio interface. My guitar effects board also has the same kind of digital out. I'll do some A/B comparisons with the analogue line outs and see if there's much difference in the 'quality' of the sound - if I take some D to A and A to D conversions out of the signal chain it'll make a difference, I need to see if it's a good thing or not!

A different question for Ableton users - how do I mark the end of a song, so that playback stops automatically rather than just running forever with no sound, bar after bar?



Finally, I took on board the mixing tips from a few pages back, panned the various instruments I recorded, EQ'd sensibly, brought the overall level down, and my musical 'woolly soup' is now much clearer and defined - thanks!

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PostRe: GRcade Musician's Club - Do You "Do" Music?
by Green Gecko » Tue Jul 21, 2020 6:49 pm

The cable you need for that is Sony/Philips S/PDIF (which I think stands for, well, Sony/Phillips Digitial InterFace). But it's nothing fancy, just a Co-Axial cable like you get with old televisions or hooking up phono/turntables with RCA/phono connectors (RCA being the american standard named after the brand RCA and phono being the UK equivalent term). If in doubt, just search for SPDIF, digital coaxial cable or something like that. It's not so much the cable that matters but the way this is encoded and processed by the respective devices.

So don't go spending £20+ on one of those cables. I think I paid £7 for one, but really any co-axial cable will work.

If your interface doesn't have SPDIF inputs, you might have optical, in which case there are conversion cables/boxes for that.

Yes it'll give you the best signal quality and it'll also probably be in the range of 24-bit 96Khz or up to 192Khz rather than 16-bit 44.4KHz (CD quality standard).

All computer audio interfaces ultimately work with an internal ADC/DAC (or DSP - Digital Signal Processor) chip that is acting like a mixer, routing various signals all over the place and converting them. That's why a good quality computer audio interface is so important, as most onboard sound chips are pants.

But because of that, and especially if your workstation synth/piano/keyboard is a digital synthesiser, using analogue cables doesn't really do you any favours, it'll sound the same, or introduce unnecessary noise. If you have the option, I'd definitely hook up your external instruments digitally if you can.

You can also, using appropriate cables/devices, hook up something insane like 20 separate channels to a single optical ADAT input on some interfaces, such as mine, something I've never done - but has occasionally been useful for surround sound support and playing from a CD player that for some reason has an optical out. Dat 100% digital CD audio at precisely 0dB through monitors and a tad of EQ and zero clipping :datass:

For example, I can add an additional 20 discreet digital audio channels to my FireWire interface via the ADAT input and word clock. (I don't have the Focusrite Liquidfire, but the smaller Saffire Pro 40 that goes for about £350 now. It's roughly half the size in terms of size and functionality, but still has the ability to use their "OctoPre" models as a slave device for even more inputs for, strawberry float knows why I would ever need that).

Image

Lime wrote:A different question for Ableton users - how do I mark the end of a song, so that playback stops automatically rather than just running forever with no sound, bar after bar?

Finally, I took on board the mixing tips from a few pages back, panned the various instruments I recorded, EQ'd sensibly, brought the overall level down, and my musical 'woolly soup' is now much clearer and defined - thanks!


Ableton is a loop-based DAW so ultimately the arrangement view works on the principle. All you need to do is grab the "rubber band" selection area on the timecode strip so that it contains your entire arrangement and then enable the loops switch in the transport (play/pause etc). It'll keep looping your son over and over forever, but it won't just carry on into the end of times like that. A quirk, but nothing awful. :)

Image

Image

You also need to do this to render your track to WAV or AIFF or whatever via File > Export Audio/Video with the length you want.

And no problem about the mixing tips. You don't have to go super far beyond "record all the things as loud as possible and sum them all into one giant stereo mix that is effectively mono" to start to get a handle on mixing essentials. If you want a shortcut just to make things sound "big and not gooseberry fool" (don't do this but, erm, maybe I do this) "acquire" a copy of Waves L3 or L3-LL Multimaxmiser (Multi-Band Compressor) , whack that on the master channel after stopping all clipping on individual channels and set the preset to "Hi-Res 16bit CD Master" and wish you could the same result "manually". By A-Bing that plug-in with your won work, maybe you can... I do this for jam/rough recordings that aren't worth spending weeks mastering because they were never very good to begin with i.e. it's just a stereo recording or 4 track with terrible levels in a rehearsal room etc. Surprising amount of the time, I get away with passing that off as "mastering the track".

But I put my hands up, totally responsible for the loudness wars there. But as long as my 5 listeners can hear it... who cares.

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PostRe: GRcade Musician's Club - Do You "Do" Music?
by Lime » Tue Jul 21, 2020 7:08 pm

I think I need one of these:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0184PIVDU/ ... _lig_dp_it

The Fantom X8 has what looks like a RCA socket on the back, and so doesn't use optical out. To me it feels like a happy accident (for once!) that the new box has the right digital input for what I need, but I'm guessing it's the current standard for digital connection?

I'm getting a Focusrite Scarlett 18i8, and donating my 2i2 to my partner, since she'll mainly be using it for vocals over backing tracks with her students.

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PostRe: GRcade Musician's Club - Do You "Do" Music?
by Green Gecko » Tue Jul 21, 2020 7:38 pm

SPDIF is pretty standard, sometimes you'll get Optical (with ADAT mode) as well. The confusion arises where both the coaxial SPDIF "cable" can be converted to optical and vice versa. Same standard, different transmission method. Preferably, both (which is also good because then you get at least one or two extra channels, which is always nice!). You can set in the drivers / audio interface control panel (make sure that's actually installed... I have one friend who doesn't seem to understand this thing exists) whether you want the optical input to accept the more common SPDIF format (aka Toslink when carried via fibre optic cable) or act as ADAT (which is a different standard, but same fibre optic cabling). You can convert between SPDIF and Optical/Toslink in this way if you have two mismatched devices in this respect using the right cable or generally a little box that does this (convert optical AKA Toslink to SPDIF).

I mention ADAT, forget about this, it's a standard used by some mixers and outbound gear to send tonnes of discreet channels of digital audio at literally lightspeed with no interference.

A SPDIF signal is generally stereo but can be up to 6 channels encoded as Dolby ACS (Dolby Digital 5.1) or DTS. That standard was invented for home theatre setups but can sometimes be used for digitally interlinking two devices for up to 6 channels of discreet audio as well. There also shouldn't be any interference present here as it's a digital signal.

Think of it as like HDMI versus SCART.

Generally speaking, if you hook up a device to your interface via SPDIF it should "just work". The signal will come through as stereo or mono, depending on whatever the device is sending. The audio device will "latch" onto that and sync the audio to its internal 44/96/196Khz timecode. You may have a couple of drop own menus or checkboxes the fiddle with but provided the cable isn't broken it should work. No need to spend £20 on a good quality XLR cable here (I had some of mine hand made), which is obviously beneficial.

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PostRe: GRcade Musician's Club - Do You "Do" Music?
by Lime » Tue Jul 21, 2020 8:26 pm

So will the digital channels just appear as extras when I'm choosing audio inputs within Ableton for a particular track? If so, this is a nice bonus!

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PostRe: GRcade Musician's Club - Do You "Do" Music?
by Green Gecko » Tue Jul 21, 2020 10:23 pm

For Focusrite devices you should have their control panel software, in there you will be able to route where SPDIF goes or yes it'll just show a level in the neat little input channel drop down menu/selector that Ableton tracks have when you hit a note, under input xyz or whatever number, it might be labelled as SPDIF or simply "digital 1/2 or digital 1 or digital 2 (for a mono track).

Have you ever noticed the levels actually go up and down in real time in the input selector for Ableton tracks? It's bloody useful as you don't even have to know or remember which physical input your instrument or mic is plugged into or where you've rerouted something in software, just shout into the mic or hit a key/note on your instrument and you can tell from that. So no selecting every track one at a time until you figure out which one is coming through, maybe if you're drunk or something, useful if you have a patchbay or a tonne of midi channels set up or cables hanging out the back of your interface (mine has 6 inputs on the back) and you can't bothered to trace where that cable leads in your home studio :lol:

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PostRe: GRcade Musician's Club - Do You "Do" Music?
by Lime » Tue Jul 21, 2020 11:13 pm

Green Gecko wrote:Have you ever noticed the levels actually go up and down in real time in the input selector for Ableton tracks? It's bloody useful as you don't even have to know or remember which physical input your instrument or mic is plugged into or where you've rerouted something in software, just shout into the mic or hit a key/note on your instrument and you can tell from that. So no selecting every track one at a time until you figure out which one is coming through, maybe if you're drunk or something, useful if you have a patchbay or a tonne of midi channels set up or cables hanging out the back of your interface (mine has 6 inputs on the back) and you can't bothered to trace where that cable leads in your home studio :lol:


No I hadn't! Just tried it! Awesome. :toot:

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PostRe: GRcade Musician's Club - Do You "Do" Music?
by Oblomov Boblomov » Wed Jul 22, 2020 9:11 am

I learnt on an electric guitar and to this day I would say I still can't play an acoustic properly or without cowering in pain after a few minutes.

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PostRe: GRcade Musician's Club - Do You "Do" Music?
by Lime » Wed Jul 22, 2020 7:18 pm

Oblomov Boblomov wrote:I learnt on an electric guitar and to this day I would say I still can't play an acoustic properly or without cowering in pain after a few minutes.


Same. Although the sound of an acoustic can't be beaten for some songs, I'll always reach for electric if it's possible!

I think I possibly have the worlds loudest fingers/strings squeekyness combo on acoustic, though. The amount of fretnoise I generate drowns out the playing sometimes!

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PostRe: GRcade Musician's Club - Do You "Do" Music?
by Green Gecko » Thu Jul 23, 2020 2:00 pm

That could just be your brain/ears playing tricks. If I specifically listen for those kind of sounds even on a recording of any other guitarist, it is a pretty noisy instrument, but it's part of the timbre. But our ears naturally follow the melody once settling into that, so it's a psychoacoustic thing too.

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