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Guitarist with awful tone (picking)

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by StarCrazy, Jun 26, 2017.

  1. StarCrazy


    Jun 26, 2017
    England, UK
    Hey there. I'm new to this board. Been stalking/roaming around as a reader for a while.

    My band has two guitarists. One has zero issues and does everything flawlessly. The other has serious trouble with many aspects. One main thing that he doesn't get is tone.

    At first we thought this was an issue with his guitar, as his guitar also didn't keep its tuning well (he was using a Mexican Fender Strat for sometime). So he bought a really pricey PRS strat. And nothing really changed. It sounded clearer, louder, brighter, but still huge issues with tone and note dynamics.

    So he bought a new amp, and this just added way more issues to the mix as he doesn't understand amp settings very well (even now a year on he struggles, but thats a different topic).

    Last practise we had he played an acoustic because he didn't have his PRS with him. And weirdly it sounded far far better (consider we're not a clean rock band). The key difference being consistency in dynamics and allowing strings to ring nicely. Its my understanding that he learnt on an acoustic, and its my assumption that hes picking his electric guitar harder because he is used to picking harder that with his acoustic guitar.

    With this in mind: is there anything that he can do to play 'smoother' and more consistently on an electric?
    Do you think encouraging him to get heavier strings would be a good idea?
    Are there better choices instruments/pickups than a strat (single coils) if he is picking too harshly?

    We've been together for around 3 years-ish and we've told him so many times to play softly and while its gotten mildly better its still far away from sounding right.
    Jimmy4string likes this.
  2. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    In some ways he has to help himself here. If his tone sucks, he is the first line of defense to fixing it and needs to have the experience to know when his tone needs fixing. He may not have this. Honestly, with me not being there to hear it i really can't give much of any suggestion to fix it. If he is picking too hard, then a heavier gauge set might help. But picking softer would work too for someone that is not brain dead :)
    StarCrazy likes this.
  3. Roland GR 88

    Roland GR 88

    Sep 16, 2013
    If you have a compressor lying around get him to try it. High ratio and threshold settings could help and he may not miss the dynamics since he already doesn't seem to notice.
    StarCrazy likes this.
  4. Aberdumbie


    Jan 22, 2016
    South Carolina
    Well... The hardest part has been tackled. He has a problem and is apparently willing to recognize and work on on it. I would suggest he get one of those clip on pick ups for his acoustic while we works on the problem.
    Jimmy4string likes this.
  5. StarCrazy


    Jun 26, 2017
    England, UK
    Aber, I appreciate your response. However I failed to mention a few things: he has been with us and we have been saying 'pick softer' for about 3 years. The issue isn't so much his willingness to learn, but more the ability of putting it into practise and doing it.

    Our guitarist also primarily plays electric.
    And he was using a clip on pickup on his acoustic, although that is a great suggestion. While it sounds dumb in theory, they are in practice remarkably better than any acoustic inner mic I've witnessed.
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2017
  6. StarCrazy


    Jun 26, 2017
    England, UK
    Thats a great call. The problem is that he sucks at using FX pedals, someone else would have to set it up for him. But I still like that idea. Will see if I can do that ASAP
    Jimmy4string likes this.
  7. StarCrazy


    Jun 26, 2017
    England, UK
    Senato thanks very much for your well measured response too.
    I think there was a point when he was using heavier gauge strings to combat his awful picking, but he found certain techniques (like going from 0, 5, 0, 7, on loop difficult, whether tapped or picked) and switched back to lighter gauge.

    I especially liked your braindead comment! haha
    Seanto likes this.
  8. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    He needs to practice.

    You need to record rehearsals so he can hear himself.

    If he doesn't "get it" after a while you need a new guitar player.
    jchrisk1 and StarCrazy like this.
  9. sm49341


    May 12, 2013
    IME some guys never can get a good tone. They are frustrating to play with. Thank god I escaped that situation. (been there twice now)
    I play some guitar too, and i think the issue is a lot about how you clench the strings. Electric strings are lighter, and the frets are usually fatter/taller. You can make a nice chord sound offish if you press too hard. Great example is an open E chord. They sound wonderfull on an acoustic. On an electric the note played on the G string is a tad sharp at best, and if you grip too hard its profoundly sharp. Or sometimes on a chord you are pressing some strings down straight, but slightly pushing or pulling a string or two. just clean fretting and playing makes a huge difference. I know, because i deal with these struggles at times. But you work on them to overcome.
    Can he swallow some pride and take some lessons and ask for help on this? I took some last year, really helped me, i needed drillls. Boring finger drills. My nephew who is a far better guitarist than me still takesthe occasional lesson. No shame in some coaching. Miguel Cabrera has a hitting coach.
  10. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    One more suggestion that just came into mind...a lighter pick. A light pick can most certainly change the tone as it offers less resistance with each stroke.
    Jimmy4string likes this.
  11. vulturedog


    Feb 19, 2013
    You sure this guys name isn't "Chris"? Cause this sounds a lot like our old singer/rhythm guitarist.... terrible sound, terrible style of play never changed his strings... and worst of all never practiced........
    Jimmy4string likes this.
  12. Boot Soul

    Boot Soul

    Feb 10, 2009
    Maybe heavier strings / more neck relief / higher action - seemed to work well for Jimi, Stevie Ray, and Jerry :)
  13. "No shame in some coaching. Miguel Cabrera has a hitting coach."

    I like the coaching/hitting/baseball analogy although I would have said "Mike Trout"! :)
    sm49341, ezra1 and StarCrazy like this.
  14. I'll never understand why some people feel they need to bash away/play harder than necessary. That's why we have amps and a volume control on the amp. Picking harder is just wasted energy.
    Nashrakh and AltGrendel like this.
  15. Lessons
  16. jchrisk1


    Nov 15, 2009
    Northern MI
    What's that supposed to mean?!
    I kid. I kid.

    Some people just don't understand dynamics and eq. I played with a guy for almost a year that was that way. We are still great friends and coworkers, and i talk to him everyday about things like this. He still doesn't quite get it, but there has been improvement, very slow improvement. Over a very long period. Not everyone has got it.

    Try and teach him how to use his gear. Telling him to play softer isn't going to accomplish anything. You have to teach him, or let him go. Personally, I would choose the latter.
  17. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    I am a patient person, but no way would I invest three years into a bad guitarist, especially if there is already an excellent guitarist in the band.
    StarCrazy likes this.
  18. StarCrazy


    Jun 26, 2017
    England, UK
    What you are saying is actually very on point. It just so happens we were moments away from sending him packing a few months ago. Too many bad habits musically and socially, and an overall lack of effort. But he turned around and tried a lot harder to practise and get motivated to do things and our gigs sounded better.
    He's not the world's worse guitarist. Hes just incredibly sloppy, and has a lot of issues as a musician and as a band mate.
  19. Xandrell


    Aug 23, 2014
    This should be an easy fix. First the amp. Does it have any type of overdrive or saturation settings that can be increased? Second, if not in addition to; an overdrive or compressor pedal. An overdrive would be easier to work with but I think you should take the time to learn and use a compressor. A good and easy one with gain reduction metering is the same as the bass comp, the MXR M76 Studio Compressor. Third, thin pick. Good luck.
    StarCrazy likes this.
  20. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    A guitarist with bad tone is a bad guitarist. I would fire a bad guitarist and replace with a good guitarist. It's that simple.
    crguti likes this.

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