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Watch those hands, buster!
Technique for Tone
© Frank Ford, 4/13/98; Photos by FF, 4/9/98

"Can you hear that buzz?"

"It buzzes when I play hard."

"I raised the action but it still buzzes."

"It buzzes in first position, high on the neck, everywhere."

I frequently hear complaints about buzzing only to notice that the cause is partly or completely in the hands of the player, and not the fault of the instrument!

Check out the next 4 photographs.

If your pick attacks the string at a 45 degree angle, two things will certainly happen:

First, you'll cause the string to bounce and vibrate straight up and down perpendicular to the fingerboard. You'll get that familiar buzz if you play hard because the string will bump into the frets right away.

Second, when you try to make an upstroke or "back pick" you'll snag the pick under the string every time:

If you hold your pick firmly at 90 degrees perpendicular to the fingerboard, then you'll cause the string to vibrate sideways, parallel to the frets:

That way the string is much less likely to bump into the frets when you play hard!

Not only that, but the return stroke or up-pick will be at the same angle and efficiency as the down-stroke:

This really is a big deal.

Lots of experienced players are unaware that the way they attack the string makes a real difference in how it vibrates.

It's not only the flatpick. The same thing goes for fingerstyle players. Dig in hard with your thumb and make the string squirt straight up and down against the fingerboard, or catch it more gently so that it vibrates sideways parallel to the frets. The choice is yours!

By the way, this isn't exactly new information. Look a the last sentence in this
little leaflet Gibson packed with new instruments 90 years ago.



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