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How hard to you strike the string?

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Oct 17, 2019 - 5:59:18 AM
201 posts since 11/18/2010

I know I should not have to ask this, however, recently folks in the jam circle have told me they can't hear me when I play. I am assuming it is not the guitar since I play a Beard JD Blackbeard. I assume it is not the strings since I changed them right before the jam and used Beard 29s. That leave only the player as the culprit. How hard do you strike the strings and what other cockpit errors could be causing this loss of sound? Howard, I am hoping you and other wonderful players can help.

Oct 17, 2019 - 6:18:08 AM

2023 posts since 8/3/2008

Tough to tell without seeing you play.

In general, as with all acoustic instruments,  they have to be "pushed" in order to do what the guitar is designed to do. You must play with "authority".

You can get some idea about the force required by watching YouTube videos of your favorite players, their right hands specifically.

A common issue with beginners & intermediate players is they really don't "attack" the guitar with enough force to get either volume or TONE, unable to overcome the inertia of string physics. Sometimes they can't get the volume of the guitar itself to overcome the sound of the picks striking the strings. That's a clue.

On the other hand, if it's a terribly loud jam maybe the other folks are just being rude. ;-)

Like I said at the outset. I have not witnessed you play so consider my thoughts accordingly.

Good luck.

h

Oct 17, 2019 - 7:46:21 AM

1056 posts since 9/29/2009

I found that I wasn't getting a solid sound because my finger picks weren't exactly perpendicular when striking the strings. Simply rotating the picks on my fingers a few degrees made a noticeable improvement.

Oct 17, 2019 - 7:56:17 AM

resotom

USA

954 posts since 6/13/2012

Excellent post !! Another consideration would be to use angled finger picks such as ProPik and Zookies.. Try brass finger picks instead of stainless or nickel. The thickness of picks whether they are plastic or metal also could make a difference. Blue Chip thumb picks can be modified to get the angle you are looking for. Good luck in your quest and you could go to the 'search' tab on this forum to learn more.

Oct 17, 2019 - 7:59:08 AM

1165 posts since 7/28/2008

Howard offers some good advice. Is there another player that you can swap guitars with and see what happens? I was in a jam with another player who was not very loud when he played. I played his guitar and it was fine when I played it. Part of the learning experience is to utilize the dynamics of the instrument, loud when you need to be and soft when you need to be.

Oct 17, 2019 - 8:09:51 AM

docslyd

USA

218 posts since 11/27/2014

An eye opener for me, was when I was told this from a seasoned player: Don't consider "picking" technique as plucking the string or pulling your picking finger towards you, rather, "driving" your picking finger (especially the thumb) down and towards the string until the string pops off the end of you finger. Easy to show....wordy to explain. Some experienced players will use the thumb on all six strings when possible and not restrict it to the bottom three. The thumb contains most of your power. I agree with Howard that "picking with authority" is a good concept to consider and can deliver the best tone that the instrument is capable of. Attitude contributes a lot, whereas, tentative attack comes across as uncertain and weak. One of the beautiful features of playing the dobro, is how many (infinite) possible ways one can attack the strings or move the bar to express the emotion that you desire. Sometimes I will hit the strings very hard, and sometimes I will move my hand way up the neck and approach them (without fulcrum on the cover plate) with a feather light touch. Whichever approach the situation and song calls for.....

Edited by - docslyd on 10/17/2019 08:11:37

Oct 17, 2019 - 8:24:22 AM
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53 posts since 12/7/2015

another reason to see YOU at RESOGAT

Oct 17, 2019 - 8:31:35 AM

2023 posts since 8/3/2008

quote:
Originally posted by docslyd

An eye opener for me, was when I was told this from a seasoned player: Don't consider "picking" technique as plucking the string or pulling your picking finger towards you, rather, "driving" your picking finger (especially the thumb) down and towards the string until the string pops off the end of you finger.


This is how I envision right hand attack.

Forget differences in pick material. That's a straw argument at best. We're talking 100% technique here.

all my imho of course.

Oct 17, 2019 - 8:55:54 AM

2023 posts since 8/3/2008

One last personal observation. The BlackBeard was designed for Jerry Douglas, arguably a "hard driving" player. In my experience with "Blackie" (JD's guitar) and other Douglas guitars they always sounded better to me when "pushed" .

I think many would be surprised how forcefully a "good" player attacks a guitar in order to extract tone and establish sustain when required.

h

Oct 17, 2019 - 8:58:23 AM

263 posts since 11/28/2012

Some good responses already, I’ll just add in a thought or two.

Do you play sitting or standing at your jams? I find that standing helps a ton in that you can angle the cone toward the other players to be heard (instead of the sound waves shooting straight up to the ceiling). This may or may not be appropriate, if everyone else is sitting.

Howard alludes to this, but sometimes other jammers simply don’t lay back enough when it is your turn to lead. If you have 3 fiddles and 3 banjos going full guns, not much you can do wink.  Except maybe tactfully introduce some jam etiquette suggestions.

Best regards

Oct 17, 2019 - 11:35:34 AM

jfrench

USA

201 posts since 11/18/2010

Thanks to all for the replies. It is so awful that I have been learning to play this beautiful instument for eight years and I still haven't learned how to strike the strings. As I was reading the responses, it reminded me that I have noticed the high D string would be out of it slot on several occasions so obviously I am pulling up on that that string.  I play standing up in our band and seated in jams.  I have the fishman pick up and play amped up in the band.  When playing through the board, I don't play as hard, but maybe that is a mistake also. 

I need to go back and get a beginners book I guess. Frank, I do plan on being at Resogat next year. I have missed two in a row, one due to surgery and one due to my 50th high school reunion. I am looking forward to next year. I will get some of you to show me how to hit the strings. Very frustrating to me to say the least. Thanks Again.

Edited by - jfrench on 10/17/2019 11:41:36

Oct 17, 2019 - 11:56:29 AM
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docslyd

USA

218 posts since 11/27/2014

When it comes to the sound which results from any technique, a good exercise is to sit in a quiet place and listen to the result. Strike the string from various angles and attacks. Just strike one note repeatedly and let your ears tell you whether you are happy with the result. Do this with the slide as well. Repeat the note over and over. Do you like the intonation? Do you like the vibrato? Do you like the speed at which the slide approaches the note? Do you like the attack which with the pick strikes the string? Try with the thumb, middle, index finger. Pick across, then with downward pressure. A little quiet time alone listening to oneself can be a revealing experience. Don't be frustrated, just listen and be critical.

Oct 17, 2019 - 5:33:27 PM

1179 posts since 1/14/2011

quote:
Originally posted by hlpdobro

In general, as with all acoustic instruments,  they have to be "pushed" in order to do what the guitar is designed to do. You must play with "authority".


John, have you taken any in-person lessons? I record all my lessons, and when I first started taking lessons with Mike Witcher, I noticed that his sound was bigger, clearer, and punchier than mine, even when he was playing my instrument.

I have been working on this for 7+ years and now have improved to the point where my volume is the equal of Mike's, but he is still able to produce a much better tone than I can.

Needless to say, I suggest that you take some in-person lessons and record them for study. I also recommend that you record your jam sessions and listen to them. Is it true that you cannot be heard? Or does it sound fine on the recording? If it sounds fine, then maybe the other players are the ones with the problem...

quote:
Originally posted by docslyd

Don't consider "picking" technique as plucking the string or pulling your picking finger towards you, rather, "driving" your picking finger (especially the thumb) down and towards the string until the string pops off the end of you finger.


This is what I learned in-person through watching and talking with Mike Witcher, but there is an additional element: the finger motion must be high-speed to get the driving sound without pick buzz.

quote:
Originally posted by hlpdobro

You can get some idea about the force required by watching YouTube videos of your favorite players, their right hands specifically.


This is one of my faves for watching JD's right hand.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnoaqHqgFkI

Oct 18, 2019 - 8:40:56 AM

jfrench

USA

201 posts since 11/18/2010

Folks, I don't want to go off into the deep end with this, but, I downloaded a DB app for my Iphone and took a reading. Playing like I usually play, I found the DB level to be 79 to 84. Really playing with authority as I perceive it to be, the DB reading is 93 to 95 right over the string hole. If anyone is familiar with DB and how to interpret them, can you please let me know how 93 to 95 stacks up against your sound when you play. I was doing forward rolls on the top four strings. I can't get above 105 db no matter what I do. The 105 reading was just strumming as hard as i could across all strings. Thanks, John

Oct 18, 2019 - 2:45:28 PM

daver

USA

615 posts since 9/2/2008

Every 10 dB increase in sound pressure level is roughly perceived as a doubling in volume. So in your case, your average "authority" level is more than twice as loud as your average "usual" level. And, your strum is about twice as loud as your "authority" level. How that compares with other players would require them to do the same sound level meter experiment you're doing.

Oct 24, 2019 - 3:15:01 PM

1179 posts since 1/14/2011

quote:
Originally posted by jfrench

Folks, I don't want to go off into the deep end with this, but, I downloaded a DB app for my Iphone and took a reading. 


I have not found a dB app on a phone that is accurate. I tried some next to a real dB meter and they were all over the place. The problem is likely the app, not you.

Nov 14, 2019 - 7:38:23 AM

301 posts since 8/24/2013

quote:
Originally posted by jfrench

I know I should not have to ask this, however, recently folks in the jam circle have told me they can't hear me when I play. I am assuming it is not the guitar since I play a Beard JD Blackbeard. I assume it is not the strings since I changed them right before the jam and used Beard 29s. That leave only the player as the culprit. How hard do you strike the strings and what other cockpit errors could be causing this loss of sound? Howard, I am hoping you and other wonderful players can help.


Maybe they are playing to obnoxiously loud. You could get a Square neck Bobtail and turn up the volume. Try moving your right hand up and see if that helps.

Nov 14, 2019 - 10:38:41 AM

3246 posts since 7/27/2008

He already has the Fishman Nashville pickup in the BlackBeard. The model comes equipped with the pickup unless one were to order it from Beard without the pickup.

It's a great sounding high quality guitar that has plenty of volume unplugged. It would be pretty tough to go to a Gretsch Bobtail from a Beard.  That's like going "slumming."wink

And in most acoustic jams it would go over like a lead balloon to show up with an amplifier.

Edited by - MarkinSonoma on 11/14/2019 10:42:30

Nov 14, 2019 - 11:16:42 AM

daver

USA

615 posts since 9/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Oboe Cadobro
quote:
Originally posted by jfrench

Folks, I don't want to go off into the deep end with this, but, I downloaded a DB app for my Iphone and took a reading. 


I have not found a dB app on a phone that is accurate. I tried some next to a real dB meter and they were all over the place. The problem is likely the app, not you.


Good catch, Dane; sorry I missed it.  You're absolutely right about sound level meter phone apps; the phone microphone has an automatic gain control and a a voiceband filter that would throw off anything.  I had an app and removed it shortly after.

Surprisingly, the old Radio Shack sound level meters are reasonably accurate (within 1-2dB of a Bruel&Kjaer) and were relatively cheap.  There are a few for sale out on the interwebs.  The older analog meter ones are purportedly more accurate over frequency than the newer digital readout ones, but either would be an improvement over a phone app.

Nov 15, 2019 - 10:55:44 PM

301 posts since 8/24/2013

quote:
Originally posted by MarkinSonoma

He already has the Fishman Nashville pickup in the BlackBeard. The model comes equipped with the pickup unless one were to order it from Beard without the pickup.

It's a great sounding high quality guitar that has plenty of volume unplugged. It would be pretty tough to go to a Gretsch Bobtail from a Beard.  That's like going "slumming."wink

And in most acoustic jams it would go over like a lead balloon to show up with an amplifier.

Mark I don't think so.
Nov 16, 2019 - 6:05:19 AM

3246 posts since 7/27/2008

Little ray, you don't think so what? 

Dec 14, 2019 - 2:29:47 PM

Al

USA

27 posts since 12/9/2019

Having a heavier bar or making sure there is good pressure from the bar onto the strings can make a difference in volume as well.

Jan 2, 2020 - 3:07:02 PM
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25 posts since 2/7/2011

When I started the dobro I was already an experienced and proficient guitar player. I expected to just pick up the dobro and run with it. I was appalled at the horrible noises I made, and how I sounded nothing like other players I knew, or the recordings I was listening to. I spent the first 2 or 3 years just getting a good strong clean tone, and I practised a lot. Don’t be discouraged, it will come, just needs time and practice. One tip - play a note, doesn’t matter which one or which string. Keep repeating and gradually increase the pressure so you produce more volume until you are playing as loud as you can. Thrash it. It won’t sound good. Reduce the pressure slightly and you should find your instruments sweet spot. A beautiful, firm and singing tone will be the result.

Jan 4, 2020 - 8:52:31 PM

Dobby

Canada

113 posts since 2/19/2017

quote:
Originally posted by jfrench

Thanks to all for the replies. It is so awful that I have been learning to play this beautiful instument for eight years and I still haven't learned how to strike the strings. As I was reading the responses, it reminded me that I have noticed the high D string would be out of it slot on several occasions so obviously I am pulling up on that that string.  I play standing up in our band and seated in jams.  I have the fishman pick up and play amped up in the band.  When playing through the board, I don't play as hard, but maybe that is a mistake also. 

I need to go back and get a beginners book I guess. Frank, I do plan on being at Resogat next year. I have missed two in a row, one due to surgery and one due to my 50th high school reunion. I am looking forward to next year. I will get some of you to show me how to hit the strings. Very frustrating to me to say the least. Thanks Again.


jfrench  I played a Beard R body and a National Rob Ickes Horn, down in T.O. when i went to get my PBS-D.

They are loud instruments. However, even those instruments if not plucked or "powered" into, will sound meek and tinny. having said that, I think if you have been playing 8 years, even if it is your "attack" (i like to think of it as 'aggression') it won't take you long to be "self aware" of the issue and adjust. Thats the first step IF thats the issue. So don't fret it (no pun intended). you will not take long to adjust.

but...I just watched a Greg Booth Vid just before coming here, (I was  hoping to run into him here to ask what his camera setup is to get the downward shot over the dobby).

anyway he plays what I would say is moderate attack and volume. at least on that vid. and Im sure he could be more aggressive if needed.  whereas, I play with a very aggressive attack more so than most, but I have a prior skillset that developed my right hand. before coming to the reso.  so every player is different. there are so many factors like, the build of a player, the instrument, his experience level etc. 

I am also still learning and will never stop...

You will know when  you are pushing your instrument to its limits.

i call the reso the "bone phone" cuz of how it resonates through my entire body. Thats when i know Im playing it to its potential.

give that a try and ask your self, if this sounds good to you? thats all that matters. I believe all reso players should have a little bit of an 'attitude' to be good players.

Sometimes you have to ''persuade' the instrument to do what you want it to do. the only other option is , maybe something with the cone? or an adjustment to the bridge? spider?  those things can also create issues, but...its  a Beard..lol not my old regal rd 40.  soooo

pls let us know how it is going and if there is anything I/we can contribute to killing the banjo's and fiddles out there for ya?

Jan 5, 2020 - 12:57:38 AM
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jkeys

USA

1 posts since 4/10/2019

It sounds like you have the hardware, so I offer:
One thing that was hard for me to learn is that the "overall mix" that I hear isn't what the anyone else hears. Like a fiddle, dobro resonance is aimed at the player so that player thinks they are much louder than they really are. I have to pick 1-1/2 times louder than what I think I need. I don't mean you need to thrash it, just be sure that you're not holding yourself back because the mix sounds right to you ears.
(Playing a Beard JD-sig currently, need "down'd banjo" stickers for the case )

Jan 5, 2020 - 7:18:24 AM

badger

USA

416 posts since 8/10/2008

As Andy Hall once put it in a student critique, a good sound requires "testicular fortitude". It's a loud instrument. Play it loud. For me (a chronic under-player), upgrading my right hand jewelry helped a lot. Bob Acri stainless on the fingers, Blue Chip thumb.

I think the habit of underplaying develops as we begin with the instrument and want to play quietly to minimize the impact of our mistakes, and the habit doesn't go away as we progress. Learn to play forcefully at full volume. That's where the tone is, and the mechanics that produce that tone will still be there when you choose to play more quietly. I was taught to visualize the attack (particularly with the thumbpick) as hitting down, completely through the string, and coming to rest on the adjacent string. YMMV, but it works for me.

If your D string pops out of the slot (you didn't specify whether it was at the nut or bridge insert) it might be time to revisit your setup.

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