Prepared guitar: a list of techniques

This list may be useful to think not only about how guitarists and other musicians [bassists, pianists, violinists] can generate a wide
pallette of sound- but also to consider how/where on an instrument a sensor system might be placed.
quoted from this source: http://ihatemusic.noquam.com/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=5858

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PREPARED GUITAR TECHNIQUES

1.Techniques for preparing the strings directly

-Objects can be attached directly to strings (paperclips, rubber bands, alligator clips), woven through two or more adjacent strings, or placed between the strings and the neck/body creating a “false bridge”. When an object is woven between strings or resting unsecured on adjacent strings, rattling effects and accidental note soundings may occur

-Continuum of preparation objects concerning sound quality-

-Brightest, most resonant, most sustain

Dense, heavy, metal preparations (Alligator clips, Metal utensils, coins, etc.)
Less dense, light, metal preparations (paperclips, foil, wire, springs etc.)
Stone preparations

-Less bright, more percussive, less resonant, less sustain

Wooden preparations (clothespins, wood blocks, pencils, toothpicks)
Plastic preparations (credit cards, pens, straws, plastic utensils)

-Dark sounding, very percussive, little harmonic content, little sustain

Cloth objects
Rubber objects (erasers and so on)
Leather objects
Paper/cardboard objects
Styrofoam objects

-As preparation objects become less dense and lighter (moving down the scale), greater lengths of string in contact with the preparation object will cause the resulting sound to be more percussive and less defined harmonically (for instance, plastic cup lids create a more percussive and less sustaining sound compared to straws woven horizontally across the strings)

-Free-floating preparations will be more resonant and have more sustain generally than those placed under the strings or between the strings and body

-The position of the preparation relative to the pickups determines which part of the sounding string is amplified; preparations placed between two amplified pickups may cause the pickups to amplify both sides of the string equally.

-The position of the preparation relative to the nodal points of the string determine which overtones will be emphasized

-Contact mics can be fastened to the preparation itself

2.Techniques for exciting the strings directly

-Monitor/amp feedback

-Ebow strings on normal playing area

-Ebow strings above nut, behind bridge, false bridge, or preparation

-Tapped harmonics over nodal points on fretboard

-False harmonics (touch and pluck at node)

-Tapping object on instrument body, hardware, or table to excite strings (high gain helps)

-Tapping object or fingers on strings themselves (on normal playing area or behind bridge, false bridge, or preparation)

-Tapping or plucking fretted notes behind preparation or false bridge

-Using movement of pickup switch to set strings vibrating (high gain helps)

-Using electric fan to excite the strings (no contact)

-Using electric fan or other motor to directly contact and excite strings (moving parts contact/bow string)

-Using vibrating mechanism to excite strings through direct contact, contact with strings outside of normal playing area, contact with body, or contact with table to create sympathetic string vibrations (assuming one is using tabletop guitar)

-Tapping/strumming/plucking the preparations on string
a. strum business card woven in strings or excite with motor
b. tap free-floating alligator clip attached to string to set string vibrating, muting strings on either side of preparation as desired
c. allow string vibration to cause non-free-floating clips to rattle/sound notes on adjacent strings
d. Ruler/file/other preparation woven in strings can be struck and allowed to vibrate, creating rattling on adjacent strings
e. Spring or other preparation with its own vibrating frequency can be woven through strings and
struck/strummed/excited, sending object’s fundamental vibration as well as string’s sound through the pickups

-Traditional Bowing
a. Bowing the strings themselves in the normal playing area, closer to nut or bridge to bring out harmonics, farther away for stronger fundamental
b. Bowing the strings above the nut or behind the bridge (or a false bridge or preparation on string)
c. Bowing the body directly, the hardware, or the preparations directly

-Plastic knife or file used to bow/saw strings (normal playing area, behind bridge, false bridge, or preparation) – Detuning or muting for rattling non-tonal textural sound or allowing strings to sound normally for harmonics/overtones

-A length of cloth or other material (such as magnetic tape) can be woven through the strings and used as a ‘bow’

-Slide or other metal object, plastic object, or wood can be used to bow/saw strings horizontally across the strings to excite fretted notes or stop the string and excite notes themselves (following normal continuum of sound quality regarding preparation materials with plastic, paper and wood creating a drier, less harmonic sound and denser materials creating a more resonant overtone-rich sound)

-Objects can be moved vertically along strings to create scraping sounds/excite harmonics/sound fretted notes

– normal-type bowing (roughly perpendicular to strings) with:
rosined wood
rusty metal rods
stretched rubber
sidewalk chalk

– longitudinal bowing on unwound strings a la Ellen Fullman, Brett Larner using…
rubber, rosined objects, hands

-Using the sympathetic vibrations caused by nearby metal objects to excite strings without contacting them (tuning forks, bells). This can also be done with the voice or by a number of other methods; the purpose is to use these source sounds to trigger vibrations in the strings rather than amplify the source sounds themselves, which should remain unheard. Different overtones can be emphasized depending on the position of the sound source along the string length.

-When a preparation contacts two or more strings, one can strike the adjacent string (muted or outside of the normal playing area) to set a string vibrating, changing the character of the attack and possibly adding sympathetic vibrations from the struck string to the overtones of the second string

-A loudspeaker placed in proximity to the strings can be used to excite the strings, while the pickups amplify only the strings sympathetic vibrations and not the original signal from the loudspeakers (assuming the speaker is sufficiently far away from the pickups)

-An object woven through the strings can be bowed or excited with a fan/ebow/other device. Creates a similar sound to exciting the strings directly but with a diminished attack

3.Interacting with the body of the instrument and non-electronic hardware (tuners, bridge, etc) directly to create sounds

-Tapping on the body, hardware, tremolo springs, or pickguard with fingers or objects, audible directly through the pickups because of microphonics or sympathetic vibrations on the muted strings – the continuum of preparation materials also has an effect here (striking the body with a coin produces a sharper, harder sound than striking it with a cloth-covered mallet)

-Using a traditional bow, electric fans, or motors on the body of the instrument, the bridge, or the tremolo springs

4.Interacting with the pickups and wiring system directly

-Devices with electric motors can be used to interact magnetically with the pickups if held in close enough proximity to them
(Cassette players, CD players, Handheld fans, Vibrating mechanisms)

-The terminals of a battery can be touched to the hardware/strings/pickups, in some instances the current may make interesting sounds beyond what one would normally get by preparing with standard metal objects…

-Some other electronic devices which transmit radiation will cause interference or static when placed in close proximity to the pickups
(Remote controls, Cell phones, Fluorescent lights)

-Electronic devices with a speaker will be amplified by the pickups if placed in close proximity to them
(Shortwave radios, Walkmen/Discman/MD through headphones
Any speakers or headphones monitoring the guitar signal will create microphonic feedback)

-Depending on the quality and characteristics of the pickups and volume and tone knobs, certain settings of the pickup selector or knobs may produce 60 cycle hum or audible interference which can be utilized

-Metal objects such as steel wool can contact the pickups directly; sounds can be made through the contact between the two (metal contacting the pickup magnets) or by manipulating/exciting the metal object in contact with the pickup to further explore the sound qualities of the object

-Touching a string or metal hardware when the instrument is not otherwise grounded can cause crackling or static effects

-Using a resonant metal object (bells, tuning forks) over the pickups to amplify the sound of the objects themselves rather than manipulate or excite the strings

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