The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
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  1. #1

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    Just wanted to risk what might seem like a total nerd-arama post - but isn't because it's about the difference between digging the sound one is making on the bandstand and not digging it.

    (Some might even want to turn their noses up about being too bothered about the details of one's sound - joe pass wasn't! and wes sounds different on every record: shouldn't we just focus on the music guys? Well - no it now seems to me: I think that your musicality can be seriously compromised if you happen not to find a way to generate a sound you genuinely like - and my god with all the kit out there it is very easy to fail to find a sound that one really likes - i.e. to con oneself into thinking one is happy with a sound that one has spent a fortune trying to sort out when one is not really happy with it)

    I've been doing a regular gig in this bar/restaurant on a Wed. night - and I've been, in a way for the first time, genuinely happy about the guitar sound....(I have a newish ax - a newish amp: and they've both been working very very well.)

    last night i used a different and more expensive cable - and it was just impossible to get the sound I've been getting consistently for months. I couldn't work it out on the gig - I thought it was maybe new strings - or the fact that someone had moved the piano and it had pretty serious tuning issues (horrid). But I worked it out when I got home - and the difference is night and day: the new cable makes the guitar sound too bright and brittle and harsh; the old cable mellows out the highs without making anything dull.

    i don't care WHY this happens - I'm operating purely at the level of how the guitar sounds on stage. The bass player was clear that it didn't sound like me - and i was so pissed off i didn't really want to play and could not relax at all. On another occasion I had my Quilter micro-pro 8 set on a different 'voice' (the amp has like 6 pre-set eq settings which shape the sound in strikingly different ways) - and the guitar sounded harsh and brittle until i changed it back to 'brown' from 'full eq'. I quite liked 'full eq' at home - but 16 bars of it on the gig made it obvious it was no good. The new cable made at least this much difference to the sound!

    I also have an Evans amp which works wonderfully and which I used heavily for five years before getting this Quilter. If you set the quilter up properly it sounds way 'nicer' than the Evans - it has all the richness of tone but it also has a sort of Fendery freshness which is addictive and very musical indeed. And again - the new cable messed up the sound at least as much as the Evans messes it up relative to the Quilter (on 'brown').

    i'm using an Eastman 580 which has a carved spruce top and laminated maple sides and back: this handles the too clear/bright vs too dark and dull issue with genuine assurance. I've had everything from 175s (old and new - re-issue and original) - L5s - Comins / Campellone / Sadowsky: none have handled this basic tonal issue as well as the Eastman. On top of everything the Eastman shows no sign of wanting to feedback even with a rather over enthusiastic and heavy-handed piano player.

    So the point is that there are way too many variables - that if only one goes wrong you can find yourself making a sound that makes you cringe - and if you don't find a sound you can really relax with it is very hard to let yourself go and play.

    btw - the good cable - the one that mellows the highs without loss of definition and clarity - is a 30 foot coiled cable from A'addario. I just ordered another - and I'll have to get a stash because I'm not messing with this nonsense any more. The bad one was a 3m klotz 'la grange'.

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  3. #2

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    I'm a big proponent of "just sound good."

    Chasing a particular tone every situation is an exercise in futility. There's just too many variables that can get in the way...even in the same room on different days!

  4. #3

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    interesting - but not getting your point

    of course one tries to just sound good - and part of my point was that I was managing this nicely (in fact better than I've managed it before), and then I changed the cable

    same room - same band....

    of course changes in the acoustics of the room introduce a variable it is pretty much impossible to control (I was, perhaps wrongly, abstracting from that.)

    but i'm unhappy with the 'klotz sound' in my room just like i'm unhappy with it in the bar...and the long coiled cable corrects the problem in both rooms

    for years I used a mahogany martin with a fishman rare-earth humbucker in the sound hole rather than a 60's 175 i had in the house - so I've always been prepared to be very flexible in pursuit of a sound I can live with...

    in a way the deep musical issue is that you can't get on with the musical business of learning how to pick and fret (etc.) really well if your set-up generates a sound that grates on your musical nerves. the important thing is to get on with that musical business - but it can be scuppered by.....the wrong cable

  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Groyniad
    interesting - but not getting your point

    of course one tries to just sound good - and part of my point was that I was managing this nicely (in fact better than I've managed it before), and then I changed the cable

    same room - same band....

    The part where you said the bass player said that it "didn't sound like me (you)" made me think you were kind of chasing the same exact tone every session...

    Were you not able to control the highs with the amp's EQ?

  6. #5

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    Get a good guitar, a good cable and a good amp, and any deficiencies in your playing are basically your fault.

    it is therefore imperative to only own bad and defective gear so that you have an alibi.

    I believe this is a fundamental and common error.

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Groyniad
    btw - the good cable - the one that mellows the highs without loss of definition and clarity - is a 30 foot coiled cable from A'addario. I just ordered another - and I'll have to get a stash because I'm not messing with this nonsense any more. The bad one was a 3m klotz 'la grange'.
    Any cable acts as a capacitor that attenuates the higher frequencies in the guitar's output. The longer the cable, the greater the attenuation, all else equal (or close enough) in terms of how the cables are actually made and what they're made of. A long coiled cable will typically have appreciably more capacitance than a shorter straight one, and therefore attenuate the highs noticeably more. It appears you prefer that effect. You could probably replicate the sound of the longer cable with the shorter cable by turning the guitar's tone control down. Capacitance aside, there can be good reasons to use a shorter cable (e.g., less to trip over, less potential for the cable to act as an antenna for RF/EM interference), and I have found it helpful to be aware of this vis a vis tone settings on the guitar.

  8. #7

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    in my case a better cable made things a lot worse

    my deal with sound is that i just want one that doesn't annoy me

    never had this problem playing classical flute....

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by John A.
    Any cable acts as a capacitor that attenuates the higher frequencies in the guitar's output. The longer the cable, the greater the attenuation, all else equal (or close enough) in terms of how the cables are actually made and what they're made of. A long coiled cable will typically have appreciably more capacitance than a shorter straight one, and therefore attenuate the highs noticeably more. It appears you prefer that effect. You could probably replicate the sound of the longer cable with the shorter cable by turning the guitar's tone control down. Capacitance aside, there can be good reasons to use a shorter cable (e.g., less to trip over, less potential for the cable to act as an antenna for RF/EM interference), and I have found it helpful to be aware of this vis a vis tone settings on the guitar.
    yes - and cool - this was what i said i wasn't interested in - because i don't care why i'm getting a better sound except that I want to know how to replicate the effect....

    it seems i do prefer a worse cable (as they're all advertised as being good because they have what i don't want - 'low-capacitance' ....)

    I tried everything to correct the problem on the gig and nothing worked. I tried increasing the volume on the amp and decreasing it on the guitar - changing the eq settings on the amp - on the guitar.. etc. nothing worked - until i got home and changed the cable.

    of course part of why this post might interest some guitarists is that if you're annoyed because your high register is too harsh and you can't sort it out with pickup adjustment, eq adjustment, vol. adjustment etc. - then try a long coiled cable instead of a short straight one....

  10. #9

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    hey Christian

    the difference on the gig was not minute - it was the difference between being able to relax and play and being constantly irritated by the sound of the guitar

    (it doesn't matter if I'm at home obsessing or on the gig trying to get on with it - with the bad coiled cable I can forget about the set up and play, but with the good short straight one I'm all neuroses)

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Groyniad
    yes - and cool - this was what i said i wasn't interested in - because i don't care why i'm getting a better sound except that I want to know how to replicate the effect....

    it seems i do prefer a worse cable (as they're all advertised as being good because they have what i don't want - 'low-capacitance' ....)

    I tried everything to correct the problem on the gig and nothing worked. I tried increasing the volume on the amp and decreasing it on the guitar - changing the eq settings on the amp - on the guitar.. etc. nothing worked - until i got home and changed the cable.

    of course part of why this post might interest some guitarists is that if you're annoyed because your high register is too harsh and you can't sort it out with pickup adjustment, eq adjustment, vol. adjustment etc. - then try a long coiled cable instead of a short straight one....
    lower the value of ur volume pot.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Groyniad
    hey Christian

    the difference on the gig was not minute - it was the difference between being able to relax and play and being constantly irritated by the sound of the guitar

    (it doesn't matter if I'm at home obsessing or on the gig trying to get on with it - with the bad coiled cable I can forget about the set up and play, but with the good short straight one I'm all neuroses)
    sorry I deleted my post cos it was fairly irrelevant

    re the cable - maybe just use the bad cable? Sometimes ‘better’ gear is not right, not for the reasons I posted above haha

    other than that, I’d maybe investigate the use of an EQ. I’m sure you know this but Excessive brightness is also a function of how much ‘on beam’ you are with the speaker; otoh the audience may need the treble to cut through.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy Smith
    lower the value of ur volume pot.
    Rolling off the volume pot on my ES175 definitely tames the top end a little. They are quite plinky sounding guitars sometimes. Are you still playing a 175 groyney?

    it’s often a toss up between what I feel is too muddy a sound and too bright a sound. Tbh with a 175 through a fender bf amp it can be like adjusting the heat in an old school shower…

  14. #13

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    I really like 100k volume pots. Gets you directly to a nice smoky sound. But if that's too muddy, there's 250k, 300, and 330. Then there are variances so you have to measure the individual pot. A low metering 250k pot at 225 would be bright enough for most people without unneeded plinkiness. But they're too stubborn to use anything other than 500.

  15. #14

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    i'm certainly committed now to the 'bad' cable - love it

    and the whole strategy of turning the volume on the guitar right down and the vol. on the amp. up to compensate - is a strategy that I have found hugely helpful for a long time. It tames an over-sensitive guitar very nicely - i think it's a very important technique because it changes the whole feel of the guitar along with the sound - making it a bit less 'alive' and so easier to handle. I think 175s often need this treatment...

    the 'beam' of the speaker - this is huge too. I don't like the idea that the audience may need the guitar to be brighter than I'm happy with as a player - that's not a nice thought.

    if you lift your amp or cabs up off the floor everything can change too - usually for the worse because it increases trebly brittleness and cuts down on 'body' or 'depth'.

    part of what I wanted to say was that i've benefitted a great deal from finding myself able to ignore my set up and get on with it - and the change of cable threw me back into gear-stress....just the bloody cable

    the volume pot issue is way beyond my technical pay-grade - and it worries me because I don't have any idea about it. i think i have 500k pots? are they the most common?

  16. #15

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    hey Christian -

    i was using a p90 175

    now i'm using an eastman 580 with humbucker - it is less plinky - richer - but still has great clarity and doesn't feedback readily

    it cost less than the new 175 i purchased in 1992

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Groyniad
    the volume pot issue is way beyond my technical pay-grade - and it worries me because I don't have any idea about it. i think i have 500k pots? are they the most common?
    All humbucker guitars come with 500k pots. Using a lower value volume pot hardwires in the dark sound without turning down the guitar or using a long cable.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Groyniad
    i'm certainly committed now to the 'bad' cable - love it

    and the whole strategy of turning the volume on the guitar right down and the vol. on the amp. up to compensate - is a strategy that I have found hugely helpful for a long time. It tames an over-sensitive guitar very nicely - i think it's a very important technique because it changes the whole feel of the guitar along with the sound - making it a bit less 'alive' and so easier to handle. I think 175s often need this treatment...

    the 'beam' of the speaker - this is huge too. I don't like the idea that the audience may need the guitar to be brighter than I'm happy with as a player - that's not a nice thought.

    if you lift your amp or cabs up off the floor everything can change too - usually for the worse because it increases trebly brittleness and cuts down on 'body' or 'depth'.

    part of what I wanted to say was that i've benefitted a great deal from finding myself able to ignore my set up and get on with it - and the change of cable threw me back into gear-stress....just the bloody cable

    the volume pot issue is way beyond my technical pay-grade - and it worries me because I don't have any idea about it. i think i have 500k pots? are they the most common?
    the sound changes as it goes through the room tho, it won’t sound like it does a few feet away. Maybe use a loop pedal or a wireless to hear the sound in the space if in doubt?

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy Smith
    I really like 100k volume pots. Gets you directly to a nice smoky sound. But if that's too muddy, there's 250k, 300, and 330. Then there are variances so you have to measure the individual pot. A low metering 250k pot at 225 would be bright enough for most people without unneeded plinkiness. But they're too stubborn to use anything other than 500.
    potentiometers eh....

    barely have the concept - never mind know anything about what they can do for me

    i have 500k 'pots' - do you think i'm achieving the same cool effect using a high-capacitance cable?

    i could not compensate for the problem on the gig by changing eq settings (on guitar or amp or both) - so i think it's a distinctive effect.

    it doesn't seem to muddy up the sound - which would be a real problem - but it does round off the high notes and makes the whole guitar sound more 'mellow' - and feel less alive and hard to control.

  20. #19

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    Yeah, it's a nice effect. The volume darkens using 'resistance' which dampens the whole range of sound so you get that mellow smoky effect. Different than the tone which darkens using 'capacitance' which cuts highs above the point determined by the cap. Long coily cables achieve a similar effect of mellowing the whole range of sound.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Groyniad
    btw - the good cable - the one that mellows the highs without loss of definition and clarity - is a 30 foot coiled cable from A'addario. I just ordered another - and I'll have to get a stash because I'm not messing with this nonsense any more. The bad one was a 3m klotz 'la grange'.
    Could be the latter is brighter because it is much shorter.

  22. #21

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    I once switched to a very heavy brass bridge on a 335 that I was using in a "fusion" group, for fatter sustian. The bass player asked me if I thought it made a difference. I told him I wasn't sure, but my *thinking* it did had me playing like it did.

  23. #22

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    Below is the frequency response of a guitar pickup; the peak near the rightmost end is the resonance, this peak defines a pickup's character to the greatest extent (the slope is also important, a somewhat flatter slope is why many active systems sound different even with the same resonance):

    Gear-itis: stop obsessing over gear - or not.....-secrets5-gif

    Lowering the volume pot value will load down the pickup more (without having to turn down the volume knob), but it will only tame the resonance, it's not going to move the peak frequency lower.

    The real solution without having to use one specific cable is to use capacitor(s) parallel with the pickup. This will move the resonant frequency lower depending on the capacitance, exactly like what cables of different length/capacitance do.

    As you can see in this table, the higher the capacitance you use, the lower the resonant frequency goes, but the height of the peak itself will remain the same.

    This article talks about wiring up multiple capacitors to a rotary switch, so you can choose from different resonant frequencies.

  24. #23

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    yeah man ....

    just use a jazz cable

    (ie a really cheap one with High capacitance , it will cut some of the high end ....)

    if you have a few cables
    have an experiment at home
    Its amazing .... the tone variation you get , particularly with the length of the cable ....

  25. #24

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    JohnA: “Any cable acts as a capacitor that attenuates the higher frequencies in the guitar's output.”

    problem is AFIKnow, the capacitance of guitar cables is way too low to have a real technically demonstrable appreciable tone effect. Vihar is on the right track, adding capacitance in the chain sure will affect tone. But the cable itself? Once someone shows me a Bode plot on an oscilloscope probing the cable capacitance is enough to effect tone, I will publicly deem my entire electronics life a failure.

    So I’m thinking about the switched capacitor idea, a jazz sound oriented thing in line with the guitars output. But until I finish my prototype, Spend more on a “jazz cable”. In fact, maybe I’ll start making them too and sell it to you all.


    Full disclosure: nevershouldhavesoldit and I have bounced this whole subject around privately. It’s interesting and not clear cut at all.
    If there’s an EE out there with good first/second order filter chops, please PM me? I’m just a lowly ET.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by jazzkritter
    JohnA: “Any cable acts as a capacitor that attenuates the higher frequencies in the guitar's output.”

    problem is AFIKnow, the capacitance of guitar cables is way too low to have a real technically demonstrable appreciable tone effect. Vihar is on the right track, adding capacitance in the chain sure will affect tone. But the cable itself? Once someone shows me a Bode plot on an oscilloscope probing the cable capacitance is enough to effect tone, I will publicly deem my entire electronics life a failure.

    So I’m thinking about the switched capacitor idea, a jazz sound oriented thing in line with the guitars output. But until I finish my prototype, Spend more on a “jazz cable”. In fact, maybe I’ll start making them too and sell it to you all.


    Full disclosure: nevershouldhavesoldit and I have bounced this whole subject around privately. It’s interesting and not clear cut at all.
    If there’s an EE out there with good first/second order filter chops, please PM me? I’m just a lowly ET.
    Perhaps these would solve the issue on some more problematic instruments...CTS 500k/250k Audio/Log Push-Pull Pot, Solder-Free
    – ToneShapers

    They're cts and capacitance(7values) is adjustable on the spot!

    S