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  1. #1

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    I've got a very nice archtop built by New Jersey Luthier Tom Garvey. I'm playing some fingerstyle jazz and am trying to improve my tone when playing unplugged. It seems that archtops in general, with their mid-range emphasis compared to both flattops and classical guitars, bring out more of the right hand fingernoise. I believe I get a pretty clean sound on both flattops and classicals, using a fairly classical right hand technique. I'm interested in suggestions, for both technique and string choise, for reducing right hand noise. Thanks

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  3. #2

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    Nails on an acoustic archtop could be a noisy proposition. Have you thought about tape wound strings?

    I've often lamented here that science hasn't perfected "retractable claws," like a cat, for guitar players.

  4. #3

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    Good replies. I would add: the angle of attack and the angle of release should be close to identical to minimize the friction that makes the squeak. Good luck!

  5. #4

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    If not using flatwounds already give them a try, they are usually quieter than round wounds or bronze wounds.

  6. #5

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    I think it's a challenge to get an inspiring acoustic sound out of an archtop playing with classical technique, which I also use. Admittedly it's made of plywood, but my old ES-125 sounds delicious with flats when amplified. The acoustic sound leaves much to be desired. I play with short, well smoothed nails. It'd rather hear my round wound strung Tele unplugged.

  7. #6

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    My classical guitar teacher, Angel Pinero, had an incredibly unusual technique. He actually played two guitars, two different ways. Right handed, he played the traditional classical technique, with nails on the right hand. However, he also had a left-handed guitar which he played using only the flesh of the fingers of his left hand. (To deal with the nails of his right hand, Pinero had slots filed in his fretboard into which the nails dropped.) I preferred the "flesh" approach and kept my nails cut short on the right hand.

    I agree with Patlotch that fingerstyle on the archtop guitar using the flesh of the fingers is best. Tim Lerch does this, too, I believe. He gets a great sound.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Greentone
    My classical guitar teacher, Angel Pinero, had an incredibly unusual technique. He actually played two guitars, two different ways. Right handed, he played the traditional classical technique, with nails on the right hand. However, he also had a left-handed guitar which he played using only the flesh of the fingers of his left hand. (To deal with the nails of his right hand, Pinero had slots filed in his fretboard into which the nails dropped.) I preferred the "flesh" approach and kept my nails cut short on the right hand.

    I agree with Patlotch that fingerstyle on the archtop guitar using the flesh of the fingers is best. Tim Lerch does this, too, I believe. He gets a great sound.
    That is the most interesting thing I've heard in a while

  9. #8
    Thanks for all the responses. Some good thoughts there. I'm not a fan of flatwound strings on my archtop when played acoustically. Fine when plugged in but this guitar has such a good acoustic sound that I want to develop my ability to get the best possible acoustic tone.

    I originally posted my question after a few days of trying D'Addario EFT16 flattop strings. They are advertized as having low string noise. I did find that they have reduced left hand noise, but I don't really have a lot of trouble with left hand squeeks. I realize now that these strings actually produce more right hand noise than typical round wound PB strings. You can feel the texture with both right hand skin and right hand nail. Today I tried Newtone Masterclass strings. My initial impression is that these are excellent. Lower right hand noise than the EFT16. This might partially be that they have overall more volume so the volume/noise ratio is higher.

    I like the sound that Martin Taylor gets. He plays with fingernails on an archtop. I understand that he combines the pickup and a mic. But I believe I've also heard him play with only a mic and he still gets a clean sound with nails. So it's certainly possible.

    I'll continue to experiment. If I get a chance I'll make a recording of me playing this guitar fingerstyle unplugged and post it.

    Thanks again.

  10. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by dmozell
    Thanks for all the responses.......I'll continue to experiment. If I get a chance I'll make a recording of me playing this guitar fingerstyle unplugged and post it.

    Thanks again.
    Took a while for me to have the time to record a sample. Since this thread I rejected the Newtone strings as having intonation problems. I went back to Martin PB strings. Regardless, technique is the number one issue for me. I think I'm working in the right direction but have a long way to go. The link below is to a recording I made today. The tune is one I wrote in honor of Stephane Grappelli (initially in 1997 but updated last month). I recorded it on my Tom Garvey archtop, unplugged, playing fingerstyle with nails. The only processing of the file is a tiny bit of EQ and normalization. It may sound like I added reverb but that's just the sound of my basement room which I will eventually set up for better recording. Comments are welcome. I'm open to critiques:

    sound file url: http://www.danmozell.com/FarewellStephane.mp3

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Greentone
    Pinero had slots filed in his fretboard into which the nails dropped
    I agree with corpse, that's a new one for sure. His ambidexterity(?) alone is unusual (and impressive), but nailslots..?

    Quote Originally Posted by dmozell
    The 2nd half/3rd third sounds rather pretty to me; I wouldn't change anything there. The first part has no annoying right-hand noise either; only that new strings metallic ring.

    Just from a sound perspective, flesh is much, much nicer than nails, I think (but then I don't like treble). My guitar's acoustic sound is good too when played like that, but with nails or pick it's a torturedevice.

    Anyway, I don't think it's you, but the strings. Good luck with finding a compromise; I'd be interested to hear what your final choice is.

  12. #11
    Thanks for the critique! There are plenty of string possibilities I haven't tried yet.

  13. #12
    I do polish my nails though I didn't work on my nails as much as I should have before recording that tune. Exactly which strings do you use? Thanks.

  14. #13
    Those Labella strings are advertised as being more flexible. Does that change intonation?

  15. #14

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    While I don’t disagree with any of the suggestions or recommendations above, I think that a little nail sound or fingerboard squeak is part of the human charm of the acoustic archtop sound. (A little goes a long way, though.)

  16. #15

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    Nice playing, D and a wonderful, lyrical song with nice voicing and pacing. I agree with Tony on nail preparation. So, for those of us who are hybrid players--Classical and Jazz, we have to find a happy medium between the longer nails required for CG and the shorter nails needed for JG. I've found the thumb(P) can remain longer while the index(I) and middle(M) finger should be slightly shorter. The ring(A) finger can also remain longer. This works well for a compromise. The biggest problem when playing JG with nails is to get a clear--not muddy sound and requires considerable time experimenting with nail angle(both flesh and nail are used in the stroke) and especially strength of attack. When I play CG, my stroke and fingering is much stronger than when playing JG where I have to adjust to the natural sound of the instrument unplugged and plugged. I resurrected my 1966 Gibson ES125TC about 3 months ago after a long sleep and am firmly convinced the only similarities between a CG and a JG is that they both have strings. They are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT INSTRUMENTS and require considerable physical and mental adjustments to understand their personalities, complexities and raison d' etre. I think knowing your instrument is an important aspect of playing and is something which cannot be accomplished in a short period of time since we have to understand its nature in relationship to your unique musical sound. I am currently relearning my Gibson and it is quite a challenging experience. Good playing . . . Marinero

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Neverisky
    I think it's a challenge to get an inspiring acoustic sound out of an archtop playing with classical technique, which I also use. Admittedly it's made of plywood, but my old ES-125 sounds delicious with flats when amplified. The acoustic sound leaves much to be desired. I play with short, well smoothed nails. It'd rather hear my round wound strung Tele unplugged.
    As another classical player playing an ES-125, I can say that short, rounded, nails kept smooth with 1500 wet-or-dry, plus a very light touch (much lighter than I would use on a concert classical) are the way to get a nice sound. Flat-wounds are good, but I have also had good luck with the D'Addario 'half-rounds'.
    And I agree with you, Michael, that a well amplified guitar gives the best nails-on-string sound. As Jim Hall once famously said - 'I play amplified, so I can play quieter.'
    Last edited by mmdavis; 02-26-2020 at 09:54 PM.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Neverisky
    I think it's a challenge to get an inspiring acoustic sound out of an archtop playing with classical technique, which I also use. Admittedly it's made of plywood, but my old ES-125 sounds delicious with flats when amplified. The acoustic sound leaves much to be desired. I play with short, well smoothed nails. It'd rather hear my round wound strung Tele unplugged.
    Hi, Michael,
    I play a 1966 Gibson 125TC Cherry Sunburst. It has a solid Maple back and sides. And, despite being a thin cutaway, it has a very nice acoustic sound. And, with a solid top, the guitar opens up the more that it is played. I frequently play mine unplugged to get a reference point to consider when playing it amplified. It requires a much softer touch than when playing Classical Guitar. Good playing . . . Marinero