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Percussive Sounds on El. Guitar
I am not a conventional electric guitarist but I own two strats and two
mini toy electric guitars (that are nonetheless playable) and I mostly play
these instruments as 'found objects'.
I come from a percussion/drumset tradition originally with a heavy
on world rhythms,
odd times and polyrhtyms so I exploit electric (and acoustic) instruments
lot for rhythm looping
I agree with Max about not trying to get a drum set out of the electric or
acoustic (although if you think of the
sounds as being part of an analogue drum machine the comparison is a bit
An important thing to remember is that a drumset exploits hi sounds,
midrange sounds (which tend to have
longer envelopes) and bass sounds.
If you think of the guitar as a percussion instrument, the important thing
to remember is that most great
and complex percussion instruments have at least two ranges of sound: lo
and hi, if not three ranges of
sound, like a drumset-----lo, midrange and hi.
remember that even if you dont' have a cheap harmonizer that you can use
rapid tonal control
by either rolling off hi end and rolling on bass frequencies or even
off all hi and lo frequencies and maximizing
midrange frequencies (telephone effect) to radically change the sound of
your electric guitar percussion ensemple.
Even a good wah wah pedal can be utilized to change or sweep the frequency
characteristics of a your percussion noises.
Speaking of cheap harmonizer pedals. The cheapest ones I've found are in
the $200 range:
the Digitech Red Whammy pedal and the Digitech Vocal 300 each have a
harmonizer in them (with pretty low fidelity-------though I like them,
and a quick mention about beaters on strings:
Whenever I go touring I always take a couple of packets of those cheap
swizzle Tiki head plastic swizzle sticks that they sell
(10 or so to a package).
They are amazing because they act exactly like a hammer dulcimer
hammer.........in other words if you hold at the small end and just
let the Tiki head fall on the string it will bounce rapidly like a hammer
dulcimer or a kanun.
Additionally, I use the back flat side of the plastic Tiki head as a
so that stick can be switched rapidly changing from a
sticking instrument to a slide instrument.
If you are using two of these up hi near the bridge you can avail yourself
of the closeness of the harmonics and switch one of the sticks to become a
mini slide while the other one keeps hammering.
Speaking of that devil, Hammer Dulcimer hammers are incredible on
guitars.......they are designed to have rapid multiple bounces which is
amazing for rapid rhythmic work.
While we are on the subject, another wonderful aleatory rhtyhmic device
that I've used (and was inspired by Michael Haumesser who I believe was
inspired orignally by Fred Frith) is to take those metal chinese balls
are used for hand exercises and roll
them down the strings.
Many sounds like snare drums, have a longer envelope (especially when a
reverb or gated reverb is added). If you are using
an Echoplex in INS = SUB mode and OVERDUB = SUS mode, you can roll the
large balls down the strings (really cool if you've already prepared the
strings nearest the bridge with things like forks, knives, alligator
et. al.) and then hold down
the INSert or the OVERDUB buttons down just when you want your sound to
You can get really unusual ersatz 'snare' drum sounds by using this
I've seen people use very small BBs or tiny ball bearings (although this
just a mess to clean up quickly on stage at festivals---------trust me,
tried it a couple of times) or, as I saw Fred Frith do once in Santa
rice or other grains and just drop
them on the strings. Again, utilized with the INS = SUB and OVRDB =
modes you can take a longer event and only
capture a bit of it.
Remember too, that if you use an Echoplex, that you can use Silence as a
Replace or Substitue mode to create 'negative' rhythms.
Sometimes using INS = SUB and hitting the INS button rapidly only the
offbeats can chop up a more complex rhythm you've already
recorded with the insertion of rhytymic silence. This sounds better on
off beats rather than on beats.
I love playing very long envelope sounds but only grabbing slight bits of
them while using INS = SUB.
Sorry to mention the EDP so much but this instrument is probably the best
all loopers at creating rhythmic effects and slicing and dicing the loops
I also use resampling from one looper to another in rhythmic ways which
really enhances percussive electric guitar playing (or any instrument, of
One last idea................................play the guitar percussively
with your fingers, rings, utensils, mallets (try different types to get
different timbres and different attack characteristics with one hand on
volume knob or rocking a volume pedal with your foot.
Play this constantly and rhythmically as you play and loop.
In Indonsesia, they have the rhythmic concept of IRAMA which means that
every note of the syncopative resolution (lowest note value in your
If you are playing radically different techniques almost randomly yet
a constant on and off of volume with your volume knob or
volume floor pedal you can create this trancey technique and ever time the
volume swells up (great if it is really, really rapid)
you have a slightly different timbre from your random thwacking of the
Oh yeah, and Claude Voit must be sited as the person who innovatively
piezo pickups (I think) ABOVE the nut to pick up
the non-melodic elements of knocking, rubbing, playing the strings above
the nut and other possible above the nut percussion styles.
Gosh, I keep thinking of different things............sorry for the length
Super balls on the back of Acoustic Guitars can create cool whale
sounds..................they can then be dropped to create random
percussive, bouncing sounds.
Okay, I"ll shut up...............shouldn't of had that huge cup of dark
roast coffee so late in the evening..............lol.