acoustic mods

A guitar hero of mine, the late, great James Alan Shelton, achieved an exceptionally warm, clean tone with his forward right-hand position.

Photo by Eric Frommer

If you’re not getting the tone you want out of your acoustic, a simple and quick tweak might get you a little closer.

Let's face it. One of the most challenging things about playing acoustic guitar is dealing with the desire to get the tone that's in your head to actually come out of your instrument. We all have guitar heroes and we all no doubt want our playing to sound at least a little like theirs. While most of us likely fall quite a bit short technically compared to our heroes, coming closer to a particular tone that grips us is a much easier feat. So this month, I'll discuss some simple things players can adjust or modify to alter the sound coming out of an acoustic instrument.

Hand Placement
Almost nothing changes the way our guitars sound more than where we place our right hand. Be it fingerstyle or with a flatpick, we can make quite a difference by moving our hand forward towards the soundhole or back towards the bridge. Forward placement results in a warmer tone, while moving back towards the bridge will increase treble response. Changing where we place our hand to achieve the sound we're after, however, can be easier said than done. Most of us who first grabbed a guitar long ago found hand positions we liked and have been doing it the same way since. Overcoming muscle memory can be a challenge, but it can be done! Tip: Unless you're doing so for effect, remember to not lay your hand on the bridge too much or rest your arm too flat on the top, as these placements will dampen the tone quite a bit.

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