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What does an acoustic guitar sound like when you strum it at the bridge? How about at the 5th fret? What happens when you mute the strings by laying your palm on the bridge? Play a chord progression that you know, and switch between these techniques.

Each is a unique timbre. Timbre means the sound-character of the instrument. And you can change the timbre simply by strumming in different places on the guitar.


Adding life to your writing

Emphasizing timbre changes the way you think about your playing and your writing. Make timbre a focus, and you may find yourself introducing subtle changes in your songs that give them more life.

A simple idea is to strum over the sound-hole on the verse, and strum close to the bridge for the chorus. This kind of idea adds a quality that isn’t obvious, and introduces an organizational element without getting needlessly complex.

Just because it isn’t obvious doesn’t mean that people won’t notice. It means that the noticing is unconscious. They’ll keep coming back to the song to figure out what they’re hearing without knowing that that’s why they’re coming back.


Electric guitar

If you’re using the electric guitar, there’s way more choice of timbre given the amount of effects available.

Try relating timbre to emotional content. For example, distortion can be related to anger, anxiety, or confidence. A clean sound might make you feel more relaxed. Figure out what different effects mean for you, and then figure out how they might relate to the lyrics you’re writing. Thinking this way allows you to make decisions based on supporting the song with timbre instead of just using an effect for the sake of it.


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