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Unread 08-01-2014, 07:03 PM   #1
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What makes chords sound so good?

Long story short: Every time I play a chord, a full chord, I find it impossible to make it sound harsh. My Blues Junior's treble is at 12, and the filter on my Rat is at half. Using all three pickups of my Tele, the tone I get is always bright, but never harsh.

I'm hoping that it's not that my hearing is going. Does anyone else have the same experience with chords?

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Unread 08-01-2014, 07:52 PM   #2
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There's a few things going on. Firstly, there's your hearing, whether it's good or not. Secondly, there's personal preference - some people prefer brighter sounds than others. But acoustically, what it boils down to is harmonic complexity.

Generally speaking, we like harmonic complexity in the sounds we hear. Some instruments have more complexity to begin with, like a saxophone, and others can benefit from some help. We can increase harmonic complexity by adding more notes (chords) or we can increase it with effects (mostly with drive).

However, too much harmonic complexity can cause dissonance which may not be enjoyable. More complex chords like 7ths start to sound rubbish with too much gain, and some gain pedals (mostly fuzz) reach the point where anything beyond a 5th is untenable.

It's great that you're enjoying the harmonic complexity of full chords with your setup, although a little surprising with that much treble - that's possibly due to a difference in tastes, but if your strings are old and dull they might be needing all that help.
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Unread 08-01-2014, 08:00 PM   #3
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Thanks for the info, to be released. I'm a bit worried about my hearing; what used to hurt my ears a year ago doesn't hurt now. But I'm guessing that it's not 100% because of my hearing that the chords sound so "full" and warm.

I don't use too much distortion with my Rat, which is my main pedal for rhythm. Therefore most of the chords I play are very clear.

About all the treble - it's weird. I noticed that for some reason, I find that my neck pickup causes more pain than my bridge pickup! I think it's because the neck pickup has those frequencies that my ears are sensitive too; my bridge pickup has also sounded a bit "flatter" if you can imagine. Sharp, but flat. I don't know, I can't find any other words to describe it.

Just one more question: should I just trust my hearing? I'm worried that what sounds good to me sounds horrible to everyone else. Horrible as in it hurts their ears, and I'm very picky about how much discomfort my tones cause.
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Unread 08-02-2014, 09:40 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by flyinghome View Post
Just one more question: should I just trust my hearing? I'm worried that what sounds good to me sounds horrible to everyone else. Horrible as in it hurts their ears, and I'm very picky about how much discomfort my tones cause.
It sounds to me like you're genuinely concerned that what you're playing doesn't actually sound "good," so if I were you I would talk to a good cross-section of people you know, different ages, tastes, etc. and get their opinions.

If you don't mind my asking, have you had hearing related problems in the past? You mentioned the sound of your guitar hurting your ears in the past. Hopefully your guitar isn't ever so loud or harsh sounding that it would cause someone with average hearing immediate pain.
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