Eric Johnson: Pick Attack Key to Tone

March 7, 2011 | By | Reply More

Johnson_Eric_2010_1Eric Johnson – the infamous 9v-battery-sniffer, perfectionist and tone/touch maestro – had this to say about how axe-slingers can improve their tone and feel in the recent Guitar Player mag with him on the cover:

“[Gear and fine-tuning it] is essential to facilitate the intention of your playing. Second is the way that [you] pick the string because that’s what causes the initial sound. [He gives a piano hammer analogy]…and it is the same way with guitar strings: How you strike them makes all the difference, and also directly interacts with the way in which you finger the notes.”

Hmm. Makes sense in a zen-monastic sort of way. Eric goes on to say, in response to the writer’s observation that he uses a lot of upstrokes:

“I try to emulate the way steel guitarists play more outwardly from the surface of the steel instead of going across the strings. When you hit a string straight on really hard, the percentage of note to noise isn’t particularly good…. It is more desirable to brush the string in a way that activates it with the least amount of non-musical noise.”

(E-bow anyone? Listen to the bagpipe part at about 2:00. Sick!)

Seriously, that’s interesting stuff from a tonal master. May not apply to you, your style or tonal goals, but gives you something to think about anyway. Makes me realize I need to hit the strings a lot harder. Need more noise!

More: Strings

As far as I know, Eric is still using his signature GHS nickel 10s.

More: The Battery Thing

From the same GP interview:

“Apparently some people think I sit around and saw batteries in half or whatever – but the fact is that different types of batteries sound a bit different…. If you use five or six effects and you add all that up, it will make a substantial difference…. There are different ways they are made and that affects the electrical pulse which affects the transient top end, and that is a very sensitive issue when it comes to a lot of distortion.”

Okay, man, okay! So my only question is: Does Eric ever use a lot of distortion?!

It’s a GOOD interview, highly recommended. I’ll be excerpting more of that issue in the near future. And here’s how we will get to that future:

Yes, it's a Rev. Willy G.!

Yes, it's a Rev. Willy G. special. Ultra freakin' sweet.

Category: Eric Johnson, Picking Technique

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