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When i record my acoustic, I get horrendous string squeaks. This is mostly my own fault as I will sometimes slide a whole chord up or down. Yoiks.

I'm wondering what you guys do to eleviate this issue in recording.

I have done a bit of experimenting with mic angle and position, and come up with the most squeak free spot that still sounds good, but it's still pretty brutal in a few instances.

One solution I did stumble on is a pretty good fix, but it's just that, a fix.

I hate to eq any more than absolutely necessary, and I didn't want a crappy sound to the rest of the guitar part, just to tone down the squeaks. So I isolated the bulk of the frequency, around 2.8k or so, and set up the automation so that during the rest of the recording, there's no eq, but at the exact brief instant the squeak happens, I set it to drop about 12db out of that frequency and then shoot back up again. It's not perfect, but it's a hell of a lot better than what I started with, and it doesn't kill the rest of the track

Anyone out there got some bitchin' tips on this issue?

Many thanks


anonymous Mon, 06/20/2005 - 12:13

I use Elixer Polywebs on all my acoustic guitars (I think the Nanowebs sound too unnatural). I also apply conditioner to them while they are still at tension (straight out of the package, would in the circle) before putting them on. Then I lube the strings like hell right before I play with Fingerease. I probably go through a can a session.

McCheese Mon, 06/20/2005 - 17:12

Personally I dislike the elixir strings, I don't like the feel or the sound, but that's a personal thing and they will help a lot.

Something I've seen done post-recording is to set up a de-esser on the squeaky parts. That way you're not muting it, but just pushing it down a bit. I found a sidechain EQ setup works better than just a lock-stock de-esser plugin.

anonymous Tue, 06/21/2005 - 07:31

this might be a little un-apropriate, as i am not a guitar player, but knowing from many guitar players i've recorded, it's good to have "hard skin" on your finger tips, i don't know the word in english for it, but the kinda working hands skin ya' know the old dead one you get from working on the fileds, most guitarists told me you get it from playing 8 hours a day :shock: anyway... but fact is with that kinda skin on ya' fingers NO SQUEEK... and you can use whatever strings you prefer in terms of sound.

just what many guitarista told me.

anonymous Tue, 06/21/2005 - 11:03

it also helps if you do crazy bends on heavy gauge strings. :D

you can also do a number of things to build them up on your own. run your fingers across anything thatll just barely start to shred them up. i heard if you do it right you can hold them under a lighter a little each day. i hate calluses though, theres one spot on my ring finger that always gets really built up and it doesnt feel good.

anonymous Tue, 06/21/2005 - 13:58

I've played just about every day since I was 5, but I was taught by my instructor to stop playing once my fingers start hurting. I have some frickin' hard calluses on my left finger tips, yet they are still soft and smooth to the touch. I can tell a lot of guitarists who never took lessons from a degreed instructor just by looking at their finger tips. If you can see the calluses, they are building up wrong and they are actually swelling with fluids which can, ironically, hinder your playing. You have to develop calluses correctly in order for them to benefit your playing and your tone. Correctly developed calluses can allow you to take your pinky and effortlessly, without the movement even being noticed by your audience, create wide opera-like vibratos. The main purpose of calluses is more grip where you need it most.

anonymous Tue, 06/21/2005 - 19:58

Another Elixer user here -- Polywebs for the flattop steel string guitars, Electric Nano's on my electric guitars. There is a small sacrifice in the upper frequencies with coated strings, but I like a slightly darker sound from acoustic guitars anyway, and it does help with string squeaks.

During the winter months when the humidity drops in my home studio, I seem to get a little extra noise even with coated strings... probably due to dry calluses. So I just rub my fingers against the side of my nose for a little "nose grease" to help quiet the strings down. That also works on nylon string guitars where coated strings aren't available. It does shorten the string life if you do it too often, but that doesn't matter for recording... where I'm usually working with a nearly fresh set anyway.

anonymous Wed, 06/22/2005 - 00:49

BrianAltenhofel wrote: I can tell a lot of guitarists who never took lessons from a degreed instructor just by looking at their finger tips. If you can see the calluses, they are building up wrong and they are actually swelling with fluids which can, ironically, hinder your playing.

ive never had a lesson in my life, but ive never had problems with my calluses (aside from my fingernail issue, which had nothing to do with the actual calluses). i would play sometimes until my fingers felt like they would bleed. i never could get my pinky to work very well though, not from lack of grip just lack of stength and dexterity in it. it gets use when its absolutely necessary, but my fingers are long enough where i usually dont need it.

anonymous Thu, 06/23/2005 - 09:37

Yet another vote for the Elixirs!! NANOS not Polys. I can't stand the Poly's, they frey and shed and don't sound good at all. I have tried many other strings on my guitars, as they say "each guitar likes a different string", but I always end up with Elixirs... 6 acoustics, all elixirs, some light gauges and some medium.

BDFitz Sun, 06/26/2005 - 10:15

Here are a few keys to taming squeaky string tracks:

PRIOR to recording:

1. Mic position. Anything close to the neck or pronouncing the neck with multi mic setups will exacerbate the problem. Try at least 2 mics and then emphasize the non-squeaky ones at mixdown. Watch for phasing and remember rules regarding distance between the source and multiple mics. Don't be afraid to try an overhead, over the shoulder from behind and directly down at the top, much like the player hears it.

2. A great deal depends on humidity. If it is humid, try a fan to dry the area out a little. Rub down strings and hands before tracking.

3. Talcum or baby powder on fingers in small doses. It may dull strings and shorten life but it will immediately curtail squeaking and should not hurt the track or guitar. Especially on classical guitar. Also on steel string. I once had a guitarist use an atheltic sock with toe cut out on his arm. Completely illiminates that other nasty problem, skin sticking or rubbing on guitar shoulder especially at the quiet end of tracks.

4. Elixirs, etc. Try ALL brands. They are all different. Some have a very soapy, waxy feel. Very unnatural. Some have great flexibility and can take a month of gigs with much stress and no loss of resonance. Some have a much shorter life but feel and sound better. All are expensive. Buy a set of each and then buy volume on the one you like.

POST recording:

5. If you used multiple mics you may be able to edit out a squeak by dropping in a less offensive track in it's place. A squeak (pre reverb/fx) is usually very short and if there are any repetiive notes, you can sometimes replace with a good one. Ambient sounds are tricky but in some cases you may even be able to edit out a quick squeak without replacing the sound more successfully than trying to drop in a sound that doesn't match. The listener's ear can be fooled. Distraction (percussion, other instruments, etc. ) can be the difference in saving an otherwise good performance,

BDFitz Sun, 06/26/2005 - 13:00

I'd like to add one more thing.

In digital recording one of the great benefits is th editing but few use the "crossfade editing" (can emulate 45 dgree tape edits) or think to record extra bits at the end of a take.

Acoustic guitar can be extremely hard to record, even with a great player. bumps, pops, squeaks, anolomies can happen no matter how careful you are. I tend to worry less these days about a perfect take and more about having the right take somehwere on file to make a whole. It is also very dufficult to recreate an acoustic setup later let alone whether the player is there for another session.

example: I have many tracks done with "my" guitars, basses and amps for the purpose of being able to drop in a note, phrase or ending later. If I hear a bad squeak I missed I can at least try to play that one note and edit it in after the player is gone.

Not having the luxery of instruments, you can always record a couple more ending chords at the end of a take (leave plenty of fade out) so you can drop the best one in later.

The same can be done for squeaks. Rather than sit through another take because of one or two sleave noises, have the player record just those notes or chords again a few times to drop one in later. They take 30 seconds to play those notes and you have plenty of flexibility later to fix the track while using the session time efficiently.

anonymous Mon, 06/27/2005 - 06:53

BDFitz wrote: In digital recording one of the great benefits is th editing but few use the "crossfade editing" (can emulate 45 dgree tape edits) or think to record extra bits at the end of a take.

Tape edits aren't limited to 45 degrees. (Actually, 30 degrees is the most common edit you hear.) Also, that 45 degrees can be long or short depending on your tape speed.


I play acoustic guitar a lot and I probably do close to 50 takes on each song. I usually use one complete take, but I might make a composite of 2 or 3 if I absolutely have to. Overediting can take away from the character of the music. Music was never meant to be perfect; music was meant as an expressive art. By the way, edit using tape sometime and you will appreciate it when ARTISTS come in, not just musicians. Artists are willing to perfect every aspect of their work; musicians are willing to take advantage of editing any time and any place they can.

sdelsolray Mon, 06/27/2005 - 09:37

Many good suggestions. Let me make one more:

Change your left hand technique. Lifting fingers off the strings while changing position removes squeaks better than anything else. It's not an easy chop to learn, but it definitely works, and works well.

If the musical context requires a glissando (a slide from one note to another), the other techniques mentioned above will mitigate squeak.

BDFitz Mon, 06/27/2005 - 10:35

I agree regarding whole takes. Even takes from the same session can sound "odd" when trying to make a composite. I prefer whole takes but will not hesitate to drop in a note or an ending in pop music.

When Dylan recorded "Blood On The Tracks" the critics ragged on an on about how sloppy the recording was, partially due to the metal buttons on his shirt clacking against the guitar. I think Dylan is an artist and I think, hey, that's part of his art, warts and all.

I prefer expression over technique and some "musician's" even deliver an "artistic" performance now and then. I don't know about the distinction between musician and artist. Some people definitely take their role more seriously than others. Was Morrison and artist or an over endulged, pampered a$$hole who always got his way? Is there a difference? As a self proclaimed "clown who always blew it" I think some of his statements were rather artistic but I don't know if I'd want to hang with the guy. Rock and roll is art but should rock musicians be artists? Art is what happens whether you know it, mean it, plan it or work your entire life and never get credited for it until after your dead 'cause it's all subjective.

What this has to do with string squeaks I'm not sure.....