Sustain is one of the quintessential sounds of the electric guitar -- but what can we do to have better control over it? Well, there are a few things that go into creating great sustain, not merely one single thing, so by addressing these and and employing a few good tricks and tips along the way you should be able to create richer, longer sustain like never before!
Pump Up the Volume
First off, the easiest way to get better, more vibrant sustain is by playing at a higher volume which allows the minute details of your notes ring louder and longer. And while you’re cranking that amp’s volume up, might as well take advantage of any feedback created. By finding the perfect sweet spot in relation to your guitar and the speakers, you can utilize a controlled feedback technique that will create a good amount of sustain while adding a whole new layer of harmonic characterization.
You can also achieve better sustain by including a clean boost to your arsenal as a hotter signal will yield a good amount of overdrive – great for helping sustain! A booster pedal is by far the most common way of doing this but you can also take advantage of your amp’s built-in boost toggle if it has one.
While volume and additional gain are great for creating longer sustain, a louder overdriven tone certainly doesn’t work for every genre of music or playing style. By employing a compressor pedal, you can still achieve plenty of great sustain while keeping your notes as clean and pristine as you’d like.
As Good As Your Gear
Up until now, we’ve mentioned techniques that help increase gain but more importantly than that is getting rid of anything that will weaken your notes’ vibration. You can add all the gear in the world but if your guitar has a bad, vibration killing setup, you’re not going to get very much sustain from it. The key here is having an instrument that is as solid, sturdy and clean as possible. Make sure your saddle is nice and tight and that your bridge and body have a good, solid contact between them.
Often overlooked, make sure your frets are as clean as possible as the dirt and gunk will keep the strings from ringing as long as they should, thereby killing sustain – just one of the many reasons to keep your guitar spotless!
The type of neck joint used by your guitar will also have an effect on sustain as they react with vibrational energy differently. While a set neck is a great setup for even, consistent sustain, a bolt-on neck will have a little more trouble doing the same, especially if it happens to be poorly fitted. You can check out this article for more information about neck attachment methods.
Ready to Rock!
By using these tips and making sure your guitar's setup isn't holding you back in the process, you should be able to create notes that shine clearer and longer than ever before. Need a little help finding one of the items mentioned above, such as a good compressor pedal or maybe a guitar with a set neck design? Chat with one of our pros by using the Contact Us box below and they'll be sure to help you in your quest for better tone!