String Squeak

May 21, 2006 · Print This Article

String squeak occurs when a guitar player slides his or her left hand along a string, or changes left hand positions without fully lifting the left hand off of the string before shifting. String squeak is a sound that has been captured endlessly on guitar albums since the birth of recording. I had to redo a track completely on my last album because the squeaks were too prevalent.

Oddly enough, many guitar players actually find string squeak to be pleasing, or at least tolerable. But a classical guitar friend with dozens of albums under his belt made a good point to me the other night: the average listener hates string squeak.

In today’s world of digital recording, where computers capture every nuance and aspect of your guitar playing, string squeak is a big issue. Classical guitarists devote significant amounts of time to developing a left-hand technique that avoids string squeak. They also spend significant amounts of time trying to remove string squeak from their recordings.

A few years ago, I was visiting my grandmother. I thought she would enjoy hearing some music, so I played her a few guitar tunes. After listening politely, she remarked, “Pretty good, but what is that sqeaking sound? Can you get rid of it?” Well, you may not be able to completely remove squeak, but you can greatly reduce it. Here are a few tips I’ve gathered over the years to reduce that nasty little squeak.

1. Use a coated string. Coated or lightly polished strings simply do not squeak as much as normal strings.

2. When recording, dip your left hand in some water. This technique softens callouses, and reduces squeak.

3. There is no substitute for good technique. Be conscious of lifting the left hand off of the string before shifting positions.


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