double stops vs harmonized guitars

by Jeremy
(Edison, NJ)

I never understood why playing two notes on one guitar has such a different tone than playing one note each on two separate guitars. For example Metallica's "Orion" has 2 or 3 guitars playing harmonies starting at about 4:15 into the song (youtube has a version if you need it). If that's played on one guitar, you get a crunchier guitar-chord-like sound; played on separate guitars, a smooth sound. Any ideas?


Hi, Jeremy--

I think that the difference in sound is partly due to the notes coming through separate sources so that the vibration from each note has less opportunity to mingle with vibrations from the other notes.

In addition, each guitar tone can be adjusted (through effects or amp)so that the notes don't have exactly the same vibrations and therefore don't "react" to one another.

Maybe some of our readers will have other ideas for you.


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Jan 26, 2010
I think that's the right thought
by: Jeremy

I think you're right. I haven't been thinking about the guitar as a moving object with respect to the ends of the string. So to first approximation, I think of the string moving while its ends (fret and bridge) remain fixed. The length of the string will give the pitch and the point at which it's plucked gives the strength of the overtones (color). However, if another note is played, the body of the guitar is vibrating and those ends are moving. Whatever vibrations constructively interfere with the second note will add harmony while the ones that destructively interfere add dissonance... which is what I'm hearing with the double-stop.

If that's right, I would guess that moving the tone knob (high-pass filter) up should make the double-stop and harmonized guitars closer together. I'll have to try it out.

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