What Is This Obsession With Sustain?

pbekkerh

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I don't understand why almost all people mention long sustain as a mark of quality.

What use is it? I change chords and play on different strings all the time, I never keep one tone for many seconds.

The only place where long sustain is frowned upon is amongst flamenco players.

Is it just another fashion trend like orange drops and waxed cloth wires?
 

MooCheng

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long sustain can be a mixed blessing especially with acoustics, its fine for some celtic or ethereal stuff but ragtime, piermont can turn very easily into a jangly mess. It was the main reason I moved on a taylor 416, the sustain was so great it made it tiring to play
 

Oldskoolrob

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My Les Paul sustains. My 6120 Doesn't. I prefer the sound of the LP. While you don't need every note to ring forever, it's a good litmus of the clarity and 'singing' qualities you get from a single note. And it's there when you want it - if it's not there, you never have it. I love those big waily LP solos. November Rain for example. Chilling stuff.
 

BBD

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I don't understand why almost all people mention long sustain as a mark of quality.

What use is it? I change chords and play on different strings all the time, I never keep one tone for many seconds.

The only place where long sustain is frowned upon is amongst flamenco players.

Is it just another fashion trend like orange drops and waxed cloth wires?
First, as others have said, it depends what guitar you are evaluating and what you want to do with it. Sustain is a primary indicator that an electric guitar is 'good' in the sense that the materials and construction are not allowing energy to escape from the vibrating strings too rapidly. If that happens, the amplified tone will be deadened (loss of top end, loss of overall volume, loss of sustain). For most people, this is a negative. For blues and rock musicians, very negative. So no, it's definitely not a fashion trend. It's a fundamental quality by which most people assess an electric.
 

Roberteaux

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While finger picking on electric, one must take care to keep higher-quality instruments from sustaining when this is not desirable. A lot of times one can achieve the desired cutoff while switching from one chord to the next, and at other times a bit of palm or finger-muting of strings is called for. One finds oneself making the guitar STFU quite often.

One finds oneself doing that a lot in songs that call for an ascending bass line to be played on the 5th or 6th string, followed by an arpeggiation of the chord corresponding to the final note of the ascending line. "I'd Love to Change the World" comes off like that on electric when you go from the first Em to a G after a bass progression.

This often must also be done while plucking a bass line shuffle that goes from the e-string to the a-string and/or d-string while arpeggiating on the higher stings. It works out nicely there, though-- you get a really strong shuffle out of it if you do it right.

As MooCheng mentioned above, one runs into this with Piedmont and Ragtime quite a bit, even on acoustic. It's fun to watch somebody like Jorma Kaukonen playing the same kind of material on electric... the man has a little bit of a wrestling match with his guitar going on up there. I notice that in some cases (like in the intro to "99 Year Blues") he actually just palm mutes the bass shuffle in the intro and it comes out wonderfully well.

One also gets stuck silencing an electric instrument while finger picking a song like the Fleetwood Mac/Stevie Nicks song "Landslide", or Kansas' "Dust in the Wind", both of which call for a fairly relentless interval of finger picking through a group of chords, then making the whole mess shut up for an instant at the end of the stanza. If you don't cut it clean, you end up with a droning wreck on your hands.

It's good for sharpening one's timing though... if you don't cut and then resume things quite right, you end up with a choppy rendition that comes across as sounding fairly piecemeal.

It's a real pain in the ass, which is probably why I do a lot of finger picking on electric-- I'm mostly in it for the frustration. :laugh2:

--R :D
 

JTM45

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I like good sustain but it's rarely needed unless I'm going for some controlled feedback. Seems like todays live music doesn't require much of the creativity that the older guys used.

I do think it illustrates a good builder though, when someone can get a neck and body to produce good vibrations for a good amount of time, I think it represents great craftsmanship.

Not sure if I said that right but I know what I meant lol
 

dissaffected

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long sustain can be a mixed blessing especially with acoustics, its fine for some celtic or ethereal stuff but ragtime, piermont can turn very easily into a jangly mess. It was the main reason I moved on a taylor 416, the sustain was so great it made it tiring to play
Man o moocheng...that is sooo right and one of the reasons a lot of us like Gibson acoustics. They do not sustain as much as Taylor, Martin etc. I like sustain but hate fighting it when I do not want it.
 

PeteK

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Its so you can do that blues move where you hold the note so long people think their stereo is glitching out. For some reason people love it. Watch Eric Clapton play. He does it all the time. Holds a note for like 5 minutes with a silly look on his face like he's really feeling that note. The rest of the band continues to just play normally while Clapton stands there showing his O face.
 


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