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About 3 months ago I bought an Ibanez RG652FX. A few days ago I noticed a weird vibrating sound when I played a hammer-on on a G string. It is most noticeable when playing 9th to 11th fret hammer-on but it also happens on other adjacent frets in that area and I can hear it to some extent on D and B string as well. It also happens when sliding. It happens when playing distorted and it is not noticeable when playing clean.

At first, I thought that the pickups were too high so I lowered them as much as possible but there was no difference. I replaced the strings but the effect remains.

Then I noticed that the effect goes away if I mute the lower strings (E, A and D when playing G).

Here is the recording of a hammer-on G string 9th to 11th: https://soundcloud.com/martin-volk-20676163/hammer-on-vibrating/s-XV2Fli25SbZ

And here is the same while muting the lower strings: https://soundcloud.com/martin-volk-20676163/hammer-on-muted/s-mUQrbcDbzGv

It seems like playing certain notes is causing some strings to resonate. I haven't played guitar for a few years so I'm not sure if this is normal behavior. I don't remember having this issue with other guitars I played.

Is this a normal behavior and I just need to always mute other strings to prevent it or could this be an issue with the setup?

  • The short version is that you need to be careful about sounding strings you don't intend to sound. The 'vibrating' sound is what you get when multiple strings are sounding nearly the same note, so it may also be a sign that your guitar is out of tune, or the intonation is off. – AJFaraday Oct 5 at 12:47
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You play an E note hammering to F♯. When you play E on the G string, it makes the low E string vibrate in sympathy. That continues to vibrate and while the F♯ is sounding, it sets up beats with that low E, which actually is vibrating at its harmonic. The sound you hear is the result of the two vibrations simultaneously.

By muting the lower strings, you stop that happening. and it's only likely to happen when the low E and the A are unmuted. The A may well be vibrating sympathetically, again with one of its harmonics. The D string should make no difference either way.

Distortion, or overdrive tends to accentuate harmonics, so that's why guitarists tend to learn how to mute unplayed strings when using overdriven sounds.

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  • "The D string should make no difference either way." What if he does hammer on on G string fret 7 to 9? – Paulo Henrique Oct 4 at 13:19
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    I thought it was clear I was considering the case in hand. Yes, of course it may make a difference when OP plays different notes. Those in particular. Maybe he should try it. – Tim Oct 4 at 13:51
  • Tim, thank you for the quick answer. Muting lower strings seems to fix it. I guess I never tried to play it unmuted before or I never paid attention to it. – user1189571 Oct 4 at 15:07
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    @user1189571 when playing electric guitar with gain/distortion, muting technique is probably as important as what you do to sound the strings. Think of the fullly muted guitar as your blank canvas and take it from there. – topo Reinstate Monica Oct 4 at 17:16

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