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I'm trying to find ways to shape the transients on my guitar tone so the pick attack is muffled, smooth and rounded (on a synth you can do this with ADSR controls). An example of the kind of effect I'm looking for is between 01:52 and 01:55 on this Kurt Rosenwinkel video (

).

I know you can control the transients with the attack slider on the EHX POG and HOG, and Kurt does this later in the video but that's not what's going on here. (I also know Kurt's legato technique contributes to this, but the attack is round on picked notes as well.) I was wondering whether anyone has some insights into what kinds of effects would allow this kind of tone shaping (e.g. compression, OD etc).

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    Sound quality on vid. is pretty poor - difficult to listen to anything!
    – Tim
    Aug 8, 2021 at 14:09
  • @Tim Yeah, it's not great, but this is probably closest to the tone I'm going for. I think you can still hear the lack of pick attack I'm talking about. Aug 8, 2021 at 14:46
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    It’s hard to hear what you’re going for from the video. But for what you seem to describe, a more rounded tone on the fly, a simple technique is to rotate the plane of the pick away from being parallel to the string, so that it slides over the string, literally rounding off the attack and release, rather than creating a sharp plucking sound. I also see players who keep a cloth elastic hair band around the neck and strings in front of the nut, but this doesn’t facilitate changing back to a sharper tone on the fly.
    – wabisabied
    Aug 8, 2021 at 21:08

3 Answers 3

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Assuming that you don't want to just replicate that exact sound in the exact position of the video.

  • Guitar tone control, attenuate/cut the highs
  • Guitar volume control (manual swell)
  • Volume pedal (manual swell)
  • EQ pedal, attenuate/cut the highs
  • Amp EQ / tone control, attenuate/cut the highs
  • "Slow attack" or "swell" effects on various multi-effect and standalone pedals
  • EHX Attack Decay, Pigtronix ADSR
  • Compressor, gate, overdrive, EQ, attenuate/cut the highs
  • Guitar synths (Roland VG, Boss SY, EHX Syn9, Line6 Helix)
  • Guitar to MIDI converter and synth (Roland GR series, Jam Origin MIDI Guitar 2, Fishman Triple Play)
  • Hex distortion/fuzz effects
  • Reverbs even ... with 100% wet signal. And reverse reverb and delay.
  • Jam Origin MIDI Guitar 2's "Deep Expressor" effect, where you can set the balance between attack and sustain components.

Search Youtube for "slow attack" and "swell". People are achieving this expression with many combinations of different effects, and you'll find many brands and models of effects.

The EHX Attack Decay is on my bucket list. It combines several of the needed tricks, without being an outright synth

Some effects are hard to categorize, like DSP things which split the signal to components and recombine them in various ways - is it a synth, is it an effect, what is it. Then there's things like the EHX Superego, which give you a "guitar sustain pedal" but also tools for melodic playing.

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I don’t think Kurt is using an effect, I think he’s using a technique. Some techniques that round out the attack include:

  • Plucking with fingers
  • Picking/plucking closer to the fingerboard
  • Using the round side of the pick instead of the pointed one
  • Using the neck pickup
  • Having the amp set loudly while playing quietly/gently

One effect that contributes to the above is a compressor, especially with the correct attack time and compression ratio played with the right technique.

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    Sounds plausible for around 1:50. I'm convinced there's some effect after 5 minutes, it sounds more like synth than guitar or at least more like e-bow than picking.
    – ojs
    Aug 8, 2021 at 15:42
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    @ojs At 5:00 he’s using his guitar as a MIDI controller and playing a synthesized or sampled flute sound. To me that’s a separate question with a separate answer. Aug 8, 2021 at 18:02
  • Thanks for the detailed response. I knew about the neck pickup and picking closer to the neck adding roundness, but hadn't tried turning the amp up and picking softly - will give it a try. In this case, I think there is some effects change involved because the pickiness of his tone changes (at least to my ear), and you can see him step on his pedalboard when this happens (at 01:40 and then at 01:56). Aug 9, 2021 at 0:00
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There is a technique-based trick that I've seen some guitarists do live that seems to fit your description:

  1. Turn the volume knob on the guitar down low.
  2. Pick a note while the 5th finger of the picking hand rests on the volume knob
  3. Quickly push/pull the 5th finger along the edge of the volume knob, turning the volume up immediately after the note's attack

When done convincingly, this should essentially swell into the note and eliminate its harsh attack. I've heard this called a volume swell, and it requires no particular effect pedals since the volume knob on the guitar is doing the work. Some guitarists also accomplish this through the use of a volume pedal, however.

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