Noisemaking From Squeals To Drone

The art of noise... Everything seems to be perfectly mastered nowadays in artists' recordings, removing those brilliant guitar noises.

Ultimate Guitar
Nowadays, we find noise fading away in artists' recordings. Everything seems to be perfectly mastered and completely "censored" almost, removing those brilliant guitar noises that some of us cannot live without. Looking beyond the mainstream, there is still quite a bit of noise talent left, but i didnt come here to preach artists to try, I want to show you how to do it. So I'll start actually making my point. Unless otherwise stated, all techniques require high distortion.

I. Mid/High Feedback

Ah feedback, one of the simplest and most pleasureable techniques to get out of your guitar. To start, feedback generally requires two things: large amounts of distortion, and large amounts of volume. Volume is key here, unless you turn that amp up quite a bit, its going to be extremely difficult to get the desired effect, so crank that practice amp, screw the neighbors. You should get a squealish sound almost immidietly, to enhance the sound, point the back of the guitar at the amp, facing the pickups the opposite direction. This will make feedback even easier. Now this effect is all well and good, but to truly show brilliance, one can use what I would call harmonic feedback. This is manipulating your guitar to get a certain pitch that harmonizes the note youre playing. For example, get feedback while holding your finger on the third fret. Its likely that you got a tone that is either an octave, fifth, or third above the "g" (depends on what tuning youre in). You can control this by actually moving the guitar so that it faces the amp at different angles and distances, giving you different pitches and colors. Its not something easy to explain, you simply have to try it. Go crazy, squirm around, do the worm, dance, you should be able to find on your own various colors that you like. Try different hand positions, fret chords in addition to single notes. Go all over the fretboard.

II. Low Feedback

Also referred to as "drone", used by artists such as Sunn 0))) and Earth, this one is a bit more fickle. Do everything youve been doing for high feedback, except with the following adjustments: 01. Switch to your neck pickup. 02. Crank the "low" on your amp and/or pedal. 03. Strike the bottom string. This tone is harder to sustain on its own, but gives a very heavy/doom quality to the sound.

III. Barring The Springs

While I don't believe this option is not available on all guitars, I'm positive it works with most tremelo equipped models. First, unscrew that backplate on your guitar. You should see two shiny, tempting springs. Now, apply much distortion, and play around with those springs. Scrape them with your pick, actually pick them, poke them, lick them, whatever, you should get a very unique sound coming from that guitar of yours. Again, experiment, see what different tones you can get. Van Halen liked this one.

IV. Playing Behind The Nut

Guitarist John5 occasionaly utilizes melodic behind the nut playing, as some of you Guitar World fans might have seen in the most recent issue. I'm simply going to tell you that these seemingly useless string bits are excellent noisemakers. Play around with them.

V. Broken Strings

So you're sitting there shredding, and you just broke one of your low strings. *Tear*. Now you have to go replace it and...wait. Stop. Noisemaking opportunity. Assuming that it's still attached, take that string and hit it with your palm right next to your pickup closest to the bridge so that it hits one of the pole pieces. You should get a squeal in addition to a low throbbing noise, that sounds very cool with some beatboxing prowness. Rythm (I know I didn't spell that right) is key to make this brilliant.

VI. Tapping On The Body Of The Guitar

Kurt Cobain liked to do this I believe. This is an excellent way to enhance high/mid feedback (Section I). It, like most everything in this article, is as simple as its sound. Hit your guitar. I'm serious, hit that thing. Try rapping with the knuckle and slamming with the palm, hit on the body for lower tones, hit the neck and headstock for mid/high tones. Experiment, see what you can do. The sound should vary for different guitars.


If these arent working for you, there are a few possible issues:
  • Turn up the volume and gain. Can't stress it enough.
  • Your guitar/amp may be designed to resist feedback.
  • If you have a noise gate, for gosh sakes turn it off.
  • Move close to the amp for feedback.
  • If these don't help, then my advice is crap. Keep in mind that these are only guidlines, and not all techniques have been mentioned. forge your own methods in the hopefully growing realm of experimental guitar. Yours, -R.
  • 59 comments sorted by best / new / date

      "Dont wana be a ****in' ass here, this poor guy seems like a nice bloke talkin' bout somethin' he ****in' read in TG or something and has no idea what the **** he's talking about and just copying what they say! I love F/B like all metal axe-men n my whammy spices it up, i dont need to break strings to make SHITE noise!" well. i definitley didnt get it from tg. whole things my brainchild, didnt copy anything from anyone anywhere. and i certainly hope i know what im talking about, seeing that i used all of these techniques frequently before ranting about them. you got two things right at any rate: im poor, and im a guy. yours, R.
      JC 2K3
      No mention of Thursten Moore..... Other than that, good article, but could have been more detailed. A good technique is to use a slide over the pickups.
      II. Low Feedback .....))))) You missed something very simple for infinite drone/Low Feedback.. Push the headstock of your guitar into the amp (spend some time to find your amps sweet spot), the constant vibration will vibrate your low strings with love and awesomeness.
      "I can't believe you didn't mention Tom Morello in an article on artistic noisemaking :o" come to think of it, youre absolutly right. he is quite the man for that sort of thing, i shouldve done my homework and stuck a bit on there about him. however i wanted to concentrate more on actually doing the techniques than preaching artists who use them. bottom line: i would work harder and longer to make things clear and accurate if i did another article. which i will, by the by
      ^ ahhh, yes. excellent point. well part twos have a purpose, id definitly spend more time when writing another. pickup selector is one id be focusing on. thanks for all whove read so far.
      i recommend two other tings: 1-the super distortion & feedbacker pedal from boss which isn't made anymore, but its sweet and you just hold down on it with your foot and it makes insane feedback and 2- pull your cable out of your guitar and touch your tongue with it
      Very cool, i totally agree, rock is all about unpredictibility, not calculated perfect sound, nice job
      I am a fan of feedback and noise-making myself, when my friend and I are jamming out if we get bored we just turn the gain way up and do a distortion jam and see what kind of experimental noise we can get. He does this weird thing where he turns the reverb way up and bumps the amp or something I cant' remember exactly. Anyways, I'm rambling. Good article and I am eagerly awaiting part 2.
      i like it man, a nice change from all the tech metal stuff and i love tech metal
      Tech metal could do with some feedback and weird noises! And I love tech metal too :') came here lamenting because I use DI and Guitar Rig rather than an actual amp when practicing and can't do this kind of stuff
      if you have a wah peddle you can control the feedback more and isolate specific harmonics. you can make some really cool sounds if you do it right.
      The War Machine
      1. It's not from a magazine botard. Did it ever occur to you that someone has INTELLIGENCE? Well you don't. FagBag. Anyways the rest of you are gay too. So bye.
      Thanks alot man, i wanted to know how to get that squealing sound from the guitar lol, now i know, ace idea for an article, i was hooked !keep it up!
      This is a great article..... it helped me get more noise. also, you can get a cool noise by rubbing the neck and strings across stuff like a pole. and if u put the guitar on the floor and push it softly it makes a cool noise.
      u can also use a different pluctrum like a screw driver or something to make noise.
      FeatherBreeze wrote: i liked it but you shouldve mentioned how to make the guitar squeal....kuz i dont know how.... lol
      shit thats some hard technique right there but when you get it OMG it makes you wanna nut yourself evertime u get that perfect squeel (jus look it up everywhere on the net) ....ima try the springs one latas
      I find feedback is far easier to control when you're running through a wah pedal, and IMO, humbuckers help as well.
      I wouldn't suggest hitting your guitar on the floor, (unless you are trying to break it.) Good ideas though. One of my fav moves is to hit the wammy bar with ur hand, but not so it changes the pitch.
      very great article. its nice to see peopel into experimental palying and unconvential musical approaches.
      yeah that was a legit article. thanks much, i just figured i should toss in that Jonny Greenwood (from Radiohead) uses that guitar hitting technique all the time. if you youtube Radiohead playing "House of Cards" on conan o'brien, you can watch Jonny pummel the shit out of his old tele. keep in mind though that he runs the thing through about five zillion different pedals first.
      One more thing for low feedback: downtune. Seriously, drop B MINIMUM. I personally favour drop B flat. Awesome article, mainly cos I play a lot of alt/prog/stoner metal.
      Dont wana be a ****in' ass here, this poor guy seems like a nice bloke talkin' bout somethin' he ****in' read in TG or something and has no idea what the **** he's talking about and just copying what they say! I love F/B like all metal axe-men n my whammy spices it up, i dont need to break strings to make SHITE noise!
      Another really fun thing to do with feedback is to use effects over them, flanger, chorus, delay, pixelator and octavers(sp?) can really sound awesome when ya screw around enough. One little thing I've gotten good at is using feedback through a delay and heavy chorus, then using volume swells, if you're cranked enough, it'll feedback everytime you swell. Harmonics can also make for good feedback fun.
      Angus Malmsteen
      this sucks. you said "put your finger on the third fret", but you never said which string or in which tuning; i assumed it was the low E on the third fret in standard tuning. next time, elaborate. *sigh*
      first....could have been more detailed..could have said something about theremins or no-imput stuff
      Pretty cool sounds, I'll be sure to check out the broken string one next time I break one
      i liked it but you shouldve mentioned how to make the guitar squeal....kuz i dont know how.... lol
      well, the articles really pointing out the obvious, and not alot of depth or intersting techniques either, so 7 i guess..
      i thought it was i sense there may be a "noise making 2" ??.. wud b good Dan
      cool artical, and it is a shaeme that music is becoming so pollished. But its cool that you give some props to earth, they rule also, Boris are probobly the latest masters of guitar noise.
      "this sucks. you said "put your finger on the third fret", but you never said which string or in which tuning; i assumed it was the low E on the third fret in standard tuning. next time, elaborate. *sigh*" that was an example to get you started, hence the "for example". it matters little what string youre on since i assumed most people would be in different tunings, the main thing is how you position your guitar to get which tone. lower strings are better to start. yours, R.
      OK, but could have waaaaay more detail. Screwing with the Volume and Tone pots, or the pickup selector, for instance, or using pick scrapes/taps to create notes.