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Folk music? I don't know no other kind but folk music. Did you ever hear a horse sing it? - Big Bill Broonzy

Author Topic: Playing in Juke Joints without amplification. Did anybody hear the guitar?  (Read 1689 times)

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Offline Kokomo O

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One thing to keep in mind is that there weren't too many of the old-timers who could afford resonators, particularly as the Depression sunk in. But many of them did play Stellas, and they are famously loud guitars. Mine is the loudest wood guitar I own, and one of the loudest I've ever played or heard unamplified, if you try just a little bit to play it loud.

Also, I think that some of the perception of loudness can come from the attack and decay you put into your playing--a fast attack, or a snapped string, can create the impression of being even louder than it is. Similarly, I think a damped note, whether it's done with the left hand by lifting the finger or slide, or by pick stopping (or whatever it's called) with the right, draws the listener's attention much as a loudly played note would. So, think about how important those techniques are to the music and to creating texture in the music, but also to drawing the listener into the music, especially in a loud environment.

Offline alyoung

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Absolutely agree on Stellas. I'm well used to expressions of surprise from listeners at how much sound my little 1920s model  produces. I think people confronted with such a tiny guitar are often inclined to play it light and string it the same way. But those little Stellas are solidly built, and they respond wonderfully to reasonably heavy (say, 056-012) nickel strings and a solid whomping. I don't mean beat it to death, but if you put a bit of weight into your picking, you'll get a big shout back from the guitar.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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I suggest that folks take a gander at the photo on the cover of the new Gary Davis bio "Say No To The Devil" to see how one of the greatest of all street singers did it..on the streets of New York no less.
In that picture he is playing a huge bodied Kay guitar of the type Scrapper Blackwell is playing on his first Prestige Album. Davis believed you had to have a BIG guitar to get a big sound. His preferred one was a
Gibson J-200 which back in the day WERE really loud. Later Gibson managed to muffle them until they came to be called "whispering Giants". He also had a large bodied Gretsch Rancher at some point which he told me had been eaten by rats. I have one of those and it became my preferred  busking guitar because it is one LOUD Maple mofo!I also hit it hard and rely much more on my thumb down strumming much of the time especially behind sung verses. Consider Davis' voice or Blind Willie Johnson's. Those voices could carry (as documented in Davis' case) for several blocks around, over bus and car traffic noise.
After having sung and played on those same New York streets, and even subways, for years, I can tell you that I spit on amplifiers! (Hock.ptui.sizzlle!) Anyone who uses an amp out there is a weak, miserable worm who shouldn't be allowed to play no Blues anywhere anytime anyway! Just kidding folks use whatever you need to, but you can train yourself to play REALLY REALLY LOUD without amplification.
BTW most on here have taken guitar lessons at some point in their lives but have never taken a voice lesson. If you're thinking of doing this and you didn't grow up in the Black church (where you might actually have had some vocal training) try to find an amenable vocal coach and take a few lessons. Why not?
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

Offline harriet

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Just remembering when Davis came to my University auditorium - I saw him there several times - they didn't have a mic initially so out of curiosity I moved to the rear of the auditorium. He gave out a yelp to shut everybody up that would wake the dead and I don't remember him having any trouble projecting until they came with a mic for him.


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