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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Gear »

Permalink Annoying Shrill Overtones or Harmonics

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Hey everyone,

I have encountered a problem with my tone that's driving me crazy. I get these really shrill, piercing overtones or harmonics when I play clean on the higher notes (high B and high E strings). Others here have already posted about something similar, but my problem doesn't quite match the description in this thread here:

Guitar Set up: AVRI '62 Jazzmaster, stock pickups, Mastery bridge. DIY Telecaster w/ GFS Vintage spec tele pickups.

Amp Set-up: 1978 or 1979 Silverface Twin Reverb, 130 watt, stock speakers. Orange Crush CR20Rt.

Sound sample:

I've attempted a few solutions to this.
1. Rolling down the tone pots. This seems to eliminate the issue only when the tone pot is rolled all the way down. This muddies up the sound way too much. Playing with the tone pot rolled off a bit does help a little, but these overtones still pierce through.
2. Trying a different guitar. The same issue shows up when I play on my telecaster with vintage spec pickups and 250k pots. (However, it's not as bad/shrill to my ears.)
3. Trying a different amp. The sound still shows up when I play through the Orange Crush 20, but it's less noticeable/overpowering.
4. Muting/dampening the strings above the nut and below the bridge. Muting the strings with my hand below the bridge did not change the sound much. Muting above the nut with a piece of fabric did not change the sound either.
5. Adjusting the amp EQ: this didn't change much without going to unplayable extremes (e.g. bass all the way up, mids and treble all the way down).

Solutions I have not tried:
1. "Darker" speakers on the Twin Reverb
2. Changing tone pots on the Jazzmaster (down to 250k or 500k)
3. EQ Pedal
4. "Darker" pickups

As far as I can tell, there's nothing loose on my guitar. The nut is solid and I play with a mastery bridge on my JM. I have a Wilkinson Bridge on my tele that seems solid as well. Minimal to no fret buzz on either guitar.

More experienced Jazzmaster/Jaguar players: have you encountered this issue in your playing before? Is it just a part of life? Am I hearing the classic "Jazzmaster chime" as something undesirable? Is there something going on with my amp that I need to get checked?

Or is this all in my head?

Thanks for any input!

Does it still sound bad when playing with a full band? I create the original post you linked to. I know you mention that it doesn't sound the exact same problem but here are a few thoughts that helped me

1) Less of an issue once I started playing with a band.
2) I rolled the treble down on my guitar and boosted hi-mids on my amp.
3) I started playing a bit further from the bridge in general. Especially on the higher strings

Maybe try another jazzmaster if you can? My guess is that it is part of life. It can be made less bad with different settings. Ideally in a full mix the issue gets washed out which is essentially what happened for me.

The Obsidians! (Ottawa surf)

EQ pedals are a great way to perform surgery on your sonic range. If you don't have one already, maybe you could try to simulate it in some recording software if you use that. Apply an EQ plugin that lets you hit the same frequency points as a pedal and see if it helps with the recorded sound.

The Soundcloud link is unavailable.
For starters, yes, your basic setup(s) has a tendency towards 'shrill'.
Too much, is when the harmonics overpower (or close to) the root note. If that's the case, or if it appears on some higher notes but not others, check your frets with a ruler for proper leveling. Buzz is not always a hint. The neck's relief should be slightly curved.
The Tele and Orange alone, same thing? If yes, then it's probably only your ears/taste. Cover it with reverb!
Heavier gauge strings can make some of these problems less noticeable, without much sacrifice, unlike the 4 solutions you mentioned which, like the other things you tried, will kill too much treble around them.

Last edited: Nov 06, 2019 13:30:19

Thanks for the replies everyone.

Ariel, sorry about the soundcloud link. I have it set now to "Public" so hopefully this link works:

It does sound to my ears like the harmonic is overpowering the root note.

I play with D'Addario Chromes Flatwound 11-50.

Another solution I have not tried is to lower my pickups.

el_camello, thanks for your thoughts. I haven't played in a band setting with this setup (I only got back into electric guitar about a year ago). I do some recording of home demos, and this is where I started to really notice the issue.

Redfeather, thanks for the feedback regarding an EQ pedal/plugin. Any good suggestions on a plugin? I'll give a look for one and see what I can find.

All in all, I don't mind the harmonic overtone -- I just don't want it to sound overpowering, ear-piercing, and unpleasant.

Again, thanks for the help!

I use Reaper as my DAW and its stock plugin ReaEQ does the trick for me. I choose the 11 point preset and go to work.

Listening to your recording, though, it does seem like something that could/should be addressed before the EQ stage. Those pesky Jazzmasters with all their little quirks! Sounds like metallic ringing to me.

...Except that you said it happens with a Tele too, to some extent. I wonder if it could be one of the amp's tubes?

...Except that you said it happens with a different amp, too! What the hell? Is there something in your room that's resonating with speaker output?

Last edited: Nov 06, 2019 22:03:44

It could be the high E and B string are too close to the bridge ridges. That normally happens on Jaguars though, I never had it happen on the Jazzmaster. If the strings are too close to the ridges it usually makes these kinds of noises.

I'm surprised its making this noise with a 300 dollar bridge though, yikes.

The Jazzmaster usually doesn't have this trouble being the neck is longer and the string angle is better to avoid touching that front ridge of the bridge.

I usually have to jack up the set screws on the high E & B saddles to avoid this on the Jaguars, never had it happen on a Jazzmaster though. Dunno justa idea.

I notice the Mastery bridge as two strings per saddle right? I never used one but if that's the case I bet its the E & B string saddle is set too low and one of or both strings are touching or to close to the bridge ridge. Jack that up I I would think that harmonic will go away.

Last edited: Nov 06, 2019 22:18:12

The break angle on the strings perhaps?

Hey all,

Redfeather, thanks for your recommendations. I'll give Reaper a look. I've been recording with a Scarlett2i2 and the Ableton software that comes with it. Using the Channel EQ stock plugin helped me knock out some of the higher frequencies on some other stuff I've recorded.

I had some microphonic preamp tubes in the Twin that I replaced, but this didn't seem to make a difference (the recording I made is with the new tubes installed). I also played an amp at my parents house (a Music Man HD 130 half stack -- awesome amp! but quite similar to the Twin Reverb) and noticed these same frequencies coming through. may or may not be the room I'm playing in.

Surfing_Sam_61, thanks for your thoughts. I took a look at my bridge, but there's no contact between the bridge and my strings. I wish that were the issue!

OzReverb, thanks for this idea. On my Jazzmaster it's a pretty shallow break angle over the bridge. I can experiment with a sharper break angle.

I went ahead and ordered a new pair of speakers for the Twin Reverb. This is an upgrade/modification that I'd wanted to make for a few months now anyway. I found a pair of Warehouse G12C/s at a good discount from of all places. I put these in on Friday and after a couple days playing, I'm happy to say that the issue has dissipated somewhat. Those annoying overtones still ring through, but I'm compensating more with my tone control (i.e. the tone control seems to be more effective with the new speakers) and the overall harshness seems to have gone down a lot.

I might try experimenting with some 250k pots as well.

Other observations: I notice that these frequencies come through much more strongly when I finger pick with the pads of my fingertips on certain notes. I can make these notes ring even on my tele with 250k pots. As mentioned before, this is true when I play the tele through my little Orange amp as well as when playing through the Twin Reverb. However, it takes "more work" to produce these frequencies on the Orange amp with the tele.

Conclusions: If I notice these frequencies regardless of the guitar I'm playing, regardless of the amp I'm playing through, it's something to do with the nature of the guitar as an instrument and in the techniques I use in playing.

Thank you all for your feedback and ideas. If you have any more ideas, please share and I'll update as I continue to experiment.

It sounds like maybe one of those things you never notice but at some point you focus on it and can't stop hearing it. Sometimes I can hear the ghost tones produced behind the bridge on my guitars Jaguar/Jazzmaster tremolo systems, and other times I don't. You could be hearing overtones or harmonics that are always there and never bothered you until they did.

Otherwise, the only thing in common in all the different configurations you mention hearing these is single coil pickups. You could try a guitar with humbuckers and see how that sounds to you.

edwardsand, thanks for the feedback. You're right, I was playing blissfully unaware of this until I recorded a few things. I noticed this sound in a few recordings and it was pretty annoying, even overpowering. Now I'm noticing it all over the place!

I've never played a guitar with humbuckers. I'll look for an opportunity to give that a try as well.

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