Making Strings Vibrate in Unconventional Ways

Guitar pickups detect the motion of a string, most commonly we create this motion with a pick or our fingers, but there are other forces that can vibrate a string, for instance, other soundwaves. You may notice that when you play your electric guitar loudly, the strings on your other guitars, particularly your acoustics, will vibrate as well. So, by using loud noises to manipulate string movement (i.e. screaming at your strings), you can create the same sympathetic vibrations in them, which will be picked up faintly by your pickups.

Nirvana did it on “Territorial Pissings”. Other examples of yelling into a pickup include “Climbing Up The Walls” by Radiohead, “Time Consumer” by Coheed and Cambria, and Scott Weiland’s famous opening lines in the Stone Temple Pilots song “Dead & Bloated”, which were sung directly into a treble pickup on Dean DeLeo’s guitar.

So, the act of screaming at your guitar pickups can create sounds in a couple of different ways, one way to create noise by yelling into a pickup is that the pickup itself is microphonic and is picking up your voice. The other way is by your voice being so loud that it vibrates the strings of your guitar (slightly). Similar to how holding your guitar up to a speaker can create a feedback loop. The two variations have much different sounding results but both have been used by artists through the years.



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