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Timbre: How to Change Your Tone with Your Picking Hand

Learn a simple technique that can change the color of your sound.

The term timbre refers to the tone color of your sound. While there are many ways to adjust timbre, it is the picking hand that is most responsible for changing the color of the sound. What exactly does this mean?

Let's use a technique called bridge picking to hear these possible differences in tone color.

  • Fret a note or a chord with your left hand.
  • Pick the note or strum the chord by picking as far right as possible.
  • Continue to pick the note or strum the chord, each time moving your hand further to the left.


What do you notice?

  • Picking further to the right creates a brighter tone. There are less bass frequencies and more treble frequencies present in the sound.
  • Picking further to the left creates a darker sound. There are more bass frequencies and less treble frequencies present in the sound.


Because of its many tonal possibilities, the guitar can be a very expressive instrument. Changes in timbre are not only found by picking different parts of the string, but also by changing the pickup selector on the guitar or by manipulating the settings on the amp - not to mention exploring the myriad effects and tones available through pedals and presets. Learning about different ways to color the sound will help you play the guitar more expressively and exhaust its full potential.

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