Nice Noise: Preparations and Modifications for Guitar

Book by Bart Hopkin and Yuri Landman

72 pages, paperbound, 6″ x 9″, extensively illustrated with color photographs. Published by Experimental Musical Instruments, 2012. 

Audio examples illustrating the ideas in this book are available for free online at: and
(A few audio samples also appear at the bottom of this page.)

Sample pages of this book can be previewed at:

“How did you get that sound?”

Hidden inside your guitar is a world of sounds, tone qualities, timbres, and effects that you’ll never find with conventional playing techniques. Some of these sounds are beautiful, some comical; some are edgy, exotic, subtle, raucous, mellifluous or strange. These are the sounds you can bring out with the prepared guitar techniques described in this book. The focus here is not on electronic effects; it’s on things you can do physically to alter the ways the strings vibrate or the soundboard projects. Most of these preparations are easily put in place and just as easily removed. A few of them involve permanent modifications that can take an old guitar to turn it into something quite new. Whatever type of guitar you play – acoustic or electric; classical, jazz, rock, avant-garde or other — this book will show you new and unexpected ways to play it.
Want to hear what the preparations sound like? Audio examples – 59 of them altogether – can be found free of charge at and can also conveniently check out a few clips below on this page.) And of course the book is extensively illustrated with color photographs showing the how the preparations are set up.

From the introduction:

This book describes modifications, preparations and extensions for guitar. Most of the ideas presented here have been tested in performance, recording studio or both. Some of these tricks are widely known and used. Others have not been widely used, including plenty of our own quirky ideas and ideas from other one-of-a-kind guitar-sound experimenters. They’re here for you to try out, exploit, explore, and modify according to your taste and imagination.


These techniques are concerned with tone quality – ways to get unusual sounds out of guitars. They apply to both electric and acoustic guitars. Some work better with one sort or the other, as will be indicated in each case. Most are simple techniques that you can try as temporary modifications. Toward the end of the book we discuss a few that involve more permanent alterations to the form of the guitar.

Much of the prepared guitar work that’s been done over the years has tended toward an avant-garde aesthetic. As you’ll hear when you listen to the audio samples, this book contains plenty of sounds well suited for that. It also has lots of material that’s not far-out at all. Among the sound clips you’ll hear music from the classical guitar repertoire, some rock-flavored material, and some folky stuff. But questions of genre are not important: you can take these ideas and apply them to any style you wish, including your own personal style, whatever it may be. A lot of fun awaits you, and so do some very unusual musical sounds.


The authors:

Yuri Landman is an experimental instrument builder and musician. He has made innovative custom guitars and related instruments for leading groups including Liars, Sonic Youth, Half Japanese, Enon, Melt-Banana, Micachu & The Shapes, and The Go! Team. He also specializes in instrument-making workshops including the Home Swinger project, a Gesamt-kunstwerk consisting of a DIY-workshop where people build their own electric instrument combined with an ensemble performance with the participants.

Bart Hopkin has been playing guitar since childhood, and has performed steadily, both solo and in groups, in all the years since. He’s also is a maker of one-of-a-kind musical instruments and a student of instruments worldwide. As the director of Experimental Musical Instruments, he has written and published numerous books on instrument making and instrument makers.

Here are audio samples of a few of the preparations described in the book.

Excerpts from Nice Noise: Preparations and Modifications for Guitar

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