How Do You Make an Acoustic Guitar Sound Like a String Quartet? Try This

Steve-san Onotera, the self-described “Samurai Guitarist,” wanted to make a video of himself performing the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” as the sun rose. In doing so, he learned something interesting about the sound of an acoustic guitar when you speed up a recording of it.

Onotera’s original plan was to record a video of himself outdoors at dawn, playing the song slowly, at seven bpm. This would give the finished recording a length of about 30 minutes—long enough for him to capture the sunrise.

He then planned to speed up the video by 20 times so that it would play back at a more natural tempo of 140 bpm while producing a fast-motion sunrise. He also intended to re-record the guitar audio, performing the part at 140 bpm to make it sound normal and to eliminate the sound of the click track that he followed while making the original video.

But much to his surprise, the original seven-bpm guitar track sounded pretty interesting when sped up, like a string quartet playing staccato. So he abandoned his plan to re-record the audio track at 140 bpm and instead remade it at seven bpm, dubbing it while wearing headphones to prevent the click track from appearing on the final recording. The new recording captures not only the sound of his sped-up guitar but also that of crows, whose loud caws sound like small birds chirping on the sped-up recording.

We’ve featured Onotera’s instructional guitar videos here before. You can view more of them on his YouTube channel.

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Christopher Scapelliti

Christopher Scapelliti is editor-in-chief of Guitar Player magazine, the world’s longest-running guitar magazine, founded in 1967. In his extensive career, he has authored in-depth interviews with such guitarists as Pete Townshend, Slash, Billy Corgan, Jack White, Elvis Costello and Todd Rundgren, and audio professionals including Beatles engineers Geoff Emerick and Ken Scott. He is the co-author of Guitar Aficionado: The Collections: The Most Famous, Rare, and Valuable Guitars in the World, a founding editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine, and a former editor with Guitar WorldGuitar for the Practicing Musician and Maximum Guitar. Apart from guitars, he maintains a collection of more than 30 vintage analog synthesizers.