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Jinder

Tuning issues...any sympathisers?

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Does anyone else come up against this from time to time? I find it happens on all my guitars with varying degrees of regularity. However accurately I tune, whether with 5th-7th fret harmonics by ear, with my Boss TU15, my Peterson Strobostomp or whatever, some chords just sound out of whack or sour. My Bird is usually pretty sweet with tuning, as is my B15, but my others can be quite a handful at times.

 

Is this something I should just accept and put down to my fussy ear, or can it be remedied with a fresh setup?

 

The chord that usually sounds off is the first position G chord (the non-fifth-y shape with the open B string)...there often seems to be a sour, uneven beating harmonic between the G and B strings. This goes if I flatten the B a little, but the guitar then sounds out when I play, say, a first position E, A or D chord

 

Could I help matters by going lighter on string gauge? It was really severe a problem on my SJ200 when using 13-56s, much less so with 12-54s but still noticeable. Should I break with convention and go 11-52?

 

I would really appreciate any advice or tips on this. Live I don't seem to notice it so much, but when I'm writing or recording it can drive me crazy-sometimes I spend more time tuning my guitars than playing them!

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I'm guessing some acoustic guitar saddle slots might be a bit off "the mark"

this can be corrected a few different ways

this text is taken from frets.com

 

A simple formula for any instrument

Calculating Intonation Correction

© Frank Ford, 2/28/96

 

 

 

Fairly often, I'm asked to correct intonation on an acoustic guitar. I believe this is rightly done at the bridge in the form of a compensated saddle, where each string’s vibrating length can be set to achieve reasonable intonation. There are much more sophisticated methods of achieving intonation correction; there is more than one system of tempering the fretted scale. My interest is in simply achieving the reasonable intonation that's found on a well-made conventional guitar, without undue modification.

 

At this time, we generally accept modifications at the bridge because bridges are relatively easy to replace. Some systems for correcting intonation require shortening the fingerboard at the nut. This is not currently a generally accepted modification, although it has merit from an engineering standpoint.

 

I check for intonation by the usual method of playing the string fretted at the 12th fret and comparing to the note produced by playing the harmonic at that same position. Most often, I'm reconfiguring a saddle or bridge to correct for a guitar that plays sharp up the neck. Here's a formula I use to save the effort of trial-and-error.

 

Let's assume I'm working on a guitar that plays SHARP when fretted, and that all other aspects of set up are satisfactory, e.g. string gauge and action. I’ll start with the Low E, and repeat the procedure for all the strings

 

Compare intonation at 12th fret using an electronic tuner. Observe the NUMBER OF CENTS sharp the fretted note is compared to the open string harmonic. IT PLAYS 8 CENTS SHARP (that's a lot, but I often see worse.)

 

ONE CENT IS ONE HUNDREDTH OF A SEMITONE. I think of one cent as ONE PERCENT. And, I think of the number of cents error in intonation as the PERCENT ERROR. So my E strings plays 8 PERCENT SHARP.

 

Therefore, If I know the LENGTH of a semitone, I can calculate the distance I must move the pivot point of the string to correct for intonation.

 

My guitar has a scale length of 25-1/4” and I can look up the distance from the nut to the center of the first fret on a fret scale chart, or I can simply measure it. A SIMPLE MEASUREMENT IS ALL I NEED, because I’ll round off the decimal places, so I measure 1.43 inches. (For my purposes, a measurement of 1-1/2 inches is probably accurate enough to get reasonable results, but with my dial caliper I don’t have any trouble getting 2 decimal places.)

 

Here we go then: FIRST FRET DISTANCE times PERCENT ERROR

For my E string, it’s 1.43” x 8% = 0.114” or a little more than 7/64” (a fair distance when you think about it.)

 

I can now plot my ideal saddle positions for all the strings by starting with the points where the strings cross the saddle. I can choose whether to compensate the existing saddle by carving the top of it fore and aft, or by routing for a wider saddle, or by inlaying the saddle slot and routing to relocate the saddle in the bridge.

 

The advantage of this method is that it works easily for even the most bizarre instrument, stringing, tuning, and setup combinations.

 

My biggest source of error in measuring is the intonation measurement with my electronic tuner - you know how the meter wants to move around a bit. . .

 

Here's a simple explanation of the reasoning, submitted by Greg Neaga of Stuttgart, Germany:

 

It is easy to think this through if you use a very extreme intonation flaw as an example. Let's assume the pitch at the 12th fret is one complete semitone too flat.

 

In this case, you would have to move the saddle towards the nut by distance equal to the 1st fret distance.

 

Assuming the string tension stays the same, this would have the following effects:

 

1) The open string is raised by one semitone

2) The 12th fret harmonic is raised by one semitone

3) The fretted note at the 12th fret is raised by 2 semitones

 

Which is exactly what we need in our (admittedly extreme) example.

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Maybe someone needs to come up with a Buzz Feiten tuning system for acoustics.

A couple of years back I picked up a Suhr electric T style which had the system installed. Ignored it at first - figured it was just another one of those doodads they put on electrics that you don't need. Then I gave it a try - what a difference. It really worked. Totally in tune and properly intonated - every chord and note all the way up the board.

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Jinder, try this.

 

Sal... Good Luck

 

 

Tempered Tuning for Acoustic Guitar

By Kevin Ryan

 

I learned this method of temper-tuning a guitar while I was a professional piano tuner in Ohio about 24 years ago. This concept is used by the best piano tuners. If you don’t care a farthing about the theory and want to begin using the method, dispensing with these arcane facts, skip down to "The Method" below.

 

Terms & Theory

Fundamental: A vibrating guitar string produces a series of tones called the fundamental and it's harmonics (also called partials or overtones). The fundamental is the lowest note--the pitch produced by the entire string length in motion.

 

Harmonic: A vibrating string moves in a complex but predictable fashion. In addition to the entire string moving in its parabola (arc), the string can be divided conceptually into halves. Each half of the string also produces its own (almost independent) parabola and, thus, a pitch called a partial. Since the length of this part of the string is exactly half, it vibrates at twice the speed of the whole string and thus produces a pitch that is an octave higher. (E.g., 440=A; 880=A an octave higher). Divide the string into 3 equal lengths (the 7th fret is 1/3 the length of the string!) and you have another section of string with its own vibrating pattern and pitch (i.e., another partial). Divide the string into four equal lengths (at--you guessed it--the 5th fret) and you have yet another partial. These partials are always there, but when you just touch the string at these frets without actually fretting the string, you dampen the fundamental and isolate the partial at that fret, giving the illusion that you have "produced" the harmonic. Pluck an open string and listen for the partials along with the fundamental.

 

Inherent Inharmonicity: This is the phenomenon that necessitates tempered tuning in a stringed instrument. As we saw above, the fundamental of a string produces a tone along with, say, the 1st partial of that string (harmonic at the 12th fret). Let us assume the note is A (oscillating at 440 cycles). In theory, the 1st partial will be oscillating at 880 cycles per second. But it is not! It oscillates slightly faster-- i.e., sharper. Why? The answer lies in the physical properties of a vibrating string. The proportion of stiffness to diameter in a half-section of a string is greater than the proportion in the whole string. And the shorter the section, the greater the difference in the proportion. In any string length (whether fretted or open), the partials are all progressively sharper than the fundamental. This is Inherent Inharmonicity. Gosh, this all happens when you play that note? You bet it does!

 

Mathematical Intervals Adding to the problem of properly tuning a guitar is this quirk concerning intervals of mathematical purity. You see, each given chord wants intervals of mathematical purity for that particular chord! The mathematically pure intervals of a "C" chord, for example, are different that for a "D" chord. The differences are slight but they are real. That is why when you tune your guitar to "D" while fretting a "D" chord, the "D" will sound great but the other chords will sound slightly wrong. (This has probably driven you to distraction--now you know why!)

 

Compensation When a string is fretted, the string is slightly stretched as it is pushed down onto the fret. This, of course, minimally sharps the string. To compensate for this slight sharping during fretting and to compensate for some of the Inherent Inharmonicity, the bridge and saddle are traditionally moved away from the nut by a carefully calculated distance (on the Ryan Mission, this amount is .140"). But this cannot fully compensate for all of the above hurdles to excellent intonation. For that, we need Tempered Tuning.

 

Tempered Tuning This is a method of tuning that addresses all of the above factors. In essence, this method takes the inharmonicity of all six strings and the slight mathematical discrepancy between the whole scales and divides the variation equally among each string. This means that while no one chord or interval is perfect (and it is physically impossible for them all to be perfect), they are all only slightly off. But off by such a small, consistent amount that no ordinary ear can detect any dissonance. What follow are the steps to achieve this tempered tuning. You can learn it quickly. Master it and you will tune your guitar quicker and slicker than the other kids on the block! Fail to master it, and studies show you will spend 7.52 years of your life tuning your guitar.

 

 

The Method:

Tuning Notes:

A) When you tune the following fretted notes to the harmonics, tune them "beatless"-- i.e., without any hint of "rolling" or pulsating as the two notes synchronize. When two notes get closer, their "beating" slows down until it disappears altogether when they are perfectly in tune. This is very important! This is the skill to be gained!

 

=P~ In each step below, pluck the harmonic first. Then fret and pluck the designated string. This allows you to hear both notes simultaneously. Then tune the appropriate string.

 

1) Tune the D string to a known source

2) Pluck the 12th fret harmonic of the D then tune the G (fretted at the 7th fret) to this harmonic.

3) Pluck the same 12th fret harmonic of the D then tune the B (fretted at the 3rd fret) to this harmonic

4) Pluck the 12th fret harmonic of the G and tune the High E fretted at the 3rd fret to this harmonic

5) Tune the 12th fret harmonic of the A to the G fretted at the 2nd fret (pluck the harmonic first!)

6) Tune the 5th fret harmonic of the Low E to the High E open (pluck the harmonic first!)

 

Note: To apply the tuning method to alternate tunings, all you have to do is find the proper fretted note on the string you are tuning and tune it beatless to a 12th fret harmonic on a string below it. Easy as pie.

 

Final advice: take note that old strings are more difficult to tune than new strings. This is because of uneven stretching of the string and the subsequent erratic vibration patterns. In some instances, old strings are impossible to tune correctly. If you have difficulty achieving good intonation, change strings.

 

Kevin Ryan

Kevin Ryan Guitars

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Yes, there are a number of issues about keeping the guitar in tune and the compromises of the system. Equivalent notes and chords in different parts of the neck intonate slightly differently. Making it sound good involves managing voicings... We feel your pain, Jinder.

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On a well set up guitar fitted with the same gauge strings for which the intonation was originally set, the harmonic tuning method will give incredibly good results. There are two options which can improve on it.

(a) Buy a good tuner and use that.

(8-[ Tune with beats - as follows:

 

3rd harmonic on the A string (7 th fret)

4th harmonic of the low E string (5th fret)

A string sharp to a beat rate of .372 beats per second ( 2.7 seconds per beat).

 

3rd harmonic on the D string (7th fret)

4th harmonic on the A string

D string sharp to a beat rate of .497 beats per second (2 seconds per beat).

 

3rd harmonic on the G string (7th fret)

4th harmonic of the D string

G string sharp to a beat rate of .664 beats per second (1.5 seconds per beat).

 

The high and low E strings can be tuned directly by ringing the 4th harmonic of the low E string (5th fret) and the open high E string and tuning until the beats stop (NO beats).

 

3rd harmonic of the high E string (7th fret)

4th harmonic of the B string

B string flat to a beat rate of 1.116 beats per second (0.9 seconds per beat).

 

It's a ***** to do, but you are now sufficiently equally tempered to sound really good in any key. Straight harmonics tuning does have an element of tempering (from the fretting involved) but will always sound better in some keys than others.

 

And Jinder - if you can hear the problem, you are already one step ahead of many players, who can't hear their guitar is out of tune when it is making you flinch with every chord !

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Wow. Lots of in-depth replies.

 

Jinder, the B-string is a total ***** to tune. I've found that unless my G string is spot on, the open B will always sound out of wack. You can't really tune the B string with the tuner, at least in my opinion. I always test it next to a fretted B.

 

For me, the open B needs to be a tad flat (too much and your A and E chords will sound off). For this to work, make sure open G string is where it should be.

 

As a country singer I find it tough to do anything if my G chord isn't ringing properly. Hope this helps.

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Fantastic answers guys but most depend upon one thing>>>>>a good ear!

 

My hearing is just about good enough to alert me before the lorry hits.

 

As Thermionik well knows whenever I pick up one of his guitars I can't tune to save my life.

 

So I have a seiko this, a seiko that, some device that clips on to the headstock which my long suffering guitar god of a son gave me.

 

God I wish I could hear!!

 

^

^

^

^

^

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pardon?

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But, Johnt - when you start a'strummin' and a'singin', you are extraordinarily entertaining !

 

BTW - gimme yer current mobile no. in a PM - we are at Swinderby and Newark, and if I see something you might be interested in.....

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But' date=' [b']Johnt[/b] - when you start a'strummin' and a'singin', you are extraordinarily entertaining !

 

BTW - gimme yer current mobile no. in a PM - we are at Swinderby and Newark, and if I see something you might be interested in.....

 

Yes if you should fall over an Excellente I know a home for it.

 

Similarly if there happened to be 2 X 1956 J200 I'll take the blonde I know you prefer 'burst!

 

In my wildest dreams!

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When I first learned to tune a guitar it was by ear. The the miracle of electronic tuners appeared. When I tuned by ear it seemed more satisfying. Now with the tuner I find my self more particular about what I hear because I know what it is like to be perfectly in tune. So now I seem to spend a lot of time retuning in small amounts that few people would even notice.

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When I first learned to tune a guitar it was by ear. The the miracle of electronic tuners appeared. When I tuned by ear it seemed more satisfying. Now with the tuner I find my self more particular about what I hear because I know what it is like to be perfectly in tune. So now I seem to spend a lot of time retuning in small amounts that few people would even notice.

 

Like you, I learned to tune by ear.

After nearly 40 years, I still haven't figured out why it is that every time I tune by ear, I'm always and I mean always, just a half step lower than the tuners.

In tune, but a half fret off. Weird.

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LSG - too much van halen as a teen, possibly?

 

intonation, on the whole has ruined the quality of my life in the past. my perception that something was out of tune sucked the enjoyment right out of playing. damn me all to hell. why can't i just live with somethings? (insert ex wife's cell # here) anyway, sorry...got a little off topic, there - but my point, aaaaand i do have one, really, is that science could only solve so many of my problems. learning to relax and, as one of our forum mates by-lines states, just play the damn thing, is not to be overlooked. there are guitars - pricy, coveted ones too i might add, that will erode your civilty with poorly ratio'd tuners that never hold a tune. a friend of mine has a gretsch tennessean that never stays in tune, ever. it was, in my opinion, 2500 bucks down the tube. there is no enjoyment in an instrument that will not stay tuned. unless you play punk, and punk only, where lack of tune is percieved as cool, then all is a waste. i also found, back in my taylor 415 days, that using elixir 13-56's was a fine tuning bad idea. it was never 'in tune'. i quote that because i feel, now that some time has paseed, that it was in tune, but i couldn't handle it. there are in our herds of high end glory, guitars that are so full of lovely bouquets of overtones that intonation can play tricks on you. mess with your melon, maaaann. i also think tinitis has played a role with me. hear that? what? that? nope. that's right, so did i.

there, mindless banter aside, i mentioned in a post several weeks ago that the ap tuner (www.aptuner.com) is a fantastic software tuner. for those of you that record, it is very handy or even if you do not, a mic plugged into your hard drive is all you need. i am not a scientist but....it is very accurate .000hz? something like that. i am also blessed with a guitar (SWD) that never goes out of tune except for humidity changes. i will make no money from this post.

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Thanks for the advice all!!

 

REALLY interesting viewpoints. I second Doc's emotion that as a country singer or, in my case, a heavily country influenced singer, an off G chord in first position just ruins the whole brew.

 

I tried the Kevin Ryan tempered tuning technique and really liked it-my guitar was still a bit out, but a fair bit less.

 

I agree with Cunk that being out of tune is just game over for me-tuning issues and having to constantly tune and re-tune just suck all the life and enjoyment out of playing for me. I sometimes feel I spend more time tuning that playing, which is really bad news for someone such as myself who makes a living from being a songwriter and likes to write spontaneously-if anything stems the flow of free thought, I'm screwed.

 

I'm going to get my Dove set up, but I picked up some different gauge strings yesterday-11/52s and 13/56s, so I'm going to try them out and see if the guitar responds any better to any particular set, before I settle on one to have the guitar set up for.

 

Thanks again for all the advice!

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Jinder - that is one of the best bits of advice going:

 

Try the strings to find the gauge you want for tone and playability and THEN get the set-up done.

 

Good luck - and don't forget, most people out there don't hear it out of tune like you do!

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I'm glad you guys understand my fussy ear-I hate hearing things out of tune, and I know so many guitarists who don't give a damn about tuning and "just get on with it" but I have a hard time doing that. I think the people I play to deserve to hear guitars in tune too-I play in an acoustic trio, and if anything is slightly out, we go from sounding sweet and harmonically rich, to sounding like a fire in a pet shop.

 

Primary culprit is a '74 Guild F112 12-string we have which is VERY fragile and hugely tweaky when it comes to tuning. I think an order for a SWD 12 will need to be put in shortly :-)

 

I just want to be in tune and sound good. Obviously I understand that playing guitar is a compromise, and I would rather have that Gibson tone that go for that perfect harmonic evenness you find in some £8000 Collings/Huss & Dalton etc., but I'm glad that I'm not alone in wanting to be in tune!

 

I shall let you guys know how my string exploits go :-)

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Lol!! You may be right, but if they suit the guitar I'll give them a go...back in the day, when I switched from being a Les Paul devotee to playing acoustic guitar (I learned on electric then "went" acoustic-like Dylan in reverse!), I used to use 10s. TENS! Can you believe that?

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