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OfflineBrAiN
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What's wrong with my guitar tuning?
    #7575740 - 10/30/07 11:09 AM (13 years, 3 months ago)

9 years of on and off playing and I don't know why I've never asked this question.

I'll use an electronic tuner for my guitar.. or an online tuner or whatever.. each time, no matter what I use, I'll get the notes supposedly perfect according to the digital tuner.. or just by ear when using an online one.

Then when I doublecheck by doing relative tuning, it's usually OFF!

And visa versa. If I tune one or two strings with a tuner and do ths rest via relative tuning, it sounds off when I compare them to a digital or online tuner.

Whether or not I tune via relative tuning or using a tuner.. shouldn't the notes be exactly the same when I doublecheck using the other method?

Does anyone else have this problem?


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InvisibleMiddlemanM

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Re: What's wrong with my guitar tuning? [Re: BrAiN]
    #7575750 - 10/30/07 11:13 AM (13 years, 3 months ago)

Sounds like your guitar's intonation is off.

Try tuning while playing a G chord so it sounds perfect, then switch to an E chord.
If the G chord sounds good but the E chord doesn't then it's your intonation...


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OfflineBrAiN
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Re: What's wrong with my guitar tuning? [Re: Middleman]
    #7575784 - 10/30/07 11:20 AM (13 years, 3 months ago)

Intonation?


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InvisibleMiddlemanM

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Re: What's wrong with my guitar tuning? [Re: BrAiN]
    #7575809 - 10/30/07 11:27 AM (13 years, 3 months ago)

Intonation refers to the need for each string to be a slightly different length in order for the proper pitch to be produced at each fret.

You can try hitting a 12th fret harmonic on a single string and adjust the screw where the string meets the saddle (if there is one) until the harmonic isn't "wobbly" and do this for all 6 strings.

http://www.projectguitar.com/tut/intonate.htm

More info:

Intonation- Having an instrument "in tune" throughout the scale is the goal of every player and luthier. Different string gauges, scale lengths, set ups, fret sizes, playing techniques and other variables can effect your instruments intonation. While it is true that there is a certain amount of compromise on equal tempered instruments, my goal is to have the best possible intonation.

The problem is best described by saying that the notes of some chords sound in tune while others seem far from it. And re-tuning to bring one chord in to tune only throws the others out...and so it goes. This condition is present even though the instruments individual strings are said to be in "perfect tune" (E,A,D,G,B,E). Welcome to the world of the equal tempered scale!
To help explain this occurrence it's important to realize that the differences in the strings mass, tension, length and fretting stretch all effect the notes pitch. There are also other factors that can affect the instruments ability to play in tune which I'll mention later.

The strings scale length* begins at the nut and ends at the saddle. If you look at the saddle(s) of guitar or bass you will quickly realize that they do not sit parallel with the last fret (with the exception of some classical guitars), they are compensated. String length is actually added to the actual scale length in order to off set the sharpening of the note which occurs when the string is stretched while being fretted.
The dramatic string size differences on acoustic steel string guitars make this compensation more pronounced than one would see on a classical for example where the individual string diameters are more similar.

*Literal scale length can be determined by measuring the distance from the nut end of the fingerboard to the center of the 12th fret and doubling it. Compensation is added to the scale length so measuring from the nut to the saddle would actually give you a figure slightly longer than your instruments "scale length".
QUICK CHECK: Tune your instrument to pitch and fret each string naturally at the 12th fret. This note is one octave higher than the open note and should be in tune (neither flat or sharp).

If notes played at the 12th fret are dramatically sharp or flat, changes to the strings length and position of the saddle (or shape of it's crown) are necessary.
When inspecting the crown of a compensated saddle you will notice that's it's crown (highest peak) does not run right down the center of the saddle but instead wavers a bit fore and aft. This variance in the crown changes the strings length ever so slightly allowing for a greater fine tuning of the strings length.

Some things that can cause poor intonation are:

    Incorrect positioning of the saddle or bridge This error renders the strings either too long causing intonation to be flat or too short causing the instrument to play sharp. This can be a problem with the saddles crown or the actual position of the saddles slot on an acoustic guitar.

    High action  An instrument with high action will of course cause the string to be stretched further before contacting the fret, this stretching sharpens the note slightly. High action at the nut is particularly troublesome as chords played in the 1st to 3rd position can sound terribly out of tune.

    Excessive Relief  The strings distance to the fret can be dramatically increased on necks that have far too much relief or other problem with the necks shape.

    A sloppy or loose saddle The saddle can lean forward when not held firmly in the slot and cause the strings scale length to shorten thus shortening the strings.

    A grooved/worn saddle Wear and tear can change the shape of the saddles crown, changing the strings length.

    Frets - Frets that are badly grooved or have flat crowns will also throw off intonation as the strings length is changed. Frets must be leveled and dressed to remove the grooves or replaced if necessary.
    Fret height will also effect intonation...instruments with truly tall fret wire will play incredibly sharp if the string is fretted hard and your fingertip is bottoming out on the board. To see for yourself what effect your fretting technique has on the instruments tune watch the pitch of the note on our tuner when fretting with different pressure. Yes, you can be the culprit!

    A mathematical error If the bridge itself has not been positioned on the top correctly it must be corrected. In some cases the slot can be filled and recut. More here.
    In other instances the bridge must be physically moved. More here.

    Poor Quality / Defective / Worn Strings Ever been tempted by those super cheap strings you find on auction sites? All strings are not created equal and I have personally encountered the problem first hand with a client using some no name strings which would not play in tune down the neck. You may also find tuning problematic on worn strings. If your intonation issue is a brand new problem, the instrument played in tune before and NO changes have been made to the instrument you may wish to change strings first, just to rule out the easy stuff.

    Fret Layout/Spacing I hate to mention this as I fear far too many people will jump to this conclusion in error, but I still encounter this on occasion, usually on inexpensive imported instruments. This is more likely to be an issue on a fretboard that was slotted by hand. Factories are using sophisticated machines that carefully, correctly and consistently cut fingerboard slots.

    Technique Well this isn't actually a defect, it's a "style". Some players have a rather powerful fretting technique in which they place excessive pressure on the strings when fretting and if the instrument in hand happens to have fairly tall frets this is more than enough to mess with your intonation. Some players may actually have a tendency to bend a string sharp when fretting.

Improving Your Intonation

The first step to improving your instruments intonation is to eliminate any issues that I've mentioned above which could be causing problems. When clients come to me with intonation concerns I can usually determine whether I can improve the intonation by inspecting the instrument and checking it on a strobe tuner. It is a fact that some players have more sensitivity to the compromises in the equal tempered scale. When that is the case I normally must do my best to explain the compromises of a fretted instrument and offer my condolences. :smile: Having every single note in perfect tune is beyond the abilities of many equal tempered instruments.
On a happier note, most do not hear the subtle differences in pitch in such a pronounced way that we listen in agony.
The most common "upgrades" to improve intonation are compensated saddles and nuts. These give us the ability to tweak the individual strings length and minimize some of the most offensive spots.

Nut Compensation - As I have already explained, fretting the string stretches it...so length is added to the instruments string to prevent sharpening of the note, once that has been done however we have also lengthened the open strings, the only one that isn't fretted and therefore did not require the compensation. In order to improve the tuning further some will compensate the nut. Compensation of the nut can be achieved in different ways and you are likely to find many opinions on the subject, I am by no means an authority and have not intended to cover this vast subject in this article.
But to keep it simple, either the fingerboards length is shortened at the nut end or the nut will be made to over hang the fingerboard to decrease it's length without modifying it.
Earvana® is one example of a pre-fab compensated nut, but there many others being offered today.
The Buzz Feiten Tuning system® is another popular intonation compensation method though not for do-it-yourselfers. Modifications are made to the saddles position and fingerboard length according to several factors such as string gauge, scale length and action.


Tuning

For me personally, intonation became an issue once my playing began to improve. I think this may be the case for many budding musicians...until one's ability and ear develops they are "blessed" not to hear the inconsistencies on their fretboard.
And to the opposite extreme I know people that hear things I can not.
Just as there are several theories about ideal saddle and nut compensation, there are also different ways in which we can tune our instrument. What? Some may be asking...I thought you just took a tuner and when the green light lit up you were in tune?
While this may be one of the most common methods of tuning guitars it isn't the only method.
You will find that some use harmonics to tune, some will tune  2 particular chords until they are in tune with one another and still others have devised off-set tuning charts that detail how many cents sharp or flat each individual note should be tuned.
Whatever method you find best suits your ear, simply know that there is far more than one way to skin a cat, I mean tune a guitar!


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OfflineBrAiN
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Re: What's wrong with my guitar tuning? [Re: Middleman]
    #7575816 - 10/30/07 11:29 AM (13 years, 3 months ago)

Damn. Thanks,


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Offlinefalkor187
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Re: What's wrong with my guitar tuning? [Re: BrAiN]
    #7575859 - 10/30/07 11:42 AM (13 years, 3 months ago)

also, different programs have different variations on the 'cents', or how in or out of tune you are.

i mean, we are trying to digitize a natural sound...somewhere along the way those 100010101010101010111010101001010101, get a lil different.

ive noticed alot of GOOD guitar players if they use a tuning pedal on stage, they re-tune after each song, making sure each song is played perfectly in tune. and i would think they would use the same tuner pedal, ALLL the time. that way it doesnt variate.

thats jsut my 2 cents..


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OfflineBrAiN
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Re: What's wrong with my guitar tuning? [Re: BrAiN]
    #7575887 - 10/30/07 11:52 AM (13 years, 3 months ago)

btw my guitar is an acoustic so my strings go to into pegs beyond the saddle. I might have to to some filing on my saddle or something.


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OfflineBrAiN
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Re: What's wrong with my guitar tuning? [Re: falkor187]
    #7575894 - 10/30/07 11:53 AM (13 years, 3 months ago)

Quote:

falkor187 said:
also, different programs have different variations on the 'cents', or how in or out of tune you are.

i mean, we are trying to digitize a natural sound...somewhere along the way those 100010101010101010111010101001010101, get a lil different.

ive noticed alot of GOOD guitar players if they use a tuning pedal on stage, they re-tune after each song, making sure each song is played perfectly in tune. and i would think they would use the same tuner pedal, ALLL the time. that way it doesnt variate.

thats jsut my 2 cents..




I'd imagine that a tuning fork would probably be the most accurate way to go if you want the purest sound of a note to copy. Anyone every try these while tuning a guitar?


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OfflineBrAiN
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Re: What's wrong with my guitar tuning? [Re: BrAiN]
    #7575960 - 10/30/07 12:18 PM (13 years, 3 months ago)

If I do both tuning against a tuner and relative tuning at the same time I guess it ain't SO bad. I just won't move on to the next string until the open string sounds exactly the same as the tuner AND the 5th fret sounds the same as the next open string.

I can never get them BOTH to sound exactly the same, but if I get it where I feel like it's almost thje same either way... it tends to sound the best.

I guess there isn't much I can do with an intonation problem with an accoustic. I'll just have to file down the saddle as needed in each spot under the string. I better be careful though.. these ibanez electric accoustics don't look easy (or possible maybe) to replace the saddle.


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OfflineBrandNoob
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Re: What's wrong with my guitar tuning? [Re: BrAiN]
    #7575984 - 10/30/07 12:24 PM (13 years, 3 months ago)

I would have a professional luthier do it. Or you could order the proper tools from stewart macdonald. And read a few books. And prepare to get it wrong several times. I would just have your local luthier take a look at it. Your intonation problems could be exacerbated by several factors (truss rod/neck condition, bridge pulling or "bellying" up, etc.) and a qualified tech will not only know what to do, but show you what he is doing.

A lot of newer Ibanez A/Es come with "compensated saddles", and there's usually a box or pile of spares (that come in the box along with the warranty card) at your local Ibanez dealer. You could probably score a few for free if you're cool with the dudes there.


--------------------
All posts were channeled through the user by typing the thoughts of telepathic beings.  All photos are of paranormal origin and do not represent the physical world, as we know it.  BrandNoob shall not be held accountable for the actions of deceased or hyperdimensional individuals.


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OfflineBrAiN
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Re: What's wrong with my guitar tuning? [Re: BrandNoob]
    #7576016 - 10/30/07 12:32 PM (13 years, 3 months ago)

I've got a feeling a professional would probably end up charging me half of what my guitar is worth... I've got the Ibanez aeg10. It looks like a pain in the ass to try to do myself and I only paid 300 or so for it.

I might just keep it on the back burner to dick around with and finally get a descent electric guitar. I've been without an electric for a few years and it's a real pain in the ass to learn new songs on the acoustic for me. It's time to put it away and get a guitar where the fretboard is close enough to the strings to not be a chore to press down. It's a real pain in the ass to memorize notes when you're spending more time on trying to figure out how to press down all the strings without them sounding muffled than time just PLAYING the damn song.

I'm thinkin maybe a Les Paul. I've seen some nice lookin' ones at guitar center for about 400 bucks or so. I've seen the same Les Pauls go up to thousands of dollars.

Does anyone know if the QUALITY is really THAT much difference on a Les (or any other guitar for that matter) between the 400 dollar models and the 2000 dollar ones? I'm not so much talking about the RICHNESS of the sound as much as I am the accuracy of the ease tuning.


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Re: What's wrong with my guitar tuning? [Re: BrandNoob]
    #7576017 - 10/30/07 12:32 PM (13 years, 3 months ago)

Quote:

Middleman said:
Sounds like your guitar's intonation is off.




Quote:

BrandNoob said:
I would have a professional luthier do it.




--------------------
Welcome evermore to gods and men is the self-helping man.  For him all doors are flung wide: him all tongues greet, all honors crown, all eyes follow with desire.  Our love goes out to him and embraces him, because he did not need it.

~ R.W. Emerson, "Self-Reliance"

:heartpump:


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OfflineBrAiN
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Re: What's wrong with my guitar tuning? [Re: WhiskeyClone]
    #7576024 - 10/30/07 12:34 PM (13 years, 3 months ago)

eh?


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Re: What's wrong with my guitar tuning? [Re: BrAiN]
    #7576100 - 10/30/07 12:54 PM (13 years, 3 months ago)

I meant your intonation is off, and you should take it to a pro rather than try to do it yourself.

:smile:


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Welcome evermore to gods and men is the self-helping man.  For him all doors are flung wide: him all tongues greet, all honors crown, all eyes follow with desire.  Our love goes out to him and embraces him, because he did not need it.

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OfflinePinballWizard
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Re: What's wrong with my guitar tuning? [Re: BrAiN]
    #7576418 - 10/30/07 02:07 PM (13 years, 3 months ago)

Ask for an estimate. They can't charge you for that. Just tell them that you need your intonation fixed and show them the guitar.


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Re: What's wrong with my guitar tuning? [Re: BrAiN]
    #7576587 - 10/30/07 02:55 PM (13 years, 3 months ago)

Quote:

BrAiN said:

I'm thinkin maybe a Les Paul. I've seen some nice lookin' ones at guitar center for about 400 bucks or so. I've seen the same Les Pauls go up to thousands of dollars.

Does anyone know if the QUALITY is really THAT much difference on a Les (or any other guitar for that matter) between the 400 dollar models and the 2000 dollar ones? I'm not so much talking about the RICHNESS of the sound as much as I am the accuracy of the ease tuning.




You will not find a Gibson Les Paul for 400 bucks. There are Epiphones in that price range, though. I've got one, and it's a totally decent instrument. Any instrument in that price range should hold its tuning just fine if set up well. That extra 2000 bucks really just goes the extra mile at every turn (better construction, materials, finish, etc.) but it isn't 4-5 times as nice, obviously. You just have to pay ridiculous amounts for the best.


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Welcome evermore to gods and men is the self-helping man.  For him all doors are flung wide: him all tongues greet, all honors crown, all eyes follow with desire.  Our love goes out to him and embraces him, because he did not need it.

~ R.W. Emerson, "Self-Reliance"

:heartpump:


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Offlinefalkor187
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Re: What's wrong with my guitar tuning? [Re: PinballWizard]
    #7576606 - 10/30/07 03:02 PM (13 years, 3 months ago)

i went to sam ash and bullshitted them, saying had a 2 year warranty for tunings and other small repairs(its something they offered me when i bought my bass there, but turned down) telling them i lost all my paperwork..and being stoned, lazy musicians that work there, they didnt bother to look it up, so i bought some new strings, and the pro there restrung, tuned and fixed my volume/pick up switches for free.

and it was the best my bass had ever sound..adn it stayed in tune for ever..so if its $20 bucks to restring/tune your guitar, it well worth it.


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OfflineBrAiN
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Re: What's wrong with my guitar tuning? [Re: falkor187]
    #7576629 - 10/30/07 03:07 PM (13 years, 3 months ago)

I'll just keep trying to tweak this acoustic as much as I can until  just get fed up then try to take it into a pro.

Without being able to bullshit :wink:.. how much would it probably cost to fix an intonation on an acoustic?


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InvisibleWhiskeyClone
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Re: What's wrong with my guitar tuning? [Re: BrAiN]
    #7576657 - 10/30/07 03:12 PM (13 years, 3 months ago)

Probably fifty bucks


--------------------
Welcome evermore to gods and men is the self-helping man.  For him all doors are flung wide: him all tongues greet, all honors crown, all eyes follow with desire.  Our love goes out to him and embraces him, because he did not need it.

~ R.W. Emerson, "Self-Reliance"

:heartpump:


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OfflineEl Zorro
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Re: What's wrong with my guitar tuning? [Re: WhiskeyClone]
    #7576771 - 10/30/07 03:41 PM (13 years, 3 months ago)

You should get a complete setup for that fifty bucks.

Action adjusted, Intonation, Truss rod adjustment.


If your action is too high as it is on a lot of acoustics it will cause the intonation problem to appear worse, because you are stretching the strings farther when you fret them. Actually this is part of the intonation problem itself.

However, the intonation shouldn't be off that much on the fifth fret unless it is set up really badly.

Intonation problems are usually more apparent farther down the neck.
Unless of course your action is WAY too high.


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