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Thread: A question re: tuning....

  1. #1
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    A question re: tuning....

    Do you tune all the strings on a 6 string guitar to concert pitch as in E = E, A = A, etc. or do you tune the low E, A, D and G slightly flat in order to have it sound "right" when playing? Also do you tune playing hard or soft?

  2. #2
    Senior Member veinbuster's Avatar
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    I tune to concert pitch.

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    Plank Spanker justmund's Avatar
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    I tune to concert and have no problems with the guitar sounding "right". PRSes have a compensated nut which goes a long way to alleviating some of the common problems with intonation, and I quote (lifted from another site):

    "In response to concerns, requests and questions referencing the Buzz Feiten Tuning System, I would like to clarify Paul Reed Smith Guitars position on this matter. In 1980, I patented a compensated nut for guitars that addresses the age-old problem that fretted instruments do not play in tune at the nut end of the neck. This patent was assigned to DiMarzio to market at that time and has since reverted ownership back to PRS Guitars.

    When the drawings and tooling were made for the first PRS models, I incorporated this patented concept by shortening the distance between the nut and the first fret on all PRS guitars so the intonation would be adjusted at the nut and the guitars would play in tune. I did not advertise this fact because I knew a good percentage of customers would notice these new PRS instruments played in better tune then what they owned or was available at the time. I also felt that would translate into sales and customer satisfaction. I did not feel the need to explain the whole concept to the rest of the industry.

    Anyone who is concerned that their PRS does not incorporate the Buzz Feiten Tuning System nut compensation feature can rest assured that nut compensation has been an integral part of all PRS instruments since 1980. "

  4. #4
    I use concert pitch also, and have no problems.


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    Cream Crackered Mikegarveyblues's Avatar
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    Concert pitch. Never had any issues.
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    Warped frustrated old man John Scrip's Avatar
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    Concert pitch -- Never really had any issues except for guitars with unusually high saddles / string clearance (but I suppose you'd sort of expect such things in that case).
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  7. #7
    Concert pitch. If you play hard enough to make the guitar sound out of tune, you might consider heavier gauge strings.

  8. #8
    Senior Member sergiodeblanc's Avatar
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    If your guitar checks out ok, then you may be cursed with perfect pitch.... May (insert preferred deity here) help you out with that one in regard to electric guitars.

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    Still a Junior Member Albrecht Smuten's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by justmund View Post
    I tune to concert and have no problems with the guitar sounding "right". PRSes have a compensated nut which goes a long way to alleviating some of the common problems with intonation, and I quote (lifted from another site):

    "In response to concerns, requests and questions referencing the Buzz Feiten Tuning System, I would like to clarify Paul Reed Smith Guitars position on this matter. In 1980, I patented a compensated nut for guitars that addresses the age-old problem that fretted instruments do not play in tune at the nut end of the neck. This patent was assigned to DiMarzio to market at that time and has since reverted ownership back to PRS Guitars.

    When the drawings and tooling were made for the first PRS models, I incorporated this patented concept by shortening the distance between the nut and the first fret on all PRS guitars so the intonation would be adjusted at the nut and the guitars would play in tune. I did not advertise this fact because I knew a good percentage of customers would notice these new PRS instruments played in better tune then what they owned or was available at the time. I also felt that would translate into sales and customer satisfaction. I did not feel the need to explain the whole concept to the rest of the industry.

    Anyone who is concerned that their PRS does not incorporate the Buzz Feiten Tuning System nut compensation feature can rest assured that nut compensation has been an integral part of all PRS instruments since 1980. "
    Wow, thanks for sharing that, something like that would never come to my mind. No I know why the guitar sounds so perfect! And this made me grin: "I did not feel the need to explain the whole concept to the rest of the industry." Heh
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  10. #10
    A♥ hoards guitars A♥ rugerpc's Avatar
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    As shown above, PRS Guitars have a built in compensation for sounding sharp, especially in position 1.

    If you are having a problem with other fretted notes further down the neck sounding sharp, and if your guitar is properly setup and intonated, you are probably fretting too hard. It is true that heavier strings will help you with this problem, but only for the length of time it takes for you to build more finger strength to compensate.

    Examine your technique. Fret hard enough to get clean tones, but not so hard as to depress the strings into the well between the frets.

    Fret height can help or hurt you here. Shorter frets are your friend if you grip like a gorilla and you'd definitely want to stay away from jumbo frets and/or scooped fretboards (like Malmstein uses). But with shorter frets you loose some access to some techniques like pressure bends and pressure vibrato.. It's all a trade-off.

    Your technique of tuning a bit flat will have the effect of making all open string tones flat while your fretted tones are 'sounding right.'

    I suggest tuning concert pitches and adjusting your technique...
    Last edited by rugerpc; 10-16-2012 at 08:56 AM.
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    A♥ hoards guitars A♥ rugerpc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CoreyT View Post
    Does this apply to the SE line also?
    I also tune standard, using a TC Electronics Polytune.
    I'd be REALLY surprised to hear that the SEs were not getting the same compensation. Perhaps Shawn can tell us.... hint.... hint....
    Last edited by rugerpc; 10-16-2012 at 09:12 AM.
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    It's not that I have a problem re: tuning. Just threw the question out there as apparently not all guitars are created equal re: the compensated nut. Prs vs gibson vs fender vs etc. Thanks for the input.

  14. #14
    A♥ hoards guitars A♥ rugerpc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidWann View Post
    It's not that I have a problem re: tuning. Just threw the question out there as apparently not all guitars are created equal re: the compensated nut. Prs vs gibson vs fender vs etc. Thanks for the input.
    Hmmm....

    Ok, I must have misunderstood.

    But part of my answer is how I would respond to this question as well. Even without a compensated nut on my non-PRS guitars, I still tune to concert pitches. The ear is more forgiving to tones being a little sharp and much less forgiving to tones which are flat. It would be better therefore to have open strings in tune and some fretted notes a bit sharp than the fretted notes in tune and the open strings flat...
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  15. #15
    Pitch is a compromise, by design, on any modern instrument. Not just on guitar.

    It's not possible to have perfect intonation in any standard tuning, and that is because in order to play in more than one key, tempered tuning is necessary. This is true of any instrument tuned to what we today refer to as standard tuning, not just guitar. While any compensated guitar sounds better than most, the fact is that it's imperfect because the scale itself is a compromise due to the physics of sound.

    Centuries ago, someone figured out Just Intonation, which was based mathematically on the harmonic overtones of one scale. It was perfect, but unfortunately, it only worked in one key. The instrument had to be re-tuned to change keys (you can imagine how difficult this is on some instruments, like pianos, or instruments like flutes whose holes are drilled at certain intervals). If the key went from, say, C to D, everything was horribly off.

    Tempered tunings were invented (and there are several types) that made it possible to play in every key, though these involve imperfections in intonation. This is why different keys have slightly different "colors," but also made modern musical techniques a lot easier to listen to. Hence Bach's "Well Tempered Clavier" compositions - he was referring to the keyboard's ability to play in many keys, not its ability to avoid mood swings.

    In fact, the issue of Temperament was a big deal in Bach's day.

    So any tuning other than "Just" Intonation involves compromise, whether you're playing guitar, piano, or clarinet. There is no such thing as a perfect scale. It doesn't exist unless you go to Just Intonation.

    This is why guitars aren't perfect up and down the fretboard. Most other instruments aren't perfect either. They aren't designed to be.

    Our ears are trained to accept imperfections in pitch due to tempered tunings, and it's the kind of thing that drives some musicians batty! If you listen to orchestras that play early music on historical instruments, everything sounds oddly off; it takes a few minutes to get used to the sound. That's partly because of the temperament practices of the day, not just because we're not used to the sound of crumhorns and rebecs.

    It's my belief that the many uses of vibrato and ornamentation we use in modern music were developed to help disguise the imperfection involved in simply holding a note resulting from tempered tunings.

    In fact, tuning an instrument like a piano, with several strings devoted to a single key, plus harmonic strings, is an acknowledged art; serious studios and concert players pay hundreds of dollars (often more for important concerts and session dates) to have their instruments tuned by the best piano tuners, who are themselves often concert musicians - it can't be done properly with a strobe tuner like on guitar - and it can take a full day or more to do. And a Bach player wants the piano tuned slightly differently from a Brahms player.
    Last edited by LSchefman; 10-16-2012 at 11:37 AM.

  16. #16
    A♥ hoards guitars A♥ rugerpc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LSchefman View Post
    This is why guitars aren't perfect up and down the fretboard. Most other instruments aren't perfect either. They aren't designed to be.
    The most obvious evidence of this is the bridge on any guitar, whether it is a fixed stoptail or individually adjustable saddles. When adjusted properly for the best compensation for intonation, the length of each string is different, yet the frets are all parallel and perpendicular to the nut.

    Want to see the kinds of things necessary to make intonation perfect even for just one tuning?

    HERE

    and HERE

    There ARE stringed guitar-like instruments which approach perfect intonation - they are FRETLESS.
    Last edited by rugerpc; 10-16-2012 at 11:11 AM.
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  17. #17
    Cream Crackered Mikegarveyblues's Avatar
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    Yep, it's 100% true that you won't get a guitar 100% in tune accross the fretboard. With a properly cut nut, well intonated bridge, well maintained frets and good technique then you shouldn't really have any issues with tuning to concert pitch. If you are having issues then you've got a setup / build problem or a technique problem. As was mentioned, if you have genuine perfect pich then things may not sound quite as sweet but this is fairly rare i'd say.

    AS I understand it, the nut slot on a PRS will be cut closer to the first fret. Most compensated nuts offer a nut that has a ledge of some description to bring it closer to the first fret?

    I'd also be interested to know if SE's also have the nut slots cut closer to the first fret.
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  18. #18
    Still a Junior Member Albrecht Smuten's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LSchefman View Post
    Hence Bach's "Well Tempered Clavier" compositions - he was referring to the keyboard's ability to play in many keys, not its ability to avoid mood swings.
    Hahahahaha... love that.

    Quote Originally Posted by LSchefman View Post
    It's my belief that the many uses of vibrato and ornamentation we use in modern music were developed to help disguise the imperfection involved in simply holding a note resulting from tempered tunings.
    This is VERY interesting... Btw thanks for the lecture, I received a similar couple years ago, but not that elaborate. Whenever you feel like sharing informations, please don't hesitate
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  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by LSchefman View Post
    So any tuning other than "Just" Intonation involves compromise, whether you're playing guitar, piano, or clarinet. There is no such thing as a perfect scale. It doesn't exist unless you go to Just Intonation.

    This is why guitars aren't perfect up and down the fretboard. Most other instruments aren't perfect either. They aren't designed to be.
    Lots of good info there Les, thanks.

    I have read about this before, partly because I was intonating a guitar (a PRS) and it was driving me crazy. I could get it to intonate on all strings and on most frets, but the D major chord (the basic one, played with open D string, G string fretted at 2nd fret, B string at 3rd fret and E string at 2nd) still gave me trouble. There's just a tiny amount of friction between the notes and I always thought that that friction wasn't supposed to be there on a properly intonated guitar. I spent days trying to get it better until I just gave up. A bit later, I played many other instruments and realised that the PRS was actually doing really well compared to other guitars.

    Only then did I read an article on why intonation is always a compromise - the clavier without the mood swings was mentioned there as well After that, I was finally able to focus on playing again.
    Alex

  20. #20
    Senior Member captdg's Avatar
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    do older guitars intonate and /or tune better that new ones?

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