Tuning issues

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by LPguitarman, Jul 9, 2008.

  1. LPguitarman

    LPguitarman Member

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    Why would a guitar sound in tune clean, but slightly out of tune distorted? My son's BC Rich Warlock with distortion on can sound great when playing an open D chord, an open G chord and pretty much any bar chord up the neck. But when we play an open E chord distorted it sounds out. Played clean, it sounds in tune. Maybe distortion enhances the notes enough so we hear things different.

    When the D & G chords are in tune, the only way to make the E chord sound good is to muffle the 3rd string/1st fret instead of playing it with the E chord.

    I know it's probably the intonation, or the nut, or the truss rod. I have had it to a technician twice, but he has never heard it distorted. I will be taking it back a 3rd time (no cost) and have him tune it and play it distorted to get his reason or maybe his fix after he realizes something he may have missed.

    Any additional input would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. levelfrets

    levelfrets Member

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    Back the pickups away from the strings a little. It may be the magnetic field pulling the strings out of tune, making it more noticeable when distorted. Pretty common to have the pickups too close especially if they are ceramics.
     
  3. rooster

    rooster Member

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    If you had a compensated nut, this wouldn't happen. It works that way on most any guitar, the higher the nut slots are (more distance between the bottom of the string and the top of the 1st fret), the more accentuated this will be. I use Earvana nuts on all my guitars, I no longer have this problem. People will say that if your guitar is set up correctly, this won't happen with a normal nut, but that's rubbish -- it's the physics of the way the strings bend. You'll hear it on the first 3 frets on the G string more than anywhere else.

    rooster.
     
  4. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    I couldn't disagree more. Compensated nuts have their place, but more often they are used because a surprisingly few number of techs seem to actually know how to cut a good nut.

    If you prefer high nut action or have an extremely heavy grip, heavily compensated nuts like the Earvana can be good. They still will not solve temperament however, you will still get beating thirds and sixths (unless you play them in tune), any beating will always be exaggerated with overdrive. I find nuts compensated as drastically as Earvanas can actually cause more problems around the 7th fret region and above the 15th.

    What you're hearing is a result of temperament (which cannot be solved with pre-determined notes), and of setup, playing style, or both, which is always more apparent in overdrive. And though I know nothing about your tech, as I said I'm amazed at how many guitars I see that have been "set up" by previous techs still have terrible nut height.
     
  5. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    +1 to that, and also, even with a perfectly set-up guitar, there's a trick to playing those kinds of open chords with heavy distortion: mute the thirds!

    when you play an E chord, mute the 3rd string 1st fret, just like you did.

    for an A, mute the 2nd string, 2nd fret.

    for a D, mute the 1st string, 2nd fret.

    for a G, mute the 5th string, 2nd fret and the 2nd string open.

    just listen to any AC/DC record to hear how it's supposed to sound.
     
  6. LPguitarman

    LPguitarman Member

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    Thanks Walter & David, That is exactly what I've been trying to tell my son. For years I used to mute the 3rd string 1st fret on lesser quality guitars. For some reason, my Gibson LP doesn't require that (maybe my tech got the nut slot correct when he did the set-up last year). Anyway his $150 guitar is not worth putting any more $'s into it if he can just learn and live with what seems to be a normal requirement to play heavy distortion.

    Thanks for confirming my method.:AOK
     
  7. levelfrets

    levelfrets Member

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    I can agree with that. I have some experience with these compensated nuts and have noticed that they do improve your perception of being in tune only as far as the 5th fret or so. All your open chords sound great. Anything past that makes no difference IMO. It seems to make certain octaves and other chords worse than normal nut does. I prefer a standard guitar non compensated at the nut. I never have any tuning or intonation issues with them considering I cut them right. No matter what you do it is still a tempered scale.
     

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