Tuning open strings, pitch changing with pick strength, and intonation...

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by spaceboy, Mar 30, 2005.

  1. spaceboy

    spaceboy Member

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    right, I'm a bit puzzled. So the 12th fret harmonic is exactly an octave above the open string. and it's theoretically impossible for it not to be. and it's easier to tune the 12th fret harmonics, but when i tune the guitar that way, it doesnt sound very well in tune at all, so I then have to retune the open strings to eachother, making the harmonics out, but overall the guitar sounds good. So that leads me to believe that my 12th fret harmonics are not in fact in tune with the open string. testing it out directly, I see that they are only the same when i pick the open string absolutely as gently as I possibly can, so it's barely reading on the tuner. Any harder and the open string is sharp of the harmonic. So I see that pick strength on the note pitch has even more effect than I realised - should this be the case? cos it seems that if I want to SOUND in tune, I have to be technically out of tune.

    So then intonation comes into it. If i do the intonation with the 12th fret harmonic, or by playing the open string incredibly lightly, the intonation will surely still SOUND out?

    So what is a discerning guitarist to do? is there some way to minimalise the pitch change of a normal pick? Or should I simply do the intonation to make the 12th fret the same as a normal pluck of the open string instead of the harmonic? I guess guitar setup is all about compromise huh? Would a "better" guitar than my MIM standard strat reduce the problem somehow? if so what might be the difference?

    cheers!
     
  2. LittleC

    LittleC Member

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    I do not (nor do I recommend) tuning to harmonics. I use the 12th fret harmonic when setting intonation, but not for day to day tuning. You do not play harmonics (it is more rare if at all, and then it is but a few notes) so why tune to them. Another factor (than picking pressure) to consider is fretting pressure. Therefore, if picking and fretting effect the playing intonation, then why not tune to the way you play.
     
  3. spaceboy

    spaceboy Member

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    yeh, meant to add that all that was very much over-simplified, to set premises and such rather than literally and chronologically follow my chain of thought on this. obiously, the outcome is that you have to tune to what sounds right, ie not harmonics, but it just seems odd/annoying that it's a such a big compromise that needs to be made between harmonics/true pitch and the sound that comes out when you play. I really need to find that special tuning method again, anyone know what I mean? the one based around these compromises where you have to tune certain pairings in certain orders instead of just string by string or whatever...
     
  4. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    Use heavier strings.

    That's one big reason I use 11s - I hate that 'boing' at the start of the note as it goes sharp then settles down again.

    Tuning is always a compromise though. It's so totally dependent on both right-hand and left-hand technique.
     
  5. alderbody

    alderbody Member

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    +1 to what John said about heavier gauge strings.

    btw, how close to the stings are your pickups?
     
  6. spaceboy

    spaceboy Member

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    As close as they'll go without touching. But they're Lace Sensors, so I understood that was ok? do you think they still have an effect if they are that close? I'll have a mess around tonight...
     
  7. alderbody

    alderbody Member

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    Lace Sensors are not supposed to apply magnetic pull on the strings...

    i think you'd better try heavier gauge strings for a start.
     
  8. spaceboy

    spaceboy Member

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    yeh... I'm already on 10s tho (10-48s if I can find em), which I love - can't stand 9s, but i can really imagine 11s being hard work. do you get 10.5s...? :¬)
     
  9. alderbody

    alderbody Member

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    i don't think i've ever seen .105's.

    why not try .11's tuned low? that's what i do and it feels fine.

    it sounds great, too... :)
     
  10. spaceboy

    spaceboy Member

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    hmm, i did think about that for a while, i think it' John Phillips who does that too, but... I'd have to learn the notes all over again! and if I tuned them down to decrease tention, woudn't that increase the original problem of initial pitch variation?
     
  11. alderbody

    alderbody Member

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    you could try Dean Farley's "snake oil" brand.

    although they are not available in EU, i ordered them directly from him and they are fabulous!

    really smooth feeling and tonefull.

    IMHO the best .11's i've ever played so far...
     
  12. Tom CT

    Tom CT Old Supporting Member Gold Supporting Member

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    You do NOT need to use heavier strings just to tune a guitar properly. There's nothing wrong with using .10s.

    What would be helpful would be to use a chromatic guitar tuner (that displays all notes, not just EADGBE) and try tuning each string while fretted in an area where it will be played. I use a Strobostomp, and tune both the E strings and B string at the 5th fret, and the A, D & G strings at the 7th fret (the equivalent of a D barre chord). This results in perfect tuning over the entire fingerboard, including open chords. YMMV, but this is the only method I'll use after 30 years of frustration trying to tune open strings.
     
  13. exhaust_49

    exhaust_49 Member

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    I think your analyizing this too much. I tune with a tuning fork
    (A-440) and this has been the best method to tune to my ears.

    Tune the 5th string, 12th fret harmonic to the fork.

    Tune the 6 string 12 fret harmonic to the 5th string 7th fret harmonic.

    Tune the 4th string 7th fret harmonic to the 5th string 5th fret harmonic.

    Tune the 3rd string 7th fret harmonic to the 4th string 5th fret harmonic.

    Tune the 2nd string open to the 6th string 7th fret harmonic.

    tune the 1st string open to the 5th string 7th fret harmonic.

    Its a bit confusing at first, but after a week your have it memorized. Just make sure you listen for the "beating"of the two notes. Once you have no or close to no beating your in tune.
    I'll never use an electronic tuner again (except a strobe tuner for setting innotation).
     
  14. spaceboy

    spaceboy Member

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    yeh, the 10-48s I had were Snake Oil, they were indeed amazing. but so expensive, plus shipping! I think I will try 11s, just give em a shot. don't think I can be arsed tuning down though...

    and isn't there some reason why the 5th/7th fret harmonic system doesn't work...? that' s wot i heard...
     
  15. exhaust_49

    exhaust_49 Member

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    Unless I wrote it down wrong, it should work fine. It works for me.
     
  16. spaceboy

    spaceboy Member

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    yeh, i know it should work perfectly in theory, but I'm sure I heard that there was something physical that meant it didn't work exactly... still, i do use it a lot of the time :¬) just wondering if anyone could explain why, and if, it doesn't work properly.
     

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