Tone Deaf Tuesday

walrus

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My first guitar tuner came with the house! ;) (remember when your house phone was the property of Ma Bell?) US standard dial tone is A 440. A, also being the first chord to let you know right away if you are in tune or not. Other than that, I only use a tuner w/ my electrics. Acoustics I tune by ear, two strings at a time, checking w/ an A chord in both open and barre as I go.

Here, James Taylor explains his sweetened tuning.


I wonder where he is for that video? At 2:12 a fly hits him right in the face! :oops:

walrus
 

walrus

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I guess I started my day intent on an argument with my KORG PC-1. Another vote for the mental side of the ledger.

Is the Snark significantly better than other tuners?

I think most people would say no to "significantly better". But I've used Snarks for years. They are reasonably priced and work well for me. There is no need for me to have the "precision" Taylor talks about...

walrus
 

fronobulax

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I guess I started my day intent on an argument with my KORG PC-1. Another vote for the mental side of the ledger.

Is the Snark significantly better than other tuners?

After we are exhausted with strings, tonewoods and picks we can debate the best tuner.

On a practical basis any tuner that gets used is better than one that doesn't. And the tuner you remembered to put in the guitar case or gig bag is better than the one sitting at home.

The Snark is our standard clip on just because it is the first affordable one we saw. For under $20 bucks the effort to find something better just didn't seem worth it. Mrs. Fro. almost exclusively uses it in vibration mode and it is one way to deal with room noise or the obnoxious bass player who won't stop noodling so you can tune.

The Snark's vibration mode doesn't always work satisfactorily on my basses for reasons I have never researched. The mic mode is difficult with an amp. So if I have an electric I will plug into something like a Korg CA which eliminates environmental sounds and is easy for non-standard tunings or instruments besides guitar that are often much happier with a B flat than an A :)
 

dadglasser

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There is a phenomena known as "perfect pitch". People who have it can accurately remember pitches. Ask them for an A and they can hum it. Ask them what note is being played and they can nail it. I tell you this because the last time I looked at the evidence "perfect pitch" was genetic and not something that could be taught or learned.

It is possible to come close but the pitch "locked into your brain" is not always accurate and, indeed, not always the same as it was last time you remembered it.

I was in a chorus that had about 120 singers. Every so often as part of the warm up the conductor would ask us to "sing an A". It was interesting to notice how long it took everyone to "agree" what pitch an A was and how often the collective answer was close but not spot on.
...the last time I looked at the evidence "perfect pitch" was genetic and not something that could be taught or learned.

From Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by K. Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool:


1651635420014.png
 

lungimsam

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My wife can write out melodys she hears with Chinese notation, which uses 1234567 for the notes of the octave.
Looks something like this:
| 7-6-5-4 | 1-2-3-4| , etc. “|” denotes beginning and end of measure. Defines the bar. The “1” is noted at the top of the page like “1=A”.
They use dots under or over the notes to indicate octave and they use lines under them for 1/2,1/4,1/16th notes, etc. an ingenious and simple system.
I am always amazed she can write out whatever she hears, in real time.
Me, I use a snark then sweeten if needed by ear. In the olde days I used a tuning fork a for the A note and went from there. I find snarks have a hard time settling on the note sometimes and can be slow to find it. Sometimes it will show B when I am playing an E.
 

markus

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Nice thread!

For me there are days where I get satisfying results within a few seconds using harmonics. And there are other days where I don't like the results even after several attempts to get the guitar in tune using all my Boss or Peterson or iOS-App helpers.

If you need a tuning fork or a pitch source, say an A, and you can tune the guitar from there then you have good relative pitch.
I'd split that up in 3 categories:
  • Good relative pitch is using a tuning fork for adjusting a string to A-440 and then tuning the other strings without fretting or using harmonics, precisely identifying and adjusting the intervals.
  • With fretting (5th or 4th fret) you try to get the same note on two strings - just a little bit of relative pitch needed.
  • Using harmonics you only need to reduce/eliminate the beat frequencies (?). Does that need relative pitch at all?
For Snark: Mine died after a few weeks …
In everyday use I like my Peterson clip-on tuner very much (using sweetened tuning).

markus :)
 

fronobulax

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...the last time I looked at the evidence "perfect pitch" was genetic and not something that could be taught or learned.

From Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by K. Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool:


View attachment 34593

Thank you. I note two things. The first is that the study dealt with children. I'm quite prepared to say "taught or learned. by adults" if that is what more recent studies say. The second is that the study doesn't quite acknowledge a key component of my understanding of "perfect pitch". Was there a study component where the subjects were asked to sing a specific pitch (such as an A)? If I hit a tuning fork and hear an A, I can remember it accurately for several hours and use relative pitch to sing or identify other pitches. But if you ask me to sing an A first thing in the morning I won't always get it right. People with perfect pitch, in my experience, will.
 
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lol, he is insane. I really liked James Taylor sense of humor at the beginning playing that run all out of tune. It looked painful.
But the whole 1-3 cents flat etc is just crazy. that is obsession.

thanks for posting, that was fun to watch.
I would imagine playing the type of music he plays, given it's cleanliness and clarity, when accompanied by other players, being the slightest bit out of tune would be much more noticeable than say....A loud rock band w/ distorted guitars. It's true that guitars are not precise instruments, even less when changing capo positions from tune to tune. It's also true that lower strings ring sharp when first struck until the vibration subdues. While tuning with a tuner, try repedatively plucking the low E while tuning to perfect pitch with a tuner. Then afterwards, just pluck the string once and watch the tuner go from perfect pitch to slightly flat as the string vibration begins to subdue. Then, consider his style of playing where he's mostly finger picking w/ the thumb alternating the bass notes that often ring out. Those notes would be a hair flat all the time. At least to a very well trained ear. I don't think it's being obsessive as much as simply being professional and demanding the tools of his trade be calibrated to the highest obtainable level of accuracy. ;)

For me, when in my basement playing along to Zeppelin, Who, and Stones backing tracks through multiple cranked up distorted amps, I don't require my tuner's light to remain solid green. As long as the needle somewhere is in the vicinity of true north, I'm happy. (y)


Btw, one of the most useful and practical tuners around is the GuitarTuna app. I have it on my phone and tablet. ( so you'll always have a tuner with you!), but the real beauty is all the alternate/open tuning settings, so you don't have to memorize all the string tuning of ones you hardly ever use. (You can also set it to auto or manual so it tells you exactly what string you are tuning, in case you have to make a significant drop in an alt/open tuning and your tuner identifies it by pitch as a different string than the one you need. Plus you can create and program your own turnings. It's a really handy tool, and very accurate. And yes, it shows it in cents as well! :p
 

fronobulax

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Nice thread!

For me there are days where I get satisfying results within a few seconds using harmonics. And there are other days where I don't like the results even after several attempts to get the guitar in tune using all my Boss or Peterson or iOS-App helpers.


I'd split that up in 3 categories:
  • Good relative pitch is using a tuning fork for adjusting a string to A-440 and then tuning the other strings without fretting or using harmonics, precisely identifying and adjusting the intervals.
  • With fretting (5th or 4th fret) you try to get the same note on two strings - just a little bit of relative pitch needed.
  • Using harmonics you only need to reduce/eliminate the beat frequencies (?). Does that need relative pitch at all?
For Snark: Mine died after a few weeks …
In everyday use I like my Peterson clip-on tuner very much (using sweetened tuning).

markus :)


Since my comments about perfect and relative pitch are somewhat of a veer I will also note that the application of perfect or relative pitch applies to instruments and contexts besides guitar. For example, the better you are the more likely that you will make subtle adjustments while playing that brings a note better into tune. Players of fretless strings, brass and woodwinds all do this to some extent as do singers. Getting your A string to vibrate at 440 is just the beginning :)
 
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Since my comments about perfect and relative pitch are somewhat of a veer I will also note that the application of perfect or relative pitch applies to instruments and contexts besides guitar. For example, the better you are the more likely that you will make subtle adjustments while playing that brings a note better into tune. Players of fretless strings, brass and woodwinds all do this to some extent as do singers. Getting your A string to vibrate at 440 is just the beginning :)
Having played violin since 5 yrs old, I know all too well about slurred notes. At least you can give the impression that you meant to do that and are just being...artistic. :LOL:
 

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We all play slightly out of tune so that we can modulate keys - equal temperament. We are just used to it.

The best way to tune a guitar (without a digital tuner) is to pick the string that has the most accurate intonation at the 12th fret and tune that string to pitch. For convenience, let's say it is the the A 5th.

You can then speed tune using harmonics starting from this string to get the other strings close to pitch, but any harmonics from the strings will be natural, not equal tempered, intervals. So if you use harmonics to tune starting from the bass strings, you are going to have trouble getting your B 2nd and E 1st in tune as tuning errors (in equal temperament) will compound as you go along bass to treble.

Once everything is more or less in tune go back to the most accurate string, in the example here the A 5th. Assuming that the frets are accurately placed (impossibly rare for them to be misplaced) and that you are not using tall jumbo frets with super slinky strings that cause notes to intone sharp, all notes on the A 5th will be perfect equal tempered intervals.

Then fine tune the other strings to the A 5th using octaves. Tune the E 6th string to the 7th fret on the A 5th and the D 4th to the 5th fret on the A 5th and so on. All open strings will then be in perfect equal tempered intervals in relation to the A 5th, our best intoned example string.

Depending upon the guitar, this state of tuning may be acceptable. It depends upon how good the 12th fret intonation is on the guitar's other strings and upon how much warmth from choral dissonance you want. You may want to put some strings slightly out to tune to improve intonation further up the neck, averaging out intonation errors. Also perfect equal tempered tuning can sound very cold. Run screaming from a piano tuner who uses a digital tuner rather than his/her ear.

I usually go around the neck playing octave intervals, major and minor 3rds, and 5ths looking for things that don't sound right to my ear and then doing micro tweaking.

I have a Snark head stock digital tuner and a table top Korg orchestral digital tuner with a variety of different temperament schemes. The Korg is more accurate than the Snark, but neither removes the necessity (for me) of selective micro re/de-tuning for warmth and playability all along the neck.

As strings get older, I find that digital tuners become less and less reliable. They become confused by changes in string vibration caused by wear. Sometimes they jump back and forth between the fundamental tone of the string and one of its harmonics. Your ear is better at picking out the fundamental tone. Old strings can sound very nice. Slightly out of tune is warm like a choir of human voices.
 

Nuuska

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Years ago I came across an article, where it was explained, that ANY instrument with fixed intervals simply can NOT be tuned. After reading the article it made perfect sense. According to my lousy old memory it goes something like this:

First note - 5 semitones up ( harmonic ) - 4 semitones down ( again harmonic ) - repeat 12 times and compare with octave of original.
 

dadglasser

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Thank you. I note two things. The first is that the study dealt with children. I'm quite prepared to say "taught or learned. by adults" if that is what more recent studies say. The second is that the study doesn't quite acknowledge a key component of my understanding of "perfect pitch". Was there a study component where the subjects were asked to sing a specific pitch (such as an A)? If I hit a tuning fork and hear an A, I can remember it accurately for several hours and use relative pitch to sing or identify other pitches. But if you ask me to sing an A first thing in the morning I won't always get it right. People with perfect pitch, in my experience, will.
 

dadglasser

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I'm not enough of an expert to answer those specific issues. Not an expert at all. I did find a couple of mentions of recent studies:


After a quick, cursory read, I think the summary is that some people can learn and typically it is easier for musicians due to their exposure. I've met only one gentleman so far who could tell what individual notes were sounding. I have no talent in that area. In closing, I have heard it said that true perfect pitch is throwing a banjo into a dumpster and having it land on a set of bagpipes.
 
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