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Old 09-08-2012, 11:13 AM   #1
SilverSpurs616
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Over-sensitive ear and tuning?

Not sure if this is the right place..

Over the past year I feel like my ears have become increasingly sensitive in relation to music- I'm suddenly picking out melodies and harmonies that I hadn't noticed before even in my favourite songs, learning songs from memory alone etc. This is surely a good thing, right? BUT when it comes to playing guitar, I feel like I'm waaaay too aware of tuning and intonation. For example, I'll be sitting down to play guitar and I'll tune up. Everything spot-on. But then I play an A chord, and it sounds out of tune to me. So I check the intonation, totally fine. Still sounds out. This is the same across all my guitars, and it's driving me nuts. Nobody else seems to be noticing this except me, so the question-

Have my ears become too sensitive to tuning, and how do I get around this problem?

EDIT: I'm also noticing this with music I listen to- strung instruments often sound SLIGHTLY out to me. This is driving me insane, I'm struggling to play guitar because I can't enjoy it
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Last edited by SilverSpurs616 : 09-08-2012 at 11:15 AM.
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Old 09-08-2012, 11:23 AM   #2
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i get the same thing but its partially because of the tension being placed on the neck. for example, if you tune it lying down with the guitar facing towards the ceiling, it'll be slightly out of tune when you stand up with the guitar facing the walls or anything else. take your guitar, play a note and push and pull your neck (not too hard though, of course) and you'll realize what im talking about
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Old 09-08-2012, 11:34 AM   #3
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I think you've misunderstood me, the guitars are fine- the problem seems to be my hearing. I've heard about guys like Les Paul and Vai who had an over-developed ear (hence why Vai started using True Temperment frets) and whereas I'm not claiming to be the next Vai, it seems similar
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Old 09-08-2012, 11:48 AM   #4
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My God, I thought I was the only one. My friends always look at me like I'm some pretentious douchebag when I say "Wait.. can you hear that?" with their or my guitars. It drive me up the walls when playing a solo, I have to stop and tune every few minutes to try and get it right but to no avail because it's not necessarily the guitar.

Then I get paranoid and clean my ears out with something, then get freaked when I think it might be because I do clean my ears out! Oh woe is we...

Last edited by Mr.-Bungle : 09-08-2012 at 11:49 AM.
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Old 09-08-2012, 12:08 PM   #5
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I'm somewhat glad that I'm not alone :laugh: I've been learning "Die to Live" this past hour and the first A chord just kept sounding out of tune, but I've kinda made myself ignore it and I'm having fun. If it was noticeably out of tune then surely someone would tell us- I guess ignorance is bliss, eh?
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Old 09-08-2012, 12:13 PM   #6
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it's normal

it means you need to start playing bass, congratulations you lucky man
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Old 09-08-2012, 12:14 PM   #7
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If it really bothers you then you could look into other temperament systems. Equal temperament by nature is out of tune by certain amounts in order to be able to play in different keys without having to re-tune.
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Old 09-08-2012, 01:58 PM   #8
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Guitars are simply not a well intonated instrument. You have developed a good ear, but play an instrument that will never be intonated properly. If it really bothers you, get true temperament frets - they cost about 800 USD, but they will get your guitar ntonated perfectly.
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Old 09-08-2012, 03:03 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by macashmack
Guitars are simply not a well intonated instrument. You have developed a good ear, but play an instrument that will never be intonated properly. If it really bothers you, get true temperament frets - they cost about 800 USD, but they will get your guitar ntonated perfectly.


I'm gonna look into true temperament for sure, otherwise I'll just have to learn to ignore it
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Old 09-08-2012, 03:21 PM   #10
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is it worth it though

think of the bassist and the other guitarist , youll be perfectly tuned but they still wont be
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Old 09-08-2012, 03:22 PM   #11
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Nope, this is normal, this is a good thing that you can hear this.

I think some of the character of an individual guitarist is because of stuff like this, e.g. David Gilmour's famous bends...supposedly in the studio he'd do them while looking at a strobe tuner. Or the Van Halen thing where he'd tune the B string slightly flat to make the 'A chord' shape ring out better (B string is tuned to a justly intonated third instead of equal temperament). Even in little stuff like how your grab chords, pressing a little harder on certain strings to bend those strings every so slightly to intonate the chord better.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nosuchmanasmole
is it worth it though

think of the bassist and the other guitarist , youll be perfectly tuned but they still wont be


I havent experienced it myself but I read on some forum that some dude installed one of those staggered nuts the improves intonation accross the fretboard. Because the other guitarist in the band played without the same system it annoyed the hell out of him

Last edited by seljer : 09-08-2012 at 03:25 PM.
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Old 09-08-2012, 03:23 PM   #12
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also how have you developed such finely tuned ears ? do you play piano or something

surely if the nature of guitars is too always be slightly out then surely your mind would be conditioned to accept it as being in tune ? and im incredibly jealous of your skills
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Old 09-08-2012, 03:38 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SilverSpurs616
I think you've misunderstood me, the guitars are fine- the problem seems to be my hearing. I've heard about guys like Les Paul and Vai who had an over-developed ear (hence why Vai started using True Temperment frets) and whereas I'm not claiming to be the next Vai, it seems similar
I suggest you stay as far away from 12 strings as possible. The intonation errors would drive you mad. It stems from the fact the the pairs of strins have different tensions, so when you fret them, they change pitch at different rates.

As to the rest of your complaint, I suspect that when you're playing along with others the problem goes away, simply because you're not fixating on it.

I could sit around and tune all night myself. But, if I can get the 5 open major chords to sound decent, (CAGED, sound familiar?), I just forge ahead.

For very special needs, try just playing all minor chords, they're supposed to sound dismal.
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Old 09-08-2012, 03:42 PM   #14
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I guess "close enough for rock 'n' roll" and "close enough for SS616" are two different close enoughs.
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Old 09-08-2012, 05:08 PM   #15
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The thing is, guitar is an instrument with equal temperament. This means that you can play in every key and sound pretty good. But for example in equal temperament the thirds sound too high. Only octaves are perfectly in tune. (In equal temperament octave is divided into 12 parts, the distance between every note is the same.) Pianos in the early 17th century were tuned for only one key. In that key they were perfectly in tune but if you played in other keys, it sounded out of tune.
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Old 09-08-2012, 06:07 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MaggaraMarine
But for example in equal temperament the thirds sound too high. Only octaves are perfectly in tune.


Major thirds do. Minor thirds are flat.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MaggaraMarine
Pianos in the early 17th century were tuned for only one key. In that key they were perfectly in tune but if you played in other keys, it sounded out of tune.


Meantone (and its Pythagorean predecessor) is a little more generous than one key. I realize keys aren't scales, but twelve tones of continuous (and non 12-edo) meantone give you six identically tempered major scales. Of course, the seventeenth century predates tonal theory, so what is a key?

Last edited by Dodeka : 09-08-2012 at 06:20 PM.
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Old 09-09-2012, 04:27 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dodeka
Major thirds do. Minor thirds are flat.



Meantone (and its Pythagorean predecessor) is a little more generous than one key. I realize keys aren't scales, but twelve tones of continuous (and non 12-edo) meantone give you six identically tempered major scales. Of course, the seventeenth century predates tonal theory, so what is a key?

Well... OK, but you got my point and I was talking about major thirds. Sorry for being unclear.
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Old 09-09-2012, 11:00 AM   #18
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I've seen this affect performance. Nothing the audience likes better than to see some guy sitting there painstakingly tuning and tuning and tuning.... Some solo artists developed a line of patter or long jokes to tell during this process.
I'm not blessed (or cursed) with great ears. Childhood inner-ear infections and years of shooting mean I have both hearing loss in one ear and tinnitus to boot.

Remember... The audience will not be able to hear these minor deflections of a few cents... Few humans can. Your instrument has to be really "out" before anyone will notice.
You have to learn to recognize "good enough for performance" and let it go at that.

Or, if it's a real obsession, you can look into the various extreme methods that have been developed to try to achieve perfect intonation... Wild, uneven fret jobs, that sort of thing.
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Old 09-09-2012, 12:10 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MaggaraMarine
Well... OK, but you got my point and I was talking about major thirds. Sorry for being unclear.


It's cool...I need something better to do than nitpick. Your point stands.
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Old 09-09-2012, 12:22 PM   #20
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I've been through this. I liken it to OCD. To this day I think I avoid certain major chords when writing because of the dodgy M3 of equal temperament (the m3 doesn't bother me so much, for some reason), but I've mostly got over it.
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