#1
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
Last edited by SilverSpurs616 at Sep 8, 2012,
#2
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
whooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

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#3
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
#4
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 at Sep 8, 2012,
#5
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?
#6
it's normal

it means you need to start playing bass, congratulations you lucky man
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#7
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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#8
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.
#9
Quote 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
#10
is it worth it though

think of the bassist and the other guitarist , youll be perfectly tuned but they still wont be
#11
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 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 at Sep 8, 2012,
#12
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
#13
Quote 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.
#14
I guess "close enough for rock 'n' roll" and "close enough for SS616" are two different close enoughs.
#15
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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#16
Quote 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 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 at Sep 8, 2012,
#17
Quote 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.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#18
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.
#19
Quote 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.
#20
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.
#21
Eddie Van Halen lowered his B-string tuning a bit in Running with the Devil to make the major chords (xx000x position) sound good.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#22
So bottom line- the guitar is an imperfect instrument, and can favour some chords and keys over others? i.e. G, E and C all sound fine whereas A and D seem less "in-tune" when played on guitar. This is frustrating :L

To be honest, I don't know for sure how my ears developed like this. I only play guitar, but I listen to music near-constantly and a lot of it is actually not guitar-based.. maybe that's simply it?
#23
Quote by MaggaraMarine
Eddie Van Halen lowered his B-string tuning a bit in Running with the Devil to make the major chords (xx000x position) sound good.
Although, flatting the B string slightly is far from a Van Halen innovation. I recall my guitar teacher referring to it as, "temper tuning", now pushing 50 years past.
#24
Quote by SilverSpurs616
So bottom line- the guitar is an imperfect instrument, and can favour some chords and keys over others? i.e. G, E and C all sound fine whereas A and D seem less "in-tune" when played on guitar. This is frustrating :L

To be honest, I don't know for sure how my ears developed like this. I only play guitar, but I listen to music near-constantly and a lot of it is actually not guitar-based.. maybe that's simply it?


Even wierder is that the same chord progession in the key C (for example), can have a totally different quality tuning wise than if you were to tranpose it up or down a halfstep.

Or even just change the position you're playing the same chord (say instead of open A you play a 5th fret barre chord).
#25
The intonation issue on the guitar drive me mad sometimes. All you can do really is tune the open strings with a good tuner and ignore the intonation problems. I think this is a big part of why I tend to focus more on lead guitar and melodies than writing chord progressions.
#26
Quote by SilverSpurs616
So bottom line- the guitar is an imperfect instrument, and can favour some chords and keys over others? i.e. G, E and C all sound fine whereas A and D seem less "in-tune" when played on guitar. This is frustrating :L

To be honest, I don't know for sure how my ears developed like this. I only play guitar, but I listen to music near-constantly and a lot of it is actually not guitar-based.. maybe that's simply it?


It's not quite so much that the guitar is imperfect, it's that music as defined by western civilization isn't perfect and the guitar is designed to work with a certain degree of inaccuracy for the sake of versatility.

In order to have perfectly consonant intervals (see just intonation) you have to tune and intonate the instrument so that the frequencies correspond to the ratios of the harmonic series. (see harmonic series) The caveat to this is justly tuned intervals are uneven and so if you justly tune to the key of C then play in another key it produces out of tune intervals. (see wolf interval) This phenomenon continues to worsen the further along the circle of fifths you go rendering most keys completely unusable. (see intervals of justly tuned C major compared to other keys)

Equal temperament, which most fretted instruments and pianos use, is a compromise where the uneven intervals of just intonation are tempered so that every semi-tone is the same width, 100 cents. (see equal temperament) Though this renders most intervals out of tune, some worse than others, it allows for the largest number of keys to be played without re-tuning, or re-fretting, of the instrument.



Bottom Line - The guitar is intonated so as to facilitate the largest number of keys with the same relative amount of accuracy. It's pretty much the only practical way of doing it. Imagine having to retune/change string gauges between every song with a Floyd Rose just to maintain just intonation :shivers:

Oh, FYI: True temperament is still using the equal temperament system. It's purpose is to correct for string gauge/stiffness/mass, etc. (See their site.)
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Last edited by J-Dawg158 at Sep 10, 2012,
#27
The fact SS616 says some major chords sound fine whereas others don't tells me this isn't so much an issue of standard temperament but of the intonation of the particular instrument. It's pretty common to have sharp notes on the first few frets of the higher strings.

What I sometimes do is tune the strings not open but at the first fret (F2 to F4) and intonate according to that. Without using a compensated nut, it evens out the intonation over the fretboard by dumping the error on the open notes (a few flat open notes versus a few times as many fretted sharp notes in lower positions). Not a perfect solution, but a step in the right direction...