How precisely do you tune up?

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 months ago
2,255 posts

So true, Robin!  -and if the noter tends to sharpen your notes too much for your liking, I find that changing the gauge of the string can help lessen the effect. 

Robin Thompson:

Tuning from the tuner is one thing.  Sharpening a note when I use a noter is another-- noter pressure can do that. oma (me with my noter)   


 


--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
3 months ago
1,429 posts

Tuning from the tuner is one thing.  Sharpening a note when I use a noter is another-- noter pressure can do that. oma (me with my noter)   

NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@nate
3 months ago
247 posts

I guess when talking about tuning precisely it's two kind of separate questions. Not only the question of "how close to dead on do you get it" but also "what do you count as dead on" since as folks mention, the 'sweetest' pitch might not be exactly where the 12 tone equal tempered note is. I was more curious about how meticulously people are about getting the instrument to their desired pitch, but the topic of choosing to tune slightly sharp of flat is also really fascinating
Nate


updated by @nate: 02/08/24 01:47:03AM
Randy Adams
Randy Adams
@randy-adams
3 months ago
115 posts

Definite revelations fretless instruments provide.

Another knowledge and skill accumulated on the quest for the perhaps unobtainable Noter Jedi, uh, hood : )


updated by @randy-adams: 02/07/24 02:58:26PM
DavisJames
DavisJames
@davisjames
3 months ago
15 posts

That is so funny-"lower your standards",indeed!.Fretless banjo would be perfect because there are so many tonalities other than the piano scale you can draw on.I once studied classical violin for 3 years trying to upgrade my fiddling skills.I learned a lot,especially problem solving,but it took me 3 years to get back to normal...obsessive about tuning was one of the issues.It's very subjective depending on the culture.I've known blues guitarists who tune sharp or flat to the band in order to create an edge I guess.Some of my favourite recordings from the 30's are where the fiddler is playing what we now would call a minor key,the pianist(Cape Breton) is playing major.That said,the major/minor third dichotomy in trad players differs from player to player,tune to tune.I suppose a tuner could sort that out but using the ears and fingers would be the quickest way.. 

Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
3 months ago
2,255 posts

So many interesting aspects to this subject. Culture is definitely a big one. But so is age, for me at least. 
I have a very precise ear for tuning. Not exactly what they call 'perfect pitch', but near to that. In my 40s, it used to drive me insane when my string or note (or someone else's string) was slightly off pitch. Now I'm almost 70 and I find I'm a little bit more laid back about little things like that. I know they say people get more picky or whatever as they get older, but honestly I've gotten a bit more lax in what I find tolerable. That said, I do actually think that taking up the fretless banjo helped me to lower my musical standards.  coool




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@nate
3 months ago
247 posts

Dusty, I have always found the cultural aspect of pitch perception to be really fascinating. It's a pretty vast topic and really puts into perspective how nuanced the things that make music 'enjoyable' to people are. Even just the difference in sound between two temperaments is interesting. I tend to think being too attached to a certain set of exact pitches limits enjoyment of music. In a perfect world I could hear exactly how in tune I am, and still not mind if I'm out of tune. It seems like I have to compromise one for the other.
Nate

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty
3 months ago
1,729 posts

Nate, this won't help answer your question at all, but you might find it as interesting as I do.  I am reading an ethnomusicology text, which stresses that in western culture, we tend to value pitch exactness. That is indeed what prompted your question here.  Like most of us, you try to get your notes as close to the exact pitch as possible.  But in certain other traditional cultures, that is considered ugly, and they aim for a shimmering or pulsing effect when the pitch of a note hovers around what you and I would consider the exact pitch.  Think of the way a sitar player uses tremolo, or the vocal stylings of Arabic music.  The text gives an extended example of Balinese gamelan, in which the tuning of the instruments themselves is intended to create that shimmering effect.

As I said, I find this really interesting, but it's not going to change my search for exact pitch.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
Randy Adams
Randy Adams
@randy-adams
3 months ago
115 posts

Good ? Nate. 

I've gone thru several stages of sour note acceptance - always trending toward more tolerance, with the dulcimer and my head. Here's where I'm at now.  5ths and unisons have to be lined up as sweet as possible. That's it.

nicolas_fr
nicolas_fr
@nicolas-fr
3 months ago
4 posts

Something I am usually doing is tuning for the first fret. I own some dulcimers that have a little high nut and therefore tuning for the opened strings results in slightly sharp note at the first fret around +5 cents. This method can work great but I admit it is really a trial and error process. 

Another thing which I am doing is using the same method to position the saddle. Often the saddle is positioned so that the pitch at the 7th fret is in tune with the 2nd harmonic. While this works great for dulcimers having a very low action (particularly low nut), I have had better results with positioning my saddle comparing the tune at the 1st fret and the 8th fret. It seems to offer a good compromise with intonation accuracy along the fretboard and a pleasant sound when playing melody-chords song.

Having a compensated nut - which is sometimes achieved on some guitars -  would probably solve all this but I haven't seen one yet with such elaborated one. 

Another thing is the accuracy of the tuner. I have bought a fender piezzo tuner which has a margin error that makes it unusable for a precise tuning. I am using my phone with the Tuner app from piascore and I have found it to be much more reliable.


updated by @nicolas-fr: 02/05/24 07:14:21AM
NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@nate
3 months ago
247 posts

Thanks for the info. I didn't realize how uncommon it is to use a tuner that measures in cents. I've tried a few types of tuners but eventually landed on my phone. The mic in a cell phone is very good quality. A few years ago I compared a snark, a d'addario, an offbrand one that came with an instrument, a strobe tuner built into an old fender amp, and my cellphone. I used a fancy mic plugged into my computer as the 'baseline' to compare them against.
The snark and strobe tuner both agreed I was 'in tune' once I was 5 cents off but didn't allow me to try to tune any closer. The d'addario and generic brand one actaully showed how many cents off I was, but seemed to have an accuracy issue and were a cent off from the true reading of my real mic. My cellphone seemed to completely agree with my real mic down to the cent, so that's what I use now.
The big thing that I learned from that process is that my ear cannot tell the difference. 5 cents off sounded exactly like 0 cents off every single time. I have gotten kind of fussy with getting it as close as possible, even though it makes no difference to my ear. That's why I was looking for some outside perspective.
Thanks all,
Nate

Dan
Dan
@dan
3 months ago
185 posts

I play traditional, usually in Ionian and I tune do-so-so by ear. 

DavisJames
DavisJames
@davisjames
3 months ago
15 posts

Tuning is such a big topic.I live in an area of high humidity...wood expands,contracts seasonally.Sometimes I have to tune my melody strings sharp or flat,depending on the time of year(in order to be in tune further up the neck).I'm a fiddle/guitar player...after using a tuner,I re-tune to what sounds right  to my ears.I.E.,if a song is in "G" on the guitar I'll play a C chord and a D chord.Certain fretted notes may be out of tune,so I go back to G and sharpen or flatten a few strings...just enough,so that when you play other chord shapes it's somewhat in tune and you don't notice the G chord being a bit out of tune....The fiddle is another ball game.After using a digital tuner for every string I have to retune because it doesn't ring out the way it should...What I've done for years now is to get a basic tone,usually "A" then use my ears and fingers to get to the maximum resonance,make the instrument sing.Playing with pipers reinforced that notion...they can spend a lot of time getting the pipes"humming"..depends on the reeds,the weather,etc.Not a digital tuner,laugh.

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty
3 months ago
1,729 posts

Nate, I think most of us don't know how to answer this question.  We use electric tuners (A= 440, as Ken says), so we generally accept the tuner when it says we are on pitch.  Of course, those tuners are not all equally accurate, though the Peterson tuner that Robin mentions is supposed to be one of the best.  One of the issues with tuners is their display. Even if the mechanism inside can be trusted to 0.05 cents, the display may not be that accurate.  If there are 10 LED lights equally spaced between C# and D, well, you can do the math.  If there were 20 LED lights, the display would be twice as accurate, right? We often think about how easy or difficult those displays are to read, but few comment on the relationship between the display and the accuracy of the tuner in practice.

I have a couple of really accurate strobe tuners which I use at home, but when I'm out and about I trust a D'Addario violin tuner which I keep attached to my dulcimer. 

My own ear varies.  Sometimes it is very sensitive and I can hear very small imperfections in my tuning, even when the tuner says I'm in tune.  Those times are not enjoyable because I never like the sound of my own dulcimer.  But other times my ear is a bit "lazy" and anything close sounds good.  That is a much more enjoyable space to be because I can just strum away in blissful ignorance.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie

updated by @dusty: 02/03/24 12:49:19PM
Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
@ken-longfield
3 months ago
1,089 posts

I usually try to tune "dead on" when I'm playing alone or with a group. This means I have to adjust the tuning after playing a while as the temperature changes in the room where I play most often. If I can get the needle on my tuner in the center for all three strings I'm happy. An addition to your question Nate "is to what standard do you tune?" I use A440 which our group uses. I think most orchestras these days use a standard of A442 and I've been reading that some groups are going up to A448 or in that neighborhood to "sweeten" the sound. Now having said all that, often when playing alone I'll just tune the dulcimer to itself. 

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
3 months ago
1,429 posts

I think repertoire and whether or not one plays alone make big differences in what is "good enough".  

For me, I use a Peterson tuner and Mark and I both try to be very much in tune with one another or we'll make our tunes even worse.  giggle   When I'm playing by myself, I like to be in tune with myself or it can drive me a little crazy. krazy  

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
3 months ago
2,126 posts

Since I seldom play with others and I'm not haunted by perfect pitch or ADHD, as long as nothing is too sharp or flat, "in the vicinity of..." work for me. 

NateBuildsToys
NateBuildsToys
@nate
3 months ago
247 posts

Hey folks 

Id love some input on how close you get your tuning to perfect before calling it "good enough"

I personally try to tune within 3 cents of exactly on note,(3/100ths of a semitone) and I am curious what is 'normal/common'

Thanks for any input

Nate


updated by @nate: 02/03/24 12:06:46AM