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Thread: Sweetened tuning

  1. #1

    Default Sweetened tuning

    I'm so excited about a new tuner that I've order and should be here soon. The Peterson StroboClip HD.

    I picked this tuner up as a result of two factors:
    1. The limitation of clip on tuners to yield an repeatably accurate tuning.
    2. The video I watched with James Taylor explaining his 'sweetened' tuning technique.


    My question is this, are there any sweetened tuning recommendations for mandolin? I'd love to be able to play with them if they are.
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    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    Pretty sure there is a mandolin sweetening on that.

    Of course, remember, we are always out of tune anyway...
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    Mandolin Friendly Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    I like the built-in "sweeteners" already programmed into the stroboclip.
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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    Yes to the mandolin sweetener and both Lynne and i appreciate it. It took some getting used to using the Sweetener feature ... but well worth the effort.

    Ryk
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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    What is 'sweetened' tuning ?. I just had a look at a guitar thread on it,but all there were were questions not answers. Nobody seemed to be able to explain what it was.
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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post
    What is 'sweetened' tuning ?. I just had a look at a guitar thread on it,but all there were were questions not answers. Nobody seemed to be able to explain what it was.
    Ivan
    Basically all fretted instruments are out of tune all of the time. That comes from the fact that the intervals between the notes differ from key to key. This sounds crazy but itīs true. Read more (and clearly not as simplistic as I stated) about what happens here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_intonation, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pythagorean_comma

    The first composer to deal with this was Bach (if Iīm not mistaken). He composed a collection of pieces that we refer to as "Das wohltemperierte Klavier" (The Well-Tempered Clavier).

    On a piano you could compose pieces that work for just that specific key. You could therefore cirumvent the problem of being out of tune. On violins - since they have no frets - you adjust by simply adjusting your fingering. Therefore you are not out of tune.

    On fretted instruments though, you canīt just play in a different tuning when you have tuned up to the "perfect" note. I noticed this as a novice player.

    When I first bought a tuner I thought my guitar was just bad. I tuned the guitar and when playing a chord it just did not sound right. I tweaked and fiddled with it and (rightfully so) got it out of tune enough to make it sound right.

    I was relieved to hear Tony Rice explain the same thing about his Clarence White D-28 in the Homespun video "An Intimate Lesson With Tony Rice".

    Playing the guitar you will notice being out of tune the easiest when it comes to tuning the B-string. If you tune the B-string perfectly the guitar will not sound in tune in certain keys. In order to have a nice sound (especially noticable when you play a G-chord) you you will either tune slightly flat (giving the guitar a sweet sound) or slightly sharp (giving the guitar a more agressive sound).

    In short words: Our ears notice being out of tune. Yet we have come to terms with ourselves by accepting a certain "out-of-tuneness". We therefore have to tweak our instruments so that they can play all musical pieces in all keys.

    If we talk tuners I can testify to the greatness of the Stroboclip (original and HD which I now have after the original stepped on a rainbow). The acuracy helped me enormously to learn to listen and to hear and understand better when someone is out of tune. It also sharpened my ear with respect to ensemble playing. That is when the ensemble (the band) is properly in tune this is a step to a better (a consice) band sound.
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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning


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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post
    What is 'sweetened' tuning ?. I just had a look at a guitar thread on it,but all there were were questions not answers. Nobody seemed to be able to explain what it was Ivan
    To me sweetened tuning is personal. When I lower the B string on a guitar it sounds a little better to me when I play a G chord, but a whole lot better when I play a D. I suppose that a lot of that is due to what I’m accustomed to hearing because that is the way my Dad tuned a guitar. I don’t want the tuner to decide how I sweeten tuning, I’ll sweeten it myself thank you,

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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    B, b, b, bee, beeeeeeee, ah there it is.

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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandoplumb View Post
    To me sweetened tuning is personal. When I lower the B string on a guitar it sounds a little better to me when I play a G chord, but a whole lot better when I play a D. I suppose that a lot of that is due to what I’m accustomed to hearing because that is the way my Dad tuned a guitar. I don’t want the tuner to decide how I sweeten tuning, I’ll sweeten it myself thank you,
    Total agreement here! I use the electronic tuners, of any type, strictly to get an A or C down, depending on what everyone else is playing or the tunes being played. After that, I go by ear. In a noisy environment, yes, I'll use something to get all the strings in an equal temperament sort of correctness, then quickly mess with a few strings to get what sounds right. It's always off a tiny bit as I go to the higher strings, according to a clip-on tuner, and not always by the same amounts. Anyway, if you trust your ears, you'll find that you'll always be off of equal temperament by some small degree.

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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    The sweetening I enjoy now is to have reduced the distance between the nut and the first fret on a couple of my 10-strings. After trying to get well-tempered tuning so I could play in multiple keys, I used my Peterson tuner to prove what I suspected--the notes at the first fret were sharp on all strings. After removing about 0.010" from the end of the fingerboard, no compromises in tuning are needed to get sweet chords, octaves, unisons everywhere.

    A friend that repairs guitars tells me Taylor does this for their guitars. The value is that one can have a higher, more open-sounding nut without having the first fret play sharp. It really isn't a big issue on most guitars, but is kind of common on mandolins, I think. (That first fret is so close that the deflection will make it sharp unless the nut is super-low.) One luthier here also shortens his fingerboards. I mentioned this to Tom Buchanan and a new one I just received plays really well in tune, so I suspect he may have shaved a smidge off the fingerboard

    Try testing this with the Peterson---get one pair looking really steady and then check the first fret.

    BTW: Equal-tempered tuning should not sound out of tune. Consider a piano---does it sound out of tune? Tuning guitars requires stretching the 4ths ever so slightly so that the major 3rd between G and B doesn't hurt the ear. I always started by making sure the two E strings agreed, then fit the others to them---never had a complaint about that G-B interval once I did that.

    My now-well-behaved mandolins would show perfect octaves but slightly narrow 5ths, slightly wide 4ths, etc. But that "slightly" is properly so slight you don't hear it. If the two notes of a 5th are squeezed by one Hertz, you would not hear that beat frequency without listening for two seconds. Issues like matching the pairs and fingering accurately will swamp the "imperfections" of equal-tempered tuning.
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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    My understanding is that "sweetening" benefits primarily certain open string keys & chords for which an instrument is commonly used. Playing o/t those standard keys is liable to have the opposite effect.

    (I'm not saying that "sweetening" benefits only the open strings played, but that sweetening can benefit only a limited number of keys. Strongly suspect that the tuner manufacturers would not chose to favor keys such as Eb or A#, on either mandolin or guitar.)

    FWIW, certain rock bands (possibly The Eagles, IIRC) would sometimes play different chord forms in the studio than they would in concert, to avoid those "more-out-of-tune" formations that would go unnoticed in a loud, live situation.
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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    Listen to "Start Me Up" by the Rolling Stones, then try to play that riff on guitar. Keith's open G tuning is "sweetened" as described above.
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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post
    What is 'sweetened' tuning ?. I just had a look at a guitar thread on it,but all there were were questions not answers. Nobody seemed to be able to explain what it was.
    Ivan
    Quote Originally Posted by grassrootphilosopher View Post
    Basically all fretted instruments are out of tune all of the time. That comes from the fact that the intervals between the notes differ from key to key. This sounds crazy but itīs true. Read more (and clearly not as simplistic as I stated) about what happens here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_intonation, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pythagorean_comma
    ......
    In short words: Our ears notice being out of tune. Yet we have come to terms with ourselves by accepting a certain "out-of-tuneness". We therefore have to tweak our instruments so that they can play all musical pieces in all keys.
    Quote Originally Posted by EdHanrahan View Post
    My understanding is that "sweetening" benefits primarily certain open string keys & chords for which an instrument is commonly used. Playing out those standard keys is liable to have the opposite effect.
    Ah, the guitar "sweetened" tuning debate now in mandolin form.

    "Basically all fretted instruments are out of tune all of the time"

    Only if you assume that "pure" just intonation tuning is the only tuning. Our fretted instruments are in tune, to a system called 12 tone equal temperament.

    It's based on the elegant interval of the 12th root of 2.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equal_temperament

    " In classical music and Western music in general, the most common tuning system for the past few hundred years has been and remains twelve-tone equal temperament (also known as 12 equal temperament, 12-TET, or 12-ET), which divides the octave into 12 parts, all of which are equal on a logarithmic scale, with a ratio equal to the 12th root of 2 (12√2 ≈ 1.05946). That resulting smallest interval,  1⁄12 the width of an octave, is called a semitone or half step. In modern times, 12TET is usually tuned relative to a standard pitch of 440 Hz, called A440, meaning one note is tuned to A440, and all other notes are some multiple of semitones away from that in either direction."

    https://pages.mtu.edu/~suits/scales.html

    "The "equal tempered scale" was developed for keyboard instruments, such as the piano, so that they could be played equally well (or badly) in any key. It is a compromise tuning scheme. The equal tempered system uses a constant frequency multiple between the notes of the chromatic scale. Hence, playing in any key sounds equally good (or bad, depending on your point of view)."

    Almost all the folks that want to sweeten guitar tunings do so so that in the certain specific closely related keys they use, the 3rds will be closer to something like meantone temperament, a tuning system that makes 3rds sound "sweet" but if you go a few keys either direction of the home tuning, you get what are called wolf notes and cannot use those distant keys.

    So, perhaps if you only play mandolin in a handful of related keys, a sweetened tuning may work for you. Personally I find a well set up and intonated mandolin or guitar to be quite suited for my musical needs, in all 12 keys.

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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Wright View Post
    The sweetening I enjoy now is to have reduced the distance between the nut and the first fret on a couple of my 10-strings. After trying to get well-tempered tuning so I could play in multiple keys, I used my Peterson tuner to prove what I suspected--the notes at the first fret were sharp on all strings. After removing about 0.010" from the end of the fingerboard, no compromises in tuning are needed to get sweet chords, octaves, unisons everywhere.
    ........

    BTW: Equal-tempered tuning should not sound out of tune. Consider a piano---does it sound out of tune? Tuning guitars requires stretching the 4ths ever so slightly so that the major 3rd between G and B doesn't hurt the ear. I always started by making sure the two E strings agreed, then fit the others to them---never had a complaint about that G-B interval once I did that.

    My now-well-behaved mandolins would show perfect octaves but slightly narrow 5ths, slightly wide 4ths, etc. But that "slightly" is properly so slight you don't hear it. If the two notes of a 5th are squeezed by one Hertz, you would not hear that beat frequency without listening for two seconds. Issues like matching the pairs and fingering accurately will swamp the "imperfections" of equal-tempered tuning.
    An accurately made and set up 12TET instrument works!

    That's why this tuning system has become the default tuning for Western music.

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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Wright View Post
    BTW: Equal-tempered tuning should not sound out of tune. Consider a piano---does it sound out of tune?
    This is cultural conditioning more than anything else. If you're like me, you grew up surrounded by 20th Century "Western" pop music, which by virtue of being dominated by guitars and pianos is entirely 12TET. Our ears are trained to hear it as normal, and we subconsciously ignore the discrepancies.

    If we grew up listening to other World music that depended more on the quirks of diatonic instruments and the human voice, without 12TET accompaniment, we might be more attuned to how "out" it sounds.

    For example, I've been starting to move a bit of my Irish trad tune repertoire from mandolin to flute. I often play these tunes at home with my fiddler S.O. When we play tunes together with flute and fiddle, we "lock up" in a unison sound that's noticeably more pure, or sweet (if we have to use that term) than when I play the tunes on mandolin, because the flute is diatonic and doesn't precisely conform to the 12TET system. Especially a non-keyed flute like this one. My S.O. is subconsciously adapting to the more "perfect" scale of whatever mode we're in, and I'm doing the same with embouchure adjustments to the pitch of each note. We arrive at "perfect" intervals that way.

    It's just instinctive with instruments that aren't locked down to the 12TET system. You hear this in Classical string quartets, which is one reason that particular group of instruments sounds so great playing together.


    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    Almost all the folks that want to sweeten guitar tunings do so so that in the certain specific closely related keys they use, the 3rds will be closer to something like meantone temperament, a tuning system that makes 3rds sound "sweet" but if you go a few keys either direction of the home tuning, you get what are called wolf notes and cannot use those distant keys.

    So, perhaps if you only play mandolin in a handful of related keys, a sweetened tuning may work for you. Personally I find a well set up and intonated mandolin or guitar to be quite suited for my musical needs, in all 12 keys.
    Right, and this is why I don't mess with "sweetened" tunings for mandolin. The other instruments I play with these days are a crazy mix of chromatic (fiddle, guitar) and diatonic (flute, whistle, pipes, concertina), where keeping the mandolin in 12TET is just the best compromise. It's already complicated enough without throwing in one more set of variables.

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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    A careful reading of the above posts will show that so-called "sweetened" tunings -- that is, ones that deviate from 12TET -- can, at best, only (partially) optimize things for a a few keys. There is no such thing as a "sweetened" tuning for mandolin that lets it play in all keys. In fact, equal temperament represents the best possible compromise for playing all keys, because it divides the octave into identical logarithmic intervals, based on the twelfth root of two (this is because there are 12 semitones in an octave, which is a factor of 2 in frequency). This is a "sweet" as you can get if you still want to play chromatically.

    So, unless your band plays only in a couple of keys, a single, so-called "sweetened" tuning won't help much. In fact, it makes certain other keys worse, depending on what key the sweetening is trying to favor (do they even tell you this in the StroboClip manual, I wonder?) ! You could, of course, develop 12 different "sweetened" tunings, one for each key, and then retune every time you switch keys. But why bother?

    Sweetened tunings make a lot more sense for banjos and Dobros, which play almost entirely out of an open tuning, or guitars when they are open-tuned, or always playing out of G positions with a capo (a lot of bluegrass!). But, unfortunately, they do no make a lot of sense for instruments that are tuned in 5ths, like mandolins. A tuning sweetened for G will sound bad in B, for example.

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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post
    What is 'sweetened' tuning ?
    Generally, it is a slight variation from the commonly used equal temperament tuning that people engage in as a compromise to make their instrument sound better to them, especially in certain keys. The common 12-ET tuning scheme is itself de facto compromised, and some people like to compromise their personal instrument's tuning with other tweaks that sound good to them. You will find variations on how people do this.

    Here's an example of how Norman Blake tunes guitar listening to intervals:



    Norman and Nancy will tune a guitar this way, then tune other instruments (mandolin, cello, guitars, etc.) to the guitar. The Homespun lesson, The Mandolin of Norman Blake shows how they do this.



    The above are samples from the Homespun Lessons, Norman Blake's Guitar Techniques, Vol. I and The Mandolin of Norman Blake. I highly recommend these video series. Anyone interested can obtain them through Mandolin Cafe on Demand (under the learn/listen tab) or directly from the Homespun website.

    Personally, lately I've been happy with the programmed sweeteners in the new stroboclip.

    Edited to add: I've read the posts above by David and by sblock; they are correct of course about the compromise of 12-ET - and I don't "argue" for any kind of "sweetened" tunings - but I would say that two things logically make "sweetened" tunings popular and desirable to some. One would be the characteristics of any individual instrument, and another would be the personal tastes of an individual player.
    Last edited by Mark Gunter; Nov-23-2017 at 2:44pm.
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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    depending on what key the sweetening is trying to favor (do they even tell you this in the StroboClip manual, I wonder?)
    No, you'd be disappointed in that aspect of the manual. I looked for specifics when I got it, but didn't find any, so it was "trial and error" - which would have occurred at any rate with a new gadget - and found that I've liked it, though any difference on the MAN sweetener seems so minuscule that I can't tell you what the difference is yet.

    Here's what the manual does say:

    Your StroboClip HD contains over 50 built-in presets that cater to specific instruments. We call these presets "Sweeteners" because they make an instrument sound "sweeter" by slightly adjusting each note to compensate for common tuning problems specific to an instrument type. Many of these adjustments are so small that they can only be measured with the incredible 1/10th cent accuracy of your Peterson Strobe Tuner. The default preset, EQU (Equal Temperament), does not apply any adjustments and should be used when you wish for your StroboClip HD to operate as a non-instrument-specific, highly accurate chromatic tuner.
    And regards guitar preset it is vague, and written as a sales pitch, gimmicky kind of thing:

    ACU

    Designed for use with acoustic guitars tuned to standard EADGBE. The strings are adjusted to allow for deflection by varying amounts according to the gauge of the string in each case. The guitar is sweetened in the same way as if tuned by the ear of an experienced musician such as James Taylor who uses these settings.
    The following settings are grouped under Bluegrass and include mandolin:

    dbO

    Compensates by making the thirds pure. This makes the sweetest sound, especially with long sustained chords where not using a Sweetener can grate on the ears due to an Equally Tempered third.

    dbH
    Major thirds in all three tunings are lowered slightly from Equal temperament, but not entirely beatless. This Sweetener is useful in band settings where instruments with fixed intonation are present.

    bJO
    Counters the typical sharp B string which is encountered when tuning a 5-string banjo without compensation with an ordinary tuner. The B is sweetened in the same way as a banjo tuned by the ear of an experienced musician.

    MAN
    This sweetener was developed for the mandolin, mandola and mandocello. Using it will result in perfectly tuned and voiced unison string pairs. Detuning in instruments with multiple string courses, as opposed to single strings, is much less pleasing to even the most untrained ear because both chords and melody lines are affected. The MAN setting can be used for 8-string mandolins, including Gibson Styles A and F as well as the Weber A and F series.

    TBO
    Compensates for string deflection taking into acount the different scale length and lower pitched tuning for 4 string tenor banjo.

    FDL
    Perfect 5th intervals for 4 and 5 string fiddle.

    More "sales jargon" than technical info on the above.
    There are interesting sweeteners that transform the tuning scheme away from TET:

    JMI

    Just Major Intonation

    JME
    Just Minor Intonation

    PYT
    Pythagorean Temperament

    4MT
    Quarter Comma Meantone Temperament

    6MT
    One Sixth Comma Meantone Temperament

    KRN
    Kirnberger III Temperament

    WK3
    Werckmeister III Temperament

    YNG
    Young Temperament

    KLN
    Kellner Temperament

    VAL
    Vallotti Temperament

    RAM
    Rameau Temperament

    And a lot more of these type features, see here: https://www.petersontuners.com/products/stroboClipHD/
    (scroll down a tad for sweeteners)
    Last edited by Mark Gunter; Nov-23-2017 at 3:40pm.
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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    Sblock is correct, correcting one problem will create others, he’s also right that an instrument in fifths really don’t need it, but if I play BG guitar I’m playing the G shape and the D shape so much more than the E shape so why shouldn’t my guitar be tuned to sound better in G and D. That is where the personal sweeting comes in. Sweeten it for what your ear and your music needs.

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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    So, if you tune your instrument to a sweetened tuning and everyone one else in the group tunes with a Snark, will you sound out of tune with everyone else?

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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Haywood View Post
    So, if you tune your instrument to a sweetened tuning and everyone one else in the group tunes with a Snark, will you sound out of tune with everyone else?
    Is that a Snark-y comment?

    It's a good question, and it might make a discernible difference in a hi-fidelity recording of the group. Not tested, but honestly, I really doubt it would make much difference in a live setting. As I mentioned above the mandolin "sweetener" difference is so minuscule that it's hard to tell much difference. Could even be a BS sales hype for all I know; they don't give the technical specs. And they say this: "Many of these adjustments are so small that they can only be measured with the incredible 1/10th cent accuracy of your Peterson Strobe Tuner."

    BUT, someone has been posting in recent threads how much they love the stroboclip and its onboard sweeteners. They say everyone in their ensemble has one, and each uses the sweetener tailored to his/her instrument, and they're loving the results as an ensemble. Can't remember who wrote that or where, but I've seen it in a couple of recent posts.
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  36. #23
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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    I have read this thread with extreme interest...however now my head hurts. Such a noob...

  37. #24
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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    "only be measured with the incredible 1/10th cent accuracy of your Peterson Strobe Tuner."

    Maybe. But before the threshold of human perception.

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  39. #25
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    Quote Originally Posted by AKA Frosty View Post
    "only be measured with the incredible 1/10th cent accuracy of your Peterson Strobe Tuner."

    Maybe. But before the threshold of human perception.
    It's not about the quoted accuracy of all these tuners, Snark, Peterson, or whatever. They all have quartz crystal circuits that are incredibly accurate on an electronic level.

    It's about how good the analog front-end is with the pickup, and how good the back-end design is for the analog display that tells you when you're "in tune" with an LED or LCD display. And also about how wide the margin of acceptance is for what the tuner considers to be in-tune. Any manufacturer can design a tuner that seems to "lock on" quickly by having a wide acceptance margin.

    I know some folks get frustrated by tuners that show upper harmonics like the Peterson tuners, but that lets you decide how close you want to get -- how close is "good enough" for the situation -- instead of a basic tuner with a wider margin and a more basic display.

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