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Thread: Stroboclip HD prefers harmonic to fundamental problem

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    Mandolin Friendly Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Stroboclip HD prefers harmonic to fundamental problem

    The issue was brought up in Ivan's thread about his Polytune clip-on. I've had issues with the stroboclip and also with the BOSS-10, and these are my best, most accurate tuners.

    It happens mostly with the guitar. I was tuning up this morning, and the stroboclip was pretty consistently displaying "B" as I attempted to tune the low "E" string. sometimes it would flash an "E", but was pretty consistently showing a "B" which is the harmonic a fifth above ...

    In the discussion on that other thread, there was some mention of the sensitivity of the best tuners, and a suggestion that perhaps the strings were being struck too hard. As I pondered that, I remembered the stroboclip instructions indicated that for best results, the fingertip was preferred over use of a pick when tuning.

    What I found this morning was that lightly brushing the string with the fingertip worked very well. The tuner accurately read the fundamental note, and tuning was a snap.

    This would be a way more difficult task to perform on mandolin with its double courses though. What I have found with mandolin, though, is if use a pick that tends to produce a "darker" more subdued tone, accuracy in pinning fundamental tone and achieving pitch is increased!

    For example, when I use a Wegen and use it lightly, I find it much easier to tune than when I use a JT Pix - or when I use any pick and strike too hard.

    YMMV
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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stroboclip HD prefers harmonic to fundamental problem

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    What I found this morning was that lightly brushing the string with the fingertip worked very well. The tuner accurately read the fundamental note, and tuning was a snap.

    This would be a way more difficult task to perform on mandolin with its double courses though. What I have found with mandolin, though, is if use a pick that tends to produce a "darker" more subdued tone, accuracy in pinning fundamental tone and achieving pitch is increased!
    You'll get better results with the Stroboclip on mandolin by plucking with your fingers instead of a pick, like you're doing with guitar. I just brush each string with the side of my thumb or finger (depending on the string course), and get a solid reading every time. A thicker, "darker" pick will work better than a bright one, but any pick you use will generate more upper harmonics than using the side of a finger or thumb to gently pluck the string.

    You'll also get better results muting the strings you're not picking, on both guitar and mandolin. It's tricky with the mandolin double courses, but I just rest my fingertips or palm on the strings I'm not tuning. I may not always damp all of the 7 strings I'm not tuning, but I can get most of 'em.

    String damping is easier when using the side of finger or thumb to brush the strings instead of a pick, because you're tying up fingers holding the pick that you can't use for damping.

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    Mandolin Friendly Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stroboclip HD prefers harmonic to fundamental problem

    Isolating a note by damping strings just comes natural to me (playing as well as tuning); it's a good point well worth mentioning. I've tried the flesh method on mandolin strings too, but so much easier with a pick that I tend to go for a compromise there.

    I'm pretty fussy about tuning, more so these days than in the past, and there's a certain unique pleasure when the ear can't tell which string of a course is being plucked - virtual unison sound - it's marvelous
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    Default Re: Stroboclip HD prefers harmonic to fundamental problem

    I used to get an A reading on my Snarks when picking the E string. I assumed it was picking up a harmonic so I just went ahead and tuned it until the Snark thought it was a dead spot-on A. The result sounded good to me.
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    Default Re: Stroboclip HD prefers harmonic to fundamental problem

    HonkeyHank beat me to it but he is absolutely correct. If you get the harmonics in tune the base note will be correct. The fifths are following the base, a fifth above a flat note is going to be flat!

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    Default Re: Stroboclip HD prefers harmonic to fundamental problem

    I'll give you that guys, but it's a pain when it gets blinky back and forth between the two while you're trying to read if it's locked in dead center in tune.

    No complaints though, I like the stroboclip better than any tuner I've ever owned.
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    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Stroboclip HD prefers harmonic to fundamental problem

    If you want to maximalize the base you should pick the string at the center (over 12the fret). If you want to get rid of unwanted harmonic on plucked string pick it at its node so if you pick e string somewhere at its third (either from nut or bridge) the B harmonic will be reduced.
    Adrian

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    Default Re: Stroboclip HD prefers harmonic to fundamental problem

    There's a local-ish music store with the old version of the Petersen for pretty cheap. Should I pony up for the new one, or go with less than half price on the old one?
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    Default Re: Stroboclip HD prefers harmonic to fundamental problem

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Bowsman View Post
    There's a local-ish music store with the old version of the Petersen for pretty cheap. Should I pony up for the new one, or go with less than half price on the old one?
    If you can afford it, the new one is a bit smaller, and the black color is less conspicuous if you leave it on the headstock while you're playing. I don't think there is any major performance improvement vs. the original model. I use the original and it works fine.

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    Default Re: Stroboclip HD prefers harmonic to fundamental problem

    A word of caution about the original Stroboclip -- there's a plastic flange on the clamp/swivel assembly that's easily prone to snapping off, at which point the clamp no longer is able to be secured to the headstock of your instrument. It's a common point of failure that I've read of more than a few folks experiencing, usually a result of the tuner either falling to the floor or being jostled around during transport without adequate protection. That being said, mine has broken twice and both times Peterson customer service has been nothing short of top notch and they've immediately sent me a replacement clamp assembly (see this thread).

    If you opt to buy the discounted original, I'd recommend transporting it in the small tin box that it comes in, so that it's protected from damage. Unfortunately the tin doesn't fit in a typical instrument case accessory compartment.
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    Default Re: Stroboclip HD prefers harmonic to fundamental problem

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandoplumb View Post
    HonkeyHank beat me to it but he is absolutely correct. If you get the harmonics in tune the base note will be correct. The fifths are following the base, a fifth above a flat note is going to be flat!
    NOPE.

    Actually, both Mandoplumb and HonkeyHank are ever-so-slightly wrong to state that if the (5th) harmonic of a string is in tune, then base note will also be in tune. Not so. The reason why they're wrong is quite subtle, and it's due to temperament. Fretted instruments like the mandolin are designed to use EQUAL TEMPERAMENT, not Just (a.k.a. Pythagorean) Temperament. The harmonic of any string that sounds a perfect fifth above the fundamental note is exactly three halves (= 1.500) of the base frequency. To pick a specific example, in a Just Temperament system, the E string would be tuned exactly to 3/2 of the frequency of the A string, which is (3*440 Hz)/2 = 660 Hz. However, in the Equal Temperament system, the E string is, in fact, tuned to 1.49831 times frequency of the A, namely, 659.26 Hz, which is slightly lower. (Note: I'm using about 4 significant figures. The exact frequency value is the twelfth root of 128, times 440 Hz).

    This is sometimes called a slightly "narrow" fifth, and it's designed to make 7 successive fifths (brought back into a single octave) give all the twelve semitones of the chromatic scale (but not in order). The frequency difference is admittedly small, but it's very real, and equal to about 3/4 Hz (this is roughly 2 cents, where an octave is 1200 cents wide). Other notes in equal temperament are usually off by more than this (the major third is off by 14 cents, for example), and most folks -- but not all! -- have trouble hearing notes to any better than a couple of cents.

    Given this, if the electronic tuner uses equal temperament (and nearly all of them do, unless you have a strobe tuner deliberately set up to use a different temperament) and it happens to "think" that you're playing an A when you're really playing an E, it will therefore guide you to an E note (based on its A harmonic) that will be OFF BY ABOUT TWO CENTS.

    This isn't a lot, and most folks might not notice. But some surely will! Make no mistake: an E string tuned by its A harmonic will definitely be a different note than the same E string tuned by its fundamental, unless you're in Just Temperament. Which you are not.

    This fact is that mandolins are not tuned like the way many players tune their violins, in perfect fifths. But the difference is typically small enough that few people ever really notice.

    It's better to get your tuner to be able to pick up the fundamental for every string. Better contact with the instrument (for its piezo pickup) will generally ensure that, and so will damping all the other strings for a moment, and letting things settle, before starting to tune a new a string.
    Last edited by sblock; Nov-27-2017 at 4:47pm.

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    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stroboclip HD prefers harmonic to fundamental problem

    I'll buy into that.
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    Default Re: Stroboclip HD prefers harmonic to fundamental problem

    Am I wrong to say a fifth above a flat note is going to be flat? I may be missing something but if the temperament is equal wouldn’t the difference you are talking about be equal at each note. In other words the fifth above the A would would be off the same amount as the fifth above the E. So the mandolin would be “in tune” if you tuned all strings to its fifths it just would be off about 2cents from another instrument tuned by the base note. This is something I’ve not thought out at least to understand so I’m trying to understand.

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    Default Re: Stroboclip HD prefers harmonic to fundamental problem

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandoplumb View Post
    Am I wrong to say a fifth above a flat note is going to be flat? I may be missing something but if the temperament is equal wouldn’t the difference you are talking about be equal at each note. In other words the fifth above the A would would be off the same amount as the fifth above the E. So the mandolin would be “in tune” if you tuned all strings to its fifths it just would be off about 2cents from another instrument tuned by the base note. This is something I’ve not thought out at least to understand so I’m trying to understand.
    Well, er, yes, you are wrong to say that. With all possible respect, I don't think you've quite got it. Let me try explaining a slightly different way, but one that is based on the post I made earlier in this thread:

    A perfect fifth above a fundamental will always sound just a trifle bit SHARP if you're using equal temperament (12TET). The fifth should be tuned to 1.498 times the frequency of the fundamental in 12TET, but a perfect fifth happens to be exactly 1.50 times the fundamental. So it's slightly sharp, from the perspective of 12TET. Put the other way around, the 12TET fifth is slightly "narrow," as the musicologists would say. THEREFORE, if the fundamental note happens to be tuned just a trifle flat, by something that's around two cent's worth, then the perfect fifth above it (i.e., the frequency of the 3/2 harmonic) would happen to land at just the correct tuning for equal temperament. In other words, in this situation, you would wind up with a slightly flat fundamental, but a perfectly tuned fifth!

    Based on this logic, it is simply not true to say that if the harmonic fifth of a note happens to be just a tiny bit flat, then the corresponding fundamental is also flat. Not so. Of course, if the fifth happens to be flat by more than two cents from the desired 12TET pitch, then the corresponding fundamental will also be flat of the desired 12TET pitch. Except it won't be quite as flat, by about two cents.

    I hope this example makes sense. Did it help you to follow the logic from the earlier post? The key point is that the fifth in 12TET is about two cents (actually, closer to 1.96 cents) shy of a perfect fifth. But the harmonic overtones of ringing strings produce perfect fifths, not 12TET fifths. So a string cannot be tuned strictly by its (non-octave) harmonics if you adhere to 12TET. YES, you can get awfully close, but no cigar. Not if you want to be tuned to 12TET.

    This is a very old conundrum, and it's been debated for literally centuries in Western music. Bach's famous "Well-Tempered Clavier" composition was one attempt to get it right on a keyboard, and he used something other than 12TET, it would seem, but the exact tuning that he used has been lost to history! For many excellent reasons (I don't have the time or space to justify all of these), 12TET is, mathematically, the best musical compromise possible if you want to play chromatically, in all keys. Nearly all pianos and fretted instruments are designed for 12TET. When strings play in orchestras (not small quartets) with other non-stringed instruments, they also default to 12TET. If you are willing to restrict your playing to just a few keys (and also certain note ranges), some other compromises become possible, musically, but these do not generalize well.

    Our tuners are designed to default to 12TET. Strobe tuners can do some other temperaments, if you set them to, but you need to beware that these alternatives will only help you in certain keys or tunings. They make perfect sense on a Dobro or banjo (always open G tuning). They even make sense on a guitar in bluegrass (always capoing to play out of some G "cowboy chord"-related positions, with all those open strings!) They do not make much sense on a mandolin. You don't capo up to play in B in bluegrass mandolin, but you sure do need to play in the key of B. So forget those StroboTune "sweeteners" on the mandolin, I'd recommend, but do embrace them on a guitar or banjo. They won't do you very much good on a mandolin.
    Last edited by sblock; Nov-27-2017 at 9:52pm.

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    Mandolin Friendly Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stroboclip HD prefers harmonic to fundamental problem

    That's a great explanation on why tuning to a harmonic fifth is not a good idea; thanks for that, I hadn't given that any thought.

    I want to come back around to the actual point of this OP now, though, because I want to share my experience which seems to have "solved" the problem in the OP.

    I've found that the advice of both Adrian and foldedpath has helped me to solve the problem.

    Adrian (HoGo) has said that plucking the string at the node will reduce the harmonic. My own experience has borne this out. The closer to third portion of the string, the less chance of the unwanted harmonic. Don't even have to be a third up or down the string on my instruments, it is sufficient simply to move away from the bridge and just pluck close to fretboard on my guitar to get rid of the stroboclip's preference for the harmonic. And foldedpath is a strong proponent of brushing with the flesh of finger or thumb. That tip is included in the tuner's instruction pamphlet, and it works. So I've found that using my thumb or finger - or a very light stroke with a thick, "dark" sounding pick - and plucking up by the fingerboard solves my problem.

    Several folk here have also advocated muting the strings that are not being tuned. While I consider that "best practice" I also know that it is not a necessity with most strobe tuners unless you're having trouble with reading notes on other strings, which definitely was not the case here. Muting other strings does nothing to prevent your tuner from reading the harmonic fifth on the string you're tuning! Still it's good practice, and I do it often, not always.

    1. Pluck away from the bridge and toward the fretboard, getting closer to the node (1/3 way up or down the string)
    2. Use a very light stroke; preferably the flesh of your thumb or finger, avoiding use of a "bright" sounding pick if practicable
    3. Do not "tune to the harmonic" rather than the fundamental note

    Those work for me with the stroboclip.
    Last edited by Mark Gunter; Nov-27-2017 at 10:36pm. Reason: grammar, spelling
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    Default Re: Stroboclip HD prefers harmonic to fundamental problem

    Hi Mark - Thanks for the info. I can understand why using a pick might send a signal to the tuner that could overwhelm it & produce spurious readings - BUT !!!. These tuners are supposed to be able to be used in noisy situations,in that situation,i'd need to use a pick,simply to know that i'd struck the correct note. Using a fingertip wouldn't be enough (IMHO). If the tuner designers aren't catering for noisy situations,then they're doing us a disservice,because that's exactly the situation where many of them are used,
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    Default Re: Stroboclip HD prefers harmonic to fundamental problem

    Sblock, thanks for the explanation, for what it’s worth I’ve never trusted a tuner as the final authority in tuning I trust my ears but the tuner seems closer to “in tune” on a mandolin than a guitar. This explanation helps me understand why. My knowledge of theory and the mathematics of music is limited and I appreciate you sharing yours. You’re right I don’t “quite get it” but I have learned a little bit from this discussion. Every little bit of knowledge helps.

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    Registered User Perry's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stroboclip HD prefers harmonic to fundamental problem

    When a tuner is acting whacky I find that the 12th fret harmonic will get it to zone in on the right note then I can go back to regular open string tuning.

    Using your finger to pick also helps by limiting the overtones.

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    Mandolin Friendly Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stroboclip HD prefers harmonic to fundamental problem

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post
    Hi Mark - Thanks for the info. I can understand why using a pick might send a signal to the tuner that could overwhelm it & produce spurious readings - BUT !!!. These tuners are supposed to be able to be used in noisy situations,in that situation,i'd need to use a pick,simply to know that i'd struck the correct note. Using a fingertip wouldn't be enough (IMHO). If the tuner designers aren't catering for noisy situations,then they're doing us a disservice,because that's exactly the situation where many of them are used,
    Ivan
    Like onstage or in a jam session? I agree of course - and I generally use a pick to tune my mandolin because it quicker and easier, and I'm not having a problem with a darker, "softer" sounding pick if you will, i.e. the Wegen, when I pick closer to the fretboard with a lighter stroke. On the guitar, it is easy to use my thumb in any situation. My tuner doesn't read noise from the other folk in those situations. It's that type of situation where you want a tuner you can rely on because tuning by ear is not really workable for me in a noisy environment.

    A good strobe tuner is going to be very sensitive. If you find a non-strobe tuner works better for you in noisy environments, use it instead. But what I'm writing in this thread is to say that the problem has been solved for me by the advice given by Adrian and foldedpath. So far, using what they posted has helped me overcome the problem. I don't have to religiously use my fingers - or pick exactly at the node - and definitely not the center of the string at the twelfth fret - but the closer you get to those circumstances, the less chance the tuner will read the harmonic rather than the fundamental note. That's working for me as of now.

    These electronic tuners are a great convenience, but for many of us old timers they are just that, conveniences and not necessities. It seems to me that the more accurate one is, if it is chromatic, the more susceptible it is to reading a harmonic on occasion. I can live with that as long as I have a method of getting it to lock i on the note.
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    Default Re: Stroboclip HD prefers harmonic to fundamental problem

    I'd like to suggest two good books: Braid White's "Piano Tuning and Allied Arts". The opening chapters are the clearest explanation I have ever encountered for one to learn some of the science of vibrating strings and tuning.

    The second, if you are more interested in the "back story" and history of temperaments, is a book called (smartly) "Temperament: How Music Became a Battleground for the Great Minds of Western Civilization" by Stuart Isacoff.

    They are both easily found on Amazon or elsewhere.

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    Default Re: Stroboclip HD prefers harmonic to fundamental problem

    The original StroboClip certainly gets the job done and for me at least works better than any green light tuner. Probably like many my clip had broken twice with gentle music room use and careful storage, once in and once out of warranty; replacement is $5.99 if more than a year after purchase.

    I have found the HD upgrade to be significant. The battery lasts much more than twice as long. The display is finer resolution and more legible in all ambient lighting conditions in my experience. The clip is better padded and can’t chip your headstock if fully advanced, and the whole aesthetic more modern tech and materials in my opinion.

    The firmware can be updated from your computer and custom tunings developed with a free program and exported to the tuner. And conveniently it remembers your past instrument choices and keeps them adjacent in the selectable list—lovely for me using same device to tune mando, guitar and bass while the original StroboClip requires 23 button presses to change guitar to mando. I do use mandolin Sweetener tuning and like it.

    I place the tuner on my bridge on mando and obviously remove it while playing.

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    Default Re: Stroboclip HD prefers harmonic to fundamental problem

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post
    Hi Mark - Thanks for the info. I can understand why using a pick might send a signal to the tuner that could overwhelm it & produce spurious readings - BUT !!!. These tuners are supposed to be able to be used in noisy situations,in that situation,i'd need to use a pick,simply to know that i'd struck the correct note. Using a fingertip wouldn't be enough (IMHO). If the tuner designers aren't catering for noisy situations,then they're doing us a disservice,because that's exactly the situation where many of them are used,
    I don't know how loud your stage monitors or acoustic jam session is, but I can easily get a solid readout on my original Stroboclip by brushing with the side of my thumb or fingers, with a piper tuning up just two chairs away from me in a session.

    I can even do a quick, discrete tuning check with the whole group of 5-6 fiddlers, guitar, concertina, and two pipers blasting away nearby. That's as loud as I ever want to hear anything without ear protection, and the tuner works fine with finger brushing instead of picking the strings. I just make sure I'm lightly touching all the strings except the one I'm tuning with my fingertips or edge of my hand, so they're not picking up sympathetic vibrations from the other instruments around me. I think I'm also adding a little palm pressure on the bridge, which keeps the top from vibrating sympathetically.

    So yes, the designers of the StroboClip are catering for noisy situations, but you still have to use proper technique like brushing instead of picking, and damping the strings you're not tuning. Sympathetic vibration will confuse any tuner.

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    Default Re: Stroboclip HD prefers harmonic to fundamental problem

    Well, I am a sweetening skeptic when it comes to the mandolin.

    There's a famous saying, often wrongly attributed to Napoleon or Sun Tzu (but is probably from Helmut von Moltke), to the effect that "No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy!"

    Much the same can probably be said about tuning to something other than equal temperament. So I offer the folks of the MC this analogous aphorism: "No attempt to sweeten your tuning will survive past the first performance!"

    All of these so-called "sweeteners" are key-specific. They favor some keys at the expense of others. Furthermore, they only adjust the tuned notes up or down by a several cents. But most instrument-mounted electronic tuners -- except for strobe tuners -- are only good to within a few cents, anyway. So the other instruments in a band will usually differ up or down by a few cents either way, obliterating almost any effect of sweetening unilaterally. Add to that the fact that the more sensitive strobe tuners will show you very clearly that the pitch of a picked note (with the string struck as when actually playing, not lightly brushed with a finger for tuning!) is never perfectly stable, changes continuously after it's struck, first going sharp and then flattening. So the long and short notes in a piece will sound with slightly different pitches (and which one do you decide to tune to?). Finally, the vast majority of freshly-tuned mandolins will fail to hold their tuning to within a few cents over the course of a single performance. Not even if they're equipped with the best mechanical tuners, well-lubricated nuts, and broken-in strings.

    In 12TET, we are used to hearing harmonic intervals that are routinely off by several cents: as much as 15, in fact, for major and minor thirds, which you very often hear in folk music, or 17 for a tritone, which you seldom hear. You get used to it.

    In my opinion, those who claim that mandolin "sweeteners" are improving their playing sound are being deceived by something akin to a placebo effect. Or perhaps, the real improvement they are associating with the "sweetening" is actually coming from the guitar, Dobro, or banjo in the ensemble, where open string intervals matter much more. And I doubt that the subtle, small differences associated with all this sweetening are stable for more than a minute or two, unless you all retune for every single tune played.

    This constant retuning might work for recording (but then again, there are other ways of playing with pitches with modern recording, after the fact), but it is simply not practical for most stage performances. I have seldom heard two fretted instruments that are within a couple of cents of one another on most notes while playing together. Start picking higher up the neck on your mandolin and you will be off by a few cents, one way or another (this is a compensation issue). Pick louder or softer and you will also be off by a few cents, too. It can't be helped. These small changes are at the same level as any so-called sweetening, by the way.
    Last edited by sblock; Nov-28-2017 at 3:25pm.

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