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Thread: keys that don't sound good

  1. #26
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: keys that don't sound good

    Quote Originally Posted by farmerjones View Post
    I do know Jazz doesn't chase the harmonious. The dissonant tone has equal worth.
    9ths, 11ths, & 13ths would get an eyebrow raise in some jams, and a smile in others.
    Eyebrow raised?

    In some non-jazz sessions I've been at, if I played those "jazz"chords, somebody would throw a bottle or something at me to stop.

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  3. #27
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    Default Re: keys that don't sound good

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    Eyebrow raised?

    In some non-jazz sessions I've been at, if I played those "jazz"chords, somebody would throw a bottle or something at me to stop.
    Sure they'd throw that bottle, but wouldn't they raise an eyebrow as they did so?

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  5. #28
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    Default Re: keys that don't sound good

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    Sure they'd throw that bottle, but wouldn't they raise an eyebrow as they did so?
    Only to aim better.

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  7. #29
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    Default Re: keys that don't sound good

    just tell em the 11th is really a sus4 .
    2012 Weber Bitterroot F5.

  8. #30
    Registered User Tom Haywood's Avatar
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    Default Re: keys that don't sound good

    I suspect most of the jazzers hear most all keys regularly and their ears are used to the discrepancies. I'll step out on a limb and suggest that using a capo when playing in a key that many of us don't hear often, such as Gb, preserves the relative tunings and overtones of the intervals that we are used to and may sound more "normal" to the ear than playing the chords in a different form.
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  9. #31
    jbmando RIP HK Jim Broyles's Avatar
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    Default Re: keys that don't sound good

    I know you're kidding, but for the uninitiated, the 11th is really not a sus4. In an 11th chord, there will be a third, thus, it isn't suspended, although the 11 is the same note as the 4. FWIW, an 11th chord will generally also have the b7 and the 9. #11 is a different animal - think Lydian feel.
    "I thought I knew a lot about music. Then you start digging and the deeper you go, the more there is."~John Mellencamp

    "Theory only seems like rocket science when you don't know it. Once you understand it, it's more like plumbing!"~John McGann

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  11. #32
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    Default Re: keys that don't sound good

    Thanks all
    for expalnations!

    @Sblock: I don't even know how to tune it in perfect fiths
    Possible I make so but could you explain how to tune in perfect fiths please?
    I tune each string according to what says the tuner.
    Sometimes I have to adjust it a little by ear to tune the strings together on 5th fret octave.

    I swear I have good hear and my instruments are well tuned all along the neck.
    A small amount of out of tune drives me mad!
    I checked setup once again and no problem with this.
    When I say G# is out of tune I mean it sounds so when I play music.
    But the tuner tells me each independent note of the scale is ok.

    @David L :
    Yes! Dampening the strings is a solution for the "out of tuned effect".
    Resonating G on G# tone is the problem, as logical.
    I should have thought about it earlier, thanks

    But...
    I'm aware of equal temperament and the theory which says that all keys sounds the same.
    It would be true if I could manage to always dampen all the simpatetic ringing.
    But this way I don't have the rich resonance sound of the G scale sound.
    In G# I just feel I loose all the interesting sound of the fith tuning
    If you like simpathetic ringing and lot of harmonics as I do, the instrument really sounds better (for me) at some keys and more weak (or less interesting) at others.
    Imagine you have an wonderful reverb pedal that warms your sound and you suddenly turn it off.
    This is the best way I can explain what I feel.

    Then I think I'll use a capo...

    Anyway, thanks for making me learn interesting things!

    (And sorry if I take time to answer, it takes me time to read, understand and write in english.
    And I confess I spend much time playing too )
    My english is not perfect.
    Nor my french anyway...

  12. #33
    Registered User Bob Visentin's Avatar
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    Default Re: keys that don't sound good

    At the weekly jam I go to we like to play in F and Bb. It keeps the banjos away.

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  14. #34
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    Default Re: keys that don't sound good

    Quote Originally Posted by PhilGox View Post
    Thanks all
    for expalnations!

    @Sblock: I don't even know how to tune it in perfect fiths
    Possible I make so but could you explain how to tune in perfect fiths please?
    I tune each string according to what says the tuner.
    Sometimes I have to adjust it a little by ear to tune the strings together on 5th fret octave. (bold added)
    OK, the way that you tune might be contributing to your problem. If you tune the strings exactly to what the tuner says, then you will get 12TET (Twelve-tone Equal Temperament). Fini! However, you ALSO wrote that you tend to adjust your tuning further, so that the note on the 5th fret of the higher string is exactly one octave above the note on the open, lower string. However, that 5th fret (on an accurately made fretboard, with the bridge in the exact right place) is designed to give a frequency that is 1.49831 times the root, which is not exactly 3/2 of it (= 1.5 times)! The fretted string will therefore tend to sound just a trifle flat (~2 cents' worth), if your ear is good enough to hear that. If you consistently raise the note on the higher string to compensate for this apparent flatness, across the board, then you will have achieved Just Intonation tuning, and not Equal Temperament tuning. You can also get Just Intonation by comparing the harmonic produced at the 7th fret of a lower, open string with the octave below sounded by the open string found just above it -- or, with the exact match to the octave harmonic of that string found at the 12th fret. This procedure does not rely on using any frets at all, and is therefore "perfect" in getting you the Pythagorean frequency of a "just" fifth interval (3/2 = 1.5 times the root) as the tuning reference. Violinists sometimes use this harmonic for Just tuning, but they're also trained from the very start to hear a perfect fifth, and especially to listen for the sympathetic resonance (i.e., the reinforcement of higher harmonics) that occurs when two adjacent strings are sounded together that happen to be exactly a fifth apart. This process produces Just Tuning for the open strings, not 12TET. On a violin, the player can adjust the fingered notes to the right 12TET tones by ear, but the open violin strings will always produce a 'wide octave' due to their non-12TET tuning. You should not tune a mandolin like a violin.

    My advice would be to rely on your tuner, and not tweak it further, especially if you intend to play in a key with many sharps or flats, i.e., well "away" from the open-string notes of G,D,A,E.

    Bon courage, mon vieux!
    Last edited by sblock; May-24-2018 at 7:20pm.

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  16. #35
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    Default Re: keys that don't sound good


  17. #36
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    Default Re: keys that don't sound good

    Yeaaaah!!

    Thanks a lot for this explanation sblock!!

    You found the problem I was not aware of.
    You made me discover I don't tune my instruments in 12TET but in Just Intonation tuning.
    It's true that when I tune I look for perfect resonance between strings and octaves.
    I used to tune my electric bass this way too when I played bass.
    (Perfect octaves are easy to hear when you play both notes.
    If they are not in perfect octaves you hear a sort of modulation that is clearly audible.
    When the signal is "straight" then you have perfect octaves.)

    So indeed it's logical some keys don't sound well tuned if I don't have 12TET.
    Now I understand this thanks to you.
    It's better to be aware of the difference between 12TET and Just Intonation tuning.

    But...
    I just CAN'T STAND untuned octaves as I use them a lot with open strings.
    I tried perfect 12TET tuning and it really sounds odd to me.
    if I hear lighty untuned octaves it drives me mad.
    So I think I will make my choice to Just intonation tuning.
    The instrument seems to resonate better this way, with lot of harmonics as I like.
    This is just a matter of taste.
    I understand someone who is not especially looking for this resonance will prefer 12TET.
    Anyway It doesn't bother me to use a capo for odd keys full of sharps I don't often play.


    This forum is incredible!
    After 30 years of music it makes me learn I didn't tune my strings "correctly".
    Today I'm glad to know this because knowledge can't hurt.

    And at least if someone tells me I don't tune it correctly I will be able to answer proudly:
    "Non Monsieur!*
    This is called "Just Intonation Tuning"

    Have a good day!

    *="No sir!" plus a little bit of french irony
    My english is not perfect.
    Nor my french anyway...

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    Default Re: keys that don't sound good

    After a day of being around noise, like lawn mower, busy restaurant kitchen, screaming babies etc....I pick up the mandolin and well no key sounds good! I usually have to give up for that day till my ears get right so to speak. But in generality all keys are sweet on the mandolin, I love playing in them all.

  19. #38
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: keys that don't sound good

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    OK, the way that you tune might be contributing to your problem. If you tune the strings exactly to what the tuner says, then you will get 12TET (Twelve-tone Equal Temperament).
    ...... then you will have achieved Just Intonation tuning, and not Equal Temperament tuning.
    .........
    My advice would be to rely on your tuner, and not tweak it further, especially if you intend to play in a key with many sharps or flats, i.e., well "away" from the open-string notes of G,D,A,E.
    Thank you.

    It is also gratifying to read a post by somebody that actually understands tuning systems.

  20. #39
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    Default Re: keys that don't sound good

    Some folks with "great ears" can easily hear a tuned note that differs from a reference note -- or one that is simply off in frequency, in the case of perfect pitch! -- by just a cent or two. [N.B: A 'cent' is one part in 1200 of an octave, which is a factor of 2.] I am not talking about listening for beats as both notes are sounded; I am talking about playing the two notes in succession.

    Most folks can't do that, however -- the notes have to be off by more like 5-15 cents to make much of a difference. I have often wondered whether having a great ear is more of a blessing, or more of a curse! My current thinking is that it is a curse, because things can never be perfect in Western, multi-key music that spans more than an octave or so.

    Western music inevitably involves compromises in the frequencies of scale intervals, which we call temperament, in order to come out right over multiple octaves. Some musical intervals are going to be off by as much as 15-18 cents in tempered scales. And there is no getting around this if you allow more than one musical key to be played. And even then, you run into trouble if your musical range spans more than an octave. And so, you have to make compromises. Twelve-tone Equal Temperament is the most even-handed compromise possible, because it makes all 12 semitones in the scale have the exact same frequency ratio (namely, the twelfth-root-of-two: apply it twelve times in a row, and you wind up with a factor of two = 1 octave). And that's what nearly all modern keyboard and fretted instruments use. It gets the 5th interval fairly close (to within less than 2 cents), but the nasty thing about 12TET is that the major and minor thirds are off by about 14-16 cents -- which many of us, even those with 'normal' ears, can hear. There are other systems of tuning possible, which make various other compromises, but these don't tend to work very well with fretboards! (For some, you have to install microfrets and suchlike, or bent frets, etc.). And NO SYSTEM of temperament is without its compromises, so it really depends on what bothers your ear the least, not on what "works." No system of temperament gets everything right, at least to some ears.

    If you Just tune (use perfect fifths) a mandolin or violin on its open strings, say, starting with the low G (yes, I know most folks start with the A string and go both up and down, but I am simplifying things here to make a point), the first fifth, from G to D, with be just ~2 cents high (i.e., a factor of exactly 1.5, and not 1.4983, in pitch). Going up from there, the A string will be (1.5 x 1.5), or 2.25 times the frequency. The E string will be (1.5 x 1.5 x 1.5) higher, or 3.375 times higher. But in 12TET, that E note it should be 3.364 times higher, instead. By now, you're off by a factor of 1.00327 in pitch, or 0.3%, which is significant -- the errors are starting to accumulate. Each fifth you go up adds to the existing error. Not good.

    As you can see from this example, tuning a fretted instrument in perfect fifths starts to make the higher strings sound consistently 'off' with respect to the lower strings. And their fretted notes will also sound consistently off, too, because their unfretted pitches are off in the first place, even if the frets give 12TET intervals. So you haven't really fixed any problem. And that's why it's not a good idea to Just tune a mandolin!

    Put another way, there is nothing particularly "just" (in the sense of 'correct'. In French, "juste" means correct, n'est-ce pas?!) about Just Intonation. It is not more perfect in some sense: on the contrary, it starts accumulating bigger and bigger errors with every octave you go up, until these become so bad that anyone, even those of us blessed with less sensitive ears (!), can hear them.

    P.S. Thanks for the kind words and thanks to my earlier posts!
    Last edited by sblock; May-25-2018 at 12:29pm.

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  22. #40
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: keys that don't sound good

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    Twelve-tone Equal Temperament is the most even-handed compromise possible, because it makes all 12 semitones in the scale have the exact same frequency ratio (namely, the twelfth-root-of-two: apply it twelve times in a row, and you wind up with a factor of two = 1 octave). And that's what nearly all modern keyboard and fretted instruments use. It gets the 5th interval fairly close (to within less than 2 cents), but the nasty thing about 12TET is that the major and minor thirds are off by about 14-16 cents -- which many of us, even those with 'normal' ears, can hear. There are other systems of tuning possible, which make various other compromises, but these don't tend to work very well with fretboards!
    And thanks for another post that makes musical and logical sense about tuning systems.

  23. #41
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    Default Re: keys that don't sound good

    +100!

    No one had never made things so clear to me before about tuning system than sblock!
    I always thought I used 12TET but you proved me I was wrong.
    And I thank you for this

    I understand clearly why you say that 12TET is the best compromise.
    And I agree it's true in most cases.

    But since I understand things I realised something:
    If I play jazzy, bluesy, funky or rock things, a little off note doesn't bother me.
    I mean I can sometimes hear it but it seems to suit the music well.
    I don't play bluegrass but I suppose it must be the same.
    As someone who plays fast things with mostly shorts freted notes don't really mind for the very slight out of tune of 12TET.

    But depending on the style of music, you might hear the difference more:
    I also love to play sort of slow ethnic things that sounds like arab or spanish or medieval.
    To give an idea, it sometimes makes my friends think of an indian sitar or a oud.
    In this case the sound and ambiance is nearly more important than the notes you play.
    Then Just Intonation is better than 12TET.
    Because the instrument have to resonate perfectly with open strings to give this ambiance.
    (I use mostly fiths banjos for this but also mandolin or nylon GDAE baryton uke, and it's the same effect for all).
    I've just tried both systems with all my instruments and I swear it's not imagination from me.


    As you said any tuning system is a compromise, if I understand well:
    -12TET: All keys allowed but not exactly perfect fiths. (pas très juste, ou un peu faux )
    -Just Intonation: Perfect fiths, sounds great in a few keys but awful in some others.
    Cruel dilemma!

    So my personal compromise is:
    1-Do I really want to play in twelve keys?
    2-Or do I want my instruments to resonate like a sitar and give the ambiance I love so much? Even If I'll have to use only G D A keys and capo for others?

    Now l will knowingly choose n°2.
    I did so for too long without knowing my tuning method was not 12TET and I'm not ready to compromise the sounding it gave me.
    Sometimes errors can be good
    My english is not perfect.
    Nor my french anyway...

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