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Thread: Tuner

  1. #26
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    ...I want it to be in tune immediately, and the tuner to read that. When I play I am usually playing 16th notes, or fiddle tunes, and that's what I want in tune. If I have to wait 2 seconds for the tuner to read my string I have already played a dozen notes in real performance. The faster and more accurate my tuner does that the happier I am...
    A bit confused: are you tuning while playing sixteenth notes? I usually tune before starting to play fiddle tunes or whatever, and turn off the tuner before starting to play.

    One thing that often bewilders musicians (well, me anyway) is that the tuner registers an open string in tune, but when the string is fretted, the tuner says the fretted note is slightly sharp, or flat. And those of us who use capos know that putting the capo on, then checking the tuner, can be quite frustrating.

    Well, fret scales have to be "tempered," so not exact. Pressing a string down to the fretboard stretches it a bit, pushing the pitch up a fraction. A really long-scale instrument, like my long-neck banjo, shows quite a bit of variance as I move the capo to different positions.

    What I look for in a tuner is a decent display, relatively quick response, acceptable accuracy, compact size, and, yes, affordability. I've tried quite a few, and now I'm using a combination of D'Addario minis and red Snarks. I like the red Snark because of its microphone feature, useful for Autoharp, psaltery, and other "neck-less" instruments with fewer places to clamp. I like the mini because it's mini.
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  2. #27
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    Default Re: Tuner

    Allen, I don't play fast notes when I tune, but I do when I play. I want the string to be in tune immediately when struck and not one or two seconds later. Since the only thing anyone hears when playing a fast fiddle tune is a quick note, I want that to be in tune.
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  4. #28
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner

    Larry - I've had my 2 Red Snark tuners for close to 4 years now. Both are still unbroken & i haven't needed to replace the batteries in over 18 months. I suppose that's down to the fact that i use them to tune up,switch them off & put them back in the mandolin case. They're not exposed to any possible damage & they're only switched on for 5 minutes at a time. As for tuning up outside,i've had no problems at all. I suppose that if the tuner dial was in full sun,you'd struggle to read any tuner.

    I did have a glitch with my Polytune a few days ago. It's the one in my Weber case. I tuned up the G strings,came to tune up the D strings & it was still reading 'G'. I damped the G strings with my finger - still G !!!. I turned it off,removed the battery & re-inserted it. I switched it back on & it was working ok again. I've never had that trouble with the Snark tuners,although when i used the Intelli tuners,it did happen a few times,
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  6. #29
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    Default Re: Tuner

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Wilson View Post
    I felt the same way until I started recording at home with good gear. The tuner I'd used to gig with for years and thought was fine didn't cut it on playback. After 3-4 years of using a stobe I got pretty sensitive to slight differences that a snark can't display. For live performance or in constant changing conditions - I agree - a snark is all you probably want.
    This is evidence that we depend too much on "tuners". If you can hear out- of-tune on the recording, you should have heard it when you recorded it. All tuning is a compromise, you are letting the device make the compromise not your personal preference I am arrogant enough to think I know more than a $10 dollar tuner or even a $50 or $100 one.

  7. #30
    Scroll Lock Austin Bob's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    Astro raises an important point about tuners, and one that's not widely enough appreciated, in my opinion. The harsh truth is that no mandolin cannot truly hold its tune perfectly for any reasonable length of time. (And old strings will change pitch almost continuously from the moment they're hit, never quite settling in, which is why many of us get annoyed and change them out regularly). You might get through a song or two, but then you will inevitably drift away from any pitch where the string was set when you first tuned up. That drift might be so small as to be almost imperceptible, or it might be significant. The amount of tuning drift depends upon many things, including the ambient temperature (and any temp. change), the humidity (and your own body moisture, too!), the type and age of the strings, the mechanical performance of the tuners, any small amounts of friction at the nut or bridge, any playing that was done (how long, how hard, etc.), and more.

    It does not really make much sense to insist on using a tuner whose readout is so accurate -- or conversely, tuning the mandolin so very accurately -- that it appears to go "out of tune," at least at the level of precision demanded, within moments as you start to play a tune! In fact, a tuner with fabulous accuracy (say, to +/- 0.1 cent), for example, a bench-type strobe tuner, will never quite settle down stably on any plucked note, regardless, because that note's frequency is continuously changing in small, but quite measurable, ways.

    Furthermore, as others have pointed out, the use of the equal-tempered scale (12TET) on fretted instruments means that most notes will never be perfectly on pitch, anyway, even if the open strings happen to be tuned to some "sweetened" intervals, and not the ones that most tuners will suggest. Our ears accept a certain amount of "out of tune" in order to play equally well in all musical keys, i.e., chromatically, in Western music. This tuning irregularity is intrinsic to the music and cannot be fixed on any normal 12TET instrument, including the organ, piano, and virtually all fretted instruments. All notes can usually be off by a few cents and still be considered "OK." That's just the way it is.

    I know that some of you with very well-trained/sensitive ears have come to think that, somehow, routinely using a tuner with incredible accuracy is better. But it's not! There is a practical limit to exactly how much better a tuner really needs to be. If you play with other musicians, you may not be within a few cents of their tuned notes, no matter what you do. If you play for any length of time, your tuning will inevitably drift by a few cents from wherever you happen to set it. If you change musical keys in 12TET, your tuning on certain notes will always be off by a few cents. If you play higher up the neck, or press down tightly with you fingers, or sideways even by a little, you will also be off by a few cents. This cannot be helped. Thankfully, our ears usually forgive this -- and the audience is usually even more forgiving than the musician!

    In practice, what matters more in a tuner, I'd contend, is its ability to capture notes rapidly and sensitively, and not to home in on the wrong harmonics/overtones, or on adjacent notes, or on notes from other instruments (if mic'ed). A good tuner will capture a softly-played note, and not demand that you pluck the string extra hard. A good tuner will not get confused. A good tuner will register the the note quickly and stably. And being correct to within a couple of cents is plenty good for nearly all performance purposes. There really is such a thing as "too much accuracy," because you will often waste time trying to get one more decimal place than you really require, and you wind up fruitlessly chasing jitter and noise.

    There, I said it. That's my "two cents' worth". Get it?
    This is pretty my my experience with tuners, and tuning by ear as well. The definition of a string being "in tune" depends very much on exactly where you strike it with a pick, at what angle, upstroke, downstroke, and even how hard you hit the note.

    I tend to tune playing fairly softly, but that's not how I play. I know that just by the dynamics of playing the mandolin, that the pitch of the string will change ever so slightly. I guess that's why I've never felt the need for a more accurate tuner.

    What I'd like to see is a test of two tuners, one being the strobe type. Tune a mandolin as perfectly as possible with both. Play a simple tune and record it. Now, get the absolute pitch of each note in the tune and plot it.

    My guess is that no matter which tuner used, some notes would be flat, others sharp by nature of the scale. One would also likely find the pitch to change ever so slightly depending on the variables I mentioned in the beginning sentence. But the difference between the two tuners would be interesting to observe in a more real life setting.
    A quarter tone flat and a half a beat behind.

  8. #31
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    Default Re: Tuner

    The OP asked about a tuner. Jez. You would think that the simple choice of what kind of tuner one likes would not be provocative or cause so much hand wringing. Really takes the happy right out of the room. imo

  9. #32
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Wilson View Post
    The OP asked about a tuner. Jez. You would think that the simple choice of what kind of tuner one likes would not be provocative or cause so much hand wringing. Really takes the happy right out of the room. imo
    Hey, you've been here since 2013, you should know how tuner threads go by now.


    For the record, the OP didn't even ask "what tuner do you like?" The question was specifically about feedback on the TC Polytune. And then everyone has to jump in with "I like tuner X," without any reference to the Polytune. Or how they like to tune by ear and don't trust electronic tuners. All of which just adds noise to the thread.

    At least there were a few replies about the Polytune, so it wasn't a complete waste of time.

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  11. #33
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    Default Re: Tuner

    Always amazed if a thread stays on topic for more than five posts.
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  13. #34

    Default Re: Tuner

    Quote Originally Posted by Astro View Post
    If you are doing a tuning experiment in a temperature controlled vacuum, better spend 50 dollars for a atomic clock tuned strobe light or something. But in any practical application, a Snark(or countless others) is more accurate than standard detectable error of real world tuning. I just made that up. The caffeine has kicked in. Someone disagree and I'll bite your scroll off.


    This made me laugh, and even moreso if you consider the mental image it conjures up.

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    Hey, you've been here since 2013, you should know how tuner threads go by now.


    For the record, the OP didn't even ask "what tuner do you like?" The question was specifically about feedback on the TC Polytune. And then everyone has to jump in with "I like tuner X," without any reference to the Polytune. Or how they like to tune by ear and don't trust electronic tuners. All of which just adds noise to the thread.

    At least there were a few replies about the Polytune, so it wasn't a complete waste of time.
    Fair enough, but if I were the OP, would appreciate neighborly advice that could potentially save me money (or time, or headaches).


    Edit: I will confess I didn't even bother doing any research on this one. I saw the Indigo Girls with Snark tuners during a YouTube performance/interview, and thought, "If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me!"

    I didn't even know they were called Snark at the time, I just went to Amazon and the first tuner I saw was what they were using (Amy had the red one, Emily had the black one), so I bought it (it included "for violin", so I knew it would work).

    I'm a dweeb.


  14. #35
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner

    Mark W, I think this thread has stayed more-or-less on topic. The OP asked about for some opinions on the Polytune tuner. Some folks weighed in and liked it, while others (like me) thought it was overpriced, especially when compared to some other clip-on tuners with good ratings. However, the Polytune tuner claims to have better accuracy (but perhaps not as good as the Peterson Stoboclip). A discussion ensued about what is really desirable in a clip-on tuner: it is the accuracy, the speed of acquisition of a note, the stability, discrimination against other notes, the quality of the display, visibility in the light or dark, mechanical positionability, overall size, or other properties? And how accurate does a tuner really need to be? And so on. I think most of the posts have helped to illuminate various opinions on this topic. And they have shown that different people look for different characteristics, and assign different weight to them. So if they write in to say "I like tuner X (not a Polytune) for these reasons...," it's not really off-topic, IMO. It's been pretty interesting to me, in fact, and we managed to stay on topic a whole lot more than in some other threads.

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  16. #36
    Scroll Lock Austin Bob's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner

    To answer the OP's question, I had a Polytune and liked it for the guitar, If you're playing with a capo, you know that bass strings usually need to be tuned a hair flat to stay in tune. With the Polytune, you just put on the capo and strum the guitar, and know immediately which strings need tweaking.

    I lost it at a gig and did not replace it. It seemed like overkill for the mandolin, but I can see why people like them.
    A quarter tone flat and a half a beat behind.

  17. #37
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner

    I already had the 2 Red Snark tuners,one for my Weber & one for my Lebeda mandolin. When i bought my 'used' Ellis "A" style,i decided to buy a Polytune,simply for the difference. It's a very good tuner indeed - but so are the Snarks. When i got the PT,i'd already tuned my Ellis with a Snark, & checking it with the PT the first time i used it,it was in tune.

    In the UK,the PT is over twice the price of a Snark & IMHO,isn't worth the extra cost. It showed that my ''Snark-tuned'' Ellis was 'in tune' - what more did i need ?. I do like the way that you can twist the head of the Snark around so that you can easily see the display. With the PT,i have to clamp it to the edge of the headstock furthest away from me in order to see it,not difficult,but fiddly. Anyway - ''as long as you're in tune'',does it really matter ? - i still use a tuning fork to tune my banjo !,
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  18. #38

    Default Re: Tuner

    as sblock has so aptly posted, small scale stringed instruments, worse yet those poor boxes with dual course strings, are a bear to remain in metered tune, let alone have to deal with a bridge/saddle that won't allow individual string length adjustments, and then there's the wonderful world of tempering the intonation for a speed bump (fretted) stringed instrument. any simple digital tuner will do just fine, or perhaps better yet, a battery-not-needed tuning fork and (of all things!) .... yer ears! oh the horrors!!
    Mandolins are truly *magic*!

  19. #39
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    Default Re: Tuner

    To the OP, don't throw your old Intellitouch PT-1 away. You can send it back to Onboard Research, and for a standard fee of about $14 (if memory serves me), they will either repair or replace it. Mine quit working earlier this year, and I heard about the repair/replace arrangement on another forum. I checked the Onboard Research website, and confirmed that they do indeed provide this service. You don't have to show that you are even the original owner. Just fill out their form, and send your PT-1 plus payment. They will confirm receipt of your unit by email. The whole process only takes about 3 weeks. Personally, I have always liked my PT-1, and was happy to get a new one for under $15. Check their website before you toss that broken PT-1.

  20. #40
    Registered User Lane Pryce's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner

    Quote Originally Posted by itstooloudMike View Post
    To the OP, don't throw your old Intellitouch PT-1 away. You can send it back to Onboard Research, and for a standard fee of about $14 (if memory serves me), they will either repair or replace it. Mine quit working earlier this year, and I heard about the repair/replace arrangement on another forum. I checked the Onboard Research website, and confirmed that they do indeed provide this service. You don't have to show that you are even the original owner. Just fill out their form, and send your PT-1 plus payment. They will confirm receipt of your unit by email. The whole process only takes about 3 weeks. Personally, I have always liked my PT-1, and was happy to get a new one for under $15. Check their website before you toss that broken PT-1.
    Much obliged! Mine will power up however the accuracy just crapped out. 14 bucks is a good deal for a new PT1. Lp
    J.Lane Pryce

  21. #41
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    Default Re: Tuner

    I just checked the Onboard Research website. I was wrong. The fee for repair/replacement/handling on an Intellitouch tuner is only $8.00. Why would anyone not have a mal-functioning PT-1 replaced for that cheap?

  22. #42
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner

    I like and use the Polytune. Like it better on guitar than mandolin, though. At home, the Peterson Strobo Clip is my first choice. Also have an NS-1 and Snark sitting around. The later versions of the Snark seem to be more accurate than the earlier ones.

    Most of the time, I'm not too picky on the tuner. Just want it to be somewhat accurate. I'm pickier on tuning gears than I am on tuners.
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  23. #43
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    Default Re: Tuner

    I struck a Tuning Fork. A=440 and held against the bridge for many years before these newfangled electronic things came out.

    once the A string was in tune I tuned the others as unisons or octaves relative (5th , 7th fret)
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  24. #44

    Default Re: Tuner

    also, tune by fretting not harmonics, as this will take into account the added sharpness of depressing a string ... unless yer into harmonics playing, or maybe slide (mando? ). hah!
    Mandolins are truly *magic*!

  25. #45
    Registered User Gabriel Wiseman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner

    Love my polytune..... have the pedal and a couple of the clip on ones. These are great tuners and very easy to see in direct sunlight unlike a lot of others.
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  26. #46
    Registered User Kris N's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Bowsman View Post
    I love my Planet Waves NS Micro.
    +1 to the NS Micro. Just picked one up, and I'm surprised at how accurate it is. Blows my Snark out of the water.
    Eastman MD515

  27. #47
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    Default Re: Tuner

    I thought the PT 1 had a lifetime
    Warranty?

  28. #48
    Registered User J Mangio's Avatar
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    My research states, the PT 1is even warranted against accidental damage.
    I would wrap it up and send it back.
    I have been using one for many years, it .can't be beat

  29. #49
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    Default Re: Tuner

    I had 3 snarks. They worked well.but died suddenly and abruptly for no apparent reason ?
    I bought a stroboclip and at home on the couch it was great. Live at a gig with the other instruments
    In the band and crowd noise it was worthless.
    I mean worthless..too bad its a very accurate tuner.
    So the guys at gc sold me a 2 year warenty for 5 bucks on a new snark and guess what..they won.
    Go figure.. .
    One snark died at thomas point bg festival.
    I climbed up on top of my camper and clipped it
    to a tree..been there for 7 yrs now. Good quality springs i guess...

  30. #50

    Default Re: Tuner

    While I readily agree that the Polytune is seriously overpriced, it excels in two areas that are critical for me as mandolin player. First is accuracy- I used snarks for a couple of years like most of us, but found when I tuned one string and then its mate according to the tuner, they sometimes wouldn't be in tune with each other- never happens with the polytune. Second is speed/decisiveness- seems many of the cheaper tuners need some time to figure out whether the string is in tune or not while you sit and watch it waver. The Polytune nails the pitch instantly, when you have 8 strings to check, you can fly through the process. So while I feel the price is excessive, the Polytune clip is the only thing I use on my mando. I also have a Polytune Mini pedal tuner for plug-in stuff for the same reason.

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