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Thread: Tuner that works for setting intonation?

  1. #26
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner that works for setting intonation?

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    Since the accuracy of less expensive tuners is +or- 2 cents you may be way off setting intonation with one. It could read + 2 cents for fretting and - 2 cents for harmonic, making you a huge 4 cents off.

    When I do guitar I ask where the player spends the most time. If around the 12 fret (lead player) then I intonate there. If a person is more of a rhythm player I intonate around the 7th fret. The 12th will be a little sharp, but the first position will be closer for the person who doesn't hang around the 7-15 frets.
    Not trying to sound disputatious (sorry -- I respect you!), but you are confusing two things here: accuracy and precision.

    The accuracy is the ability to get the value right. In the case of a tuner, this would be the string's frequency. A tuner that is accurate to +/- 2 cents will report the frequency of the note to within about 2 one-hundredths of a semitone. In marksmanship, an accurate shot is one that hits near the aiming point -- presumably, the center of the target.

    The precision is the ability to report the value very reproducibly. That is, it is a measure of the variation in the numbers reported. In marksmanship, this would correspond to the size of a grouping of shots.

    You can be very precise but inaccurate. In marksmanship, imagine a tight cluster of shots, but centered systematically at some point well away from the bull's-eye.

    To set a mandolin bridge, you do not require any particular level of accuracy. None at all, in fact! You're simply comparing two notes to see if they're the same or not (the harmonic and the noted 12th fret). What you require for this activity is precision. In fact, you can do this comparison entirely by ear, and without any tuner, if you like. And if you do it with a tuner, all you care is that the tuner registers in (nearly) the exact same way every time it 'hears' a note of that frequency. Not whether it gets the frequency right.

    The accuracy of a Snark or NS Micro tuner may be +/- a few cents. But their precision -- which is all you need to set a bridge -- is much better than that. It's typically around 1 cent or better, in fact. Very, very few people can hear better than that. In fact, we usually try to cheat when comparing two notes that are nominally the same, by hitting them both and listening for beats (at the frequency difference). But when listening for a 12th fretted note and its harmonic on the same string, you do not have the option of playing them both at once: you have to play them in succession.

    When you strike a string with a pick (particularly an older string), the note usually starts out a tiny bit sharp and then goes flat as it settles. That change can easily amount to 1 or 2 cents, and you easily can see it happening on a Snark or NS Micro tuner -- because the tuner has a precision (not accuracy) of 1 cent or less.

    The bottom line is that a Snark or NS Micro is perfectly capable of being used to position a bridge, due to its excellent precision (not its less-than-ideal accuracy).

    Also, the changes in accuracy that naturally develop due to less-than-deal intonation, due to (1) imperfect compensation by the staggered slots in the bridge saddle, (2) the stretching of the string as a result of fretting it, and (3) string age, nonlinearity, and other imperfections, all amount to MORE deviations than you will ever get from using a Snark or NS Micro to set your bridge. And that's not even considering the many-cents 'inaccuracies' that arise from the equal temperament placing of frets on the fretboard. Don't forget that a major third interval in 12TET is nearly 14 cents "off" what it ought to be a just temperament! (And the tritone is off by a whopping 17 cents!)

    Those would-be perfectionists among you who think you may be getting things 'right' by attempting to use a (costly) strobe tuner to place the bridge position within 1 or 2 cents of the its ideal location have lost sight of the forest for the trees, in my view. You will likely never get all 8 strings to within several cents of being perfect at the 12th fret, due to things like imperfect saddle compensation and string stretch during fretting. And you will never tune the mandolin perfectly, either.

    Finally, as pops1 very usefully pointed out, you cannot expect to optimize the bridge placement for all possible notes. If you spend all your time fretting down the neck, the best compromise is different from where the bridge would go if you hope to play more up the neck.

    Like so much in fretted instruments, bridge placement is a compromise. Please don't overthink it. Let's not forget that the OP wanted to know about Polytune vs Unitune vs the Peterson strobe for setting his bridge. My answer is that they all will work just fine for that purpose! Instead, my advice would be to buy the tuner that you prefer for most occasions while tuning. 99% of the time, you're using your tuner to tune strings, and not to locate the bridge. Get the tuner you prefer for daily tuning, I say.
    Last edited by sblock; Jun-19-2019 at 7:27pm.

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  3. #27
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner that works for setting intonation?

    Remember the OP already has the app he just needs to add a mic to his phone to use it, heck the app along with the phone's mic works well depending on location and background noise. He said he ordered the nic for like 13$. Seems a nice inexpensive way to go considering what he already has. I hope it works out for him. Strobes aren't for everyone that's for sure.
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  4. #28
    Registered User Douglas McMullin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner that works for setting intonation?

    Certainly simple options and ears can all work, but I will also put a plug in for my trusty old Sonic Research ST122 chromatic strobe tuner. Unfortunately Sonic Research only makes pedal versions now for electric (they are great in that form too), but these older units are great if you can find one used.

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  6. #29
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner that works for setting intonation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian B View Post
    Thank you, John - perfect. Just ordered one. $13 and change on Amazon with free shipping. Looking forward to getting back in tune,
    Brian B did it come, the little clip on mic? I'm curious how it's working out for you?
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

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  7. #30

    Default Re: Tuner that works for setting intonation?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Bertotti View Post
    Brian B did it come, the little clip on mic? I'm curious how it's working out for you?
    Yes, sir, it did, and it works perfectly. Thanks for the tip, I’m very happy with it. It couldn’t work better. And the $13 (including Amazon Prime shipping) Peterson has 8 feet of cord with a nice little velcro strap so one can hank the cord at whatever intermediate length and tune on the iPad from a distance. Again, a great idea, and thanks for the advice.

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  9. #31

    Default Re: Tuner that works for setting intonation?

    Hey, Douglas - I see you’re in Maine. If anywhere near Brunswick, there’s a BG jam starting up on Tuesdays in the Mall near the gazebo, I forget if it’s 7 or 7:30.

  10. #32
    Registered User Douglas McMullin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner that works for setting intonation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian B View Post
    Hey, Douglas - I see you’re in Maine. If anywhere near Brunswick, there’s a BG jam starting up on Tuesdays in the Mall near the gazebo, I forget if it’s 7 or 7:30.
    Thanks for the heads up. I am up on MDI and don't make it down that way too frequently.

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