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Thread: Intentionally Imperfect Tuning

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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Intentionally Imperfect Tuning

    It's easy enough for me to tune course off by accident, I tune one string and then tune the next but only listen to the initial attack and not the beats between them, but


    I am just curious if anyone is playing around with intentionally leaving a beat or two between their courses or tuning the same course strings to a different value? How did it go what did you do? How did you choose?

    I found that sometimes I like a beat between the coursed strings a very very very slow beat. I don't know why I am listening so hard to the tone between strings but once I started it is getting hard not to. So I started wondering how it could be used. I am starting to think I should learn to ignore it other than when I tune up because I am starting to hear it in music and I don't know if that's a good thing hell it might be all in my imagination. I have mentioned it to a few people before and only one agreed with me, he masters for other people, the rest just thought it was in our heads.

    I also wondered what it would be like to tune the instrument up with the courses tuned up to entirely different notes.
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    Default Re: Intentionally Imperfect Tuning

    Among the stringed instruments I play is a Takamine 12 string. 12 strings are typically tuned with the 1st and 2nd pair of strings (E and B) tuned in unison. The remaining 4 pairs are tuned an octave apart.

    Sometimes I will play around with octave strings tuning them a beat or 2 sharp if I want a brighter sound. A beat or 2 flat for a more somber tone.

    But usually I just tune it straight up.
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    Default Re: Intentionally Imperfect Tuning

    Interesting question,
    I’m very much a newbie on the Mando. I’ve played the violin for about 10 years.
    I would put it this way, even though it’s hard to get and keep all 8 strings perfectly tuned, I find that when I play a perfectly tuned mandolin it actually sounds too plain. I try to keep the string pairs close to perfect 5ths apart. But as individual strings in each pair I don’t spend a lot of time trying to make them identical. To my ear it makes the sound more interesting, and complex. I don’t intentionally do this, when I pick up one of my mandolins to play I won’t retune it unless it’s noticeably out of tune.

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    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Intentionally Imperfect Tuning

    I always try to tune each course without any beating. I've heard some folks say that they intentionally tune one string a bit off for a bigger brighter sound.
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    Default Re: Intentionally Imperfect Tuning

    Tuning the G string slightly off will get you more power there, the E string more cutting. I like a warm sounding E so want them in tune, but if the G is slightly off occasionally it will be noticeably louder.
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    Default Re: Intentionally Imperfect Tuning

    A couple of cents makes sense.

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    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Intentionally Imperfect Tuning

    iirc, if you deliberately tune the reeds in a box off, it's called a "wet" sound, as opposed to a "dry" sound when they're identical, so other instruments do have a tradition of not tuning exactly on point. On the other hand, i occasionally play with a guy who doesn't bother to tune (most of) his strings in unison, and it drives me nuts. It makes me sound like I'm not in tune. I just figured he couldn't hear the difference, but it doesn't sound particularly good to my ear, and the fiddle player i often play with, who has a really, really good ear, has to turn her back on him because it's so distracting. so for off-beat tunings, ymmv
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    Mediocre but OK with that Paul Busman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Intentionally Imperfect Tuning

    Do whatever you like the sound of best.
    FWIW-piano tuners intentionally tune the double and triple sets of strings a tad off. A piano tuned "perfectly" in tune sounds dull.
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    Default Re: Intentionally Imperfect Tuning

    In the beginning I used imperfect tuning as a test of hitting both strings in a course. If it sounded funky, I knew I was getting 2 strings together.
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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Intentionally Imperfect Tuning

    Thanks, everyone I am glad it wasn't just some off perception I was having. And when I say off I mean only very very slightly. You really can't hear the beats between the strings while playing but if you stand and play just that course and listen over the sustain of the string you can pick it up. I tend to think this will happen at some point on all double courses only because of attack and sustain and decay will never be identical and will cause some of this I think. But I like to hear a couple beats over the total sustain and decay of the plucked course.

    Now though I want another mandolin I can use to play with alternate tunings and differences in course tunings, not just beats. Doggone, it sure didn't take much to get to I need another mandolin point!


    FYI I do not have a 12 string but it is what got me thinking about this more. I have also always wanted to tackle tuning a piano! To me, tuning is very meditative.
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    Default Re: Intentionally Imperfect Tuning

    I tune in unison but the combination of my inexpensive mandolin intonation issues inherent in a fretted instrument, pick attack and less than perfect left hand technique tend to add some beats.

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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Intentionally Imperfect Tuning

    I use the so-called wet tuning on my OM. It's a fine line between powerful and wrong, but it's worth the effort.
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    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: Intentionally Imperfect Tuning

    In my neck of the woods, you just tune them in unison and in about 5 minutes they'll be off a few beats anyway.
    You guys worry way too much.
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    mandolin slinger Steve Ostrander's Avatar
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    Default Re: Intentionally Imperfect Tuning

    One time I heard an OT string band with two fiddlers. One was a little sharp or one was a little flat. I’m not sure which, but it sounded terrible and it drove me nuts. I realize that fiddles are fretless, but holy cow.....
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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Intentionally Imperfect Tuning

    Quote Originally Posted by John Bertotti View Post
    To me, tuning is very meditative.
    I have heard people say "that first short piece was the best!" after attending a classical concert for the first time...
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    Default Re: Intentionally Imperfect Tuning

    I haven't tried it with mandolin, but on banjo I often tune the B string slightly flat. I can't remember the logic for it, but it does sounds better that way.

    Sounds like there are similar parallels for mandolin.

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    Default Re: Intentionally Imperfect Tuning

    "When you're out of tune, it sounds like there's more of you." I think Jethro said that.
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    Registered User Drew Streip's Avatar
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    Default Re: Intentionally Imperfect Tuning

    Quote Originally Posted by Luna Pick View Post
    I haven't tried it with mandolin, but on banjo I often tune the B string slightly flat. I can't remember the logic for it, but it does sounds better that way.

    Sounds like there are similar parallels for mandolin.
    For perfect intonation in chording, the major third should be about ~13 cents flat if I recall correctly. On a banjo, the B is the major thirds of the open G chord so that makes sense. The peril is that it could make any other chord shape sound significantly out of tune. (The fifth of the chord — D in this case — should also be slightly *sharp* for a technically perfect chord sound.)

    This is easier in chamber ensembles of wind instruments and string quartets where each note can be adjusted to suit the music and the notes are not “fixed” like on a fretted instrument.

    On a mandolin, I actually prefer perfectly even fifths. If I tune it to itself, I always end up drifting sharp, because of that thing where fifths sound better slightly further part. But if you follow that logic, the distance between open G and fretted G on the E course increases by almost a quarter tone and it reminds me that perfect is better

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