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Thread: Electronic tuner: guide, or unquestionable authority?

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    Default Electronic tuner: guide, or unquestionable authority?

    After I remove my Snark from the mandolin peghead, or leave the iPhone tuner app, I like to marginally tweak my tuning until I think it sounds best. Right or wrong, I'm using the tuner as a guide rather than gospel truth.

    For me the questions are, 1) do I sound in tune with myself, and 2) do I blend with the group? If I don't have my phone or Snark, I find I still can tune well enough by listening to the Gs and As I hear from other players who are tuning their own instruments.

    I notice that some other players check their electronic tuners after every song, taking great care that the needle lines up, chasing tuning anomalies that I find inaudible.

    Do folks around here closely adhere to the rule of the tuner needle, or adjust upward or downward, following their ears? How often during a show do you check and re-tune? Thanks.

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    Default Re: Electronic tuner: guide, or unquestionable authority?

    Some tuners are only close, others much more accurate. I am on of those that may tune often when I first start as the mandolin will adjust to it's surroundings and extremely slight movement changes tuning. Once it settles in I don't check unless I hear it is out. I don't like to hear it out of tune in the middle of a tune, so at first I would rather check often.
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    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electronic tuner: guide, or unquestionable authority?

    I fancy that there'll be more opinions than pickers. For me, it depends what instrument I'm playing. If it's not noticeably out, I don't mess with it. On one of my guitars the intonation is off, so I tune the E string down a bit. On my mandolin, I tune to the tuner, but if it sounds off, I tune to itself
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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electronic tuner: guide, or unquestionable authority?

    I check the tuner when I start suspecting that a few notes are going sour. I don't just do it automatically at some interval, but I do listen carefully for that threshold. Since my mandolin isn't the greatest for staying in tune, I might do a quick touch-up somewhere in the middle of a 45 minute gig set, or a half-dozen times during a 3 hour pub session.

    There are a few situations where I know I'll need to re-tune afterwards, like blasting through certain tunes with a friend playing border pipes, where I know I'll be hitting the strings a little harder just to be heard.

    I've known people at both ends of the spectrum: those who you have to ask politely to please check their tuning, because they're very obviously way out of tune and they can't hear it, and also people who are hyper-attentive to tuning, beyond what's actually required to play with others. I think, or rather hope, that I'm somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.

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    Default Re: Electronic tuner: guide, or unquestionable authority?

    I used an A-440 tuning fork for many years , then used the unison and octave fretted 5th & 7th.. for the other 3 string courses.



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    Default Re: Electronic tuner: guide, or unquestionable authority?

    Down here in the land of major air conditioning, a mandolin's strings' pitch can change in a few minutes time as the instrument acclimates. The TC unitune is extremely accurate and quick to nail the pitch. The only time it has seemed to be off is when the strings were old and wouldn't intonate properly with eachother. That's when I knew it's time for new strings.

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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electronic tuner: guide, or unquestionable authority?

    I open, I check the tuning, I shut it off and put it away. I am done with the tuner so now I focus on playing.
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    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electronic tuner: guide, or unquestionable authority?

    I normally tune when I'm obviously out of tune with myself (the strings aren't in unison) or if I sound wrong compared with other instruments. Before we start a gig, we normally tune, and i use my tuner for that and try to get as close as possible to what the tuner says, considering everybody else is tuning with a tuner. If it still sounds odd, i'll adjust by ear. I've found that my tuner goes a little off when the batteries are going, and i don't know that until I can hear my A is wrong. What I do when the fiddle or whistle I'm sitting beside is obviously wrong by a half tone is grit my teeth and bear it. We have a fiddler who can tune perfectly, but he's a little deaf, so he puts his fingers in the wrong place. Nothing anybody can do about that!
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    Default Re: Electronic tuner: guide, or unquestionable authority?

    I got on the super-accurate tuner bandwagon. Now tuning is a matter of how much time I want to spend, I can get close quickly, getting everything dialed in more accurately takes more time, the tuner is my daddy now. :-)
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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electronic tuner: guide, or unquestionable authority?

    Will try to get close with the tuner and then final adjustment by ear. Sometimes, as on the Eastman OM it might take a few minutes. Depending on the setting and/or band might have to touch it up during a gig.

    At home, will usually just set and forget. But home is where I will use the Peterson strobe most often.
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    Default Re: Electronic tuner: guide, or unquestionable authority?

    I've been lucky enough to play with people over the years who claimed their ear was better than a tuner... and then the recorded rehearsal sessions revealed how thei opinions clashed with the reality.

    Everyone being tuned to the same reference makes for better shows. I've heard chaos develop from order over time, but I've *never* heard order suddenly emerge from chaos.

    Concidentally, the same people who claimed to have a better ear than a tuner are often the same people who claimed that they had better natural timing than someone who practiced with a metronome. Again, recordings of rehearsals ahowed that they were deluded. And again, things could go from tight to sloppy, but they never spontaneously went from sloppy to tight.

    Now I just accept that some people are just not professional in being willing to liaten to rehearsal recordings objectively in order to get to a pro level for shows, and can rule them out without feeling guilty.

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    Of course, if it's just for one's own entertainment, being in tune, in time, or professional are optional. Have at it!

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    Registered User Hendrik Ahrend's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electronic tuner: guide, or unquestionable authority?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tate Ferguson View Post
    After I remove my Snark from the mandolin peghead, or leave the iPhone tuner app, I like to marginally tweak my tuning until I think it sounds best. Right or wrong, I'm using the tuner as a guide rather than gospel truth.

    For me the questions are, 1) do I sound in tune with myself, and 2) do I blend with the group? If I don't have my phone or Snark, I find I still can tune well enough by listening to the Gs and As I hear from other players who are tuning their own instruments.

    I notice that some other players check their electronic tuners after every song, taking great care that the needle lines up, chasing tuning anomalies that I find inaudible.

    Do folks around here closely adhere to the rule of the tuner needle, or adjust upward or downward, following their ears? How often during a show do you check and re-tune? Thanks.
    Pitch, temperament (each an agreement) and tuning are technical matters rather than artistic. (Sweetened tunings on pianos are a whole different story.) At the same time, there is nothing wrong with adjusting the tuning by ear to any technical flaws of the instrument, such as misaligned frets or bridge. But starting out with a tuner is certainly safer than any other other variable.

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    Registered User TheMandoKit's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electronic tuner: guide, or unquestionable authority?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tate Ferguson View Post
    Do folks around here closely adhere to the rule of the tuner needle, or adjust upward or downward, following their ears? How often during a show do you check and re-tune? Thanks.

    I pretty much always start with a tuner and then "touch up" the tuning by ear if I am playing solo. If in a group, I will stick with the tuning from the tuner unless something sounds out of whack.

    I probably do more touch up or fine tuning on guitar than mandolin, and always before/after capoing on guitar. Maybe it's the scale length that makes me touch up guitar more, or that I've been playing guitar a lot longer than mandolin, & am more critical.

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    Default Re: Electronic tuner: guide, or unquestionable authority?

    I play Bluegrass so how "in tune" do I really need to be?!?

    Just kidding.

    Unless something is way off I tend to play for a bit and let the mandolin warm up/acclimate to it's surroundings before I tune up. Personally, I don't see why one should spend a lot of time tuning a cool instrument only to re-tune once it's acclimated to the current environment. Then I'll check the tuning every 45 min or so - again, unless something goes wonky...

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    Default Re: Electronic tuner: guide, or unquestionable authority?

    FYI, I only use the tuner for one string in each course, matching them is always by ear. I also use a tuner for 12th fret setup.

    I don't like tuners that aren't super-accurate any more, my ears are better than them. It was kind of a shock when I tuned to a tuner and it said ok and my ears said otherwise. Then switched to a more accurate tuner and yeah, I was right.

    I find plug-in tuners with a pickup give best results.
    Trinity College TM325 Octave Mandolin (converted to 4-string tenor guitar).
    Eastman MD-605SB, MD-604SB, MD-305, all with Grover 309 tuners.
    Eastwood 4 string electric mandostang, 2x Airline e-mandola (4-string) one strung as an e-OM.
    DSP's: Helix HX Stomp, various Zooms.
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    Default Re: Electronic tuner: guide, or unquestionable authority?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hendrik Ahrend View Post
    Pitch, temperament (each an agreement) and tuning are technical matters rather than artistic. (Sweetened tunings on pianos are a whole different story.) At the same time, there is nothing wrong with adjusting the tuning by ear to any technical flaws of the instrument, such as misaligned frets or bridge. But starting out with a tuner is certainly safer than any other other variable.
    Any fretted instrument is tuned " sweetened" or "split the difference" as the old time players called it, therefore to a certain extent it is artistic. I've never tuned a guitar that I left the B string where a tuner says it is in tune, I flatten it ever so slighted. That's the way my dad tuned a guitar so that is "in tune" for me.
    Someone else may leave it "sharp" I can play with them and not worry about their B string, but if they hand it to me to play I'm going to lower that B string, so the tuning is artistic to a certain point, so I think the ears trump the electronic tuner IMHO

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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electronic tuner: guide, or unquestionable authority?

    When I adjust by ear it's usually because my old Gibsons have some quirks. The unison might "beat" in tune. But fretting a high G on the E string reveals a slight pulse. At that point, will tune 1 string and get the other to match as best as I can. Knowing fully that the nut, saddle and/or fret wear.

    On guitar I use the tuner then adjust to get the fretted E strings to match the open G and the fretted B string to match the D string. That tip came from an old timer who did that on all his guitars. Doesn't necessarily work if you're playing in B flat, C or F. But I still use it even in those situations.
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    Default Re: Electronic tuner: guide, or unquestionable authority?

    If you're tuning to straigt equal temperament (ET, no octave stretches), yes, it's sort of a rough starting point, then you aim for Pythagorrean 3rds and 5ths, then you have to adjust for the upper registers of chords that predominate in tunes you're playing, and adjust for the other players. If yyou spend a lot of time reading about ET, pythagorean, just intonation and variants on those (there's dozens for piano and pedal steel, for example), you might get a migraine.

    In some cases i remember the B string on 6 string guitar and a couple of raises /lowers on my pedal steel are more than 14 cents different from ET. I like the Peterson sweeteners on the recent tuners e.g. Strobo stomp and Strobo plus HD models that you can connect to their servers and download more sweeteners, tho its not real clear from this product descrip what their mando sweetener is doing: https://www.petersontuners.com/products/stroboStompHD/

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...eetened-tuning
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    Default Re: Electronic tuner: guide, or unquestionable authority?

    I'm switching back and forth between piano and a Jonathan Mann SEM-5 in my 90-minute show, there's a monstrous video projector putting out a lot of heat nearby, the air-conditioning is freezing everyone else in the house but me (thanks to the projector) checking the tuning before each mando-based tune is a necessity. (Anyways, the tuner on the Avid Eleven Rack doubles as a mute switch, so I'm always in tuning mode when the mando's not "live".)

    Often, though, I'm just looking at the tuner to see what I'm dealing with, and a string-bend or a quick squeeze behind the nut is the extent of my tuning efforts. There is some consistency in climate-change throughout the show, eg the mando's always sharp at this point, always flat at that point... To answer the question of "unquestionable authority"? Ya, the tuner's the unquestionable authority on how out of tune I'm willing to appear in public.

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    Default Re: Electronic tuner: guide, or unquestionable authority?

    Years ago, I started a guitar/drum duo where I play guitar and sing and the drummer drums and occasionally sings or sings back-up. Less people to divide up the money with and without any other instruments -- we are always in tune. Problem solved.

  22. #21
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    Default Re: Electronic tuner: guide, or unquestionable authority?

    Fletcher Bright, leader of the less than well-known Dismembered Tennesseans, included the following line in his stage patter on every show while his mandolin player was frantically retuning between songs:

    "What is a mandolin player doing when he's not tuning his mandolin?"
    "Playing his mandolin out of tune . . ."


    Red Rector, to a young Norman Blake:

    "If you're going to be a mandolin player, there's two things you need to know. The first is you're never going to make any money. The other is that you're never going to be in tune."


    If you've got a good ear, kurth's technique of tuning one string in a pair to the tuner and matching the other by ear is good advice. A tuner won't temper an instrument, though, except perhaps a Peterson with a menu of different temperament settings. If you can find the right temperament for your instrument.

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    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Electronic tuner: guide, or unquestionable authority?

    I don't own electronic tuner, just old A440 fork and I think my ears are quite good. In the workshop my ears is all I need for setups and such but in situations like jam or rehearsal where others are picking or tuning and creating background noise (with mix of different pitches) I would borrow clip-on tuner for quick tuning.
    Adrian

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    Americana in France? Daniel Nestlerode's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electronic tuner: guide, or unquestionable authority?

    These are both about guitars, but you get the idea.

    Tuning is relative because it has been equalised in western music. (Thank Bach for that.)
    Trust your ears, but agree about these things with your band mates and jam buddies.

    Here's a pretty good comparison of a number of tuners.



    Interestingly, the Boss products come out the worst. I have pulled my clip on polytune out of a case and started using it more.

    Here's James Taylor discussing his tuning practices:



    Enjoy!
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    Default Re: Electronic tuner: guide, or unquestionable authority?

    Quite an interesting comparison video for the tuners. One thing I was curious about though, is it typical for guitar players to tune down to a note?

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electronic tuner: guide, or unquestionable authority?

    Quote Originally Posted by WaxwellHaus View Post
    Quite an interesting comparison video for the tuners. One thing I was curious about though, is it typical for guitar players to tune down to a note?
    Not this guitar player. I've always tuned up to the note, and then back down for another try if I overshoot. That's on my guitars, mandolin, octave mandolin.

    I think the theory goes something like this: If you tune down to the note and the nut slot isn't perfectly cut and friction-less, it will hold a little extra tension on the headstock side of the nut, which will release when you add finger pressure on the other side. If you tune up to the note, any residual friction in the nut slot helps hold the string against finger pressure.

    If you have a perfectly cut and friction-less nut slot, this might not be an issue. But even when using graphite to lubricate the slots, I've found this results in more consistent tuning for all my fretted instruments. It just takes a little more time if you don't have smoothly operating tuning machines and frequently overshoot the note.

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