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Thread: Tuner for tap tuning

  1. #1
    Registered User BeanJean's Avatar
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    Default Tuner for tap tuning

    Iím an amateur luthier and Iím looking for an affordable oscillating tuner to use for tap tuning. What do you recommend?
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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner for tap tuning

    Quote Originally Posted by BeanJean View Post
    ...What do you recommend?
    Forget about tap tuning.

    But since you probably won't follow that recommendation:
    Back when I tried to make some sense of tap tuning I used an old tube Stroboconn. Nothing else that I've tried works as well, although I haven't tried anything else in years. I know that Peterson has some good tuner aps that work in iphone and such. Those might work well. Surely someone will come along here and fill in some blanks.

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    Registered User BeanJean's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner for tap tuning

    Why do you suggest forgetting tap tuning?
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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner for tap tuning

    Quote Originally Posted by BeanJean View Post
    Why do you suggest forgetting tap tuning?
    There are a few people who perceive benefit from 'tap tuning', but there are quite a few of us who consider it a waste of our time and either don't do it or gave up trying to do it. Personally, I agonized over it, had limited success trying to do it, wrote down pages of notes, and simply gave it up because I perceived no benefit from it.

    Those who have a very large database of their own results can use tap tuning to their advantage at least to an extent, but until such time as one has that large database all they are doing by 'tap tuning' is establishing that database.

    Suffice it to say that many good to great mandolins have been build with no 'tap tuning' used.

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    Registered User bpatrick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner for tap tuning

    I highly agree with John Hamlett on the futility of tap tuning. I have thumped on all my soundboards and recorded their overall pitch just for reference, after the mandolin or guitar was completed. I think getting a feel for the stiffness and deflection of the soundboards is much more useful.

    I use the Peterson strobo apps on iPhone and Android. They're probably the closest thing to the old mechanical strobo-tuners. They're very accurate and will usually pick up a "thump" if you turn on the boost setting. Humming the pitch will also help.
    Bryan Patrick

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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner for tap tuning

    I have not tap tuned but I do have the 590 auto strob, the strobo plus HD, the strobo clip HD, and the iPhone app. I love the two HD strobe. All of the work great but I found the iPhone app a bit finicky because of the back ground noise of others around me. If you pursuer a Peterson tuner watch the website over the holidays for sales they do occasionally have them.
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

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    Default Re: Tuner for tap tuning

    I think new builders should pay more attention to getting the shape of the plates as close as possible to the print and hopefully you have Adian's print. You can tap away and measure your thicknesses but if the recurve is a little ditch along the sides with a steep climb to the apex there's not much hope it will work the way the great mandolins do.
    Look carefully at picturs of Loars, Gilchrists, and Heidens. Seek out photos with profile shots which are difficult to find. Look at the reflections of the recurves. To me this will get you farther along than tapping.

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    Default Re: Tuner for tap tuning

    I have built only three mandolins, but it didn't take long to realize that there are many variables besides tap tones that affect the sound, especially my level of woodworking skill. When you get to the point of wondering if you're done carving, the advice on this forum is always the same: finish it up, listen to how it sounds, and learn something for your next build.

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    Default Re: Tuner for tap tuning

    After saying finding profile photos is difficult I thought I would submit one of my #66 which is getting close although I see things I'd change if I had it to do again. However this is a particularly strong mandolin. It shows that I need to straighten the bridge and that the Tonegard is a permanent fixture based on the dust. Anyone else want to do one?
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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner for tap tuning

    Not quite a 'profile' shot, but here's the arch (after I restored the under-tailpiece part) of a '24 Loar. Might be helpful.
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    Registered User BeanJean's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner for tap tuning

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Hilburn View Post
    I think new builders should pay more attention to getting the shape of the plates as close as possible to the print and hopefully you have Adian's print.
    I do not have Adrian’s print. I’m using Siminoff’s book. Where can I acquire the print?
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    Registered User BeanJean's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner for tap tuning

    Thank you that is a helpful photo.
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    Default Re: Tuner for tap tuning

    This is my second mandolin from about 1981. This is what I would advise against. While it doesn't look like much of a recurve it's there but begins to climb just barely beyond the edge. And this wasn't a very strong sounding mandolin. That's why it's a wall decoration.
    Adrians print is available at Elderly I believe.
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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner for tap tuning

    FWIW, I've seen and heard good sounding mandolins with no visible recurve.
    I think that keeping the arch from being too high is good and that avoiding too abrupt of a transition into the arch is good, but from my experience of seeing and hearing good mandolins with little to no recurve, I don't really know how important it is.
    Looks are important to whatever degree of importance we assign, and a graceful recurve is a definite asset to looks in the opinion of many.

  21. #15
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    Default Re: Tuner for tap tuning

    Tap tuning is a waste of time? Yes well it is if you don't put an enormous amount of time and effort into doing the measurements so you have a database of measurements you can refer to, and read up the literature on physics of musical instruments. Do your research. Most people measure the wrong things and end up getting frustrated and give up. A strobe tuner and tapping is not the way to go. That will be an exercise in frustration. The tuner will only pick up the lowest frequency, there are plenty of other higher frequency "tap tones" otherwise known as modes of vibration. What the tuner picks up will depend on where you tap and where you hold the plate so it gets very confusing if you can't see what is happening. Not only that, but the modes of vibration change completely from the free plates to the finished instrument in mostly unpredictable ways, and a mandolin vibrates as a whole, so you can't actually tune individual parts, as claimed by some. Mandolins vibrate like guitars, so if you read the guitar literature then you can gain an insight into how mandolins vibrate. So, if it is your first instrument, forget about it. There are many other things that are more important to get right. By all means do some measurements, but please use FFT or Chladni patterns or if you are wealthy or have a research grant, laser interferometry. By mandolin #100 you might start to gain some benefits. I have measurements from over 200 so am now reaping the benefits, not just from my work but also from the work of Cohen and Rossing, and Caldersmith's pioneering work on guitars.
    Peter Coombe - mandolins, mandolas and guitars
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    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner for tap tuning

    Quote Originally Posted by BeanJean View Post
    I do not have Adrian’s print. I’m using Siminoff’s book. Where can I acquire the print?
    Elderly used to carry them, its where I got mine.
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    Default Re: Tuner for tap tuning

    Quote Originally Posted by BeanJean View Post
    I’m an amateur luthier and I’m looking for an affordable oscillating tuner to use for tap tuning. What do you recommend?
    Went down that rabbit hole many, many years ago. Carved 2 sets of tone bars down to nothing. Too many variables. The biggest challenge was determining what the actual frequency of the fundamental that should be prominent. It's hard to hear as a tap, and strobe tuners don't really do a good job picking out a pitch from the thud of a board. I have Peterson 490 strobe tuner. I tried the compressor and even high end preamps and Neumann microphones for a front end at one point. Easy to get fooled. Even when you think you got something figured out, you glue the top to the rim and everything changes.
    Get Adrian's plans from Elderly instruments. Build your first few to those numbers as close as you can get. It will sound good. Build more, change things and make notes.
    If you really want to learn something and get on a fast track, go study with James Condino for a week and build an A5 model with his removable top system. You'll learn way more in one weekend than years of messing around with strobe tuners.

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  27. #18
    Registered User BeanJean's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner for tap tuning

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill McCall View Post
    Elderly used to carry them, its where I got mine.
    Thank you. Print is ordered
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  28. #19
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Tuner for tap tuning

    A bit late here. I will add that there are many softwares capable of much more than you need to capture taptones and such. Some of it free. Many violin folks like Audacity for frequancy plots and related analysis.
    Regarding the tuning, I started as "believer" after reading some books from past where tuning was hailed as the ultimate progress in violin making, but I found the celebrations were a bit premature but made it to lot of popular reading and instruction material.
    I still tap my plates and listen to pitches and see where the nodes of vibrations are etc. but I think the shape of arching and decent graduations are much more important factors than tuning to exact pitches determined by someone unknown without any proof of concept.
    Peter Coombe has lots of experience which is undeniable but his sample, although large is not random enough to prove general concept of tuning to predetermined tones or erlations of them. He tap-tunes his own instruments with his arching and construction details and I guess his selection of materials is under his control. The tap tones he tunes depend also on all those factors and likely won't work on someone elses quite differently built instrument. I personally don't aim for exact tones and don't tap before the plate is almost finish graduated but end up invariably within quite narrow range just using my favorite arching and reasonable thicknesses judged by bending and deflecting plate in hands during final touches.
    Perhaps if I used very different wood or changed my arching I would get very different pitches
    Violin makers analyzed many extremely succesfull instruments from all important makers (with different archings, models, body sizes) as they are often disassembled for repairs and found out no direct correlation between plate modes (AKA tap-tones) and quality of instruments. Most award winning violin makers clearly state that success is in getting good arching (for given piece of wood) and keeping the thickness and especially weight in reasonable range. Violins are much more suspectible to arching shape than mandolins but still I think some arching schemes on mandolins are more suitable for my favorite good tone than others.
    Adrian

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    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner for tap tuning

    Are you building mandolins to get pretty pictures in an engineering lab or to kick @$$ at a good gig or jam session?
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  32. #21
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    Default Re: Tuner for tap tuning

    Peter Coombe has lots of experience which is undeniable but his sample, although large is not random enough to prove general concept of tuning to predetermined tones or erlations of them. He tap-tunes his own instruments with his arching and construction details and I guess his selection of materials is under his control. The tap tones he tunes depend also on all those factors and likely won't work on someone elses quite differently built instrument. I personally don't aim for exact tones and don't tap before the plate is almost finish graduated but end up invariably within quite narrow range just using my favorite arching and reasonable thicknesses judged by bending and deflecting plate in hands during final touches.
    The sample is not random because I don't want to make mandolins with randomized sounds. That is the whole point of making measurements, to become more consistent with the final resulting sound, it is not some sort of magic bullet, which is what most new builders looking at "tap tuning" are looking for. Randomizing means you end up making a lot of dud instruments which is just silly from a Luthiers point of view, even though it might make sense from a scientific point of view. I have made a small number of disappointing sounding mandolins and that is very useful information to not do that again. What I do is not in any way "tap tuning" in the sense that Roger Siminoff describes it. There have been a few people who contacted me and have used my methods and have been very pleased with the results, so my methods certainly can be applied quite successfully by other builders. What most people don't seem to understand is that the absolute modal frequencies you measure are not important, there is little or no correlation to the sound of the completed instrument, and that is why most people give up. What is important are relative modal frequencies, and I have plots that do show a correlation with relative modal frequencies of the completed mandolin. My methods were developed empirically, but the Trevor Gore/Gerard Gilet books on guitars has shown why it works. The relative modal frequencies of the completed mandolins I make are exactly as described in the books what they aim for optimum sound of a guitar. It works in mandolas, OMs and guitars as well, although there is more scatter in the plots. By "work" I mean there is a correlation between the free plate modal frequency measurements and the measurements of the completed instrument. So you can change the free plate frequencies and can predict the end result with some degrees of freedom. On flat top mandolins there is more you can do. You can reduce the stiffness of the back by filing down the back braces, and/or increase the mass by sticking blu tac on the back. You can then measure the modal frequencies and hear the sound. You will hear very obvious significant differences in sound (improvements) if the back is too stiff. If the back is about right then you won't hear much difference (there is some degrees of freedom, the frequencies don't need to be exact) and can leave it alone. However, since there is a correlation you should be able to build your plates so you don't need to make adjustments. Good in theory, but don't forget the scatter, so some fine adjustments may be necessary if you don't nail it. On arch top mandolins it is much more difficult to make adjustments once is all glued together.
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    Default Re: Tuner for tap tuning

    I wasn't the first post to mention Chladni patterns so don't blame me for what might follow. In the absence of a big database, I think they are useful in showing whether my carving is symmetrical (especially for A styles), not necessarily whether the gradation is where it should be. Besides it's cool to watch the particles (I use pepper) self-organize in response to different tones.

  35. #23
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    Default Re: Tuner for tap tuning

    Yes Chladni patterns will show you if the stiffness of the top is symmetrical or not. It won't necessarily show you if your carving is symmetrical or not because wood stiffness is not always symmetrical.

    There are many ways of getting to the end point you want (consistently great sound), my method is just one way. I also flex the plates and tap before making the measurements. You can measure stiffness, you can use a detachable top and/or back arrangement like James Condino. You can use "intuition", which is really just educated guessing. What ever the method, I would not be surprised if you do the measurements of the finished instruments that they all measure the same or very similar after you have optimized according to what you have learned from making many of them. That certainly has been observed with guitars. I have measured my Gilchrist Model 3C. The absolute frequencies were different, but the relative frequencies were exactly the same as my A5. In the end it does not really matter, so long as what you are doing is effective, just do what works for you. Using a strobe tuner is not likely to be effective.
    Peter Coombe - mandolins, mandolas and guitars
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  37. #24
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    Default Re: Tuner for tap tuning

    Here are a couple of Loar shots from the Archive that I believe show the gentle curvature of the recurve near the tailpiece that I think is very important to the way the string load allows the top to move. Reflections can be deceptive but in these shots the tailpiece reflection shows the gentle curve. To me studying this is more important than tap tap tap. Or I should say you need to get this part right first, then tap tap tap.
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  39. #25
    Registered User Mandoborg's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuner for tap tuning

    Topics been beat to death, but the BEST part of this thread is James' deer eating the popcorn !! Love it !! I got to find me that one !!

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