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Guitar sounds different when in tune???

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Chris!
(@chrisc)
Eminent Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 18
Topic starter  

Hey all,

I've noticed something curious lately when I've been tuning my guitars that I want to see if anybody else has seen.

I have a Yamaha FG700S acoustic and a Fender Squier "Fat Strat," tuning sometimes with an ancient Korg GT-3 tuner and sometimes with the built-in tuner in Garageband. Both guitars are in standard tuning and I've been playing off-and-on for about three years or so.

Sometimes, and particularly on the first and second strings, when I get the string into tune, I not only can hear that the string is in the correct pitch, but something about the sound changes as well. It's like the character of the sound changes slightly, or perhaps the guitar gets just a little bit louder when the string hits the "sweet spot" of being on-pitch.

Is this something that other people has seen? Are guitars designed to somehow have the strings or body be sympathetic to standard tuning? Is this simply a psychoacoustic thing where I'm expecting the guitar to be in tune so I'm somehow deluding myself that the guitar is sounding better when I recognize the string to be in tune? Am I just getting wonky as I'm approaching middle age? (Perhaps buying a sports car will solve this problem nicely... :D )

Thanks,
Chris


   
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kent_eh
(@kent_eh)
Noble Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 1882
 

My guess is that your ears are learning what "in tune" sounds like, and they get happy when they hear it

I wrapped a newspaper ’round my head
So I looked like I was deep


   
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s1120
(@s1120)
Prominent Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 848
 

My guess is that your ears are learning what "in tune" sounds like, and they get happy when they hear it

I agree... I think your just starting to pickup on that sweet spot.

Paul B


   
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Chris C
(@chris-c)
Famed Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 3454
 

HI Chris,

I know exactly what you mean. Maybe it's a Chris thing.... but I noticed the same thing,especially on the B and G strings. Not so much on the A, D and the lower E.

A guitar can't really ever be absolutely perfectly 100% in tune all the time - the tuning system is itself a slight compromise, and unless you have a really light touch just pushing the strings down between frets will fractionally alter the ideal length (and therefore the pitch). Mostly these tiny differences don't seem to offend the ear and we can tolerate small pitch variations before we're motivated to start fiddling with the tuning again. But when I tune up the G and B have to be absolutely bang on the mark or it sounds "off". I can tolerate a bit more leeway on the lower ranges before I notice it. Maybe it's just the way.....ahem... 'more mature' ears work and some frequencies don't cut through as well as they did, or maybe there's something about the tension on certain strings? Who knows?

But I'd definitely second your solution of getting the sports car as a back up solution. :mrgreen: You can't be too careful. Worked for me...

Cheers,

Chris


   
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Blue Jay
(@blue-jay)
Noble Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 1630
 

It sounds good when there is a lack of inharmonious (musical) dissonance or discord and cacophony. Well I think so yes! :shock:

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/dissonance

Like a bird on the wire,
like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.


   
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Anonymous
(@anonymous)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 8184
 

it's just the string settling back into place.
you don't notice it on new strings.


   
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Crow
 Crow
(@crow)
Honorable Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 549
 

A properly maintained wooden instrument gets used to being in a certain tuning. This is especially noticeable in acoustic instruments, particularly violins and mandolins in my experience. (My violin professor at the UMKC Conservatory of Music turned me on to this phenomenon.) It's a hard thing to describe -- like the wood molecules prefer to be aligned to A-440, and when you get that A string in tune, the instrument speaks differently.

There is no reason that a well-made solid-body guitar, even a Squier, wouldn't have the same propensity.

"You can't write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say sometimes, so you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream." - Frank Zappa


   
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Anonymous
(@anonymous)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 8184
 

well, it's wood and metal. or horsehair. all of which deform under pressure and time. it's like a crimp, or clamp, effect over the saddle and nut. over time, that 440 will flatten out, but most of the time you're just taking up slack on the string winder.


   
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Cat
 Cat
(@cat)
Noble Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1224
 

Tune up once...twice...then three times. The loading caused by subsequent strings being tuned will pull the first ones you did out a bit flat. (This is the sign of a GOOD guitar, by the way, Chris...so don't worry about it.) You have in your hands a precision instrument...subject to slight loading changes...and that's exactly what you want to have.

As you tune, grab each string at the 12th fret and really pull notes sideways at it...like you're gonna let an arrow loose. It'll go flat. Do it a couple of times until it stays where you've put it.

Cat

"Feel what you play...play what you feel!"


   
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