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Harmonic tuning???

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(@wannabe)
Trusted Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 43
Topic starter  

Good day fella's, hope the day finds you all well.
Just wondering what harmonic tuning is. I noticed this technique when i was guitar shopping. All the guys would tune up the guitars with harmonics, atleast thats what I think they were.

I have a tuner at home, but it just looking interesting and I was just wondering how it was done.

Thanks
Cheers
Brian

I don't understand, I got the guitar, and the beer, the commercial said I'd be a rock star by now...

the reason we fall is so we can learn how to pick ourselves back up


   
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(@blackzerogsh)
Prominent Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 759
 

im pretty sure, if you want to harmonic utune, just hit a haremonic on the 12th fret instead of testing te open string. For example if you want to tune the B string, play a harmonic on the 12th fret of that string, and tune accorsingly with the electric tuner. Its a more accurate method


   
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(@greybeard)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5840
 

Nick's tuning method:

Tune the low E to a source.

Tune the high E to the 5th fret harmonic of the low E. Pay attention to this one and listen for the harmonic wobble to stop. Everything is tuned to either the low E or the high E.

Tune the A string 7th fret to the 12 fret harmonic of the low E

Tune the 2nd fret of the D string to the 12th fret harmonic of the low E

Tune the B string 12th fret harmonic to the 7th fret of the high E

Tune the G string 12th fret harmonic to the 3rd fret of the high E.

I find that tuning one string to the next to the next introduces too much error.

This will only work if your intonation is close.

So now you know

I started with nothing - and I've still got most of it left.
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(@gnease)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5038
 

This will only work if your intonation is close.

So now you know

Uh huh -- yields poor results on many acoustics for this reason.

-=tension & release=-


   
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(@greybeard)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5840
 

Oops, didn't want to post that.

I started with nothing - and I've still got most of it left.
Did you know that the word "gullible" is not in any dictionary?
Greybeard's Pages
My Articles & Reviews on GN


   
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(@noteboat)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4921
 

The harmonic method that I'm most familiar with tunes harmonics to each other. I used it for a while, about 25 years ago... so first I'll explain it, then I'll explain why I don't use it anymore.

Each string has good, playable harmonics at fret 12 (one octave above open), 7 (A, one octave and a fifth above) and 5 (two octaves above). So you can tune:

6th string 7th (A) = 5th string 12th
5th string 7th = 4th string 12th
4th string 7th = 3rd string 12th
6th string 5th = open 1st string
1st string 7th = 2nd string 5th

It's common for people using this method to then check the harmonics in octaves... 6th string 7th against 5th string 5th, etc.

The advantage to this is that the harmonics ring... you can use your fretting hand to twist the pegheads and get the strings pretty darn close. The disadvantage is that when you're all done, you won't really be in tune.

Harmonics are purely mathematical... for any given note, the perfect fifth is vibrating at 4/3 the rate. If you apply this to a given scale note, and keep going up... well, eventually you find there's a difference between F# and Gb - a problem that was solved by 'tempering' the tuning, splitting the difference so that each note is 'wrong' by roughly the same amount. (If you keep going even farther you find there's even a difference between C and C - an effect called the 'Pythagorean comma'!)

So if you get a guitar into perfect tune by harmonics, you'll be off - here are the frequencies you'll get using the method I showed above:

String Harmonic Even-tempered
Tuning Tuning
E 82.4069 82.4069
A 109.8759 110.0000
D 146.5011 146.8324
G 195.3349 195.9977
B 227.2207 246.9217
E 329.6276 329.6276

If your intonation is off, the results will be better/worse... so if you SHOULD happen to be in perfect tune by using harmonics, you'll only be in perfect tune on open strings - the intonation errors that led to perfect tuning mean the other notes on your fretboard will be wrong!

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(@ricochet)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 7833
 

Harmonic tuning's wrong whether your intonation's right or not. Modern guitars are tuned to equal temperament, where all the intervals except the octave are slightly out of tune so that no interval in any scale will be very out of tune. Harmonic tuning gives you perfect intervals. Your tuning will only be perfect in one key and will sound absolutely terrible in some other keys. There are methods, mainly used by piano tuners, for altering this perfect tuning so that the intervals in question are off by a certain beat frequency to get equal temperament. You're a lot better off getting a chromatic tuner and using it. Ear tuning's never right, either. (Except for tuning strings that are separated by octaves, like the two E strings in standard tuning.) People ear tune to zero beat frequency, which also misses the deliberate slight mistuning of equal temperament. It's OK to tweak a string to get through a song, but then you need to use your tuner.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."


   
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