Can a guitar tech please explain?

SRBMusic

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American Songwriter posted an article about guitar tech Tom Weber’s job interview to work for EVH. Here’s the quote, followed by my question:

“I figured, ‘Ed’s got a hell of a left hand.’ I’m going to have to set the intonation flat enough so that when he grabs the neck, the notes are right.”

The move worked. But Weber wasn’t done. He thought about Van Halen’s classical training and his guitar playing style.

“When you strike a guitar to tune it, the note starts out sharp, then it settles into pitch,” Weber said. “Ed Van Halen is not going to stay in one place long enough for the note to settle into pitch.

“He’s also a classically trained pianist, so the strings open on the guitar don’t mean anything. They have to be in tune with themselves when he’s playing in any given song.”

To solve the issue, Weber tuned the guitar in the fifth position and, as he says, “split the difference,” which left the high D-sharp string 14 cents flat but in tune with the other strings. “If I played one of Ed’s guitars the way that I play my own guitars, I’d sound like a blithering idiot. I’d be so out of tune,” Weber offered.”

I get setting the intonation flat to compensate for a strong grip, but what the heck does it mean to tune in the fifth position and split the difference?
 

JL_LI

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Lead players need the guitar to play in tune from the fifth to twelfth frets, where most of the work is done. Open strings can be ignored because they’re so rarely used. Notes around the 12th fret are often reached by bending making intonation above the 12 th fret less critical. Fifth position refers to the fret the first finger gravitates toward.

Tune for where you play. Playing in a band, every player needs be in tune with the others. Playing alone, you’ll tune for cowboy chords. Where you play up the neck, small deviations from perfect intonation aren’t noticed if notes played on neighboring frets are in tune with each other.
 
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loopfinding

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Lead players need the guitar to play in tune from the fifth to twelfth frets, where most of the work is done. Open strings can be ignored because they’re so rarely used. Notes around the 12th fret are often reached by bending making intonation above the 12 th fret less critical. Fifth position refers to the fret the first finger gravitates toward.

Tune for where you play. Playing in a band, every player nest be in tune with the others. Playing alone, you’ll tune for cowboy chords. Where you play up the neck, small deviations from perfect intonation aren’t noticed if notes played on neighboring frets are in tune with each other.

right, i'm no EVH but all my playing is around 3-10 with little open stuff. so i just intonate and tune best for that zone. it can be a bit of a struggle with cowboy chord music, but it makes most of my playing life easier in general. especially when you start adding 9ths, 11ths, 13ths.
 

SRBMusic

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Pretty sure I won't ever have to consider this for my playing style (whew!), but this is a really cool factoid I knew nothing about.
Me, either.
So how would you actually accomplish this? Fret each string individually while using a tuner? Capo at the fifth fret?
And what does it mean to “leave the high D-sharp string 14 cents flat but in tune with the other strings.”? High D-sharp string? This is all new thinking and language to me. I appreciate the explanations very much.
 

Fretting out

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I guess it’s like how I tune my guitar, on the tuner there are strings that are out but when played they ring nicely with each other
 

Ebidis

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Me, either.
So how would you actually accomplish this? Fret each string individually while using a tuner? Capo at the fifth fret?
And what does it mean to “leave the high D-sharp string 14 cents flat but in tune with the other strings.”? High D-sharp string? This is all new thinking and language to me. I appreciate the explanations very much.
The high D sharp string would be your high E string. Eddie tuned down a half step.
 

Lowerleftcoast

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I would assume the tech and guitarist communicate.
I am a car guy. The NASCAR driver tells the tech the car is pushing and during a pit stop an adjustment is made. The tech doesn't tell the driver, "I've set it up for your style of driving. Now go win."
 

telemnemonics

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Hmmm, the line between myth and guitar god is a fine one.
The tech feels (or felt) that Ed had no LH fretting control and mashed every note out of tune?
There are certainly tuning approaches but I don't think it's accurate to say that due to hand strength a master player plays out of tune unless a tech fixes the problem.
 

MilwMark

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Hmmm, the line between myth and guitar god is a fine one.
The tech feels (or felt) that Ed had no LH fretting control and mashed every note out of tune?
There are certainly tuning approaches but I don't think it's accurate to say that due to hand strength a master player plays out of tune unless a tech fixes the problem.
I was trying to figure out how to phrase that exact notion.

Also Ed played tons of chords/triads and incorporated open strings all the time.
 

highwaycat

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Eddy fine tuned the tuning for certain riffs, especially so the g and b sounded the way he wanted, like in running with the devil.
He also tuned a quarter step down, like in ain’t talkn bout love. And more tunings too.
Makes sense to me, he had his own personal tech, might as well put him to good use.
 

JustABluesGuy

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I’m not a professional guitar tech, but I do my own setups because I don’t currently have a good tech. I also like being able to set things up exactly the way I prefer.

Since intonation is never perfect, set my intonation for the positions I play the most. I tend to be a bit ham fisted (I used to have a death grip) but instead of compensating by tuning my guitar flat, I have been working on improving my fretting technique instead.
 

jvin248

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Of course, EVH could have played a guitar saved from the scrap bin and sounded great.
... wait, that's where he scrounged the neck and body of his Frankenstrat from, the 'seconds' bin, a story he tells in a Smithsonian youtube series.

.
 

JustABluesGuy

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.

Of course, EVH could have played a guitar saved from the scrap bin and sounded great.
... wait, that's where he scrounged the neck and body of his Frankenstrat from, the 'seconds' bin, a story he tells in a Smithsonian youtube series.

.

I read an interview with him where he mentioned that he built his own guitars and thought of them as tools. Supposedly he would toss his guitars in the back of a pickup truck sans case!

I don’t know if this is actually true, so definitely don’t quote me!
 

schmee

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Play notes fast enough it doesn't matter!
(somewhat seriously; all this talk about perfect intonation, yet, how long do you actually stay on a note on fret 15?)

"All notes are correct in Jazz, off notes are just transitional to the next note!"
Flat? "I'm sliding up!"
Sharp? "I'm sliding down"! :lol:
 

JustABluesGuy

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Play notes fast enough it doesn't matter!
(somewhat seriously; all this talk about perfect intonation, yet, how long do you actually stay on a note on fret 15?)

"All notes are correct in Jazz, off notes are just transitional to the next note!"
Flat? "I'm sliding up!"
Sharp? "I'm sliding down"! :lol:

When my intonation or tuning gets off, I just bend the notes into submission!

But then I’m not a jazzer!
 

StevesBoogie

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“leave the high D-sharp string 14 cents flat but in tune with the other strings”

I agree with OP as far as the confusion about this sentence. It doesn't make sense.

I get it, Eddie tuned down either half or whole step. For the sake of this discussion, a half step.

The sentence is an oxymoron. How can a single string be flat while also in tune with the other strings? It's either flat, as compared to the other strings, or in tune, as compared to the other strings. Unless the owner of this statement meant to imply that the high string was in tune with the other strings when plucked open but when fretted at the 5th fret it was 14 cents flat?
 

AJBaker

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Interesting. I agree that intonating/tuning a guitar is an imprecise science, and takes some fiddling to get right.
Me, I start out intonating for the 12th fret, and then adjust from there. Usually, I find that many of the fretted notes between frets 1-5 are a bit sharp, so I'll adjust accordingly, which means that some other notes are a touch flat higher up the neck, but that doesn't matter too much.
 




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