Can you tune your guitar accurately without a tuner?

Discussion in 'Music to Your Ears' started by kevoz, Sep 13, 2013.

  1. Peter C

    Peter C Tele-Meister

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    I know how to go out of tune without a tuner:)
     
  2. guitar dan

    guitar dan Tele-Afflicted

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    I test myself every time I change strings to see if I can nail 440. I don't have perfect pitch or anything close to it, but I usually get pretty close. My ears have gotten better after 30 years of playing the guitar.

    I started using a kind of tempered tuning lately. I tune my open strings a little flat, so that my fretted notes wont be too sharp. Split the difference kind of thing.

    I recently took up pedal steel- talk about a tuning nightmare!!!
     
  3. kevoz

    kevoz Tele-Holic

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    First of all, thanks for the tips so far, there are a few ideas I am certainly going to try. I will be playing guitar for the rest of my life so I figure it wouldn't hurt to improve my ears hehe. it would be great to be able to tune your guitars by ear - certainly achievable with practice I believe.

    I got a couple of cheap tuners lying around. It's like trying to level something with a bung level (done that before with disastrous result) - you wouldn't want to rely on it. If I was in any way professional I would get a decent tuner (if I was really good I'd get my tech to tune all my guitars). I got a tuner in a couple of my amps but they are a bit of a pain to mess around with (yeah, I'm a bit lazy).

    I heard before that some of those guitar with fancy bridges/tremolos (was it a Floyd Rose tremolo?) can be a nightmare to keep in tune, but i've never heard anything of this on here. That really turned me off buying one.
     
  4. Gnobuddy

    Gnobuddy Friend of Leo's

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    If I tune without a tuner the guitar sounds great - when playing two or three "cowboy" chords.

    But other chords always sound bad, most of the time because of that $#!&!! B string, that never sounds right on a guitar.

    A good tuner (like the Snark) will leave your guitar sounding a little worse for those few cowboy chords, compared to tuning by ear. But *every* chord will sound equally imperfect, rather than having three that sound good and another fifty that sound horrid.

    In other words, my ears aren't good at doing equally tempered tuning. The Snark is. Only equally tempered tuning leaves you with a guitar where every chord sounds equally good (all of them are just a little out of tune, but the errors are equally spread out between all of them).

    So if you play mostly 3-chord songs with cowboy chords, tuning by ear may give you better results. But if you play lots of oddball chords all over the neck, a good tuner will give you a much better result.

    Incidentally, that dratted B string always sounds bad because it's a major third above the G - and major thirds sound lousy on any equally tempered instrument. The problem is built into the concept of equal temperament.

    You can tweak the B string tuning (flatten it a bit, bringing it closer to a proper just-intonation major third above the G) to make some "cowboy chords" sound better down low on the neck. But always at the expense of other chords sounding much worse!

    -Gnobuddy
     
  5. CyanideJunkie

    CyanideJunkie Tele-Holic

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    From scratch, usually 5-10 Hz of the correct pitch. But I usually just go straight to my tuner for the sake of peace of mind.

    My tip is just think of one of your favourite songs in the key of one of your open strings(mine is in G) and just focus on that string. Tune to rest to that string and you're good to go. Takes a bit of practice to nail it though, so patience is key.
     
  6. grendel

    grendel TDPRI Member

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    You can tune a tele and by ear, I think so anyhow. Maybe I will add it to the list of my other delusions.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2013
  7. Doug 54

    Doug 54 Poster Extraordinaire

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    via if one string is in tune


    i use a tuning fork

    .
     
  8. fendrguitplayr

    fendrguitplayr Poster Extraordinaire

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    No, not "accurately", but purty darn close.
     
  9. Cat MacKinnon

    Cat MacKinnon Friend of Leo's

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    i can come pretty close, but rarely am i dead-on with the low E (which is the string i usually tune from when i don't have a tuner. or i'm being lazy.)

    something i don't think a lot of people realise (and i didn't until a few months ago) is that not all tuners are alike: some are much less in spec than other. i've seen a couple tuner comparison videos, and a lot of the tuners were off. sometimes it was just a couple notes, sometimes it was across the board. the ones that fared the worst? Snarks. the good old Boss TU-12 was one of the most consistently accurate, but they also tend to be on the expensive side for a handheld tuner. the original TC Polytune pedal was a little off on a couple strings, but not terrible. these were compared to Peterson strobe tuners (a 490 in one video, and i can't remember what model some of the other videos used.)

    overall it seemed like the cheaper tuners typically weren't nearly as accurate or consistent as more expensive ones. i'd imagine a company doesn't have a huge financial motivation to spend much time calibrating $15 clip-on tuners (that probably cost $2 to manufacture.)

    if you're playing live, i think it's a good idea for the whole band to tune up using the same tuner. that way if the tuner's off, at least you'll all be in tune with each other.
     
  10. slippin slider

    slippin slider Tele-Afflicted

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    :)
     
  11. Walker

    Walker Tele-Afflicted

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    Thank God for tuners. I could never tune accurately before I had one and what was even worse was having lousy guitars that always went out of tune. Actually, maybe it's thank God I started making more money and could afford better stuff!
     
  12. Gnobuddy

    Gnobuddy Friend of Leo's

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    In general any tuner with a tiny display is less accurate, and in my experience clip-on tuners are less accurate than plug-in ones used with a guitar cable and an electric guitar.

    But if you're tuning an acoustic guitar in an acoustically noisy environment - like the acoustic jams I go to - a clip-on tuner is pretty much the only way to get the job done without having to leave the room to tune.

    Of the small clip-on tuners I've tried, the $12 Snarks have consistently been the best. They do a better job of locking into the correct note (while other brands often seem to struggle to tell if you're tuning the E or A string). They respond very quickly after you pick a note. There are enough fine segments on the display to tune quite accurately (unlike some clip-on's where the entire display turns bright green if you're within even fifteen cents of the proper pitch, leaving you quite significantly out of tune).

    Incidentally, the Snark's are also more accurate than the built-in tuners in any of the digital multiFX pedals I've used. Line 6, Digitech, Zoom - it doesn't matter which, none of them is very good, all have poor resolution and will give you a "good tuning" indication even when you're quite far out of tune. Because the indication is of the go/no-go sort, you cannot tell how close to accurate you are when the tuner says "good".
    I have several of those $12 Snarks, and every one has been considerably more accurate than the $30 Intellitouch tuner I had previously. The Intellitouch's suffer from poor resolution (green display over an excessively wide range of nearly-in-tune frequencies), poor sensitivity, and poor response speed.

    I'm quite willing to believe a Peterson is more accurate than a $12 clip-on tuner - but that's not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, is it?
    The "tuner" for the band (jam, song-circle, etc) is often a wind instrument or electronic keyboard in my case.

    Flutes and clarinets and so on change tuning with air temperature. It's easier to tune the electronic instruments to match them than the other way around.

    While flutes have a "headjoint" that can be adjusted to compensate for air temperature, I've never met an amateur flautist who had a clue as to how to do this!

    When there are no wind instruments in the group I find that everyone using his/her own cheap clip-on tuner is surprisingly accurate. Certainly more accurate than everyone trying to tune to each other by ear, which usually produces some rather nasty sounds for those of us with a decent ear for pitch.

    -Gnobuddy
     
  13. fuzzbender

    fuzzbender Former Member

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    okay, sorry, without reading everything can someone tell me how to restring a guitar? i just had to help my nephew with his first, and i was embarrassed, it's the tuning starting point non?

    i'm probably wrong
     
  14. String Tree

    String Tree Doctor of Teleocity

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    I can get it pretty close, but when I'm recording or, Live on stage, I prefer to use a Tuner.
    I have a Volume Pedal right after my tuner.
    I can tune in silence on-the-fly when needed.
     
  15. tazzboy

    tazzboy Former Member

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    No
     
  16. Dariush

    Dariush TDPRI Member

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    I can imagine E sound in my head really precisely.
     
  17. Cat MacKinnon

    Cat MacKinnon Friend of Leo's

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    all good points, and none of the videos i saw were anything like controlled scientific experiments or anything like that. and to be fair to the Snark, we're only talking a couple cents on a couple notes (which a lot of other tuners did too.) most of the vids were repair techs who happen to own Petersons and used that as a reliable baseline. obviously a $600 tuner SHOULD be better than most other stuff, but most players aren't going to go out and spend half a grand on a strobe tuner just to have laying around the house either. they're interesting videos, but it's all relative too (which usually doesn't mean a $600 tuner for most of us!)

    i personally just don't like clip on tuners in general, mostly because i find them fiddly, but obviously they work great for a lot of people. i also totally agree with most built-in tuners on multi-fx, amps, etc...most of them kinda suck. they're okay for dinking around the house or a quick fix, but i'd take a dedicated tuner any day.

    i've kinda been wanting one of the new Peterson StroboPlus HD's: at a little over $100, they seem to be a nice combination of small size, low price and accuracy for setting up most guitars. i just have a hard time spending $100 on a good tuner (even though i know i should), because it's one of those things that isn't really a "fun" accessory.
     
  18. Dunzie

    Dunzie Tele-Holic

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    I have to admit this crossed my mind recently how I've lost the ability to quickly tune a guitar without my tuner. I've gotten so spoiled with the electronic tuners we have these days. On stage you can quickly check between songs and no need to have quiet or play noticeably to do it. I remember tuning by ear against other band members.

    Sometimes technology is great.
     
  19. fuzzbender

    fuzzbender Former Member

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    and what color is red
     
  20. Frodebro

    Frodebro Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I have a pretty good ear for it, I can usually get within a quarter step.
     
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