High E String Tuning Challenges - Is there a secret?

ronmail65

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I have a few Teles and, with each of them, the high E string always gives me troubles.
- It is tuned / fine tuned just like all of the other strings - but it never sounds 'in tune'
- Yes, it registers correctly on chromatic tuners, but it still sounds off. After using a tuner, I still need to re-tune that E.
- I've sanded the nut slot, used graphite, stretched the strings... it's still a problem
- The guitars have different bridges, tuners, and string trees - so I don't see a common denominator in that regard

Any ideas or suggestions?
 

chris m.

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Are you sure it’s the E? If the low E, B, G or any other strings are slightly off then a good high E will sound out of tune.

It may also be your intonation. Try tuning your E to the B at its 7th fret or the A at its 5th fret and see how that sounds. Remember that due to the tempered scale everything can sound slightly out of tune even when optimized.
 

fender4life

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The higher the action the harder it is to stay in tune because even when all open strings are in tune, they will stretch out of tune when you fret them with a high enough action. So consider your action height. One of the reasons i like my action as low as possible. It's also why it's best to keep your neck adjusted with very little to no relief. And of course the nut height is very important because that will make the action high if the slots are too high without any benefit to action and playability. So the slots shoul be low enough that it's like the nut is just another fret, or at most just VERY SLIGHTLY higher to allow for nut becoming lower as it wears. But in any case, no amount of perfection in nut slots and intonation will help if your action is too high, and truth be told any extra height over it;s lowest possible heigh is going to cause tuning issue even if ever so slight that it;s not a problem. But the higher it is the worse. And the E sting is probably the one u r seeing affected because it's tension is higher than other strings and therfore stretches the pitch more when u fret it. And the higher up the neck u fret it, the worse for obvious reasons.
 

nickmm

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The higher the action the harder it is to stay in tune because even when all open strings are in tune, they will stretch out of tune when you fret them with a high enough action. So consider your action height. One of the reasons i like my action as low as possible. It's also why it's best to keep your neck adjusted with very little to no relief. And of course the nut height is very important because that will make the action high if the slots are too high without any benefit to action and playability. So the slots shoul be low enough that it's like the nut is just another fret, or at most just VERY SLIGHTLY higher to allow for nut becoming lower as it wears. But in any case, no amount of perfection in nut slots and intonation will help if your action is too high, and truth be told any extra height over it;s lowest possible heigh is going to cause tuning issue even if ever so slight that it;s not a problem. But the higher it is the worse. And the E sting is probably the one u r seeing affected because it's tension is higher than other strings and therfore stretches the pitch more when u fret it. And the higher up the neck u fret it, the worse for obvious reasons.
Your action needs to be pretty high for that to happen.
Most of the time it is that the string is breaking too far back in the slot. So when you fret the string goes sharp.
 

Old Verle Miller

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What happens when you use a capo on the 2nd Fret? Do all the tunings go up the exact same steps in frequency?
 

nickmm

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This if that is the issue
 

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MickM

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When you tune to e a d g b e and play a D cowboy chord is the high E sharp? Is the high E sharp at each fret as you ascend the fret board? If so, it sounds like the slot needs lowered a little bit.
 

fender4life

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Your action needs to be pretty high for that to happen.
Most of the time it is that the string is breaking too far back in the slot. So when you fret the string goes sharp.
I think it's depends on your ear because it does to me w/o having to be real high at all, and possibly the OP. As a test, just try looking at a tuner while fretting a string then pressing slightly harder and just that will cause it.
 

hemingway

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I always find that I have to tune the high E slightly sharp or it sounds flat.

But then it's debatable that there's any such thing as actually being perfectly in tune, ever.
 

nickmm

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I always find that I have to tune the high E slightly sharp or it sounds flat.

But then it's debatable that there's any such thing as actually being perfectly in tune, ever.
Try the other way. Low strings are sharper on the attack than high ones.
 

fender4life

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If your ear is more accurate than a strobe tuner. 1/100 of a cent.
A tuner will move more than that, but whatever it might be i'm just telling you what i hear and if i do the OP may. It's not a matter of IF it happens, it does. It;s a matter of whether u hear it or not.
 

loopfinding

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Usually the B is the culprit for nastiness. 12TET 3rds are sharp, so a B flatter, higher up against the G can sound in tune, sort of “just,” but once it gets matched with something on the E, or sometimes D, things go south. If you check the note on the E with the octave on the D below, it’s usually pretty in tune.

How I tune is first I use the tuner for all open strings. Then I check the As on every string. Then I play an Amin9 x05557 (perfect fifth between the B and E makes things very apparent) and sweeten the B. I then check the 5th fret E on the B string against the 7th fret E on the A string to make sure I didn’t go too far.

Obviously can’t do that between songs, only at the start of a session/set, so in a pinch I do open strings, then use the Amin9 to sweeten the B quickly.

But I’m also not particularly a cowboy chorder, so take my word with a grain of salt. For that you kind of have to split the difference with a compromise between the 5th and open.
 
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schmee

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This if that is the issue
BLOGIMG+-+Nut+File+Alternative+Welding+Nozzle+Cleaners+-+Nut+slotting+issues (1).png
^THIS, or how is the string height above fret 1 when checked fretted at fret 3? The high E should be almost zero when checked like that. If too high it sounds out of tune when fretted.

But multiple guitars? ... hmmm... there may be something with how you hear that note. I know the low E note through low G note on Gibson scale guitars never sounds right to me. Dull and slightly off.
 
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nickmm

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A tuner will move more than that, but whatever it might be i'm just telling you what i hear and if i do the OP may. It's not a matter of IF it happens, it does. It;s a matter of whether u hear it or not.
You are not capable of hearing 1/100 of a cent.
You are capable of measuring it before you can hear it.
 
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Si G X

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That's a definite possibility.

Do you use very light strings?

I only ask because I'm very heavy handed myself, anything under 11's I struggle to play anything in tune. 😅

... and the 'common denominator' is that it's the thinnest string on the guitar every time.
 

nickmm

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Usually the B is the culprit for nastiness. 12TET 3rds are sharp, so a B flatter, higher up against the G can sound in tune, sort of “just,” but once it gets matched with something on the E, or sometimes D, things go south. If you check the note on the E with the octave on the D below, it’s usually pretty in tune.

How I tune is first I use the tuner for all open strings. Then I check the As on every string. Then I play an Amin9 x05557 (perfect fifth between the B and E makes things very apparent) and sweeten the B. I then check the 5th fret E on the B string against the 7th fret E on the A string.

Obviously can’t do that between songs, only at the start of a session/set, so in a pinch I do open strings, then use the Amin9 to sweeten the B quickly.

But I’m also not particularly a cowboy chorder, so take my word with a grain of salt. For that you kind of have to split the difference with a compromise between the 5th and open.
That is a tempering thing people hear that differently
 




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