Inconsequential question for the day: How do you tune...open string, or 12th fret harmonic???

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by E5RSY, Oct 18, 2019.

  1. E5RSY

    E5RSY Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    52
    Posts:
    9,963
    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2009
    Location:
    Georgetown, TX
    I remember reading somewhere that open string was best, but then I've seen guys who know a whole lot more than me, like Scofield, going the harmonic route.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. 6stringcowboy

    6stringcowboy Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,895
    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2014
    Location:
    Central North Carolina
    Yes

    Start with open, check harmonic, split the difference if necessary
     
    W.L.Weller, Skydog1010 and E5RSY like this.
  3. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    5,185
    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2007
    Location:
    Manassas Park, VA
    I always have the little Planet Waves NS tuner on my headstock and I tune first 4 strings open, then low E and A on the 12th fret harmonic ( tuner tracks better)

    - also the B strings on a few of my guitars are a little sharp on 3rd fret, so the tuner helps me ' pinpoint' to tune just a teeny bit flat
     
    E5RSY likes this.
  4. Chunkocaster

    Chunkocaster Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    7,496
    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2018
    Location:
    In space with Ziggy
    Is this for intonating?
    For tuning I just hit the harmonic on the 5th and 7th fret of the open e, a d, b and e strings and fret the g at the fourth fret.

    I need to use a tuner or other reference to get my wound e string in tune first and work down from there using the above method. I always check with harmonics and play a few chords rather than just trust the tuner.

    When I started playing I only had a pitch fork to tune with.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2019
  5. Torren61

    Torren61 Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    2,166
    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2013
    Location:
    Humboldt County, CA
    Both
     
    Obsessed likes this.
  6. Ironwolf

    Ironwolf Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

    Age:
    63
    Posts:
    8,415
    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2008
    Location:
    Boise, Idaho
    Both.
     
    W.L.Weller and Obsessed like this.
  7. Toto'sDad

    Toto'sDad Telefied Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    41,241
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2011
    Location:
    Bakersfield
    I still have one of those that my son gave me. My first tuner was a little reed thing kind of like a circular harmonica. (pitch pipe?) I don't think it was ever in tune, but it was cool to blow through it and think it was..
     
    Rev Rhythm and Chunkocaster like this.
  8. Toto'sDad

    Toto'sDad Telefied Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    41,241
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2011
    Location:
    Bakersfield
    I used to obsess over tuning (not that obsessed, obsess) now I don't play enough to care, so I just use the tuner on open strings and flail away, Alex runs outside when he sees the noise maker thing being picked up, and silently gives thanks for his doggie door.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2019
  9. Chunkocaster

    Chunkocaster Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    7,496
    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2018
    Location:
    In space with Ziggy
    I never got to use a pitch pipe. I still rarely use a tuner if my wound e string sounds good. Over a few weeks my guitar might end up being out of standard tuning if i'm only playing by myself but it's always in tune by ear.:)
     
    Toto'sDad likes this.
  10. GuitarKid

    GuitarKid Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    511
    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2013
    Location:
    Here
    Only open. I stretch them all, always tune up to pitch, never down. If I have to go down, I tune it down to pitch, stretch it, stretch all other strings, and many times the offending downer string will need to go up a little.

    I re-tune with different strengths of pick stroke or whatever stroke. I have a very good sense of pitch, and my guitars sound very in tune.
     
    tintag27 likes this.
  11. G.Rotten

    G.Rotten Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    862
    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2010
    Location:
    CoolsVille
    5-7 forced harmonic.
    https://www.fender.com/articles/how-to/how-to-tune-harmonically-even-the-b-string

    I've found the 5th A string is usually the one that has been most resistant to going out of tune, so I will tune to it in the absence of a tuner to verify.

    I tune a little different than in the link. I do 6-5-4-3 as instructed in the link. Then harmonic on the 6th string over the 7th fret compared to open 2nd string & 6th string harmonic over the 5th fret compared to open 1st string.

    With this method I can even feel once each string is in tune even if I can hear it that well.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2019
    AAT65 and Treadplatedual like this.
  12. Toto'sDad

    Toto'sDad Telefied Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    41,241
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2011
    Location:
    Bakersfield
    Back before gunfire and diesel trucks destroyed my hearing, I memorized how a guitar should sound, I would hum a few words from a song, emphasizing a few notes, tune up to those notes and it would be pretty good to go. I have NONE of that ability today.
     
    Chunkocaster likes this.
  13. Chunkocaster

    Chunkocaster Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    7,496
    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2018
    Location:
    In space with Ziggy
    I don't know why i've never tried that. It would be great ear training and handy to be able to do. I check my tuning after using harmonics and ear and the tuner tells me i'm right nearly every time. I just cant ever guess the starting point with the wound e right without an external reference..
     
    Toto'sDad likes this.
  14. schmee

    schmee Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    7,558
    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2003
    Location:
    northwest
    open. I used to try to tune with harmonics, drove me (and the band) crazy. Heck it ain't gonna last "perfect" but a few songs before it's not perfect anyway. No one wants to hear/watch you tune all night.
     
    tintag27, MilwMark and Toto'sDad like this.
  15. Toto'sDad

    Toto'sDad Telefied Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    41,241
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2011
    Location:
    Bakersfield
    One thing I do since I obsess over everything, is to use a strobe tuner program when setting up guitars. I check open tuning, and at the twelfth, making sure that the nut and saddle(s) are adjusted properly. Most store bought setups will always be sharp on the third fret of the big E string. The G and B will also have problems, getting those problems fixed are about the closest you can have to getting a guitar in tune, but it's all smoke and mirrors. A gnat can land on one of the strings, or piss ant can crawl across the guitar and upset the balance. I've just quit doing all of that. Most people including myself can't hear the difference those that think they can are going to wind on the strings until the guitar is hopelessly out of tune anyway.
     
    Chunkocaster likes this.
  16. Wally

    Wally Telefied Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    33,235
    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2003
    Location:
    Lubbock, TX
    The 12th fret harmonic is exactly an octave above the open string, so it does not matter which you use.
    Regarding the use of the 7th fret harmonic, this method cannot possibly get a guitar in tune. IF..big IF...a guitar is properly set and plays in tune, it will exhibit why the 7th fret harmonic cannot get a string in tune accurately. I first read of using this method in Guitar Player almost 50 years ago. I tried it, it did not work, and I have been happy o avoid it ever since. About 15 years ago I did some business with a large steel guitar dealer in St. Louis. They are so large they have their own in house magazine, and they sent me one issue with my order. Great issue it was, too! For in it there was an explanation by a physicist as to why that 7th fret harmonic cannot get a guitar in tune. Remember, this is from a steel guitar point of view, and steel guitarists have many, many concerns with tuning. Anyway, it comes to the mathematics...as most things musical do...pitch, rhythm...everything it seems. The 5th fret harmonic is a quarter of the scale and is accurate. The 12 fret harmonic is at half of the scale, and it is accurate. However, the 7fret harmonic sits somewhere near a third of the scale, and it does not resolve accurately for that reason. here is what happens...and with a well-set up guitar with fresh strings and proper fretting, one can hear this. If you tune...match the pitches of the harmonic... the 6th and 5th strings using the 5th fret, 6th string and the 7th fret/5th string, the 5th string will be flat. You can check this anyway you want....12th fret harmonic on the 6th string to the 5th string/7th fret fretted E, open 6th to that same 5th string E, 5th fret/6th string to the open A, or listen to the open 6th string to the fourth on the open 5th.The 5th string is flat.
    keep on tuning with the 7th fret harmonic method...the D will be flat to a flat A, the G will be flat to a Flat D...etc. it doesn’t work. If a guitar is not properly setup or if the player’s fretting technique is incorrect, it does not matter how one tunes....a good ear will hear the problem. I have watched players who use this technique spend inordinate amounts of time throughout their sets tuning..usually after every song.
    Until I read that physicist’s short article, I merely accepted that this 7th fret harmonic method did not work, but it was good to read the basic mathematical reason why it doesn’t.
     
  17. Toto'sDad

    Toto'sDad Telefied Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    41,241
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2011
    Location:
    Bakersfield
    Find a note you can hum accurately and tune to it, works pretty good. I'm told, but never tried it that people used to tune to the dial tone on a landline phone.
     
    Chunkocaster likes this.
  18. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    6,777
    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2003
    Location:
    Santa Barbara, California
    It shouldn't matter much if your guitar is well intonated. But if it isn't, IMO you're probably better off tuning to the open strings rather than the 12th fret harmonic.

    However.....there are a few other idiosynracracies of guitars that cause me to make little tuning adjustments. For example, if you strike a string harder it tends to
    go a bit sharper, especially the low E string. Also, if you fret too hard that can pull the note a bit sharper. In general I typically tune my electric guitars using a tuner
    and hitting the open strings with an attack similar to what I would use while playing. For the low E string I usually tune it just a hair flat so that the initial attack
    is in tune and then it settles down to just a hair flat. Then I hit various chords with the same force that I would while playing, up and down the neck, to make sure
    things sound copacetic.

    If your nut isn't cut perfectly another approach might be to fret notes down in the first few frets and tune to fretted notes. For example, G note on 3rd fret of E strings,
    E note on 2nd fret of D string, A note on second fret of G string, B note on second fret of A string, D note on 3rd fret of B string. You would use the same fretting
    force that you use while playing, and also try to strike the string with the same force you use while playing. Then from there you would play a bunch of chords in
    various positions and do minor tweaking as needed to try and get it sounding as sweet as you can in various chords. The offending string is often the open G....


    On acoustic guitars I take a different approach, especially for guitars that tend to sound just a little bit sour after straight up tuning to a tuner. I learned this system
    a long time ago and it really works to sweeten up all chords, especially down in the first three frets or so:

    1) Tune low E, high E, and 4th string at 2nd fret E all to an E with a tuner.
    2) Tune B string at third fret D to match open D on 4th string.
    3) Tune A string at second fret B to match open B on 2nd string.
    4) Tune G string at second fret A to match open A on 5th string.

    Try it sometime-- it really makes acoustic guitars sound as good as they can. This is especially useful for acoustic guitars that have intonation issues, which is often the case
    because they don't come with easily adjustable saddles.

    Lucky for me once I hear an E then in my head I hear all of the guitar string notes very clearly and can usually tune very quickly and accurately without actually using a tuner at all. I guess I have
    perfect relative pitch....unlike my Mom, who has true perfect pitch. You play any note and she can call it out without having heard a reference pitch.

    The bottom line is that the guitar is a tempered instrument and sometimes tuning straight open notes to a tuner doesn't make the guitar sound as good as it can.

    GuitarKid makes a good point about always tuning up to pitch. If you tune down to pitch then usually the string will go flat on you after you hit it a few times.
     
    JL_LI likes this.
  19. thunderbyrd

    thunderbyrd Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Age:
    60
    Posts:
    6,136
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2004
    Location:
    central ky
    when i'm not being lazy, I tune my guitars to a barred G at the third fret, each note perfect. I seem to be the only person who does this, but it sounds very good to me.
     
  20. PCollen

    PCollen Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    2,463
    Joined:
    May 7, 2010
    Location:
    Man of the World
    If your intonation is properly set, there should be no difference. So tune open string(s), check intonation, if necessary adjust intonation, repeat until you get it right.
     
    Skydog1010 likes this.
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.


  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.