Tremolo vs. hard tails - intonation

Discussion in 'Other Guitars, other instruments' started by Digital Larry, Oct 17, 2019.

  1. Digital Larry

    Digital Larry Tele-Afflicted

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    I've been doing some home recording. I have a hard tail guitar (brand "Y") and a tremolo (er... vibrato) arm one (brand "G&L"). Seems like the G&L has a harder time being in tune for chordal rhythm parts even though I tuned it up right before recording. I have noticed the arm moving when doing bends but I'm not even doing bends, not purposely anyway.

    Is it generally people's experience? It all makes perfect sense, I guess I was just surprised.
     
  2. Crafty Fox

    Crafty Fox Tele-Afflicted

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    I just don't get on with trems because the last time I had one, on a Brian Moore MC/1, every time I bent the strings I was so aware of the the other strings going down out of tune.
    I don't recall it being a problem on a Bigsby equipped SG I once had. My Strat is a hardtail.
    Maybe time to get another Bigsby. :cool:
     
  3. jhundt

    jhundt Doctor of Teleocity

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    I installed one of these on my 1983(?) Telecaster Contemporary which I have retrofitted with an Ibanez version of a Fender Strat trem. It's been on there for 12 or 15 years or so. It took about an hour to install it and set it up, had to tweak it a time or two in the first week as I came to understand how it worked. Since then it is flawless. I can extreme-bend on any string, and no other string will go out of tune. A broken string will not affect tuning. After serious tremolo use the guitar will always return to pitch. One of the best investments I can imagine for a Strat-type trem.
    https://www.thomannmusic.com/goeldo_bckbox.htm
     
  4. Obsessed

    Obsessed Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Once I ended my surf guitar playing era, it wasn't until I decked my strat that I renewed interest with that guitar. String bends have to be overly done which is a PIA when switching back and forth with other guitars.
     
  5. jhundt

    jhundt Doctor of Teleocity

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    when you say "chordal rhythm parts", are you playing those chords up and down the neck, or using open chords at the first position? I have an old Telecaster that I love. I could intonate it perfectly (or as close to perfect as I could with the original bridge). Chords up the neck were OK, but open 'cowboy' chords were always out of tune. It was frustrating in the studio, though live it wasn't as glaringly noticeable. It set me off on a track of learning all about inherent tuning problems and compensated nuts, as opposed to compensated bridges.
     
  6. Digital Larry

    Digital Larry Tele-Afflicted

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    Yes. I'm using cowboy chords and some barre chords. Although this particular tune doesn't involve any fretted notes above the 5th fret.
     
  7. jhundt

    jhundt Doctor of Teleocity

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    that is precisely the problem that I (and others) had. This is a problem related to the science of tuning a stringed instrument, and playing in a tempered scale. If that doesn't mean a thing to you, don't worry - it didn't mean a thing to me either, until I did several hours of research.

    In a nutshell: the frets on the guitar are placed as close as possible to allow every note up and down the fretboard to be in tune. For deep reasons involving all kinds of science, this is not actually possible. The adjustable bridge pieces help a lot. It is quite possible to get a guitar to play in almost perfect pitch across all the strings, above the seventh fret or so.

    It is much more difficult to get the same guitar to play in perfect tune inside the first five frets - which is where I choose to spend much of my time.

    You can test your guitar quite easily, if you have a chromatic tuner. Tune all the open strings as close to perfect as you can. Then start testing each string at the first fret, the second fret, through to the fifth or seventh. Just nlook at the tuner, and see what it shows... don't adjust anything, just look at and read (and maybe make notes) of the actual readout, compared to the note that you expect from that fretted position.

    It is quite possible that your guitar - like mine - does not play in tune within the first 5 frets. You can adjust the bridge saddles all you want, it won't solve this problem.

    Just check it out. If you find that your lower-fret tunings are off, we can talk about it some more. This is a sometimes-controversial subject, and has been discussed much here on the TDPRI.
     
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  8. 985plowboy

    985plowboy Friend of Leo's

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    Block the them for recording if you don't plan on using it.
    Or maybe bottom of the strings and add springs. You can still raise the pitch with the arm but should play in tune.

    I no longer own a guitar with a trem.
     
  9. 6stringcowboy

    6stringcowboy Tele-Afflicted

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    Guessing your trem is a Fender style which i dont own, but i do own several Bigsby equipped guitars and tuning problems are always the nut and not the Bigsby.
     
  10. mkdaws32

    mkdaws32 Tele-Meister Ad Free Member

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    Interesting - I have compromise on my Tele with the non-compensated barrel saddles, but my other Tele and two strats with 1 string per saddle will intonated all the way up the neck within a cent or two at most. If the nut or first fret placement are slightly off this can wreak havoc for open chords for sure. My final intonation check, after using a chromatic tuner, is to play an open E chord and then play it again up past the 12th fret with E B and high E strings still open. Then the same with an open G chord with the D and G strings open. If my ear hears everything in tune with those chords I’m good to go.

    Now as for trems, I float both of my Strats fairly loosely (3 springs). It’s a bit of a pain to set up the first time and at string changes, but I generally have no tuning or intonation issues. One is a vintage 6 screw and the other a 2 point, non locking trem. I use graphite powder on the nut and roller trees and tuning stability is great, unless I go absolutely nuts with dive bombs and pull-ups. I’ve been playing this setup so long that it’s just natural. I have to compensate for string bends, but I don’t even think about it. And when I switch back to one of the Teles, I never find myself over compensating for string bends.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2019
  11. tfarny

    tfarny Friend of Leo's

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    lower-fret intonation is really starting to bug me, at the same time as my ear has been getting better due to paying more attention to singing. With the tele I play tuned down, it was really bothering me the other day - I kept checking the tuning and yep, it was still officially "in tune" on the open strings. Fret an open C chord though, man....I was thinking I need to look into the Earvana nuts again. Those really do make a difference.
     
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  12. Digital Larry

    Digital Larry Tele-Afflicted

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    Yeah, it's pretty clear that the notes below fret 5 are sharp. Gets lesss noticeable as I go up. May just rerecord the parts with a different guitar that doesn't suffer from that quite as much.
     
  13. Telegnosis

    Telegnosis Tele-Meister

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    First off, thanks to the mods for being light-handed on my recent forum ban. :oops:

    When recording, no guitar plays in tune up and down the neck.

    Learn from Keith Moon and Harry Nilsson, as they danced around a studio session making fun of some musos I knew back in the day who told them that a guitar must be tuned each time you record using specific areas of the fret board.

    It's just the nature of the beast.

    As far as trem vs. fixed, it's all about finesse when using a trem. You can't manhandle the guitar. If everything is in good shape and adjusted on your trem-guitar,

    You got to know when to hold 'em,
    Know when to fold 'em,
    Know when to walk away,
    And know when to run


    You have to apply more thought into playing a trem guitar and sort of "use the force, Luke." It's not like holding a socket wrench. it's like holding a beautiful woman, soft in some places, hard in the others.

    Your fingers are there not just to occupy space on the board but to push-pull each note into tune. You're not playing a melodica. Micro-movements with your fingers, hands, arms, torso are key.

    •Connect with the guitar, don't just lean on it.

    If you find the bridge moving when you do bends on the trem guitar, consider there will be a push-pull effect and compensate for it through your playing the board.
    You have to be cognizant of what's going on with the guitar in milliseconds, the notes you play, the tone you're getting. It's complicated, but you chose to be a guitar player.

    [​IMG]

    Watch players who are good at playing trem guitars and watch how they hold the guitar.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2019
  14. Bedder18

    Bedder18 TDPRI Member

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    this is almost always an issue with the nut. It’s so important to have it set up by a very good luthier on a hard tail. On a trem guitar- it’s 10x more important.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2019
  15. Dacious

    Dacious Poster Extraordinaire

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    With a trem equipped guitar having lubed and non-sticking nutslots at a perfect height is even more vital to stay in tune. If you hear strings pinging as you use the trem that's them sticking in the slots and releasing in steps , they're likely going to end up on different pitches.

    Any disparity in tuning stability is worsened with a trem. Normally G&Ls are well set up from factory but age and wear can blunt the sharpness.

    Also note - tuning the upper strings to pitch often detunes the EAD strings and sometimes you don't notice until you start playing.
     
  16. Telegnosis

    Telegnosis Tele-Meister

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    This is why tuning for the particular parts (chord sequences) you are recording is essential to make sure you are in tune with the track. You may tune your guitar to a tuner but the acid test is how the guitar is in tune against the track. You must then tune your guitar based on the positions you plan to play and make sure it vibes with the tracks already recorded. Don't think that if it isn't in tune with the tuner that you are out of tune or that you just tuned to the tuner and now it's out of tune with the track. The tracks are king and hopefully you tuned your guitar when you laid down the initial tracks.

    But then some recordists, don't tune to a tuner or tune a few cents off and create their own idea of being in tune which is great for the song but it will be out of tune from A-440 which is not bad in itself, just not concert pitch.
     
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