Session Guitar: Do You Suffer from Guitar-Tuner Dependency?

29

Comments

+ Add a Comment
avatar

tcbischof

With that chorus effect you said have 1 gtr tuned and the other one how many cents sharp or flat do you have it set thanks. Does this work for phase or any other effects thanks. Ron. I love your column. So insightful, good to keep it old school.

avatar

Terranaut_X

One can make the same argument about driving with GPS systems--no more memorizing the scenery and drama of going awry. That's a negative trade-off of losing a connection with reality in favor of a dependence on technology. As far as guitar tuning goes I can tell you that my guitar goes a bit sharp over night as the strings react to cooler temps and not being played. If they all go sharp equally but in the tiny degree that they do, I won't notice it. But if I run the tuner installed in the bezel of my neck pickup, I make tiny adjustments to bring the readings right on. Is that technology dependence too? I really don't think so. It's a real hep compared to the old days of listening and either sending one string sharp or flat by adjusting another or just convincing yourself something is not right with your perception today. Now, I check, I play for hours and I my guitar stays in tune. I can check before I stop for the day. But it will show a few strings slightly sharp the next from rest and temperature causing the steel to slighly pull into atomic rest.

avatar

tjnugent

I have been playing for a very long time, and the bulk of my playing was done without a tuner. I tuned to a tuning fork and then a keyboard. I always managed to be in tune when needed, but now I use the Polytune, and I use it religiously. I am glad I learned to do it by ear, but I am equally glad that I can do it quickly and silently as well. Call me lazy, but I just want to be in tune, and I want to do it the quickest and easiest way possible. I want to concentrate on the song and not have to second guess if I am in tune or not.

avatar

jayelgee1

Back in the old days (and I mean old, the 60s and 70s)we used to say, "Good enough for folk" when we'd all tune first to a piano and then to each other. Recently, with on-board tuners, I've discovered that my natural relative pitch is a bit sharp if I tune without using the electronics. So, it's interesting to have learned that and now try to better fix the correct pitch in my head, knowing that I am probably a touch sharp.

avatar

Peshi

You mentioned in your article about the number of string windings even affecting the intonation... How many windings do you use???? Is it different for every string, like I would imagine? Is it different for different types of guitars, i.e. a Strat and Les Paul, or even an acoustic??? Also, I love your column! Have a great holiday!!!!

avatar

RedrickSpencer

I totally agree with your point of the importance of being able to tune by ear.

The importance dawned on me particularly when I started playing guitars with tuning systems outside of 12 equal temperament. I've been playing guitars in 19, 15, and 22-equal temperament (ie 19 evenly spaced notes per octave) a lot over the last couple years and the electric tuners don't have a way to chromatically tune all the strings, because in the 19 equal temperament A is 7 cents sharp, B is 7 cents flat and G and D are both pretty sharp.
So I tune the E strings to the tuner then everything else relative. It's been tricky but tuning by ear like that sure makes your ears open up to subtle differences, and the effects have been very enjoyable!

avatar

King-G

I had been playing for many years before I ever bought an electronic tuner. I used to just use a tuning fork or a reference note from a pitch pipe (remember those?).

avatar

wardenbonefish

I found a way of tuning using a tuning fork & a distorted guitar. play open A & place the vibrating fork an inch or two away from the string above a pick up. You hear the frequencies beating if out of tune & then tune accordingly. you do need to hold the fork at an angle of about 45 degrees to the strings for it to work. Then tune the rest.

avatar

RonZabrocki

Love it! You know I'm gonna try it!
Thanks!

avatar

MidnightMoses

i've found that using a tuner consistently helps me tremendously on those rare occasions when i do not have a tuner available.

once you become accustomed hearing your strings at proper pitch and to to playing in tune all the time, it's much easier to hear/realize it when you aren't in tune. at least, it is for me.

in my case, i started learning to play back in the bad old days when electronic tuners were prohibitively expensive. as a result, i HAD to learn how to relatively tune my guitar - by ear - to a single "known to be accurate" pitch such as a tuning fork, pitch pipe or even a recording. so i know how it's done.

i have met some less-experienced players who haven't a clue on how to tune their instruments without the use of a tuner, so i believe "tuner dependency" to be a very real potential problem.

we're lucky to live in a time where reliable and accurate tuners are so inexpensive...

avatar

RonZabrocki

We sure are lucky! And I agree that hearing it over time will help a student recognize it. But there are so many quicker ways! Thanks!

avatar

codyfox1983

I was born with severe hearing loss in both ears. So of course I decided to take up the guitar. Been playing for 16 years and I still have a hard time tuning by ear. Noise throws me off big time. Especially cars going by and any noise in the house. I'm stuck with my tuner but for me it is not a bad thing.

avatar

RonZabrocki

And I commend you for not letting your condition stop you! You are a hero! I mean it! We're all in need of some sort of technology. My eyes are bad so I wear glasses. You are an inspiration! Have a great Holiday Season!

Alex Rude

Thank you for the article!! I have been playing guitar seriously for probably 30+ years now and tuning was definitely something I needed to learn about when I first started. Today I make a good living as a piano tech/tuner along with playing guitar in my band and what I have learned is that practically 90% of the people I see playing guitar or bass (even drums!) have no clue how to tune their instruments! They rely on electronic tuners all the time. Live and in the studio accuracy is essential but if they were to lose their tuners they would be severely challenged to tune their respective instruments in any other setting. That is the one thing that drives me batty and keeps me from enjoying live music a lot of the time. Maybe it's because I have a deeper understanding of what "in tune" actually means and should sound like but I definitely believe that even the most accomplished musicians could learn a thing or two about tuning their instruments. Please write more about this in future issues of Guitar World as it will make for a much more harmonious world!

avatar

RonZabrocki

Being a piano tuner, your ears must be amazing! I remember back in the day before most sessions were using samples, we had a tuner before EVERY session. Part of the budget! I'll definitely keep it in mind. Instruments out of tune drives me crazy! And don't get me started on vocalists! HA! Thanks for commenting!

avatar

dartvader

i hateeeeeeeeeeeeee being out of tune espichlly on a floyd rose guitar i cant stand it! it took me 7 years to figure out how to keep the dam thing in tune and once i did its SOOOO pleasuring after u keep it in tune and it lasts awhile! once u tune it the first time ur set X)

avatar

RonZabrocki

I hear you! Floyds are the most amazing innovation and a giant pain till you get it your technique on string changing down! I love em!I have some guitars I take out months later and they are in tune. Amazing! Enjoy the Season!

avatar

GregJ

Based on experience, a long ride back from a gig with a tuner in a gig bag emitting its A440 tone in the trunk for the entire ride will give you the ability to hear an A for the rest of your life.

avatar

RonZabrocki

Hysterical! That will get it stuck for sure! You probably thought you had tinnitus! Great story! Have a great Holiday season and thanks for commenting.

avatar

redstrat8

I HAVE BUILT IN TUNER IN MY FENDER STAGE 1600 AMP.IF I DON;T GET GOOD ENHARMONICS ON THE 9TH FRET I KNOW I NEED TO TUNE.

avatar

RonZabrocki

Thanks for commenting. Hey, great that you found a technique that works for you! Success in the future and a great Holiday Season.

avatar

mooseboy

I used to tune by ear at the beginning of my guitar playing years (49 years playing and still going strong!) I loved to use a tuning fork, then gently ease all of the strings into tune. Of course, playing a gig in a noisy club meant I had to tune at a fairly high volume, and one day a bandleader told me to figure out a different way to tune, or figure out a different band.

'Nuff said!

When I'm practicing at home by myself, I love to use the online guitar tuners that play a pitch. That way, I can heterodyne each string into a very precise state. Not so for the clubs, though!

And here's a tip- if you happen to have an Ebow, use it to tune your strings since it excites them into a steady state. Yes, I know this ignores the pitch differential on the first attack, but you hear steady state longer than the attack… unless you're Yngwie.

avatar

RonZabrocki

Thanks for that Ebow tip mooseboy! Love that! Will definitely try it! Enjoy the Winter!

avatar

strat68

I have always tuned by ear for about 40 years. I get one string set and I am goog to go. But one of my guitars sounds better when tuned using an electronic tuner.

avatar

RonZabrocki

I hear ya! Every guitar is different and we do what works with each guitar! Enjoy the season!

Glenn Kennedy

Great article! Personally, I never owned a tuner at all until I was 22, nearly a decade after starting to play. I always trusted my ears more, and still do. So many slight things need to be compensated for, as you said, and they do make a big difference in the end.

I started using a tuner because of something that has been an issue ever since - working for bandleaders who do not allow audible tuning before performance. I've found that particularly those who play digital pianos have no real grasp of this necessity and often seem to assume you are just messing around or something, instead of properly preparing for performance. I have been sat under air-conditioning vents etc, had to tune silently and electronically because someone decided it was more important to sit or stand in complete silence than to check tuning audibly,and then expected to be in tune throughout the show, defying the laws of physics consistently as well as playing the music perfectly.

It's hard to get around that and I do wish there were more knowledge and understanding from other musicians about this integral part of the intrinsic nature of the guitar. But for rock shows and club gigs, it is certainly feasible to tune by ear - or even to tune with a tuner and let your ears provide the final "quality control". And if you're stuck using a tuner, it is always worth checking the octave and even the 5th, as well as the tonic open string.

avatar

RonZabrocki

Bandleaders....they are the boss! Thankfully we have the technology to not get them angry and be replaced! They have a lot on their plate anyway...better to just do what you can and take the check and walk away happy. And speaking of Happy! Happy Holidays!

avatar

pfinnegan

This is interesting because I feel I am addicted to my on-board tuner. I literally turn it on and tune every time I pick up my acoustic-electric. I've tried to tune by ear but it never matches exactly what the onboard tuner says.

avatar

RonZabrocki

It's just a habit. Sometimes they are necessary. Just keep trying. Try it with just one string. Tune the A, then try and get another in tune using octaves and harmonics and whatever. You'll get it. But on board tuners make it too easy to not use! Thanks for commenting and enjoy the Holidays!

Log in to Guitar World directly or log in using Facebook

Forgot your username or password?
Click here for help.

  • Sign in with Twitter
Login with Facebook
Log in using Facebook to share comments and articles easily with your Facebook feed.