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View Full Version : Tuning Without a Tuner- Resultant Tones



ukulelebadass
06-10-2009, 08:05 AM
I have noticed a number of UU posters are concerned with apparently being unable to tune their ukes without a tuner- using tones generated by a website, a pitch-pipe, or another instrument. This can be difficult due to resultant tones.

Resultant tones are faint notes resulting from the sounding of two loud notes simultaneously. There are two types. The first, which is lower in pitch, corresponds to the difference in vibration between the original two sounds. The other resultant tone - higher than the original two sounds - corresponds to the sum of their vibrations. This effect is more noticeable when two sustained notes are played from an instrument such as a flute or an organ, but even with a string instrument such as a ukulele this effect can make it difficult to tune your instrument by matching it to the pitch of another source.

The trick is to play the note from the other source separately. In other words, play the note on the piano, or pitch pipe, and then tune your uke in to that sound. Don't try and tune your uke while playing a sustained note from your pitch pipe because the resultant tone will make it very difficult to hear whether you are in tune or not, particularly because a ukulele does not provide a constant tone when you pluck the string. The note tends to fluctuate a tiny bit to the flat or the sharp- it may not even be noticeable to the untrained human ear, but a tuner will pick it up.

All of this being said- if you are a beginner, you will find that investing in an electronic tuner will seem make a world of difference in the sound of your instrument, as it will eliminate the slightly flat or sharp notes far better than you can by ear.

hoosierhiver
06-10-2009, 08:25 AM
Nice post Ukebadass! and very good advice.
A good clip-on tuner makes things much more enjoyable.

ukulelebadass
06-10-2009, 11:20 AM
Nice post Ukebadass! and very good advice.
A good clip-on tuner makes things much more enjoyable.

Thanks, I'm glad you approve... I just hope I can help save someone half the headaches I got trying to tune my first Hilo soprano... not to mention the headaches I gave my family playing John Denver songs out of tune!

interp1
06-12-2009, 02:17 PM
Hi, I have a question about tuning my ukulele.

I grew up tuning a certain non-fretted string instrument with a tuning fork. So the notion of using an electronic tuner is deeply disturbing to me. I trust my ears much more.

What I took me a long time to realize was that you can't tune a fretted instrument with harmonic intervals. For example, if I tune my low G first and then try to set the C string to a perfect 4th to the low G, the C string won't match the 5th fret on the low G, so I'll get a beat if I play them together.

Conversely, a perfect match to the low G's 5th fret and C string results in an open low G and open C that doesn't sound like a perfect 4th. It sound flat to my ears.

It so drives me nuts that I've decided to match open low G and the E's 3rd fret by octaves, open C and the A's 3rd fret by octaves, and then the low G's 2nd fret and open A by octaves (actually all this in reverse order).

I seem to get approximate matches with frets and open strings that don't cause excessive beats and intervals between strings that don't sound too off.

I'm wondering if I'll encounter any problems with this kind of tuning, such as a specific key or chords that might sound awful.

Uke-lahoma
06-12-2009, 02:38 PM
Thanks for the tips! As a recent convert to the uke, I use an electronic tuner. But, it also is nice to have some alternate techniques and to use them well.

pantsfacemcgee
06-14-2009, 04:01 PM
interp1,

You SHOULD be able to tune it by intervals. It sounds to me like your ukulele doesn't play exactly in tune - such is my constant frustration with fretted instruments.

danged
06-14-2009, 06:06 PM
Hi, I have a question about tuning my ukulele.

I grew up tuning a certain non-fretted string instrument with a tuning fork. So the notion of using an electronic tuner is deeply disturbing to me. I trust my ears much more.

What I took me a long time to realize was that you can't tune a fretted instrument with harmonic intervals. For example, if I tune my low G first and then try to set the C string to a perfect 4th to the low G, the C string won't match the 5th fret on the low G, so I'll get a beat if I play them together.

Conversely, a perfect match to the low G's 5th fret and C string results in an open low G and open C that doesn't sound like a perfect 4th. It sound flat to my ears.

It so drives me nuts that I've decided to match open low G and the E's 3rd fret by octaves, open C and the A's 3rd fret by octaves, and then the low G's 2nd fret and open A by octaves (actually all this in reverse order).

I seem to get approximate matches with frets and open strings that don't cause excessive beats and intervals between strings that don't sound too off.

I'm wondering if I'll encounter any problems with this kind of tuning, such as a specific key or chords that might sound awful.

You make a very valid point! And ultimately people should understand harmonic intervals. :bowdown: However, modern technology allows us to be lazier and the electronic tuner is so easy to use and most of all fast!:rotfl: And for beginners, when their Uke is in tune, they will enjoy it more.

interp1
06-14-2009, 09:29 PM
Thanks for the comments, guys.

pantsfacemcgee:

The technical explanation is that all fretted instruments (including the ukulele) necessarily have to use equal temperament tuning. It's a tuning system that sacrifices some tonal harmony so that scales in all keys sound pleasing.

An open string to the 5th fret held would be a perfect 4th interval. In equal temperament, the note at a perfect 4th has a frequency that's 2^(5/12) times higher. So the high D about A440 is at 587 Hz.

But the human ear finds intervals in perfect fractional ratios pleasing (the very definition of harmony), so if I tune to a hypothetical high D string by ear from the A440 string, I'm likely to hit the 4/3 frequency, which is 586 Hz.

I used to think that could only drive someone with perfect pitch crazy, until I launched Audacity to see if I could tell the difference. It turns out it's noticeable when you play a 587 Hz and a 586 Hz one after the other. It also makes a difference in chords. But in scales and melodies, it's not noticeable.

Actually, if you play a 587 Hz and a 586 Hz tone side by side, you get a very noticeable beat tone, so you will know the strings are out of tune, and it will drive you crazy trying to get it right. Because when you match the open string to the 5th fret, the two strings won't sound like a perfect 4th. So a chord played on strings tuned by frets will always sound off, and that's the destiny of a fretted instrument.

It took me a long time to realize this. It wasn't a waste of time, but none of it made me a better ukulele player. Just an egghead.

danged:

Thanks for slapping some sense back to me. You're absolutely right that it's a much better use to time to quickly get into tune and practice/have fun for an extra 15 minutes. (Hopefully, it won't take 15 minutes to tune so I exaggerate.)

I travel a lot, so the ukulele is my friend on the road. It used to be all I needed was a tuning fork in my pocket to stay in tune. Or I could try to develop perfect pitch to not need a tuning fork. I tried that too, but that's another story.

ukulelebadass
06-15-2009, 02:55 AM
By the way, many violin players I know have taken to using chromatic tuners to tune their first string rather than forks, the fact is- No matter how great your ear might be, the computer's ear is better, and there's just no way around it.

Dibblet
06-15-2009, 03:34 AM
The trick is to play the note from the other source separately. In other words, play the note on the piano, or pitch pipe, and then tune your uke in to that sound. Don't try and tune your uke while playing a sustained note from your pitch pipe because the resultant tone will make it very difficult to hear whether you are in tune or not, particularly because a ukulele does not provide a constant tone when you pluck the string. The note tends to fluctuate a tiny bit to the flat or the sharp- it may not even be noticeable to the untrained human ear, but a tuner will pick it up.


This advice is not correct IMO. The resultants, in particular the difference frequency, is your friend! Any piano tuner will agree with me.

It is OK to sound the 2 notes separately until you are close to being in tune, but after that you should listen to them both at once. The difference between the reference pitch and the pitch on your instrument will be clearly audible as "beating" - a sort of tremelo effect. If the pitches are 2 Hz apart you will hear beating twice a second for example. If you are tuning every note to its own specific reference, you should tune to eliminate beats.

The ear can only distinguish a difference of maybe 5 cents in two notes sounded one after the other if you are lucky. Tuning by eliminating beats can get you an accuracy less than 2 cents.

Here is a good description of how to tune a guitar, which is an instrument similar to the ukulele in many ways. http://www.classic-guitar.com/lesson5.html

interp1. I'm suprised that you can hear the diference between 586Hz an 587Hz sounded sequentially. I'm pretty sure I can't. I can hear a beating at 1 per second though. Piano tuners set the 5ths and 4ths of the first octave by counting the slow beating of these intervals. You can do the same with fretted instruments. Just tune 4ths a little wide to beat at about 1Hz.

Mind you, having said all this, fret position tolerance coupled with a bit of uneven string wear probably gives you +/- 5 cents accuracy even on a decent instrument.

My current personal ukulele tuning scheme is as follows.

Tune the A string to a reference.
Tune the E string directly listening for beats.
Tune the C string to the A string fretted at the 3rd fret.
Tune the G string to the C directly listening for beats.
Check the A string against the G string at the 2nd fret.
Check the E string 3rd fret against the G string.

Jim X-S
06-15-2009, 06:44 AM
Well I have put together a video of how I have been tuning by Ukulele. Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkmFtxanMbU :rolleyes:

Have a Great Day,
Jim

ukulelebadass
06-15-2009, 07:04 AM
This advice is not correct IMO. The resultants, in particular the difference frequency, is your friend! Any piano tuner will agree with me.



True- if you are tuning the instrument to its self but if you are tuning each string to an external source separately the difference in frequency is not so much your friend.

I agree that tuning the a first string to another source you know to be in tune and then tuning subsequent strings is a good way to go, in particular on the ukulele where you can take good advantage of the tremolo effect in most of the chords.

Lets keep in mind that this is a thread in the beginners section, the goal here is to keep the advice and explanations as simple as possible for those folks who have never heard most of the terminology that has been laid out in the latter posts here.

An discussion of tremolo and the ukulele would be a great idea, but it is a topic for another thread.

interp1
06-17-2009, 12:01 PM
interp1. I'm suprised that you can hear the diference between 586Hz an 587Hz sounded sequentially. I'm pretty sure I can't. I can hear a beating at 1 per second though. Piano tuners set the 5ths and 4ths of the first octave by counting the slow beating of these intervals. You can do the same with fretted instruments. Just tune 4ths a little wide to beat at about 1Hz.

I put up my files at http://interp1.hostei.com/hertz.html.
I think you can tell there is a difference between file #3 and file #4, but I can't tell the difference between file #1 and file #2 if I played them sequentially.

So I'm inclined to think this 1 Hz difference between 586 Hz and 587 Hz is noticeable, but maybe not really as sound.

I hadn't thought about intentionally creating beats to tune the ukulele to something different than mean temperament (although I don't know to what purpose). Thanks for the lesson.

interp1
06-17-2009, 11:37 PM
Here's something much more fun than the crappy website I made up on impulse.

http://tonometric.com/adaptivepitch/

Test how good your pitch perception is (without relying on beats)!

I think I can reliably do 1.5 Hz at 500 Hz (what's that in cents?), but the 1 Hz barrier is hard to break.

I used to love taking the original tone deaf test on this website.

http://jakemandell.com/tonedeaf/

I'm glad to see the range of tests there has been expanded. It's still got nothing to do with tuning your ukulele or becoming a better player, but it's more fun activities you can do with sound.