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View Full Version : Tuning- losing my everloving mind



Danochka
10-17-2011, 07:42 AM
So I was a violinist for years, and was quite good at tuning my violin by ear. The difference is that violins have a sustained tone and regular intervals.

I've only been playing the uke for a week, so I suppose I should be a bit more patient, but I'm pulling my hair out over my inability to get this thing into tune for more than thirty seconds. It's a good uke- lanikai spruce top with mechanical tuners- so I don't think that it's a hardware problem.

I'll get everything what -sounds- like in tune, and then I'll play a chord and it all goes thbbt. Gm is the worst- the 3rd fret on the E always clashes with the open G. I read that pressing too hard can warp the note, and a softer touch does make some difference.

Does anyone have any weird secrets? General hints?

molokinirum
10-17-2011, 09:30 AM
Since it is a new uke, I am going to assume the strings are new as well. In that case, strings take a while to stretch and you will have to retune your uke over & over, this is common. In about a week or so, the strings will have stretched and you will tune less.
BTW...welcome to the UU!!

trademen
10-17-2011, 11:24 AM
it seems to be a common problem with new strings, as far as my experience can tell anyway. I was tuning mine abut once every 10 minutes when I first started, now I only touch it up once a week or so.

OldePhart
10-17-2011, 01:04 PM
So I was a violinist for years, and was quite good at tuning my violin by ear. The difference is that violins have a sustained tone and regular intervals.

I've only been playing the uke for a week, so I suppose I should be a bit more patient, but I'm pulling my hair out over my inability to get this thing into tune for more than thirty seconds. It's a good uke- lanikai spruce top with mechanical tuners- so I don't think that it's a hardware problem.

I'll get everything what -sounds- like in tune, and then I'll play a chord and it all goes thbbt. Gm is the worst- the 3rd fret on the E always clashes with the open G. I read that pressing too hard can warp the note, and a softer touch does make some difference.

Does anyone have any weird secrets? General hints?

If the tuning is actually changing that's probably just the new strings settling in. They'll gradually get better - about the time it's time to replace them. LOL

However, if you're talking about the intonation being off when the open strings are in tune that is a fairly common problem on many "factory" ukes (Lanikai, Kala, etc.) unless they've been set up by the dealer. What happens is the nut slots aren't cut deep enough, so when you finger a string at the first couple of frets it pulls the string sharp. Almost all "inexpensive" guitars and ukes have this problem to one degree or another. I've seen guitars costing close to a grand that had intonation off by twenty cents or more at the first fret.

Having played violin you've probably got much a much better ear than most uke beginners, so you're going to notice the intonation problems when others wouldn't.

It's pretty easy to fix with a nut file, patience, and a tuner. Or you can take it to a shop. If there is a guitar shop with a really good rep in your area (i.e., not guitar sender or what have you) they should be able to set it up for you. John

gtrk
10-17-2011, 02:00 PM
Do you have an electronic tuner? Oh, I play violin too. May well be a high nut on the uke. Strings on the ukes take a lot more time to settle in than on a violin. Yes we violin players hear out of tune much more than most uke players. After all, we play without frets.
Tune the uke up, then use the electronic tuner to see if you are hitting the next note, or are going sharp when you fret the string. You can try more and less pressure to see how it effects the frequency. A good set up will help. It also makes playing the uke easier, both to play and on your finger tips.
If you don't have an electronic tuner but do have a smart phone, I found DaTuner for Android to work very well. On my ukes as well as my violins, violas, and cello. There is an electronic tuner available on I Phone too. I don't know what is available for RIM (BlackBerry). I find DaTuner works better than any of the electronic tuners I ever bought. It's a free down load for Android. My one friend even uses it now for her guitar.

EvilTwin
10-17-2011, 03:45 PM
Firstly: what they've said about stretchy strings, takes time to play them in, same with acoustic guitar strings. Mine still needs a tweak 2-3 times in a good practice session, but its slowly improving with use.

Gotta agree with gtrk's post, if you've a smart phone, find a good tuning app. If by any chance you own an iPhone / iPad / iPod Touch I can recommend either UkuleleTuner, or Tune Master as simple and quick ways to keep on top of the tuning, 2-3 mins job done.

mascompro
10-17-2011, 03:48 PM
Thanx for the heads up on DaTuner gtrk, I had been looking for a good app for android.

Tor
10-17-2011, 10:51 PM
Another thanks for the DaTuner tip, it works very well (and proved that I could whistle an A :)). It's hard to find the gems in the Android market when there are how many thousand applications there.

-Tor

PoiDog
10-18-2011, 05:21 AM
Thanx for the heads up on DaTuner gtrk, I had been looking for a good app for android.

Go woth the free gStrings tuner (http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CC4QFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fandroidforums.com%2Fandroid-applications%2F5137-gstrings-tuner-1-5-a.html&ei=noudTovDBee0iQKHhMWPCg&usg=AFQjCNHGaaztExv7Y7mEeI5jtFvenyZMWQ). It rocks.

mascompro
10-18-2011, 05:43 AM
Go woth the free gStrings tuner (http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CC4QFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fandroidforums.com%2Fandroid-applications%2F5137-gstrings-tuner-1-5-a.html&ei=noudTovDBee0iQKHhMWPCg&usg=AFQjCNHGaaztExv7Y7mEeI5jtFvenyZMWQ). It rocks.

I actually down loaded it as well last night. tried them both. I think they are both good, gString is actually simpler to read, I think, still trying to determine which is better in accuracy.

Hobo
10-18-2011, 05:51 AM
I have the same problem with my one month old Lanikai LKP-C concert ukulele. The strings have now settled down and seem to stay in tune much longer. Still, I need to tune the E string down about 20 hz to get a G chord to sound correct. When the open strings are tuned perfectly with an electronic tuner the intonation seems to be off when fretting some notes. Must be the high nut slots as already mention previously.

Danochka
10-18-2011, 07:45 AM
I think you guys are right about the high nut slots. It feels funky around the first couple frets, which seems to fit. I'm in Russia, so I'm really not sure where I would find someone I'd trust to set it up right for me. I'll probably sell this uke rather than take it home with me, so I may just hang in there for the next six months.

I stretched the strings a little, as per myriad youtube videos and forum comments,and that has helped. I think once the strings settle and things stop shifting around, the nut slot problems won't be as bothersome by themselves.

High five to all my fellow violinists! The fretted ones don't know how easy they've got it. :P

JamieFromOntario
10-18-2011, 08:20 AM
It might also be worth noting that, when tuning violin, you are dealing with only "true" intervals, or intervals that are reflected perfectly in science and nature (the over-tones work together and match up well).

However, with ukulele, you've got a major third between the C to E strings. A true major third (as one might play it on violin, particularly in early/baroque music) is slightly smaller than what you would hear on an (equally tempered) piano. If you tune using a tuner, your E note might sound a little sharp to your finely tuned violinist's ears. I find when I tune by ear, I go for a true major third - this makes G and Gm chords sound awful as the open 4th string G and the G produced by fretting the third fret of the E string will not match up.

Since you're likely going to be using G chords very frequently, I would go the electronic tuner route or match the two Gs rather than tuning with open strings alone.

Also, you can try fretting more gently or with more force to alter the note. Unlike on violin, this can significantly change the pitch as you are forcing the strings to bend farther over the fret wire.

mm stan
10-18-2011, 12:46 PM
I love this tuner..it has all the notes on the scale and the incriments....for convience..digital readout...and it's reasonable priced too..
Uggg...sorry John, forgot to put the link....http://www.metronomes.net/CherubChromaticMateWst-550C.htm

OldePhart
10-18-2011, 01:17 PM
I love this tuner..it has all the notes on the scale and the intervals....for convience..digital readout...and it's reasonable priced too..
And so you're keeping the make and model secret from the rest of us? LOL

John

Danochka
10-19-2011, 04:34 AM
JamiefromOntario- I totally did not know this. I was listening for the overtones when I tuned, and biting my nails when I didn't hear them on an 'in tune' note. Figured my computer's mike was warping the note when I used an online tuner.

When I read your post and went with the slightly sharp-sounding E, everything matched up far better in the chords. Still not perfect- those high nut slots, I think- but the world makes a little more sense now. Though that "sharp" E note will probably drive me nuts for the next couple days. :P

JamieFromOntario
10-19-2011, 01:18 PM
Yeah, this is one of the problems with equal temperament, that third scale degree in a major scale/mode can sound out of tune to some. In general, I think that, since equal temperament is the standard for 99.99 percent of recorded and performed music, that 'out of tune' third has become the norm in terms of what listeners (and players) expect.
I've often encouraged other players to listen for the 'beats' (a consistently spaced pulsing in the sound) that are caused by the interfering overtones of the equally tempered major third, and then tune your third down until you don't hear any 'beats' and then see how rich and full your major chord sounds.
It is my understanding that many piano tuners actually use the frequency of the beats to tell tune pianos.


I have been pretty involved in late Medieval and Renaissance music (1400-1550) in the past and became aware of tuning the major third 'down' to just intonation, particularly in a choral setting where small pitch changes are relatively easy to accomplish (like on a fretless string instrument, or slide brass).

I might try to record the two different options and post them to this thread.




Anyway, I better stop now or I'll go on and on and on... ;)

gtrk
10-19-2011, 02:23 PM
One of the things I love about DaTuner is that it works even when I have a lot of background noise.
As for the high nut problem, a bit of sand paper, or a nail file, a nut file if you can find one, and cut the grooves a bit deeper. An easy way to start is to use a stop so you don't cut any too deep. A nickle works. Just make sure you keep the file (sand paper) angled down towards the head (up towards the fret board) so that the preasure from the nut hits the strings on the fret board side. If the saddle is too high, remove the saddle and sand the side that slips into the bridge. Keep it square and level. I lowered a Rouge from 3.75mm to 1.5mm this way and it's made a big difference. It went from >20 cent at the first fret to <3 cent sharp. Intonation holds at +- 3 cents across and down the fret board now, avg. @ 2 cent sharp. That sounds good even to a violinist's ear.

23skidoo
10-19-2011, 02:53 PM
Fascinating stuff, Jamie.... thanks for posting the information. Had no idea why, but something I'd noticed on my nicer guitars.....