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OldePhart
02-06-2013, 05:29 AM
Well...since I have to take a day off to take care of sick family members I guess I have a little time to kill...so it's time to be a chatty Kathy...

There was a discussion a while back about whether people trust their tuners...I thought about reviving that thread but decided it had run its course and this topic is a little different.

Anyway, when we were discussing that topic I thought about the performers, especially classical guitarists, who tune their instruments for each piece that they perform.

Any time you have a fretted instrument the intonation is never going to be perfect. Even when it's a custom or a well-set-up high end uke there are going to be some compromises. When we talk about "perfect" intonation we're really talking about "acceptable intonation" - i.e. intonation that is "good enough" that the performer and the audience are not going to be put off by the slight imperfections of certain notes. Obviously, we expect "acceptable intonation" from custom and high-end ukes and it can often be achieved with mid range ukes with careful setup and string selection.

Also, if one hasn't yet developed a discriminating ear one might consider the intonation on a given uke "perfect" while those around are cringing. (The only real way to develop a better ear seems to be to play and listen to instruments with good intonation almost exclusively.)

So, back to the teaser above, how about those top-notch performers who tune an instrument for each piece? What's going on there? I gave it some thought and experimented a little and it seems that certain intervals are much more noticeable than others when the tuning between two notes is not quite perfect.

For me, at least, the most critical interval seems to be the unison - i.e., two notes on different strings being at exactly the same pitch. Even the slightest deviation here is quite noticeable to me, while I'm far less likely to detect a minor pitch problem with the third, the perfect fifth, and even the octave. I suspect I'm not alone in this because mandolin players are infamous for insisting on ear-tuning the string pairs.

So, to put this in the practical realm, if I just tune with a Snark, for example, then even if the intonation of the first position on a uke is quite good the G major chord might sound wonky to me even if I tune the E string fretted at the 3rd fret to get a "perfect" G note. The problem is that even though the G string and the fretted E string are both showing a "perfect" G on the tuner there is a slight difference. On other intervals it's not such a big deal, but on unison notes is enough to drive me a little bit bonkers.

So, to tune for a key where the G major is used a lot, I would ear tune so the open G string and fretted E string are perfect. A similar situation is the G string fretted at the second fret and the open A string of an F major chord. In practice, I've found that if, after tuning with the tuner, if playing in the key of C doesn't sound quite right I can get "perfect" sound by ear tuning the open G to the fretted E, and then the open A to the fretted G. Now, the unison notes in my G and F (and Am) chords are spot on. The notes in other chords may still be a bit out - but as long as they aren't unison intervals it's not so noticeable, at least not to me.

So, do I do this every time? No, it's too much trouble. But, if after "Snarking" the uke something doesn't sound right I then touch up the tuning as described. Now I just need to get my hands on a uke that needs a setup at the nut and see how much of that poor intonation can actually be cleaned up by ear-tuning the unisons...

John

engravertom
02-06-2013, 05:49 AM
Thanks John! That is some good info. I have had some experiences where I was tuned to the tuner, but certain notes in certain situations didn't sound right. I always felt a little guilty fooling with the tuning "By Ear" to make it sound better. This happens especially in one song our family plays as an ensemble. No matter how well i tune to the tuner, I have to adjust the C string to get the D at the second fret to fit in with everyone else. This doesn't happen with other songs as often.

grendel1972
02-06-2013, 05:53 AM
Agree 100%.

I do the same "ear tuning" you describe, except I also do it with the octave between the open 3rd string C and the third fret C on the first string. On my low-G tunings, I do the octave G where you are doing the unison. I agree, it's the nature of a fretted instrument, you cannot have every interval perfectly in tune. It's the same on a piano.

It took me some time to come to terms with this having come from a fretless instrument (the viola) where minor adjustments to pitch are constantly made depending on the key or where the note fits in the chord.

stevepetergal
02-06-2013, 06:06 AM
Too complicated for a dumbbell (Spellcheck's spelling) like me.

finkdaddy
02-06-2013, 06:19 AM
Back in the day, when I played electric Bass, my band was recording in a very well known studio in Richmond, Virginia. The sound tech simply would not let me tune my bass by ear. He instisted that I use a tuner. I explained that I didn't like how my bass sounded using a digital tuner. He told me that it didn't matter; numbers don't lie. If the tuner said it was out of tune then it was out of tune. Of course, I tuned it the way I wanted anyway and I got dirty looks from him the whole session.

ksiegel
02-06-2013, 07:54 AM
So, do I do this every time? No, it's too much trouble. But, if after "Snarking" the uke something doesn't sound right I then touch up the tuning as described. Now I just need to get my hands on a uke that needs a setup at the nut and see how much of that poor intonation can actually be cleaned up by ear-tuning the unisons...

John

Thanks John - I used to think everyone did this, but I grew up tuning my guitar to a tuning fork, then to itself.

Yes, I like my Snark tuners. Yes, I use them. But as with everything else, they are there as a guide, not a rule.

Except in a noisy atmosphere, where I can't hear the individual strings. Then, "Close Enough For Folk" wins.


-Kurt

mm stan
02-06-2013, 08:09 AM
I usually start with either the C or E strings for a starting point..because they are thicker and produce more volume to hear....and then I match string to string ....unison

barefootgypsy
02-06-2013, 08:45 AM
I usually start with either the C or E strings for a starting point..because they are thicker and produce more volume to hear....and then I match string to string ....unisonThis is really very interesting, and thank you for posting it. I have noticed little tuning anomalies, and your post explains them - I'm going to print out the thread and fiddle around with my uke(s) and my tuner, playing in different keys, and I know that at the end of it I will have profited by it..... great stuff, John and everyone else here, too..... actually I'll report back when I have something worthwhile to contribute to this! Thanks again.... :)

jwieties
02-06-2013, 09:20 AM
Now that I do not play guitar nearly as often... One thing I really miss is tuning to harmonics. I have pretty poor pitch and when using harmonics you don't just hear it come into tune, put you can also feel the pulse of the note come into unison. Always loved that. Much harder on the uke. Not very practical, but I will sometimes play around with artificial harmonics to check tuning. For some reason me ear just hears it better.

pulelehua
02-06-2013, 09:33 AM
Tuning is a very crazy universe. I usually spend a lesson with my Sixth Formers discussing the differences between equal temperament and just intonation. If it's not something you're familiar with, we knock our scale out of tune to make the distance between all the notes the same. By the natural laws of physics, the distances aren't equal. So, when people from other, Non-Westernised cultures listen to our music, it sounds out of tune, because... well, it is. And has been for about 300 years.

So, if you tune by ear any interval other than a unison, you will probably unconsciously tune to the just-intoned interval, which is different from the equal-tempered interval. So, when you hear that it's impossible to tune a stringed instrument, it's not a philosophical comment. It's a mathematical certainty.

The engineer who insists on the digital tuner wants everything equally out of tune. The player who knows the song is in G (and importantly, doesn't stray to too many different keys) can tune their instrument so that G is more in tune. The engineer is doing what makes neutral, mathematical sense. The player is breaking the rules of equal temperament in a specific context. In my limited experience, I strongly favour the player favouring keys. As long as they remember to adjust afterwards.

I imagine, given ukulele tuning, that players with good ears almost always cheat their ukuleles toward the key of C without even meaning to.

mm stan
02-06-2013, 09:43 AM
Sometimes I tune by a melody on the A string too... I play a familiar and favorite riff and go from there... as I use alternative tunings for different songs...

OldePhart
02-06-2013, 11:09 AM
Now that I do not play guitar nearly as often... One thing I really miss is tuning to harmonics. I have pretty poor pitch and when using harmonics you don't just hear it come into tune, put you can also feel the pulse of the note come into unison. Always loved that. Much harder on the uke. Not very practical, but I will sometimes play around with artificial harmonics to check tuning. For some reason me ear just hears it better.

Yes, the "beat note" is a large part of making ear-tuning possible (and generally more accurate than a tuner) for me. And it's exactly why I tune the open G to the fretted E string G, and so on, as I described earlier. I guess the fact that the notes are unison makes it both necessary, and possible, to tune them to exactly match.

For those who might not know what you're talking about...what happens is that when you mix two frequencies (be they audio sound waves or radio waves, etc.) you get two additional frequencies, the sum and the difference. When you have two notes that are very close to exactly the same pitch the difference frequency is detectable as a "pulse" or "beat note." This "pulse" slows down as you get closer to the two pitches being in unison, at which point it disappears entirely. This is why when tuning by ear you always start with one string obviously low, all you have to do is gradually tune it up until you hear the beat note slow down and stop.

It's also why a quiet room is important, because if there is a lot of noise going on around it can greatly interfere with your ability to detect that beat note (because you've got a whole bunch of other frequencies from other sources that are also mixing with the tones you're attempting to tune).

Kind of a funny story...I was working on adjusting the nut on one of my guitars once and just could not get the strings in tune - finally I noticed that the ceiling fan over my head was on and set on "slow" and the doppler affect was mimicking the sound of a beat note...

John

Katz-in-Boots
02-06-2013, 11:11 AM
Agree 100%.... It took me some time to come to terms with this having come from a fretless instrument (the viola) where minor adjustments to pitch are constantly made depending on the key or where the note fits in the chord.

Me 3. Having had to tune to the oboe A in orchestra, then tune the other strings to that, I've always thought fretted instrument players have it easy in tuning the strings to each other.
Whatever instrument we play it seems we are battling the standardised intervals. The note B needs to be that tiny bit sharper when it is the 7th in the key of C, but lower when in another key. Switch a minor key and it is all out.

As someone who cringes when someone plays or sings even a little bit out - especially if sharp, I am never satisfied with my tuner's judgement. I used to waste a lot of time tuning my cello. Somehow with uke, a little out of tune just adds to its charm though.

pulelehua
02-06-2013, 11:27 AM
...
Somehow with uke, a little out of tune just adds to its charm though.

I suspect this is to do with the fact that when a ukulele is out of tune, much of the harmonic interference is beyond 20kHz, so only dogs care. :)

ShawnMilo
02-06-2013, 11:43 AM
I use the Peterson Strobo Clip, with its "sweetened" tuning. If I understand it correctly, it makes exactly the tradeoff described in the original post. It "fixes" the discrepancies in the more common combinations at the expense of worsening others. So, for the most part, the uke sounds more "perfectly tuned."

stevepetergal
02-13-2013, 03:41 AM
This is all well and good but, from a piano tuner's perspective, a waste of time. Sure you can adjust your tuning to sound "better" in the key of G major, or any other key, BUT it will only sound "better when you play a G major chord. Every other chord in the music you play will be further out than if you simply use the tempered scale. So, "better in G" is "worse" in musical context. (sincere apologies, but it's very simple physics)
All this looking for trouble where none exists is troubling. If you listened this carefully to the recordings of your most favorite professionals on the very best instruments, you'd hear the same discrepancies. You just don't notice because the focus is the MUSIC (and sound).

OldePhart
02-13-2013, 06:27 AM
This is all well and good but, from a piano tuner's perspective, a waste of time. Sure you can adjust your tuning to sound "better" in the key of G major, or any other key, BUT it will only sound "better when you play a G major chord. Every other chord in the music you play will be further out than if you simply use the tempered scale. So, "better in G" is "worse" in musical context. (sincere apologies, but it's very simple physics).

Actually not true (or true only from a piano tuner's perspective :) ). With a stringed and fretted instrument the notes you use playing in a particular key are repeated through most of the chords in that key (for a given "position" on the uke) and there are unison intervals in those chords (especially on a reentrant uke).

This entire technique is completely moot on a piano where every note is tuned individually, there are never two notes played on a single string, and, most importantly, where there are no unisons.

But on a guitar or especially on a reentrant uke, yeah, the difference is sometimes downright obvious - and that's on ukes that intonate pretty well in the first position - I suspect that the difference might be even more obvious on a "factory" uke that hasn't been set up properly.


If you listened this carefully to the recordings of your most favorite professionals on the very best instruments, you'd hear the same discrepancies. You just don't notice because the focus is the MUSIC

Depends greatly on the "professionals," honestly. There are some "professional" recordings out there that I can't tolerate listening to at all. The people I tend to listen to have been obsessing over exactly this kind of thing for a long time. :)

Actually, the more I play well-tuned instruments the more that I notice these discrepancies, even in popular recorded music. And, oh my word, don't even get me started on how bad auto-tuned stuff stinks - yet neither my wife nor daughter can even detect when an auto-tune is being used most of the time! LOL

Oh, and, BTW, I'm not claiming to have a bionic ear, by any means, but my pitch accuracy has developed remarkably since I've been playing instruments that intonate well (about 3 or 4 years now, I guess). Up until I bought nut files and started setting my guitars up, I could tolerate a guitar that was off by as much as ten cents at the first fret. Now a guitar that is a few cents out at the first fret is so distracting to me that I can barely play. Years ago I used to think my blind friend (who has perfect absolute pitch) was nuts when he'd say certain chords were bad on my guitars - now I can hear exactly what he suffered through all those years!

John

grendel1972
02-13-2013, 08:38 AM
John has this one right. The adjustments being made are for a certain key, not a certain chord. When I tune my uke I'm sweetening it for the key of C (assuming I'm tuning my stings gcea) as that is going to fit the best for what I usually play. If I play something in B Major, though, you can bet I'm not going to make exactly the same adjustments). This is the way all keyboard instruments were tuned prior to tempered tuning becoming the standard. Tempered tuning has a lot of benefits, but it also involves trade-offs.

There are very few instruments that are limited by tempered tuning, and players of those instruments (or singers) naturally make slight adjustments. A c# in the key of c# minor is not the same note as a c# in the key of A Major. It's just not. The tempered tuning of a piano and fretted instruments loses this distinction.

Just listen to any Louis Armstrong's trumpet playing. He is almost never exactly on the exact pitch he'd be forced into if he were playing the piano. The slight adjustments, inflections, leans, it's part of what makes his playing great.

Tootler
02-13-2013, 09:01 AM
Years ago, when I tried to learn guitar, I used the beat method to tune up but it used to take me forever. I found I could tell when two strings were out of tune but I couldn't always tell whether the one I was adjusting was sharp or flat so I used to go to and fro.

Now with an electronic tuner I can quickly get very close. I then check by ear and find that much of the time I don't really need to make much more adjustment. I find my Snark is pretty accurate.

OldePhart
02-13-2013, 10:42 AM
Years ago, when I tried to learn guitar, I used the beat method to tune up but it used to take me forever. I found I could tell when two strings were out of tune but I couldn't always tell whether the one I was adjusting was sharp or flat so I used to go to and fro.

The trick is to start obviously low and work up to the correct pitch (I suppose you could start intentionally high and work down, but the convention seems to be to start low and increase). When the beat note disappears or is so slow as to be unnoticeable in the current ambient noise conditions you're there. This is why you almost always see pros who tune in mid-song or mid-set drop the pitch and then bring it back up.

John

stevepetergal
02-13-2013, 02:45 PM
Quoting OldePharte:
"Actually not true (or true only from a piano tuner's perspective :) ). With a stringed and fretted instrument the notes you use playing in a particular key are repeated through most of the chords in that key (for a given "position" on the uke) and there are unison intervals in those chords (especially on a reentrant uke).

This entire technique is completely moot on a piano where every note is tuned individually, there are never two notes played on a single string, and, most importantly, where there are no unisons."

Well, I still think this is too T.M.I. for us ukulele players, but here goes. When you play a chord, what makes it sound in tune is the intervals in the chord, [B]not the unisons as you seem to suggest. So, piano tuning principles do apply. When we adjust tuning to make one chord sound better, the other chords in the same scale, having intervals with different notes in them, or worse, some notes in common and others not, (even just the dominant and subdominant) all those other chords will be farther out or more harsh sounding than your "adjusted" chord. It's all in the relationships between the different notes. You can get all the A's to line up perfectly with each other, all the Bb's, B's, C's... all the unisons and octaves to lineup, but the relationship between the A and the Bb, the Bb and the B, the B and C,... Those will be all further out of tune than with the tempered scale. It really is very simple physics and utterly "true" even for us ukulele players.

Nickie
02-13-2013, 05:28 PM
Wow...this is simply mind boggling...I've been studying piano for a year, and this is still going right over my head...I'm studying the Ukulele Fretboard Roadmap...some of it makes sense, and some of it doens't...I'm unsure how accurate my hearing is...but my tuner seems right on, maybe more accurate than my hearing.
Thanks, this gives me more to try to stuff under my blond hair...

grendel1972
02-14-2013, 03:31 AM
"Actually not true (or true only from a piano tuner's perspective :) ). With a stringed and fretted instrument the notes you use playing in a particular key are repeated through most of the chords in that key (for a given "position" on the uke) and there are unison intervals in those chords (especially on a reentrant uke).

This entire technique is completely moot on a piano where every note is tuned individually, there are never two notes played on a single string, and, most importantly, where there are no unisons."



Well, I still think this is too T.M.I. for us ukulele players, but here goes. When you play a chord, what makes it sound in tune is the intervals in the chord, not the unisons as you seem to suggest. So, piano tuning principles [B]do apply. When we adjust tuning to make one chord sound better, the other chords in the same scale, having intervals with different notes in them, or worse, some notes in common and others not, (even just the dominant and subdominant) all those other chords will be farther out or more harsh sounding than your "adjusted" chord. It's all in the relationships between the different notes. You can get all the A's to line up perfectly with each other, all the Bb's, B's, C's... all the unisons and octaves to lineup, but the relationship between the A and the Bb, the Bb and the B, the B and C,... Those will be all further out of tune than with the tempered scale. It really is very simple physics and utterly "true".

Having unisons or octaves out of tune in a chord is the #1 thing that will make a chord sound out of tune. This seems totally beyond debate. Play a G Major chord on a uke. Whether it is re-entrant or linear, that G unison or octave that is present, if it is out of tune, whether or not the major and minor thirds also present in the chord are spot on (which they cannot both be, for reasons of physics, but let's just pretend), the chord will sound out of tune. Sure, it will still sound like a G-Major chord, because it's the intervals that make it sound like a G-Major chord, but it will sound like an out-of-tune G-Major chord. If you get that octave/unison spot on, and the thirds are slightly off, but generally in the right place, it will sound like an in-tune G-Major chord. The third of a chord is inherently "out of tune" because of the physics involved.

Your point that you can't "have it all" with a fretted instrument is correct. If you sweeten your tuning to cheat towards G Major, then you are going to run into trouble if you stray from the typical chords in the key of G-Major. I would guess that most people here are playing music that stays firmly in one key, or maybe has a secondary dominant at the most. If you're playing music that changes keys, then I think a tempered scale is probably going to serve you the best, but I'm still going to cringe when I hear that out of tune octave/unison.

The Big Kahuna
02-14-2013, 03:36 AM
Now that I do not play guitar nearly as often... One thing I really miss is tuning to harmonics. I have pretty poor pitch and when using harmonics you don't just hear it come into tune, put you can also feel the pulse of the note come into unison. Always loved that. Much harder on the uke. Not very practical, but I will sometimes play around with artificial harmonics to check tuning. For some reason me ear just hears it better.

^ This.

^^ Oh just so this!

stevepetergal
02-14-2013, 06:24 AM
Wow...this is simply mind boggling...I've been studying piano for a year, and this is still going right over my head...I'm studying the Ukulele Fretboard Roadmap...some of it makes sense, and some of it doens't...I'm unsure how accurate my hearing is...but my tuner seems right on, maybe more accurate than my hearing.
Thanks, this gives me more to try to stuff under my blond hair...

It should be over our heads. As I keep saying, it's looking for trouble where none exists. Don't worry about tuning. Play. Enjoy!

pulelehua
02-14-2013, 10:44 AM
I think a problem here is that we're talking about "in tune" as if there is a single definition for that. And there's not.

The distance from C to E on a piano is 4 semitones, or 400 cents. In the key of C, that makes it 14 cents out of tune, from a physics perspective. In just intonation (Or Pythagorean tuning), the distance from the root to the major third is 386 cents, which gives a vibrating ratio of 5/4). A fourth isn't 500 cents. It should be 498 cents (if it is vibrating at the correct ratio of 4:3).

So, imagine you tune your guitar by using neighbouring strings. The E string is in tune. The A "in tune" is actually 2 cents sharp. The D "in tune" is 2 cents sharper. The G gets us to a total of 6 cents out of tune. Then we have the B, a major third. This is a bit of a disaster, as it knocks us 14 cents sharp. Then our top E is 2 cents sharp.

E 0
A +2
D +2
G +2
B +14
E +2

If you tune every note "correctly", by the time you get to the other side, your high E will be 22 cents sharp compared to your low E. So, what do you do? Tune by harmonics? Not at the 7th fret. Then you have the problem that the harmonic note and the fretted note aren't exactly the same.

Probably, you use a digital tuner, which equates the open strings to the compromise frequencies of equal temperament. Equal temperament yields a tuning which is a compromise. It's a good compromise. But it's not "perfectly" in tune.

Does it matter? Well, sometimes, it certainly can. Brass instruments blow overtones in perfect tune. Hence, the highest overtones sound "out of tune" to us as they are the furthest from equal temperament (brass players even have a little finger slide to adjust these harmonics to equal temperament). String players often play in just intonation (the joys of no frets). You can sometimes hear the strings, playing without the rest of the orchestra, suddenly shift to equal temperament when the rest of the orchestra starts playing.

This isn't important to everyone. But it is to some people. And for some people, it does have practical consequences.

Steedy
02-14-2013, 11:17 AM
I'm just happy if I can tune the open strings with my Snark, and then have my C, F, and G chords sound in tune. :)

OldePhart
02-14-2013, 11:23 AM
I'm just happy if I can tune the open strings with my Snark, and then have my C, F, and G chords sound in tune. :)

Heh, heh, which brings us full circle because...

If, after tuning with the open strings with the snark the chords don't sound in tune, tune the open G string to the 3rd-fretted E string, then the open-A string to the 2nd-fretted G string and then your C, G, and Am chords will all sound more in tune and, unless the intonation is really terrible, the C chord might be slightly less in tune but it won't be noticeable because there aren't any unisons in it. :)

John

grendel1972
02-14-2013, 11:35 AM
I think a problem here is that we're talking about "in tune" as if there is a single definition for that. And there's not.

The distance from C to E on a piano is 4 semitones, or 400 cents. In the key of C, that makes it 14 cents out of tune, from a physics perspective. In just intonation (Or Pythagorean tuning), the distance from the root to the major third is 386 cents, which gives a vibrating ratio of 5/4). A fourth isn't 500 cents. It should be 498 cents (if it is vibrating at the correct ratio of 4:3).

So, imagine you tune your guitar by using neighbouring strings. The E string is in tune. The A "in tune" is actually 2 cents sharp. The D "in tune" is 2 cents sharper. The G gets us to a total of 6 cents out of tune. Then we have the B, a major third. This is a bit of a disaster, as it knocks us 14 cents sharp. Then our top E is 2 cents sharp.

E 0
A +2
D +2
G +2
B +14
E +2

If you tune every note "correctly", by the time you get to the other side, your high E will be 22 cents sharp compared to your low E. So, what do you do? Tune by harmonics? Not at the 7th fret. Then you have the problem that the harmonic note and the fretted note aren't exactly the same.

Probably, you use a digital tuner, which equates the open strings to the compromise frequencies of equal temperament. Equal temperament yields a tuning which is a compromise. It's a good compromise. But it's not "perfectly" in tune.

Does it matter? Well, sometimes, it certainly can. Brass instruments blow overtones in perfect tune. Hence, the highest overtones sound "out of tune" to us as they are the furthest from equal temperament (brass players even have a little finger slide to adjust these harmonics to equal temperament). String players often play in just intonation (the joys of no frets). You can sometimes hear the strings, playing without the rest of the orchestra, suddenly shift to equal temperament when the rest of the orchestra starts playing.

This isn't important to everyone. But it is to some people. And for some people, it does have practical consequences.

:agree:

You write complex concepts very clearly. I very much appreciate it!

ChaosToo
02-14-2013, 11:12 PM
I'm not going to pretend I understand much of what is being said - but I do like to mess about with stuff, so here's what I just did. I have no reason to suspevct what I'm doing is correct, but I just tried to be logical about how I've interpretted the posts so far......

I tuned my C string open to the tuner, I then fretted that tuned C string at the 4th fret and tuned the E string (open) to that pitch (5c#). I then fretted the E at the 5th fret and tuned the A string (now about 10c#). Finally, I went back and fretted the C at fret 7 and tuned the G to that (again, about 5c#).

Now, I've no clue about the theory behind anything, and I'm not entirely convinced that what I've done is correct, nor whether the resulting chords are any more 'in tune' than before, but one thing I defintely have noticed is a high harmonic note being produced when I strum chords - and it's really evident on an E chord.

It has really changed the sound of the uke and I really like it.

Anyone care to explain what I've done in simple terms? :D

pulelehua
02-15-2013, 12:50 PM
I'm not going to pretend I understand much of what is being said - but I do like to mess about with stuff, so here's what I just did. I have no reason to suspevct what I'm doing is correct, but I just tried to be logical about how I've interpretted the posts so far......

I tuned my C string open to the tuner, I then fretted that tuned C string at the 4th fret and tuned the E string (open) to that pitch (5c#). I then fretted the E at the 5th fret and tuned the A string (now about 10c#). Finally, I went back and fretted the C at fret 7 and tuned the G to that (again, about 5c#).

Now, I've no clue about the theory behind anything, and I'm not entirely convinced that what I've done is correct, nor whether the resulting chords are any more 'in tune' than before, but one thing I defintely have noticed is a high harmonic note being produced when I strum chords - and it's really evident on an E chord.

It has really changed the sound of the uke and I really like it.

Anyone care to explain what I've done in simple terms? :D

Without trying to work out the maths of what you've done...

It sounds like you've put certain harmonics in tune with each other. So, for instance, when you play an E chord, the E string produces harmonics which overlap a fair bit with the harmonics from the B (2nd fret 1st string, I presume). So possibly the harmonic B an octave high than the B string, and an octave and a 5th higher than the E string, is particularly in tune. Harmonics always occur at just intonation ratios, so equal temperament knocks them out of tune in a way which is similar to how it knocks fundamentals out of tune. Change the fundamentals in a particular way, and you can tune the harmonics more sympathetically.

Sorry to not provide the nitty gritty, but it's almost midnight. ;)

pulelehua
02-15-2013, 12:53 PM
I would like to see some more of the physics and frequencies in Hz note notes in a continuing discussion.


One of the problems with using Hertz is that the relative "size" of a Hertz changes dramatically depending on register. The 20 Hertz from 20-40Hz covers an octave. So does the 10,000 Hertz from 10-20kHz. So, not always useful.

I loved your post. If we are ever in the same place, I hereby fine myself one beer, which you can redeem at your watering hole of choice.

billcarr
02-16-2013, 09:00 AM
I am very new to the ukulele and never played any other instrument than Highland pipes, Scottish and Northumbrian smallpipes at competition level. I teach, restore antique pipes and make cane reeds that sell the world over. Like most pipers I am not too familiar with music theory other than what pertains to the bagpipe. I consider myself a good piper (God knows there are some awful pipers playing hopelessly tuned instruments out there).
I started out using an electronic tuner for the uke but it just didnít sound right to my ďjust intonationĒ trained ear. I recently started tuning the G string with the tuner and then tuning the others by ear with the beat note method. Itís how we tune the drones on all bagpipes and really, it takes years to master this on the pipes.
To my ear, tuning by ear gives me a much nicer sound with lots of overtones and harmonics. Using a tuner gets me close but itís the final tweaking by ear that pushes my button.

By the way.. Are there any other pipers amongst you all?

Bill

pulelehua
02-16-2013, 11:04 AM
In solfege, a ukulele would be

SOL DO MI LA

OldePhart
02-16-2013, 01:39 PM
By the way.. Are there any other pipers amongst you all?

Bill
Only if wanna be counts. Love the pipes (especially Uilleann) but so far have resisted the urge to become mediocre on yet another instrument. :)

John

Skrik
02-16-2013, 07:45 PM
http://www.phy.mtu.edu/~suits/notefreqs.html

Here is a table of notes and frequencies. Notice that at the top is is set for A = 440Hz and a given speed of sound. If either of these are varied, the numbers in the table will change.

For someone who understands the physics and sonics of it, this discussion is highly entertaining; however coupling in standard temperature and pressure, altitude, and (dare I mention) the Doppler effect, and there are legion variables we have little control over.

Conclusion? Tune to the best of your ability, and enjoy the out of tune music.

pulelehua
02-17-2013, 02:11 AM
For someone who understands the physics and sonics of it, this discussion is highly entertaining; however coupling in standard temperature and pressure, altitude, and (dare I mention) the Doppler effect, and there are legion variables we have little control over.

Conclusion? Tune to the best of your ability, and enjoy the out of tune music.

Yes, it is frustrating to play in the cold with people who quickly run by you down a steep hill while panting heavily on their ukuleles. ;)

Skinny Money McGee
02-17-2013, 03:32 AM
Is it safe to remove the duct tape wrapped around my head?

Pukulele Pete
02-17-2013, 03:51 AM
I think you are listening too much. Thankfully I can't understand what you are saying , so my uke still sounds great.

stevepetergal
02-26-2013, 04:48 AM
is it safe to remove the duct tape wrapped around my head?

absolutely not!!

stevepetergal
03-02-2013, 11:03 AM
Your point that you can't "have it all" with a fretted instrument is correct. If you sweeten your tuning to cheat towards G Major, then you are going to run into trouble if you stray from the typical chords in the key of G-Major.

Close, but no cigar. If you stray from that one chord, you run into trouble. You cannot pick and choose.

pulelehua
03-03-2013, 03:25 AM
Close, but no cigar. If you stray from that one chord, you run into trouble. You cannot pick and choose.

Actually, grendel1972 has it right, I think. If you tune towards G major, and tune your ukulele to the Just Intonation intervals of G major, then the chords of G major should sound quite in tune, as the relative intervals within the key will be fairly correct. Chords in related keys will sound not great, and chords in unrelated keys will sound increasingly out of tune. Related keys share similar key signatures. So, if in G major, then C and D major will sound okay-ish. Distantly related keys, like Db or B, will sound pretty horrific. I would need to sit with an ukulele and a tuning chart to work it out exactly, but it makes sense in my head. <assuming my head is functioning correctly... always a concern>

If you want to do Just Intonation "correctly" on a fretted instrument, you need separate frets for each string. This is a duo with such an instrument and a fretless guitar. So, both can reach the correct, perfect acoustic intervals.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JT0z2nOyUlg

stevepetergal
03-04-2013, 08:42 AM
Okay, I'm abandoning this thread after this one. You cannot tune "toward" G without throwing everything else out. Pretend you can all you want.

Simple example:
In the equal temperament (same as your electronic tuner uses), a major third is an expanded interval. This means that the top note is tuned higher than it would be in a pure interval. So, to tune your G major chord "better" or "sweeter" you must contract the major third to a more perfect interval than the equal temperament designates. This can be done for the common 0232 chord. You simply lower the A string. But, now your A is flat in your D Major 2220, and your high C is flat in your subdominant C major 0003 (a disaster because there is a lower C in that chord). This is just the simplest possible example. There are dozens of other relationship issues you get by lowering just that one string. I won't go into all of them, obviously. But, consider the fact that other intervals are designed to be contracted like the perfect fifth and most drastically the minor third. When you lower a string to make major thirds sound better, what happens when you move up the neck and you use that same string for an already contracted interval? With a minor third, you're closing in on quarter tones because this is already a very diminished interval. One other simply explained discrepency: With the lowered A string described above, play a 5557 G major chord. Now you have a G on top lowered. Your octave is out in your root chord. Plus you've now got a contracted perfect fourth (which should be an expanded interval) and a perfect fifth contracted. A perfect fifth is the interval which is tuned closest to pure, being very slightly contracted. When a perfect fifth is contracted further the beats, which OldePhart sort of describes in this thread, become faster and make the chord very ugly. Your G major chord is out of tune with your G major chord.

This is not even the tip of the iceberg.

Let's give the ukulele community a break. I say we stop confusing things. Use the tuner.

grendel1972
03-04-2013, 09:45 AM
Okay, I'm abandoning this thread after this one. You cannot tune "toward" G without throwing everything else out. Pretend you can all you want.

Simple example:
In the equal temperament (same as your electronic tuner uses), a major third is an expanded interval. This means that the top note is tuned higher than it would be in a pure interval. So, to tune your G major chord "better" or "sweeter" you must contract the major third to a more perfect interval than the equal temperament designates. This can be done for the common 0232 chord. You simply lower the A string. But, now your A is flat in your D Major 2220, and your high C is flat in your subdominant C major 0003 (a disaster because there is a lower C in that chord). This is just the simplest possible example. There are dozens of other relationship issues you get by lowering just that one string. I won't go into all of them, obviously. But, consider the fact that other intervals are designed to be contracted like the perfect fifth and most drastically the minor third. When you lower a string to make major thirds sound better, what happens when you move up the neck and you use that same string for an already contracted interval? With a minor third, you're closing in on quarter tones because this is already a very diminished interval. One other simply explained discrepency: With the lowered A string described above, play a 5557 G major chord. Now you have a G on top lowered. Your octave is out in your root chord. Plus you've now got a contracted perfect fourth (which should be an expanded interval) and a perfect fifth contracted. A perfect fifth is the interval which is tuned closest to pure, being very slightly contracted. When a perfect fifth is contracted further the beats, which OldePhart sort of describes in this thread, become faster and make the chord very ugly. Your G major chord is out of tune with your G major chord.

This is not even the tip of the iceberg.

Let's give the ukulele community a break. I say we stop confusing things. Use the tuner.

I think the disconnect here is that you're talking about sweetening towards a single chord, and I'm talking about sweetening towards a single key. You can certainly sweeten towards a single key (i.e., slight adjustments from the tempered scale based on what key you're playing in), it's the way all of western music worked before the advent of the tempered scale.

I cannot imagine anyone sweetening a single chord so that single chord is in "perfect" tuning, while ignoring the rest of the relevant key. That seems so absurd to me that it would only be raised as an argument to refute.

The proof is in the pudding. I do this every time I play and I don't run into the cascading intonation problems you're describing. I'm used to playing a fretless instrument, so my ear is pretty well attuned to this stuff. I by no means think everyone should be doing this, but not everyone here is confused by this stuff, and I think it's helpful to have discussions at all levels.

hibiscus
03-04-2013, 11:07 AM
Well. . .I tune my ukuleles to my well tuned piano, and then I check each string in relation to my A string, and i seldom find anything out of tune. Then i just play and have FUN!

grendel1972
03-04-2013, 01:35 PM
Here is a useful link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_intonation

As I said before, there is a difference between when you want to talk about tuning and when you actually want to play a tune. If you want to play a tune, tune the instrument as best you can by ear or electronic tuner or piano or tuning fork, and then play on. If you want to talk about tuning refer to the link which seems to have about five or six pages and some really great words like pythagorean and serialism and atonal. This is the place to talk about tuning, right here on UU. If you want to play a tune, you wont be able to do that very well while reading this page.
It is interesting that the Pythogorean tuning shown uses C as the reference point, instead of A which we seem to use today. So the problem with working out what is happening could extend back to the ancient Greeks, as they found out the limitations between theory and practice.
Also a problem with tuning to a piano when you want to play is that it is hard to keep one in your pocket. Secondly, according to this article - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_tuning - pianos are tuned to equal temperament, not just temperament. So when you use them to tune your uke using a piano it may be getting equal temperament, which I think is what an electronic tuner uses. But I don't see why you wouldn't use a piano if there is one available, that is what greats like GF did.
Just to show that this discussion topic is not new, here is a link to a FMM post on the same topic from 2009, there will be more I think if you go back further. If the link works, scroll down to the post by a fellow called John Kavanagh, who was a great contributor on this sort of topic, sadly he is no longer with us.

https://www.fleamarketmusic.com/bulletin/bulletin-single.asp?popup=true&BulletinID=24552

What I like about this topic is that it helps get to the key practical things about intervals and notes and scales, so I think anyone interested should persevere until they start to get an inkling of how the big words actually relate to the noises made by the strings.

Great post Bill! Those John Kavanagh posts are really great. I can't access the links at work, but I'm guessing they are no longer working. If you have and would be willing to share, I would be very much interested.

Dan Uke
03-04-2013, 04:55 PM
The more I read, the stupider I feel...back to playing the uke

pulelehua
03-05-2013, 09:34 AM
I've thought about this properly now. I think I'm going to end up repeating some of what stevepetergal said, but I'll throw in some numbers to illustrate his logic.

A fretted instrument is best based on the logic of equal temperament. Because unless you individualise the frets to strings, as in the video above, you end up applying symmetrical intervals once you go up the neck. You simply don't have a choice. You have to move on each string in the same ratio of an octave, and you have no ability to differentiate between them. So that, if you were to adjust the frets so that a single string conformed to some form of just intonation, you would lose the interval relationships as soon as you switched strings.

So, for instance, taking a ukulele with standard frets.

You tune the C string. We'll reference this as 0 cents, as it's our lowest note.
C = 0
We now tune our E string to Ptolemy's Intense Diatonic Scale - which is the JI scale I've usually seen.
E = 386
We now fret C on the E string. C is the 8th fret. We add 800 cents (100 per fret).
High C = 1186 (or 14 cents flat, well past the range we perceive as "out of tune" of about 6 cents for most people)
If we continue the logic, and tune our A string
A = 884
Clearly if we fret C, we will be 16 cents flat.
The G string isn't bad at all.
G = 702
So, if we play C on that string, we get 1202, which isn't bad. But of course, E will be 1602. Removing the octave (1200 cents), we get 402 (1602-1200), or 16 cents sharp of our open E.

What probably is worth asking is, short of a tuner, what is the best way to tune. With a guitar, tuning straight across from bottom to top causes problems due to our ear favouring just intonation. That is, when it sounds "in tune" to us, it is when it hits the Just Intonation frequency, not the even 100 cent division of the octave. There are some well known ways of tuning guitars: some strings in octaves, others by adjacent strings, all intended to balance in favour of equal temperament. There will be a similar method or methods for ukulele. If no one volunteers them, I'll try to work them out.

Hope that's thrown more water than petrol on the fire. ;)

grendel1972
03-05-2013, 09:41 AM
What probably is worth asking is, short of a tuner, what is the best way to tune. With a guitar, tuning straight across from bottom to top causes problems due to our ear favouring just intonation. That is, when it sounds "in tune" to us, it is when it hits the Just Intonation frequency, not the even 100 cent division of the octave. There are some well known ways of tuning guitars: some strings in octaves, others by adjacent strings, all intended to balance in favour of equal temperament. There will be a similar method or methods for ukulele. If no one volunteers them, I'll try to work them out.

I eagerly await this!

OldePhart
03-05-2013, 12:02 PM
There are some well known ways of tuning guitars: some strings in octaves, others by adjacent strings, all intended to balance in favour of equal temperament. There will be a similar method or methods for ukulele. If no one volunteers them, I'll try to work them out.

Hope that's thrown more water than petrol on the fire. ;)

Keep in mind that this has nothing to do with "sweetened" tunings (it's kind of funny how far off the rails my original post has gone but I love that kind of thing). Anyway, here's what I do in a nutshell.

Tune the open 4th string to the 2nd string at the third fret.
Tune the open 1st string to the 4th string fretted at the second fret.
Tune the 3rd string fretted at the fourth fret to the open 2nd string.

The unisons in the F, G, D, Dm, Am, and A chords are now all perfect and, unless your setup at the nut is atrocious, doing this has not cost you anything in the other chords (they weren't going to be perfect anyway and chances are they aren't any less perfect now). If your setup at the nut is poor this can make the difference between sounding terrible and sounding at least tolerable in the keys of C and G and, until you get the nut adjusted the uke is going to sound dreadful anyway in any key when tuned by the open strings and a tuner - this way you can at least get limited use of it until it is fixed.

So, back to those unisons. In the key of C or G and playing in position one every primary and secondary chord that contains a unison now has those unisons in perfect tune. Other keys that use the chords we "fixed" will also benefit and, again, this hasn't cost us anything - all we've done is favor the unisons in those chords that have them. If the uke is well set up we have not pulled anything else noticeably out of tune.

I'm not surprised that piano-focused folks don't get it - on a piano there is never a unison - the pitch at every key is unique. So, I'll state it one more time - this is not about "sweetened" tunings in the sense most people are (over) thinking this as. It's about making the best of the limitations of a fretted stringed instrument by limiting the most noticeable of the imperfections inherent in the design of the instrument, nothing more.

John

Dan Gleibitz
10-25-2016, 02:32 AM
Zombie thread alert!!!

This thread has blown my mind, and finally explained why when I tune by ear the electronic tuner disagrees.
Thanks to all contributors.