Stroboclip Sweetened Tuning - Snake oil or real benefit?

PereBourik

Ukulele don't judge
UU VIP
Joined
Nov 5, 2012
Messages
17,473
Points
38
Can anybody explain how the Sweetening changes the tuning from standard? Can you really hear a difference? The instructions cite "string deflection offsets." What is this?

New to the Stroboclip, but I've been using tuners from the start of my playing. So, comparing Stroboclip to Snark, et al, snake oil or real benefit?
 

Newportlocal

New member
Joined
Aug 14, 2012
Messages
13,280
Points
0
To each their own. I haven't read anyone being ecstatic over the sweetened tuning. I don't use it(the sweetened tuning setting.) I am sure others will chime in. I usually just use my little Tiki Gogo tuner. It's durable and I don't have to worry about breaking it. That being said when it really matters to me I use my peterson strobo clip. Also, I prefer using it once my strings have settled down. I love having the Strobo clip. Sweetened tuning is snake oil to me from my limited knowledge.
 

stevepetergal

New member
Joined
Aug 4, 2010
Messages
2,927
Points
0
We all want to believe in sweetened tuning. Talk to anyone who makes a living in the field, i.e. physicist, mathematician, your piano tuner.... There's no such thing. Sorry. Now, wait for the believers to chime in.
 

Wicked

New member
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
787
Points
0
"Sweetened Tuning" exists to compensate for the imperfect tuning of stringed instruments. No matter how perfect you think the intonation is on your ukulele... it just isn't. (Not unless you have compensated frets... or at least a compensated nut and saddle.)

The result of this imperfection is that some chords just don't sound quite right. This is especially true in today's world of electronic tuners. In the old days, everyone tuned by ear using unisons and octaves. When you were done, the open strings were not precisely tuned, but they sounded good together.

These tuners basically "detune" your open strings so that the intervals sound better... That being said, there are so many variables that I don't see how a preset sweetened tuning will work on every instrument. The ear method seems much simpler.
 

OldePhart

New member
Joined
Nov 18, 2010
Messages
8,342
Points
0
Basically what Wicked said - you can "sweeten" a tuning so a given set of chords sound better but then you are making a different set of chords sound worse. Besides, it's really only necessary (at least when playing primarily in first position) if your first position intonation is really bad - and if your instrument is constructed properly and set up well they just aren't that bad.

It is handy to know how you can bring a poorly intonated uke into a tuning that works well for playing in C in the first position, for example, but you don't need a tuner for that so much as a decent ear. Also, it's much better to fix the problem rather than the symptoms - get the string heights at the nut right and good level, properly crowned fretwork and most of your first-position intonation problems go away.

When different strings sound in unison in a chord is when tuning differences are most noticeable. So, for example, with the typical open G chord on ukulele the second and fourth strings are playing in unison (4th open and second fretted at the third fret). So, if you adjust the tuning of the second and fourth strings so this combination is perfectly in tune your G chord will sound sweeter. The other chords you're using a lot in the key of C are, of course, C and F. So, if you can "sweeten" those unison Gs then playing in C might sound better IF (and this is the big one) you were able to sweeten that unison without pulling the tuning of a unison in the other chords being used too far out. Your C chord will probably be tolerable because there are no unisons (the two C notes in the chord are an octave apart). However, the F chord has a unison on the A notes (4th fretted at 2 and the open 1st) - if your efforts to sweeten the G unison for the G chord pulled the A unison apart then your F chord is going to suffer.

So, if you are stuck with a ukulele that intonates very poorly in the first position you can make it almost playable in the key of C this way. First, use your tuner to tune all the strings. Then, fret the E string (2nd string) at the third and tune the E string by ear against the open 4th string (eliminate the "beat note"). Then, fret the 4th string at the second fret and tune the open A string against the fretted G string - again, by ear, to eliminate the "beat" note. You will now have a ukulele where the open A and E strings are slightly out of tune but the important unisons for the key of C are perfect. This little trick can make a "fingernails on blackboard" ukulele tolerable in the key of C until you can get it fixed properly.

So, bottom line, not exactly snake oil but not particularly useful, either.

Edit: Note - this works because the unison is the one "interval" that even someone with very poor pitch discrimination can hear as being off. Someone with a very refined ear that can discriminate other intervals is still going to be annoyed by the poorly intonating instrument!

John
 
Last edited:

OldePhart

New member
Joined
Nov 18, 2010
Messages
8,342
Points
0
A guy who can't recognize the obvious differences between a piano and a fretted instrument, the most important being, of course, that on a piano none of the keys are ever in unison... LOL
 

PereBourik

Ukulele don't judge
UU VIP
Joined
Nov 5, 2012
Messages
17,473
Points
38
Simple answer for me then is leave the sweetened tuning turned off and continue to enjoy playing 'ukulele.

Thanks
 

OldePhart

New member
Joined
Nov 18, 2010
Messages
8,342
Points
0
Simple answer for me then is leave the sweetened tuning turned off and continue to enjoy playing 'ukulele.

Thanks

That pretty much nails it. The Stroboclip is a very precise tuner (don't confuse precision and accuracy) and I use one when setting up a guitar or uke but the rest of the time I use the lighter and cheaper Snarks or the new NS Micro headstock tuner.

I've never bothered with the "sweetened" tunings on the tuner if for no other reason than that they assume too much about how much adjustment is needed for an instrument and frankly the ear is a better judge than relying on something programmed in as a compromise to work in "most" cases.

John
 
Last edited:

stevepetergal

New member
Joined
Aug 4, 2010
Messages
2,927
Points
0
Yes, tuning pianos and tuning fretted instruments are very different propositions. A guitar or ukulele is actually far more dependent on accurate tuning. De-tune a note on a piano, and you mess up its relationship with every other note. You can easily get away with it, by avoiding that note. De-tune a string on a guitar or ukulele and you destroy the relationship of all the notes that string might play with every note on the fretboard. The only way to salvage the tuning would be to not play that string at all. The fewer strings you have, really, the more you need them as accurate as possible.

That being said, some people can make a chord sound better by lowering or raising a string a tiny bit. But this can only be accomplished by a very highly experienced tuner with a problematic instrument. What he or she must do is make a change that compensates for flawed capabilities of the ukulele or guitar. But this is a self-destructive practice. The one chord that sounds better will be a little less off, but everything else you play will be seriously compromised unless the player doesn't use the de-tuned string. Impractical to useless. So, one could stretch the truth and say it can be done, but it doesn't work in the real world. Each "sweetened" tuning would not only be specific to one instrument only, but to only one inversion of only one chord in only one position on that one specific instrument. There most certainly is no formula. So an electric tuner cannot do it.
 

coolkayaker1

New member
Joined
Sep 12, 2011
Messages
7,504
Points
0
Isn't ultra-accurate, sweetened tuning on a ukulele a little like getting a complete engine tune-up by a Nascar certified mechanic on a Saab?
 

OldePhart

New member
Joined
Nov 18, 2010
Messages
8,342
Points
0
Okay...in the interests of fair warning I actually must give two such warnings. First, this post may be the direct result of a brain aneurism. Second, it's going a bit far afield from the original question though I will try to wander back that direction, eventually. Without further preamble...

I was fooling around counting up how many chords in various keys contain unisons when played on a reentrant uke and I think I've just realized what might be the third-greatest reason for the current popularity of low-G tuning of ukuleles. The first two reasons are, of course, the fact that it adds a few notes for picking and, even more importantly, that it facilitates familiar melody runs for players who started with guitar. (There are many melody runs on the four treble strings that are widely used in various styles of music and those translate directly from guitar to a linear-strung uke.)

But, I am hereby declaring :) that the third most popular reason for the popularity of linear tuning is it eliminates almost all unisons in common first-position chords. Since unisons are the most troublesome interval in that an out-of-tune unison is quite noticeable even to someone who hasn't yet developed much of an "ear" it follows that eliminating unisons, especially on less expensive ukes, means the resulting uke sounds more pleasant to the ear. Most people who are interested in playing music at all have a good enough ear that an out-of-tune unison "bothers" them even if they don't recognize the reason - eliminate those unisons and suddenly a mediocre instrument sounds better to them.

Now, even in low-G that mediocre instrument is still going to sound pretty sorry to someone who has developed their ear more completely - but I can see where low-G is a more "forgiving" tuning that can turn "fingernails on a blackboard" into "tolerable" (and do it without resorting to "sweetening" the tuning to a particular set of chords).

Okay, we return you to your regularly scheduled debates and please notice how I did cleverly get back on topic in the last sentence, above. :)

John
 

BigMamaJ40

New member
Joined
Nov 17, 2012
Messages
260
Points
0
I never thought to use my Stroboclip on a uke. I just gave it a try on my Kanilea tenor, strung low-G with Living Waters. The sweetened tuning does sound nicer than regular tuning -- it smooths out the dissonance in a few chords that usually bother me.

But the Stroboclip is a pain to use. I'll stick with the Snark Super Tight, and just flatten my G-string a bit.
 

Wicked

New member
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
787
Points
0
But, I am hereby declaring :) that the third most popular reason for the popularity of linear tuning is it eliminates almost all unisons in common first-position chords.

John, that is a very good point.
 

PereBourik

Ukulele don't judge
UU VIP
Joined
Nov 5, 2012
Messages
17,473
Points
38
Okay...in the interests of fair warning I actually must give two such warnings. First, this post may be the direct result of a brain aneurism. Second, it's going a bit far afield from the original question though I will try to wander back that direction, eventually. Without further preamble...

I was fooling around counting up how many chords in various keys contain unisons when played on a reentrant uke and I think I've just realized what might be the third-greatest reason for the current popularity of low-G tuning of ukuleles. The first two reasons are, of course, the fact that it adds a few notes for picking and, even more importantly, that it facilitates familiar melody runs for players who started with guitar. (There are many melody runs on the four treble strings that are widely used in various styles of music and those translate directly from guitar to a linear-strung uke.)

But, I am hereby declaring :) that the third most popular reason for the popularity of linear tuning is it eliminates almost all unisons in common first-position chords. Since unisons are the most troublesome interval in that an out-of-tune unison is quite noticeable even to someone who hasn't yet developed much of an "ear" it follows that eliminating unisons, especially on less expensive ukes, means the resulting uke sounds more pleasant to the ear. Most people who are interested in playing music at all have a good enough ear that an out-of-tune unison "bothers" them even if they don't recognize the reason - eliminate those unisons and suddenly a mediocre instrument sounds better to them.

Now, even in low-G that mediocre instrument is still going to sound pretty sorry to someone who has developed their ear more completely - but I can see where low-G is a more "forgiving" tuning that can turn "fingernails on a blackboard" into "tolerable" (and do it without resorting to "sweetening" the tuning to a particular set of chords).

Okay, we return you to your regularly scheduled debates and please notice how I did cleverly get back on topic in the last sentence, above. :)

John

Toss a pebble in the water and watch the resultant ripples. This is fun.

Hadn't thought about the unisons, mostly because I try to avoid all thoughts of theory. I have noticed that there is a little dissonance when I try to play some of my unison notes, not in chords, but just goofing off. Never occurred to me that such things would show up in chords and affect the sound. You may very well be right about this leading to the popularity of linear tuning. I've tried it on 3 different 'ukulele, concert and tenor, and it just sounds wrong to me.

Which leads me to posit a fourth reason for linear tuning's popularity. Players get bored with re-entrant tuning; linear tuning rationalizes the purchase of additional instruments.

But now I see that I don't really need my stroboclip because I'm not setting up my instruments, at least until I'm better than they are. I don't see that happening anytime soon.
 

OldePhart

New member
Joined
Nov 18, 2010
Messages
8,342
Points
0
...But now I see that I don't really need my stroboclip because I'm not setting up my instruments, at least until I'm better than they are. I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Actually...that's exactly backwards. The simple fact is that for many of us our "ear" doesn't get better until we begin playing only, or at least primarily, instruments that intonate well. Even after playing guitar for twenty years I could play anything that was within 10-cents at the first fret and it was just fine by me. I couldn't understand why friends (especially my blind friend with perfect pitch) would complain that my chords were off. Then, I bought a set of nut files and started setting up all of my instruments; guitars and, later when I started playing them, ukes. Two or three years of that and now one note off by more than a couple of cents vs. other notes in the chord makes me not even want to play that instrument!

About a year ago I pulled out one of my electric guitars that had been my favorite when I was playing guitar more regularly. It's a very expensive guitar that, before I started setting up instruments, had better intonation than any of my other guitars. Because the intonation was "so good" on it I hadn't bothered to take the nut files to it. It sat for a year or so (playing nothing but ukulele and bass nowadays) and then I pulled it out to lead worship on one Sunday when I had to fill in for our leader. The intonation was so terrible that it was distracting me and I literally could not play it - I had to dash home and get one of my other guitars that I had set up when I bought the nut files!

Now, there are some that would argue that's a bad thing - that it's better to be the guy who is perfectly happy playing something that is poorly tuned. I can even see where for some that argument might seem to make sense. But, it's the equivalent of going through life with rose-colored glasses - yeah, everything looks rosey...but you never get to appreciate the vivid, vibrant, blues and greens around you!

With the "curse" of cringing when a chord has a note a few cents off comes the ability to truly enjoy a superb instrument for more than the fact that it is visually pretty or cost a lot of money!

John
 

UkeKiddinMe

New member
Joined
Mar 6, 2013
Messages
972
Points
0
Ok, I'll play the stoopid guy.

I have not heard what a Sweetened Tuning yields, but I'm betting my ears find it an improvement.

:cool:
 

stevepetergal

New member
Joined
Aug 4, 2010
Messages
2,927
Points
0
An interesting bit of history on the subject of sweetened tuning:

Johann Sebastian Bach was sort of the originator of the sweetened tuning. He composed an extended work titled The Well-Tempered Clavier. It is made up of several smaller works for keyboard. They are performed on piano or its' other forerunner keyboard instruments. The thing that makes this master work so fascinating is that each piece within the larger work is composed in conjunction with its own specific, alternate temperment (different tuning), each of Bach's own design. So, the instrument is supposed to be tuned differently for each section. Bach's musical genius was so advanced that he realized that changing the individual relationships between intervals in the scale could be used to great musical/emotional effect. Although all octaves (and unisons obviously) would line up perfectly in all these scales, he could use the harshness of many of the intervals to create audible tension and the more sonorous one or two intervals for release. He utilized his "well-tempered" scales to assist in creating tension with the sour sounds that are inevitable in any scale except the equal temperment guitar and ukulele builders strive for. By the way, fretted instruments must be designed and built for the equal temperment. A keyboard instrument is not bound by this absolute physical law. Bach knew it could not be done on a fretted instrument. He used the alternate temperments more as what we might call "soured" scales but they are the same principle as the "sweetened" tunings. Each one was different and its accompanying piece used it in different ways. Bach was a person of such brilliance, most of us can't even begin to comprehend.
 
Last edited:

Wicked

New member
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
787
Points
0
I'm not really sure how this thread became so contentious, but let me try to calmly summarize my point (I cannot speak for anyone else.)

Fretted instruments cannot achieve perfect equal temperament. It's physically impossible with a standard fretboard. Pianos can... ukuleles can not. One can get close by properly compensating the saddle - or closer still by also compensating the nut - but unless each string has its own set of frets (and you never change your gauge/type of strings) equal temperament is unattainable on your ukulele/guitar/banjo/mandolin.

Sweetened tuning exists to tweak your instrument to give you better sounding intervals on an instrument with flawed temperament. It makes certain chords/keys sound better at the expense of other chords/keys.

That being said, we all seem to agree that sweetened tuning is pretty unnecessary for the ukulele.

After that, the thread quickly degenerated into a soup sandwich.... Again, I'm rather confused as to why that occurred.
 
Last edited: