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Am I crazy (harmonics question)?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by SirGrotius, Mar 6, 2010.

  1. So I picked up an American Standard Precision Bass recently since I've been obsessed with getting a thick sound in rock bands. For whatever reason it sounds okay on its own, but when I play with music it's like the best thing I've ever heard.


    I bought it off the shelf, so have been hyper critical of anything wrong with it. It was set up recently and seems well done.

    As I've been messing around with harmonics I noticed a slight dissonance between the A and D strings. So, if I hit the harmonic on the 5th fret A string and then 7th fret D string, it sounds exact but then will ever so slowly pulse out. The bass is perfectly tuned (using seventhstring online tuner).

    So I start freaking out and then pull out my other bass (American Jazz), tune that puppy up. Same thing.

    Am I missing something?

    When checking the intonation otherwise (for example open and 12th frets), everything else checks out.

    Do I have a couple "off" basses?

    Thanks in advance. :meh:
  2. No bass is "on"!!

    Its out of tune by design one way or another!
  3. DrSmaggs


    Oct 15, 2003
    Endorsing Artist:
    that and you never hit a perfect harmonic. This is also why people that try to tune by those harmonics always fail. There's also no such thing as perfect intonation across the entire fretboard, but it will be very close!
  4. Cix


    Oct 12, 2009
    Thousand Oaks, CA
    Are you tuning both of your basses to the same online tuner? If so, it might be a problem with the site's tuner or possibly even your computer speakers. That's the first thing that comes to my mind.

    I would recommend using a chormatic tuner if you've got one available to you. That way you can plug it in and you don't have to worry about speaker quality/outside noice. If you can't get reasonable access to one, try multiple tuning sites or tuning to multiple songs. Also, if using online sites and they give the option, I've found that using the Sine wave gives you a much more accurate tone.

    This is the online tuner I use every once and a while.
  5. Pulled out my old boss chromatic tuner and was perfectly in tune. Hmm. It's the lightest amount of harmonic dissonance. Perhaps I don't know how to hit a harmonic perfect.
  6. when two harmonics are played in unison their frequency can be very clearly heard resonating together, and since there is no way to get two different gauge strings to be perfectly in tune with another (and on an imperfect bass no less) even if they seem to resonate perfectly at first, the slight discrepancies in their frequencies will be become more apparent as they vibrate
  7. Tusec


    Jan 10, 2010
    Yours is a great question and the answer is here:


    Unless you understand this, you will always be fighting the tuning of your instrument.

    The short answer is that it is correct for the 5 and 7 harmonics to beat slightly when you are in tune. In fact, precisely matching those harmonics guarantees that you WON'T be in tune and shouldn't be done.
  8. peope


    Mar 4, 2010
    On some instruments C sharp sharp is not the same as a D.

    You can tune a piano for a specific scale.
    But if you change scale it will sound very wrong.

    So on the piano you tune so it sounds "good enough" for all the scales. Actually this is "off tune". (OK - terminology is not my strong point)

    But I do not know of any other way to have an instrument tuned to be able to play all the different scales OK.
  9. woo10


    Feb 22, 2004
    How about a fretless bass:bag:? The player of a fretless bass or a violin should not have any problems playing exactly in tune w/ any scale, the only limiting factor would be how good your ear is.

    Another way is if you have a (software) synthesizer or sampler that plays the exact notes depending on which scale you're playing. I don't recall the specific synth, but I have played around with a few software synth that featured many different types of tunings.
  10. peope


    Mar 4, 2010
    Quite true woo10.
    Didn't think of that.
  11. Getaway Driver

    Getaway Driver

    May 31, 2009
    Omaha, NE
  12. Tusec


    Jan 10, 2010
    Wow, very cool to see what a true temperament fretboard actually looks like (versus even temperament).
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    Primary TB Assistant

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