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colder weather and tuning

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by wrench45us, Dec 12, 2011.

  1. wrench45us


    Aug 26, 2011
    with the coming of winter, I'm having to retune a lot. My house has gotten colder and any time spent sitting in the car doesn't seem to help. I've dropped almost a half tone since summer.

    I thought with s Steinberger this wouldn't be such an issue. I guess I was wrong or there's more wood involved than graphite carbon.

    Since I'm new to all this I assume this is standard procedure.
    Any advice to minimize and/or stabilize the tuning come winter.
  2. Foamy


    Jun 26, 2006
    Sac Area
    Are you always playing in your house? Are you taking your basses into other climates (even indoors) for gigs?
    Best is always to acclimate your basses the best you can. Sometimes you can't.
    I had a SoundGear bass with a very very skinny neck. Man, I had to chase that neck down at least once per gig with an Allen/hex wrench to keep it playable.
    So the best way, really, is to keep temperature and humidity stable to the best of your ability.

    Also, I am not sure about your problem.
    In my experience, the cold tends to tighten up things which would make tuning go sharp, not flat.
  3. Arranger


    Mar 9, 2003
    The most important issue in tuning for a normal instrument with a wood neck is humidity. The colder the temperature, the less moisture there will be in the air and therefore the neck will dry out somewhat. When the neck goes dry, it has less internal tension and tends to loosen up on the strings a bit. Therefore, the pitch drops. In the spring when the humidity returns, it's normally necessary to tune down because most instruments start going sharp.

    Consider getting a whole house humidifier if you don't have one already. Adding back some moisture to your environment is not only going to stabilize your instrument's tuning (and intonation), but it's good for your own health, too. If you notice static electrical shocks in your environment, you can be sure it's too dry. Most players of wooden classical instruments will swear by the value of constant humidity control.

    Now, with instruments that have composite or inorganic neck/body structures, I'm sure there would be different factors at play. Depending on the comparative elasticities of the build composite(s) vs. the strings themselves, you may experience different results.
  4. Foamy


    Jun 26, 2006
    Sac Area
    It sounds like you're tuning twice a year. (And I know that's not the case) ;-)
    I tune a few times per gig! And I tune every time I pick up the bass.
    I don't expect that my basses are always in tune when I pick them up - but some are better than others.
    I'm not sure about saying that you tune one way for one climate and one way for another.
    And.....if the tension in the neck changes to the point where it affects tuning, doesn't that mean that the relief has changed? And if that's the case, then maybe it's better to correct that problem?
  5. cheapimitation


    Mar 23, 2007
    The change in pitch is due more to the effect of temperature on the strings than any neck movement -- the colder the air, the higher the pitch, and the warmer, the lower. You can test this with running a hair dryer on the strings. Strings also stretch over time.
  6. wrench45us


    Aug 26, 2011
    the largest change seems to come from taking it to my in-laws on the weekend in the hope of being able to get in some practice. They keep their house much warmer and much less humid than my house. It takes a day or 2 to stabilize from that once I get it back home.

    That seesm consistent with what's being said here. The upper strings D and G seem to change more than the lower. Everything was new about 3 months ago, so stretcging early on, but seemed to stabilize in the fall. Now I'm seeing increased instability again and just wanted to know. Thanks for the information.
  7. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    Strings get cold and they contract.

    Strings get warm and they expand.

    Perhaps some necks do the same, but I think it's mostly strings.

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