1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Guitarist nearly always sharp

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by kirkdickinson, Jan 13, 2013.

  1. kirkdickinson

    kirkdickinson Supporting Member

    I have recently been playing fretless quite a bit and working on my ear. Last night I played with one of the bands I play with and decided to use my Lightwave (fretted) bass.

    The main rhythm guitarist was slightly sharp on almost everything. It was bothering my ear greatly. I stopped him during soundcheck and asked him to check his tuning. He fixed it.

    When we got on stage to play, two of the other guitarists said their guitars went sharp and retuned, I checked my bass and was also slightly sharp. I don't think the main guy checked his. He is the singer and has the main rhythm guitar, so he is in my monitor strong.

    When we went live, I was struggling. I had to bend most every note sharp to feel like it was correct. Really wished I had chosen to play fretless last night.

    Don't know if I am here for recommendations, or just to complain.

  2. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    Having perfect pitch is a curse. :meh:
    jcsk8 likes this.
  3. knumbskull


    Jul 28, 2007
    it may not be the case here, but just for info a guitarist i play with had a similar issue with playing sharp a lot - turned out to be caused by the jumbo frets on his new guitar. he had a fretstoning done and it helped greatly.
  4. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    I recommend you incorporate a "tuning check" into your on-stage routine/banter. This is a good time to have a band meeting about the issue.

    In my old band, the guitarist/songwriter usually was responsible for starting the song. We made a band rule that he could not start a song until he had made eye contact with each band member. Before that, he was notorious for counting off songs while people were still tuning, fiddling with the knobs on their amps, adjusting the drum kit, etc. It's better to look around the stage, make quick eye contact to say, "everyone ready? let's go!" In your case it could consist of: everyone makes eye contact and plays a quick E chord together to check the tuning.

    (edit) If the guitarist just has a gear problem like bad intonation, it is his responsibility to fix it. If he refuses/procrastinates then buy him a setup as an early birthday present, or learn how to intonate a guitar and do it while he's not looking. ;)
    gebass6 likes this.
  5. billgwx


    Apr 10, 2009
    Centereach NY
    Could the guitarist's electronic tuner be set to a tuning pitch slightly sharp of A440? Sounds like a good time for a sanity check.
    gebass6 likes this.
  6. Already In Use

    Already In Use

    Jan 3, 2010
    I've found its good to get your bass/guitar to the gig early and let it settle in. I'm typically tuning a few times before I play. Then check the tuning again after a break. As sated above the band plays a few bars of something to be sure the sound is right as a live sound check.
  7. PWRL


    Sep 15, 2006
    Could it have been temperature-related? That's happened to me before.
  8. viper4000


    Aug 17, 2010
    I used to play with a guitarist that tuned sharp thinking it would come back to standard over the course of the set. You know, guitarist bend their strings after all :ninja:
  9. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Also keep in mind tuning a guitar is not an absolute science. For example a folk guitarist who plays open G and D chords might tune a little different than a rock guitarist who plays power chords, who might tune a little different than a lead guitarist who plays solos/riffs in the higher register. It's also possible your fretless ear training has progressed to the point that you're hearing "pure" (non-tempered) intervals as "correct" (as opposed to the tempered or "compromise" tuning of a guitar or piano).

    It might be a good time to have a conversation with the bandleader about his vision/goals for how the band tunes? At the most nit-picky levels, tuning becomes a genre/artistic statement of sorts.
    LeeNunn likes this.
  10. Tuning problems or not , I would not want much, if any, rhythm guitar in my monitor. Too much clutter.
  11. kirkdickinson

    kirkdickinson Supporting Member

    I only wish. I am far from perfect pitch. I struggle to hear intervals and sometimes even major/minor is a problem. It seems that my ear is finely tuned to that last fraction to exact pitch though and it drives me crazy when it is off.
  12. kirkdickinson

    kirkdickinson Supporting Member

    This guy has a nice older Martin that can be tuned well. He is a forceful player and uses capo a lot. I think he never checks his tuning with the capo on and I also think that he plays hard enough with his right hand to drive the strings sharp.
  13. Make sure everybody tunes standing up. This may sound silly, but I've seen guitarist tune up while they're sitting down with the guitar laid back. That pushes the neck forward, so when you stand up, the guitar will be slightly sharp.

    I hope that makes sense. Otherwise, as others have said, it's either a badly set-up guitar or dodgy tuner.
  14. Sometimes people play sharp by playing weird or incorrectly or whatever you want to call it. I actually became more mindful of it from playing harmonica which you can bend up or down. On stringed instruments you can only bend up. If you play in an awkward position you can inadvertently "push up" on the strings. In more inexperienced days we would say "eh, good enough for rock n roll
  15. thunderbyrd


    Nov 29, 2006
    i'm not as knowledgable or experienced as most here, but i played guitar for praise and worship for awhile, before i promoted myself to bass. i found that if i wanted to sound good and in tune on guitar, i needed to tune the guitar to a G bar chord at the 3d fret. just tuning the open strings to eadgbe wasn't good enough. i don't have perfect pitch, but i can generally tell if something isn't right. and i definetly sounded better tuning to the G chord.

    so you might have him try it.
    joebar and Anders Barfod like this.
  16. I used to have a Peavey Raptor that always went sharp. Dang tremelo.
  17. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    I have had similar experiences; these days I typically tune my open G string to a guitarist's G chord (rather than my E string to their E string). I find I get better results when I tune to the "average" of a full 6-string chord, rather than any 1 particular note.
  18. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    That's your problem right there. He tunes gently and then bangs away while he's playing. I play pretty hard and I have to remember to hit my strings hard when tuning. I played with a singer/guitar player who had the same problem you described. He finally tried picking harder when he tuned (after I suggested it about a gagillion times) and SHAZAM, problem solved. Being that he plays acoustic, he is probably plucking more softly intentionally because you can't really mute an acoustic while tuning. But he's going to have to learn to let it rip when he's tuning or it will never be right when he's playing.

    All you have to do is show him one time. Have him tune, and then have him hit a string really hard to see the difference. That should bring it home for him.
  19. :eyebrow:
    The first half of the set must have been brutal.
  20. A good setup and proper spring adjustment should cure that.