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Tuning question

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by bassdave, Feb 7, 2002.

  1. bassdave


    Jan 31, 2002
    Toronto, Canada
    I have a electric tuner, but i also have a problem

    i can easily tune my bass in tune with itself, but when i go to play with people, they tell me it is out of tune

    one thing i find about the tuner, is it gives you the
    option of choosing a key signature to tune it in

    i use the key of "C" but im not sure if thats right
    does anyone have advice on how to use it?
  2. basslax


    Apr 20, 2000
    Washington, DC
    i didid know that tuners used different keys...??

  3. old_skool


    Aug 17, 2000
    Milwaukee, WI
    Uhh...on my tuner you have the option of picking a single note you want to tune to and that note alone. If you tuner is like mine...did you tune each string to "C"?
  4. bassdave


    Jan 31, 2002
    Toronto, Canada
    No i tuned it to "EADG"
    but it was in the key of "C"
  5. Hategear

    Hategear Workin' hard at hardly workin'.

    Apr 6, 2001
    Appleton, Swissconsin
    Now I'm confused. Why would a key have anything to do with tuning your open strings to E, A, D and G?

    Are the other guys in your band saying that you're out of tune, because you're not in tune with them? Are they tuning to standard, flat? Are they using a tuner when they tune? I would think that if you tune your bass using a tuner (and it's a good, reliable one), they would then tune to you, not the other way around. Now, if they are tuning flat and your tuner doesn't allow you to tune your bass flat, or if you are using alternate tunings and your tuner doesn't allow for alternates, you should be tuning to them. What kind of tuner is it (brand and maybe a model name)?

    EDIT: Problems with tuning could be caused by a couple of things: 1) Are your strings in good shape? I've found that older strings don't wanna stay in tune as well as newer ones. 2) Tune to the plucked note. Hit the note repeatedly, in one-second intervals and tune to pitch. Don't hit the note and tune as it's fading away. 3) If possible, use a power cord for your tuner. I have found that my tuner is more accurate when it's plugged in, as opposed to when it's running on a battery. 4) Always tune up to pitch. 5) After you've tuned all the strings, go through them again to make sure that one didn't go "weird" while you were tuning another one.
  6. bizzaro


    Aug 21, 2000
    Most modern tuners have an adjustment that will let you adjust the standard tuning frequency which is normally 440 hz for A. If you have yours adusted to 435 hz or 445 hz you will be out of tune if everyone else is tuned to standard 440.
  7. bassdave


    Jan 31, 2002
    Toronto, Canada
    I tried tuning the guitar with the standard pitch of 440. the notes are now in tune with the Eadg on one of those old tuners you blow into. before the pitch was 415, so i think thats wat the problem was. thanks for all your help
  8. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    If you want to practice tuning by ear, try tuning to the dial tone on your phone. It's in F. (This works in Canada and the U.S.; not sure about anywhere else).

    It's a little trickier because there are a lot of other overtones, but it works if you don't have a tuner handy.
  9. I've heard of this phenomenon, but somebody out there may have a much better handle on it than I, so help me out if you can.
    EXACT pitches are relative to the key they're played in. Somewhere there's a mathematical formula for the relationship of notes in a scale. What it boils down to is that when your guitar is tuned to E, and the A, D, & G are in perfect 4th steps above that, a scale in D may sound lousy. The exact frequency for C in one key may be slightly different than in the other.
    When Bach wrote his piano exercises, he wrote for the "well tempered klavier", which was tuned to a "tempered" tuning system in which some of the notes APPROXIMATED their exact pitch for each key. The result was a keyboard which sounds "pretty good" in every key, but is not exact in any. A guitar, at least one with frets is also set up to a predetermined formula that's supposed to be "well-tempered" A musical friend once told me that when you tune the guitar to E, the key of D is gonna sound bad.
    So if your tuner also gives you the key any given note is in tune for, it might be helpful for everyone in the band to retune between songs to the key they'll be playing in next. But we're talking about real fine distinctions here. How fine, I'm not sure. Somebody who is more familiar with the physics of this could probably enlighten us all.
  10. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001

    You've got it exactly backwards. All mass-market tuners and 99% of the bands out there use even-temperament, which is independent of key. All scales sound equally bad. :) This is what Bach wrote the Well-Tempered Klavier stuff for.

    The important thing about this is, not only does it determine the pitch of the open strings, but the frets are layed out that way. So, you more or less can't do anything other than even temperament with a fretted guitar.

    Your friends talking about D sounding bad might have been referring to the fact that, due to iffy intonation, some notes and chords on the guitar are more in-tune than others (even if the open strings and 12th frets are all tuned perfectly). From what I've heard, the Buzz Feiten tuning system addresses this somewhat.
  11. ...except Bass Dave DID mention his tuner saying it was in the key of C

    Anyway, our discussion got me thinking (I smell circuitry smoking somewhere):
    1. playing a 1/3 or 2/3 harmonic on the D string should give the same pitch as playing the 1/4 harmonic on the A, right?
    2. if A above middle C is 440, then 2 octaves above the bass A is 440 and that's also the frequency of the 1/3 harmonic on the D. (Stay with me now)
    3. Then the fx of D is 1/3 of THAT or 146.666667 and 293.333333 and 586.666667 (the D within the octave range of 440 to 880)
    4. After proceeding around the circle of fourths (backwards round the circle of fifths) for a ways, I discovered that each 4th was 1.3333333 the Fx of the previous
    5. So I could calculate the Fx of each note between A-440 and A-880
    6. There is a slight error for continuous rounding off
    7. Then I realized you multiply by 1.5 to go up a fifth (which might eliminate some of the rounding problem)

    So what's my point other than an exercise in arithmetic?

    We've calculated the frequencies for a chromatic scale based on A, or have we? Is this maybe how the "Well-tempered" tuning was achieved? It seems to me that no matter where you start in the scale, the frequencies would be the same as long as the calculations are not rounded off. If so, then how is exact tuning different?

    Anyone have a bright idea?
  12. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    If you tune each open string to the correct even-tempered pitch, the harmonics will not be exactly the same. Harmonics are equivalent to just-intoned intervals (5/4, 3/2, etc). Even-temperament is based on fractional powers of two (each semitone is 2^(1/12) times the frequency of the one before it):

    Just intonation:

    minor third: 6/5 = 1.2
    major third: 5/4 = 1.25
    fourth: 4/3 = 1.3333
    fifth: 3/2 = 1.5

    Equal temperament:

    minor third: 2^(3/12) = 1.1892
    major third: 2^(4/12) = 1.26
    fourth: 2^(5/12) = 1.335
    fifth: 2^(7/12) = 1.4983

    So you can see where equal temperament is a little bit im-perfect compared to the "classical" ratios. But, that's the price you pay for being able to play in any key on the same instrument.

    General consensus on the *absolute* pitch is that A above middle C is 440Hz. Using the above method, you can calculate the pitch of any other note based on that. But it places no special significance on A.

    In equal temperament, if you go up three major thirds, you get to an octave:

    (2^(4/12))^(3) = 2^(12/12) = 2

    If you do that in just intonation, it doesn't work out:

    5/4 * 5/4 * 5/4 = 125/64 = 1.953125

    So, for example, Giant Steps wouldn't quite work well in that system. :)
    Anders Barfod likes this.
  13. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
  14. Intrepid


    Oct 15, 2001
    Everybody is confused here cuz they play C Instruments...I'm not sure how it works, because I only play C instruments, some instruments are labeled Bb instruments such as a trombone I believe...Just set the "key" to C...also make sure you have your tuner at the standard tuning of 440 hz or whatever...thats what most use...I think thats it
  15. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    That only affects how you read standard notation - it doesn't have anything to do with tuning. And guitars, like pianos, are "keyless" and are only "C" instruments in that you don't transpose notation when reading it. Bb instruments, like trombone, have an implied Bb key signature in all of their notation (so what looks like a B natural is played Bb). However, I think even Bb brass instruments use the same pitches as even-tempered pianos these days, so that they can all play together. Of course, trombone is "fretless" so they can adjust if necessary :).
  16. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    that's not it either.

    Instruments pitched in different keys (Bb, Eb, F, A, etc) are called "transposing instruments". That is, if a person on a tenor saxophone (a Bb instrument) were to finger a C (on the horn) it would sound as a Bb. This is usually done to make reading on each instrument easier.

    Instruments that I know are transposing:

    Soprano Sax - Bb
    Alto Sax - Eb
    Tenor Sax - Bb
    Bari sax - Eb
    Clarinet - Bb
    Bass Clarinet - Bb
    Alto Clarinet - Eb
    A Clarinet - A (who woulda thought?)
    Piccolo - they come in C and Db
    French horn - F and Bb (the only instrument that can play in two keys)
    A trumpet - A (again, go figure)
    Trumpet and coronet - Bb
    Trombone - Bb or C, depending on the horn
    Tuba - C, Bb, or F

    I'm sure there's more... but I've lost interest :D
  17. Actually trombone:
    Music written for it in treble clef is Bb (like a trumpet) but in Bass clef is C.
    So if you play the open tuning note on a standard sized trombone, the bass clef note would be a Bb, but the treble clef would show a C.
    Crazy, huh?
    I guess there are trombones in other ranges that tune differently, but I'm not familiar with the tuning.
  18. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    Ah, thanks!
  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    The Trombone player in our band has several instruments, including a Euphonium which is pretty strange! Anyway - he liked to play Bass Trombone, which is just concert key, but found it was a bit hard to play fast Salsa/Afro Cuban stuff; so has switched to normal trombone which is tuned Bb. So he now tunes to a Bb - well that's what he asks for anyway ;) - on the higher "normal" trombone.

    I have also attended Jazz workshops with him and he usually asks for 2 parts - one in concert and one in Bb.