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When tuning a DB

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Andy Mopley, Mar 14, 2013.

  1. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011
    does it matter if the note is plucked or bowed? Or is it dependentant on the quality of the a) ears or b) the tuner used?

    Thanks for reading
  2. Ryker_M


    May 10, 2012
    London, Ontario
    Bowing is always better.

    When you pluck the string, the note starts out of tune and eventually vibrates back. So, you run the risk of taking an out of tune string, and making it worse.
  3. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    When tuning with bow
    Some problems may arise
    Mind the weight and speed

    Lame, I know, but you get the point.
  4. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    That's what most people say. But personally I don't think it matters much whether you tune arco or pizz. It's true that bowing gives different frequencies but when you wait for a second the plucked pizz note is to it's 'normal' pitch. Also guitar players and electric bass players can also tune and they don't bow either.
    Never really noticed the difference in tuning between arco and pizz.
  5. kevteop


    Feb 12, 2008
    York, UK
    If you're only going to play pizz then tune the strings by plucking, and vice versa.
  6. As logical as that sounds it is untrue. A pizzed note as stated above does decay too quickly to get an accurate reading. Always use a bow even if the only reason you have a bow is to tune the bass.
  7. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    A bow applied with bad technique is worse for tuning than tuning pizz IMHO. Also think that most basses have enough sustain to able to tune correctly using pizz
  8. Bowing very lightly but firmly and at constant speed gives you the chance to (a) hunt for the center of the harmonic (the clearest ringing sound) and (b) accurately hear both strings (because there is a slight difference in sound quality due to the different thicknesses and weights).

    Also the needle of the tuner (if used)has a chance to stabilize.

  9. gerry grable

    gerry grable Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2010
    +1 as usual, David

    Also, I like to final-check by ringing (double-stop pizz) the harmonics at the third position and listening for the beats to disappear.
  10. If you have a fast reading strobe tuner, you can SEE the drop in pitch as a plucked string decays... it starts sharp because there is so much energy in the string, and drops away as that energy radiates away.

    Arco, you can hold a lower circulating energy in the string and still hear it for long enough to get the pitch.
  11. great point. ;)
  12. r.t.swing


    May 5, 2009
    Struggling a bit with this. When I tune to the front of the note using pizz, the string is always flat compared to bow which I can get spot on. My solution is to tune with the bow, then use my ears when playing, I'm trying my damnedest to play scales and simple tunes with a drone and to get the intervals in tune - without looking at my fingers. Progress is slow, but I can get the note spot on much better than I could last week.
  13. ubassman


    Jul 23, 2012
    If you can find harmonics to tune up with , its infallible and it doesn't matter if its Pizz or arco. It may take a while to figure this out if you are new to harmonics but its a method that is very accurate!

    The advantage of arco is that you can play two strings at the same time , the notes are longer and you can clearly hear any beats between the same (harmonic) notes on two strings played simultaneously.

    OPTION1 :- I use the D harmonic at near the end of the fingerboard on the G string (touched lightly with my thumb) and compare it with the same D harmonic on the D string (nearer the very end of the fingerboard and touched lightly with my index finger ) and then work down in pairs G+D strings, then when those are in tune D + A, A+E.

    OPTION 2:- You can get the exact same D harmonic playing in the 3rd position too . Start on the D string, go up 5 chromatic notes to find the note G - its the same as the open G string. Lightly touch the note with your index and pluck or bow and you will get a D harmonic - without moving your left hand, find the D harmonic on the G string by simply placing your 4th finger on the G string - needs to stretch a bit ).

    Try OPTION 2 first and then see if you can figure out playing at the end of the fingerboard as in OPTION 1 - hope this helps !! Getting your instrument perfectly in tune each time you pick it up is vital otherwise intonation will always be elusive !!
  14. ubassman


    Jul 23, 2012
    Thanks Chuck for the link - interesting reading although I have to say one of those scientific physics discussions that bounces around in its own theoretical bubble !

    Drurb's original comments on the thread that you have linked to are important to quote and I think place the scientific observations into the context of our experience as players :-

    "Still, as you say, the harmonics many of us have used to tune are VERY close to their equal-tempered counterparts such that the error is negligible. At least for me, the error is sure smaller than just about any stopped note I play."

    Incidentally ...Options 1 and 2 are the exact same harmonic !! ( Option 1 is the equivalent of 19th fret on G, 24th on the D on a bass guitar ).
  15. That's exactly right and if you intonated your bridge on a bass guitar with THAT harmonic at the 19th as you say it would make your ax completely out of whack. The error is multiplied the more you use it in other words. The octave harmonics are fine, it's the 5ths I'm talking about. They are sharp.
  16. I think Andrew's post in that link, referring to what happens when a string section tunes to the 5th harmonic are what is a practical result. He is saying you have to temper the instrument in relation to the 5th harmonic. How many are AWARE and capable of doing that? That's what he is saying about the harmonics. It get's worse by the way with fretted instruments when you use the 5th harmonics at the 19th.

    EDIT - another thread: http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f163/tuning-harmonics-348237/index2.html
  17. CnB77


    Jan 7, 2011
    Going for a haiku? You're missing a syllable in the middle one :p
  18. ubassman


    Jul 23, 2012
    ...too true, Chuck too true ! :smug:

    The thing is that the octave harmonic isn't as easy to double stop with a bow and has an octave shift between the two notes sounded - which is where I use the 5th harmonic on a DB . At least it produces an instrument that is in tune with itself accurately. The overall instrument may be tuned slightly sharp of the pure scientific reading on a tuner but the point is that if the strings on the instrument are not in tune with each other then intonation isn't going to happen in any event.

    Interestingly I haven't had any adverse comment from either orchestras that I play in and the other bassists use the same 5th tuning method - maybe just one to chalk up to a difference between 'Theory' and 'Practice' ? !
  19. "When tuning with bow
    A few problems may arise
    Mind the weight and speed"

    Fixed it.

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