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Alembic Club » Miscellaneous » Archive: 2006 » Archive through February 21, 2006 » Guitar Tuning « Previous Next »

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Advanced Member
Username: jalevinemd

Post Number: 316
Registered: 12-2003
Posted on Monday, January 30, 2006 - 4:28 pm:   Edit Post

Which is more consistently reliable...tuning using the open string or the 12th fret harmonic? I seem to find the 12th fret harmonic note to be ever so slightly more sharp according to my tuner, though I must admit that I can't hear the difference. Am I doing something wrong?
Senior Member
Username: lbpesq

Post Number: 927
Registered: 7-2004
Posted on Monday, January 30, 2006 - 5:38 pm:   Edit Post


Have you checked the intonation of your guitar? First tune your guitar. Then check each string individually, first open, then at the 12th fret. Both should be in tune. If the 12th fret is sharper than open, you need to adjust the bridge saddle away from the neck, if the 12 fret is flat, move the saddle towards the neck. Then retune and check intonation again. Make the adjustments VERY small each time. Also make sure you loosen the string and retune after each adjustment to insure even tension along the string path. Do this until the open and 12 fret matches, then repeat for each string. Then you might want to do what I do. Use a tuner! I recently bought the Boss TU-2 stompbox tuner. I love it. Big easy to read numbers, even in daylight and even for these 50 year old eyes!

Bill, tgo
Senior Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 606
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Monday, January 30, 2006 - 6:47 pm:   Edit Post


And remember . . . your harmonics are never flat or sharp relative to the fretted note, but the OTHER way around. Always check the fretted 12th against the harmonic over the 12th, and move your saddles as lbpesq describes above. We are 'synchronizing' the fretted scale length to match the speaking length of the string. You'll need to do this again any time you go to a different set of strings with (even slightly) different guages. And only do this with NEW strings; even if you've played them just a little, your accuracy in doing this will suffer. NEVER do this with old strings.

Also, like he said, use a TUNER. Most of us just don't have the ears to hear that few cents difference once it's pretty close, but not exactly matched yet.

J o e y
Advanced Member
Username: tom_z

Post Number: 276
Registered: 7-2004
Posted on Monday, January 30, 2006 - 7:25 pm:   Edit Post

Can the 12th fret harmonic be different from the open tone? If your tuner is indicating this, could there be an issue with your tuner?

I'm not an expert, by any means, but this sounds odd.

Senior Member
Username: adriaan

Post Number: 735
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - 1:58 am:   Edit Post

Call me stubborn, but I tune the open bass strings in pairs until the interval sounds correct (a fourth is pretty easy to get in tune). Then double-check on the 5th and 7th fret flageolets - which should be slightly sharp going from A to D and from D to G.

The double-check usually confirms, with no correction necessary.
Advanced Member
Username: keith_h

Post Number: 323
Registered: 2-2005
Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - 6:03 am:   Edit Post

As Joey said play the harmonic and fretted note at the 12th fret. When fretting the note be sure to use a consistant pressure and don't press excessively hard. If you don't you can actually get the intonation off due to variances in finger pressure.

Senior Member
Username: kmh364

Post Number: 1684
Registered: 9-2003
Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - 6:46 am:   Edit Post

Just my $0.02:

Try using a Peterson Virtual-Strobe tuner. That thing has such resolution, EVERYTHING is slightly sharp or flat, LOL!

Personally, after seeing and hearing the difference, I would NEVER set intonation without a Strobe or Strobe-type tuner. That ridiculous accuracy is head-and-shoulders above ANY digital non-strobe-type tuner. My guitar guy uses a very old (but perfectly functional) Conn Strobotuner and you can HEAR the difference.

BTW, adding to the above. ALLWAYS adjust and ck your axe in the playing position, NOT on it's back...Truss rod(s), action, intonation, etc. Otherwise, it will be off.
Advanced Member
Username: jalevinemd

Post Number: 317
Registered: 12-2003
Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - 8:14 am:   Edit Post

I think I've caused some confusion. The discrepancy wasn't between a fretted 12th fret note and a 12th fret harmonic or open string.

The discrepancy was between an open string and it's corresponding 12th fret (non-fretted) harmonic. I think I'll try a different tuner.



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