Tuning a guitar should be easy, but it’s not. In fact, the more you explore guitar tuning, the more you realize there is no one way to tune a guitar.
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
When it comes to tuning a guitar, ignorance is bliss.
If you’re a beginning player and you tune your guitar using an electronic or digital guitar tuner until you get it “close enough” and then go on about your day, bashing out chords and having fun, you’re lucky. Relish those moments, because the minute you actually have to pay attention to guitar tuning, like when you are about to record or you’re playing with others who care about intonation, you can easily fall down a rabbit hole that can be impossible to emerge from.
Table of Contents:
• There is no one way to tune a guitar
• Pressure and frets
• James Taylor to the rescue!
• How NOT to tune a guitar
• Equal temperament
• Just intonation
• The price of equal temperament
• Guitar frets to the rescue!
• True temperament
Tuning a guitar should be easy — after all, we have digital guitar tuners — but it’s not. Every guitar is different. Every player is different. What style of music you’re playing matters. Where you play on the neck matters. How hard you strum matters. What key you’re playing in matters. It also matters if you’re using a capo. It’s no wonder that professional bands have guitar techs working offstage.
In fact, the more you start to explore guitar tuning the more you start to realize one important truth:
There is no one way to tune a guitar
OK, so why is this true?
One reason relates to the physical layout of a guitar compared to a piano or even a violin. Each note on a piano has its own string (or strings). You tune that note to where you want it, and you’re good to go. Every time you hit that key you get the note you want.
On a guitar, however, you’re asking six strings to produce dozens of notes each. And the way you produce those notes is by pressing down on the string. So let’s say you get your low E string in perfect tune: the minute you push down on the string on a fret, you are bending the string a tiny bit, which makes the tuning a tiny bit sharp, especially if your strings are high off the fretboard.
Pressure and frets
You’ll notice the problem gets worse the higher you move up the fretboard. Maybe your open chords sound beautiful, but then you go to hit a barre chord on the 7th fret and it sounds terrible. This problem sounds worse still if you put more pressure on the string. (A violin should have the same problem, but there are no frets, so the player can adjust his fingering to solve this problem.)
Also, the lower strings on a guitar tend to ring sharp the harder you play them. So if you’re playing a style of music where you tend to hit your low strings particularly hard, you will sound more out of tune.
We’re not done with our reasons why you can’t tune a guitar, but let’s pause here, because these are very common problems, especially amongst acoustic guitar players, and James Taylor has a rather nice method of tuning that can help solve these problems.
James Taylor to the rescue!
To do this, you’ll need a tuner that can measure cents. A cent is 1/100 of a semitone. (C to C# is a semitone, or half-step.) These tuners can be easily downloaded to your phone or computer.
James Taylor, in order to accommodate the vagaries of acoustic guitars, tunes his strings flatter than normal. Here is his guide:
High E string -3 cents
B string -6 cents
G string -4 cents
D string -8 cents
A string -10 cents
Low E string -12 cents
This tuning method is also great for using a capo.
Now, your mileage may vary. Your guitar is different than Taylor’s guitar. Your action may be higher. Maybe you play harder. Maybe you don’t use capos. Try it out and adjust your tuning as need be.
How NOT to tune a guitar
1. Do not use the fifth fret and seventh fret harmonics. Many guitarists learn this method: You play a harmonic on the fifth fret of your low E string, then play a harmonic on the seventh fret of your A string, and then tune your string until they match. You can listen for the vibrations. When the vibrations are gone, the strings are, apparently, in tune. You repeat this all down the guitar (except for the B string) and hope that this will tune your guitar. But it won’t.
2. Do not tune to a chord. You’ve probably tried this at home. You’re tuning your guitar and you play the open D, G, and B strings. And you tweak the B string until it sounds perfectly in tune with your D and G strings. Glorious, right? But then you play a D chord… and your D note on your B string is way flat. You check your B again and it sounds great. But now: check that B with a tuner, and you’ll see it’s about 14 cents flat of what a “standard tuning” B should be.
What gives? Why don’t these two tuning methods work?
Well, this is going to take us further down the rabbit hole, but hang in there because it will lead us to a very interesting place.
When you pluck a string on a guitar, you’re actually hearing more than one tone. If you listen closely, you can hear other notes — harmonics — ringing higher in the register. To hear these harmonics better, pluck that same string and then lightly hold your finger in the middle of the string (at the twelfth fret). Doing this produces a tone that is one octave higher than the original note. Pluck the string again, this time without touching it, and you’ll be able to hear that octave harmonic in the unaccompanied note.
Pluck the string again, holding your finger over the seventh fret, and you’ll hear a “perfect” fifth. Hold your finger between the third and fourth fret (about 90 percent of the way towards the fourth fret) and you’ll hear a “just” third (more on that later). As you move your finger up towards the head, you can produce all the tones that were originally used to create the notes of Western music. These notes are all present in one note.
Notice that in order to produce that “just” third note, we couldn’t hold our finger exactly over the fourth fret. We had to fudge it a bit.
Try this out. On your low E string, produce that third harmonic again by holding your finger near the fourth fret. Hear that note? That is a “just” third, or how we hear what a G# should sound like. OK, now while that harmonic is ringing out, play a G# note on your high E string. They aren’t the same. They should be, but your G# played on your high E string is sharper than the just third.
This is because our guitar – in fact all of Western music – is tuned to what we call equal temperament (ET).
If you could move the frets of your guitar, and you moved your fourth fret back towards the head to the spot where your finger was producing that “just” third harmonic, and then you played the G# note on your high E string, you would have a “just” third.
That is what we call just intonation (JI). That G# is the same as the G# harmonic that is playing when you pluck your low E string. If you play a “just” G# on the G string of your guitar, your sustain will go through the roof because that note will resonate with both E strings.
The reason JI sounds right to us is because all the notes in our scale are ringing true to the harmonics in our root note.
Now, as nice as JI sounds, there’s a big problem with it: it only works for one key. So, if you are playing a song in C on a JI-tuned piano it will sound great. But if you then want to play a second song in F#, it will sound totally out of tune. In order to play that second song and have it sound nice, you would need to retune your piano to F#. That’s because the distance between all the notes are not the same in JI: the distance between an E and an F is different than the distance between an F and an F#.
So someone very clever came along and realized that if we made the distance between all of the semitones exactly the same, then we would be able to switch keys (and/or modulate between any key) very easily. Hence, equal temperament.
The price of equal temperament
Of course, using ET meant sacrificing the pure harmonies we get from JI. In equal temperament, every single interval (other than an octave) is off. The major third is, as we mentioned above 14 cents sharp, which is why tuning to a chord doesn’t work. And an ET fifth is two cents flatter than a JI (or “perfect”) fifth, which is why tuning your guitar with fifth harmonics results in an out of tune guitar.
Two cents may not seem like much, especially since, in the James Taylor tuning method, we suggested you detune all of your strings by as much as 12 cents. But when you are using harmonics to tune, you’re going flatter the higher you go, as opposed to the Taylor method, in which the lower strings are flatter.
Also, the minute you hit the distortion pedal, you’ll notice the problems with ET even more.
Watch this video to hear (and see) the difference between JI and ET. (Ignore their use of some of the terms, like “false tuning.” There’s nothing “false” about ET, it’s just a compromise.)
Guitar frets to the rescue!
OK, so maybe this intonation “problem” doesn’t bother you. After all, guitar music has been successfully recorded with regular guitars, tuned the normal way, for decades. For the most part, the listener doesn’t complain.
But if it does bother you — and once you notice it, the more it will bother you — there are actually some interesting solutions.
First off, if you are recording and you are predominantly playing one chord or can use single chord shapes — e.g., using barre chords based on E — no problem: tune your guitar so that that E sounds great.
Another solution is to add extra frets to your guitar. Turkish guitarist Tolgahan Çoğulu offers easy solutions to add frets where you need them.
True Temperament offers totally different frets to use on your guitar. “True temperament” is not JI, but it’s much closer. Check out this video, featuring guitar wizard Mattias Eklundh.
The problem with these solutions is the same that we had with JI: they only work for certain keys. Recognizing this, True Temperament has developed two styles: one that works better for rock music and one that works better for jazz.
Finally, if you’re willing to invest in a new guitar, check out FreeNote’s 12-tone Ultra Plus guitar, which features 36 different pitches per octave. This guitar has all the standard frets, plus a bunch of others that allow for rather interesting sounds (your eleventh chords, for example, will sound gloriously consonant). This video, featuring microtonal musician Jon Catler, offers some highlights.
This guitar and video brings us to another rabbit hole: microtonal music.
Scott McCormick is the author the Audible bestselling Rivals! series and the hit fantasy novel The Dragon Squisher. Scott can be reached at email@example.com.
Guitar intonation: How to recognize and fix tuning issues
Liven things up with eleventh chords
Seven causes — and remedies — of guitar fret buzz
Recording acoustic guitar: Experiment with mic placement
The functional relationship between math and music
62 thoughts on “Why you can’t tune a guitar – and how to fix it”
Your tuning problem could also be your guitar nut. If the nut is cut too narrow, it can cause pinching of the string, which causes problems when tuning the guitar bridge. If it’s not flat, it can cause your strings to break prematurely. This particular issue can be prevented by filing down the nut.
What is this crap? The best tuners you can find are on your head! They are called EARS. I have been using them for 72 years with no problems. And I have OLD guitars (1950’s). If you have a good ear you can tune your guitar.I can’t tune with my eyes. Every guitar has it’s own good points or problems. You learn how to get around them through the years or you are not a guitar player. I was 15 when a 12 year friend showed me my first set of chords. I put my nose to the grindstone until I stopped choking the strings and could change the chords rapidly. With my ear I set to trying to build other chords until my friend suggested I save up a dollar and by a book. I got a book by Nick Manoloff that showed all the keys with all the chord sets and I was well on my way. You are scaring beginners by telling them that they can’t tune their guitar. By the way I use an “A” tuning fork to stay in standard pitch (440). I keep one in each guitar case along with finger picks and a capo.
How do I know which e string is which? Because one is underlined…
If you really can’t tell the difference give up the idea of ever playing a guitar.
That’s kind of cruel to tell someone to give up because he asked which one is the e-string. Perhaps he’s just starting out. I had someone tell me that I should give up simply because I struggled at the beginning. I’m thankful that I didn’t listen to them and now at 73, I’m able to play any genre of music on the acoustic, electric, and classical guitar.
Never give up the small e indicates the 1st string the capital E is the 6th string. from the first string to 5th in order for standard tuning is e B G D A E. these ar all open strings. in other words, you don’t press down on any of the strings.
Good luck and never give up just practice, practice, and more practice and ignore the nay-sayers that know it all.
Guitars have to be tuned? Not according to Jimi Hendrix.
Dude, what are you talking about? He was tuning all the time. Even in the middle of songs. “Guitarists spend 90% of the time tuning; the other 10% is spent playing out of tune.”
Very intriguing article ! Thanks for providing such valuable information for us lovers of the constantly out of tune instrument .
I would like to add my 2cents worth in the hope that it may help others. The two biggest contributors that I found are :
1) Ear training practice
2) Improving technique
No , it won’t turn the guitar into a perfectly tuned instrument , but it will allow for more creativity and less frustration.
Or his millions of fans. Or the countless musicians he influenced. People tend to forgive sloppy details when you single handedly change the course of music with your innovative approach and you routinely give your audience some of the most legendary perfomances of all time.
Now……when you have that figured out but yourself a 12 string….AND a capo!!
They do have to be tuned
Paul McCartney tells a story of Hendrix asking McCartney to tune his guitar during a performance.
I’m going to be making a video on how to tune equal temperament by ear on guitar. I tune pianos. It’s possible to optimize the intonation for the specific guitar you’re using. The result is clean sound in any key and anywhere on the fret board, so long as the guitar is set up correctly.
When? Please let me know. I wish this weren’t true, but I can hear the difference. I do agree that I’m close by ear, but still, different keys and different parts of the neck can sound off. Especially amplified.
These folks who claim their guitar never goes out of tune amuse me. I’ve got several high end guitars, acoustic and electric. They maintain their tuning pretty well on the open strings so long as you keep them in the right environmental conditions (humidity levels). But not one of them maintains their perfect intonation all up and down the neck. The proper setup helps a great deal but the truth is you can only just keep it sort of close even with proper setup. And that is good enough for most situations! Not that you shouldn’t try (you must) but your picking attack and the pressure you put on the string with your fretting hand is always going to make a difference. I mean, good for James Taylor that he has discovered a way that works for his general fingerpicking approach and style but I suspect that will sound horrible for most people. These tricks with the little fretboard thingies sound interesting and maybe I will try one someday but since a billion songs that I love didn’t need them I think I will just keep trying the old school way 🙂
There is one way to tune the guitar: equal temperament tuning. The article tries to create a problem that was solved three hundred or so years ago. Every beginner’s book shows the correct way to tune a guitar. – The article is also deceptive in that it doesn’t seem to mention the need to tune the fretted octave equal to the harmonic octave for each string. If this is omitted you will be unable to tune properly.
My method i have found for tuning I heve never seen mentioned – [perhaps it falls foul of the same issues here].
I had tried for years to tune by ear with varying amounts of success…so pitching everything to the low E 5th harmonic / fretting at the 5th fret / tuning to a barred chords etc…none ever seemed to get the same results as digital tuner…even though that didn’t necessarily sound ‘right’.
My mate who is an excellent violin player, always amazed me at how easily he ccould tune by ear, he always matches one string to my digitally tuned guitar (usually the high E as it’s the same pitch on both violin & guitar – he then is able to tune to the note below purely by ear, ‘perfectly’…funnily I could hear exactly when his string were right – I tried the same for ages on guitar but couldn’t replicate it…until I finally realised – he’s tuning in perfect 5ths – whereas guitars are [generally] tuned to 4th.
5th are ‘perfect’ in the respect that the two note vibrations intersect at a particular rate, of 3:2 I believe > so the wavelength of the two strings coincides and reinforces sound (or something like that).
I’m able tuner a single note pretty accurately given a guide note – so armed with seeing how he tunes I then started trying to tune low to high, fretting the adjacent string…so bottom E with A at 2nd (so a B) etc – this makes a perfect 5th…you can just hear how it ‘should’ sound. Once you have done a couple of strings in the manner you can try the octaves…but they should actually be not quite in.
I have found this method works – it’s best when starting with D/G as the reference notes and working both ways, obviously allowing for G-B being a 3rd rather than a 4th…
I can now tune like this and get any guitar perfectly in tune with itself…even one that has terrible intonation…though of course once you start fretting pervading issues will surface.
Give it a go!
Side note: Just by a quirk of design (?), the four strings of a bass guitar are the reverse of the violin strings, so E-A-D-G compared with G-D-A-E .
Side note #2: Here’s a very interesting video from Joe Walsh of Eagles fame who shows you how to stretch strings when tuning, this might help some people too – this guy must have a fantastic ear:
I agree with the above mention of the Buzz Feiten Tuning System (BFTS), it certainly solves the problem of tuning a guitar and that should have been a major mention in this article.
Thanks for sharing these tips and tricks to tune a guitar. It is very informative and helpful.
That’s exactly. If you don’t know the proper tuning methods you can’t tune a guitar. As there are several tips for tuning but less of the tips how not to tune. It’s a good enough for me as well as for the beginners. Be careful about the process you are following – also have the knowledge about the guitar tuner buttons, strings – the other parts of it.
I’ve been playing guitar for 18 years and have never heard of tuning using harmonics in the way you describe. I am self taught, meaning I learned from books before the internet (before I had access to it) and I don’t recall seeing that at all. i do tune using harmonics by playing the 12th fret harmonic on the E string and then the 7th fret harmonic on the A string. They’re the same notes so it doesn’t have to be a harmonic, per say. That way you can tune the strings and check the intonation of the strings in relation to each other.
I’m not proclaiming that I have solved the tuning mystery, not at all…every single guitar ‘ve played has been a different beast to tame. I often tell people that setting up a guitar is as percise a job as setting up a high-performance race car up. If it’s off, you’re going to know it amd you will need percise tools to do the job. You can try to wing 1/1000th of a millimeter but you might need a feeler gauge for that and you can tune using a myriad of methods but you’re probably going to need to use a trusted tuner (peterson strobe tuner, or something that measure +/- cent differences) so you can get to pitch – you can get close if you’ve trained your ear but to be within the cent, you’ve got to be super good.
I thought all guitarists started out learning the 5th and 7th harmonic trick. It works (as well as it is able to work) best on electric guitar turned up with some overdrive and you can really hear when the vibrations stop.
Joe Walsh taught me how to tune with harmonics. Who should I believe, this writer or a rock hall of famer?
❤️ if it’s good enough for Joe Walsh, it’s giod enough for me!
Author knows more than you. who cares who taught you.
Well, it’s pure Guitar Science… As a guitar ‘Tunista’ for 40 years, I came to the conclusion, that there are many more factors that make a guitar sound out of tune than just the annoying G string. Even the way you push down on the string can make a small difference.
Another big one is incorrect intonation settings on your guitar. That’s when an open string sounds different in pitch than on the 12th fret. Some guitars, like the Strat, are relatively easy to adjust, others maybe not so much.
Also remember that a $3,000 guitar is (usually) much better built that a $79.95 one on Amazon. Both are guitars, but the precision in every component is not the same. Thus the intonation and other problems.
I’ve working in many professional studios and learned one important thing: Let good enough be good enough. Use a tuner and when each string is tuned about right, start playing. Meanwhile, after all those years, I simply strum a guitar’s open strings once and know if it’s in tune or not. It’s the age… 🙂
Agree. I do the same thing and like you I can tell if is in tune or not.. Nothing is perfect,
but in music that is part of the beauty.
I don’t see what all this is about. My guitar was in tune when it left the factory. Why mess withi it?
Nate: Unfortunately, those factory tuning jobs wear off after a couple of years. 😉
Even a high quality guitar normally has only 12 frets, and the octave is the only interval that is in-tune. ALL other intervals are mistuned, or tempered. The Harmonic Series has an infinite number of different intervals, while standard fretting has only one interval, a half-step, which is compounded to imitate other intervals.
Most intervals in the Series are not even approximated in standard fretting.
Most musicians have never even experienced the feeling of playing a perfectly tuned chord.
All musicians owe it to themselves to experience that feeling, at least once.
BTW, the Beatles often used pure intervals in their vocal harmonies. And Lennon tuned to C 528 hertz for songs like Imagine.
Now guitars with pure intervals are available: http://www.microtones.com
Oh yeah …and DON”T leave a guitar sitting by the window with the sun shining in on it for long periods of time. BIG TROUBLE. Heating up that wood can really mess up your neck adjustments.
To anyone having tuning issues: If you don’t have a locking nut, you should put on only enough string to keep it secure and cut the rest off, but most importantly, you HAVE TO stretch out the strings. Generally about 3 or 4 times of laying the LP on your lap and taking each string and grabbing it individually and stretching it when the strings are new takes care of tuning. Done! Example: with the LP on your lap and the heaviest strings towards you, place your fingers over the strings, grab the first string … get your fingers under the string. Hold the string with all fingers. Starting with your knuckles on the fret board roll your hand to the right and to the left while holding the string. Stretch the string. Stretch it good, but be careful on the first two that you don’t snap them. Stretch. Tune. Stretch. Tune. Stretch. Tune. repeat. I have done this on my LPs for decades. After that, I rarely have to tune them when I take them out of the case! I am an aggressive player. Lots of bends and vibrato. I do this with all guitars, not just LPs. When you put new strings on, you need to stretch those strings. Better to do it before you play.
I also agree with the other commenters who point to intonation as something to check when all else fails. If your intonation is out, it’s an easy fix and you will have tuning issues until you get the intonation set correctly, so if you do what I posted above and still have major tuning issues, then it is likely that your intonation is out. After that, it can only be bigger issues like you need to have the neck adjusted or maybe a bad truss rod.
This string stretching nonsense is all pervasive and very bad advice. When you install new strings they need to settle at the attachment points, at the tuner post and at the bridge anchor. If you use good quality strings and you install them correctly this happens very quickly and doesn’t require any violent yanking on the string. Yanking on strings puts unnecessary stress on the guitar and can damage it. For example on an acoustic flat top guitar it accelerates the wear on the plate under the bridge. You can also end up putting permanent bends in the string. Although these my not be apparent with the string under tension they can still cause irregularities in how the string vibrates and can even cause string buzz.
Check intonation at the 12th fret. On electric guitars we have adjustable saddles on the bridge that will correct the intonation. (Move away from the 12th fret to flatten, and conversely to sharpen.) That should help with staying in tune up and down the fret board. With acoustic guitars check the 12th fret intonation before you buy.
Unfortunately it can be more complicated than that ….sometimes the intonation can be perfect ..yet …as an example.. your open chords may sound great …yet your barre chords (eg E shaped barre chords )may sound not quite right for no reason that you can understand …. I generally check the notes up further on the fretboard of the strings that sound off with my chromatic tuner…and usually find that some are a tad out and so I adjust that string to hopefully find an acceptable balance for both open and barre chords alike….This appears to be true for both high end guitars and more modestly priced instruments
I agree totally
Where can we get those taped on frets for classical guitar that Tolgahan Çoğulu offers?
Someone let Vai, Satch, Gilbert, Abasi and others know they’re doing it all wrong!
It is a good article written by an informed writer.
Add in possibly incorrect gauge strings, or old worn strings that have changed their properties from their factory specifications and tuning is a complex art that is a compromise rather than perfection.
Most importantly, tune with the same attack you are going to play with. If you tune with a soft little pluck and it seems in tune, it’s going to go way sharper if you hit the strings harder during the song.
Bollocks. I’ve been playing guitar since I was 11, I’m now 63 and I’ve done pitch pipes, pianos, tuning forks and weird battery things with wavering needles. the best thing I ever bought was TC electronics Polywotsit Clip thing. Spot on tuning. IF YOUR GUITAR DOESN’T PLAY IN TUNE UP AND DOWN THE NECK – (hint) – it’s NOT the tuning, it’s your guitar. Look up Stewmac videos on how to set up your guitar. If you have brains, balls and some basic tools, you can sort your guitar problems by your own self.
And then there were the Beatles who did not even know the name of the note on each string. Now, tune your butt off and then make music as great as they did. Still tuning?
You couldn’t be more correct.
Too many musicians now-a-days try so hard to sound flawless, that they actually forget about the emotional aspects of music.
The music produced from the 50’s – mid 80’s had character. Sure, the intonation may have been a little wacked, but it just sounded and “felt” right…
Using the harmonics to tune…E string fret 7 to A string fret 5? I think a bit backward. No?
Buy a high end Gibson and you’re good to go. I can play a 2 hour show and my 1978 Les Paul Deluxe is still in tune after with the hubbys Flying Vee and he about rips the neck off because he doesn’t use pedals and forces all those sounds out of his. I never realized people had so much trouble unless they weren’t using a high end instrument or bolt on neck which sucks. Even I can knock one of those out of tune easily .
Sorry if that sounds snobby, but it’s true
To each his own. Gibson QC seems to have taken a dive lately so there’s that. And there’s definitely some fine quality Korean made instruments out there right now, But on the other point, my bolt on necks stays in tune just fine, and unlike Gibson, if they fall off the guitar stand the head won’t break off because it’s not offset. If somehow a truck runs over the neck…I can replace it myself. Get what you like and take care of it. If you don’t like it next year, replace it. Blind loyalty to one brand really limits your options because quality varies even within brands IMHO. BTW I own an 80’s Gibson V as well and I love it. Cheers
Sorry Linda, but it is simply not true that a high end instrument and a set neck is all you need and you’re “good to go”.
I hear novices frequently ask “does it stay in tune”? as a measure of how good a guitar is. IMHO if a guitar can’t stay in tune, reasonably, it is either set up poorly or a complete pile. Conversely, the best or most expensive guitars under the sun won’t magically hold their tuning.
It is simple physics so, yes a better instrument with appropriately working bridge and nut will hold tuning better, but that’s a factor of other things than your Les Paul being great per se. It is also made of wood which expands and contracts – all the time. By your set neck logic the best guitars would be made of stainless steel, which wouldn’t flex at all so the “tuning” would “stick”. But they would sound um, bad.
I wouldn’t want a guitar that doesn’t move. My “high end” J-45 holds it’s tuning beautifully. But she needs to be tuned because she is alive, and she flexes with the world around us – I gig in Minnesota so the temperature/climate is never the same from minute to minute, and I’ve been known to bend and bang a bit. My Gretch was a stinker to keep in tune, with the Bigsby and all, but after I properly cleaned and filed the nut and bridge for my string gauge. It is much better. With a trem or bigsby it’s probably recommended to lube the bridge and nut, which I also do. …and yes I have them all, set neck gibby’s strats, tele’s and they all hold their tuning, reasonably, because I work on my own “weapons”.
So, the reason your particular gibby stays in tune (for a couple hours anyway, as it seems to you) IS because it is great instrument, – BUT more importantly, it is properly setup (which will be better with a better guitar – off the shelf) and you play lightly. Give it some time, let the wound strings burrow into the nut a bit, and you’ll need to service it to maintain the experience. I’ll bet you that guitar I can pull it out of tune with one run-through of Pride and Joy.
oh, and I forgot to mention the string winding – that needs to be done right too.
…just because I went all Poindexter on you I thought I should throw that in.
Sounds very much like someone who has never tried an Ibanez and heard what a really reliable instrument is :)))
Ever seen a Gibson in the hands of Vai, Satch, Gilbert, Abasi and… well, good guitarists? ;)))
It’s not true.. I have a $500 Korean made Dean Icon, setneck maple top mahogany body, grover tuners. .. I can throw it off the roof of my house and it will be in tune when I pick it up. Gibson is just a high priced name. I have even recorded my guitar and a gibson les paul on the same amp, with the same mics. My Dean won out. Thicker, ballsier tone. And it has PAF style buckers just like a lp. You’re paying for a name.
Great article; excellent info, well presented, but why no mention of the Buzz Feiten Tuning System?
Good call! For those who don’t know, here is some info on BFTS from Wikipedia.
In 1992, Feiten patented a new ‘tempering’ tuning system for guitars, now marketed as the ‘Buzz Feiten tuning system’. The architecture of his system makes it possible to tune guitars and basses more accurately, resulting in more accurate tonality of notes played on the lowest 3 or 4 frets, which otherwise frequently play out-of-tune compared to notes played on the rest of the neck. The difference, though subtle, is especially evident in the playing of open chords.
The system requires some minor alterations to the instrument, and can be retrofitted to most guitars. The Buzz Feiten Tuning System is factory-installed on several well-known brands, plus guitars made by trained and qualified luthiers who are able to incorporate Feiten’s formula into their instruments.
The Feiten tuning system can make use of a special guitar tuner featuring “Buzz Feiten presets” — the strings have to be tuned slightly flat or sharp because of the nut’s compensations.
Learn more at http://www.buzzfeiten.com/
I have been using “BUZZ FEITEN” tuning for about 10 years and I LOVE IT! It may not be perfect, but I find the compensation of moving the nut closer to the first fret to be a HUGE IMPROVEMENT! Hey, don’t forget to mention that old strings also destroy intonation.
Finally, someone who understands my plight! Like you, I get really irritated by those 3rds! Last week I recorded a song and got so frustrated with every chord being just slightly out of tune – I tuned-up and recorded each chord separately! Luckily there were only 6 chords in the song….jeez!
… but what about Joni Mitchell?!
Epic comment… lol