Old 11-11-2010, 06:50 PM   #1
yep
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Default Digital guitar tips

There seem to be a ton of threads on the topic of amp emulators, why I don't sound as good as the examples or someone's youtube vid, etc. So I thought I'd start a thread specifically on the topic of recording digital guitar with an emulator.

To get things rolling:

1. The guitar matters, a lot. Almost certainly more than it matters with a great amp. Analog preamplification stages are bi-directional, meaning, when the guitar (or mic) pushes the preamp, the preamp pushes back. Especially with crude stuff like guitar signal. Digital cannot realistically reproduce this, and it's the single most limiting technical factor of digital guitar amp emulation-- any distortion that can be recorded digitally can, by definition, be produced digitally given sufficient processing power and design effort, but the digital system cannot "push back" against the output current of the guitar the way an analog system does. So you really need to set up your guitar correctly. You don't necessarily need a million-dollar guitar, but digital is a lot less forgiving to poor setup or "bad" guitars than analog is. More on this below.

2. Layering tracks is much harder with digital emulators than with real amps. Unless the digital processor is set with some kind of randomizing function or whatever, the digital emulator is applying the exact same processing to whatever goes through it. For this reason (I suspect), double-tracking digital guitars often results in a thinnish, phasey sound compared to double-tracking guitars through a real tube amp that responds slightly differently every millisecond due to temperature, age, voltage sag, whatever. I'm guessing as to the cause but the effect is pretty noticeable. If you want to multi-track the same guitar part, you often have to use different brands of emulators to avoid a fake and "synth-y" sound.

3. You probably have to make your own presets. Because electric guitar is such a crude and imprecise instrument (although a wonderfully sensitive and expressive one), what works for one guitar does not necessarily work for another, even of the same make and model (more on guitar setup below).

4. This is huge: get in touch with your parametric EQ. For reasons unknown to me, digital guitar effects, even when they sound quite good, tend to leave a certain imprint of fizzy trash at certain frequencies, most often in the 2kHz~11kHz range. Set up a parametric eq with a sharp boost (say, +10dB with a Q of 3 or higher), and sweep around that upper midrange. What you are looking for is places where the EQ'd guitar sounds like a steady-state whine, with no change between notes, chords, beats, or whatever. Ten-to-one says you find at least one such frequency. When you do, zero in on the most obnoxious, offensive frequency (the one that sounds most like high-pitched fan noise, for lack of a better example) and turn the boost into a cut. You'll have to play around with Q and cut amount to find the best compromise, but a one or two such rips can make a huge improvement in a fizzy or nasal guitar tone (analog or digital, but digital amp emulators seem to be the worst offenders). You might find similar offenders in the lower mids, or anywhere else. It's trial-and-error to figure out how much and how many cuts you can get away with before killing the guitar sound, and sometimes it works better BEFORE the distortion/amp simulator, but usually after. But once you have it set up, it tends to work pretty well as a preset/template for that guitar sound.

Last edited by yep; 11-11-2010 at 07:59 PM.
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Old 11-11-2010, 07:40 PM   #2
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Guitar setup for digital recording. Most of this stuff applies to playing through a real amp equally, but digital inputs are a lot less forgiving than reactive tube-amp input stages. Before you ever reach the emulator circuit, the digital front-end is capturing your guitar's output with agonizing accuracy.

Rock stars hire skilled guitar techs to keep their guitars sounding and playing their best. Amateurs and home recordists often use guitars whose sound and playability is fucked-up beyond all recognition.

For starters, pick a brand and gauge of string to stick with, and buy them in 10-packs whenever they are on sale. Unless you know something I don't (and you might), skip coated, cryogenic, or other exotic strings and find an inexpensive brand and get in the habit of changing them frequently. It's easy and quick once you get used to it. (bass players might get more benefit from investing in pricier strings, since their strings are a lot more expensive). This is important since any time you change string gauge, you have to do a whole new setup from scratch.

Now, you can find a lot of advice on guitar setup online. Alternately, you can hire someone to do a setup for you once a year or so. DO NOT just drop it off at guitar center for $50 or whatever, unless you know the tech is good. If you pay someone else to do your setup, make sure it is someone who knows what they are doing. If you live near a big city, chances are you can find someone who does repair and setup work for bona-fide rock stars pretty cheap. Better yet is to learn to setup your own guitars.

Guitar setup basically consists of three factors:

1. Playability-to-fret-buzz ratio. Setting the action on a guitar is a back-and-forth interaction of four factors: truss rod adjustment ("bow" in the neck), bridge height, neck angle, and nut height. If it's your first time doing this yourself, buy a few nuts of the right size for your guitar (graphite HUGELY recommended), and file/sand them to different heights and experiment before gluing them down, if possible. These adjustments are an interactive art, but it's not that hard if you set aside some time and make small adjustments. The idea is to get the minimum possible fret buzz for your playing style, keeping in mind that the least "buzzy" setups will also tend to have very high action and more difficult playability. Digital is, in my experience, a lot less forgiving of fret buzz than real tube amps are, and you may need to sacrifice a bit of playability for clean studio playing through digital emulators. Bear in mind that some parts of the neck might play and sound better than others-- the ideal setup for a heavy-handed metal rhythm guitar might produce some pretty high action on the 24th fret. This should be tested up and down the neck, and all four adjustments might have to be tweaked multiple times to find the best overall compromise. One useful rule of thumb for setting truss-rod/neck bow is to take a medium-gauge pick (say 0.8mm thickness), and set the bow so that the tip of the pick just clears all the frets when you fret the "body fret", where the neck joins the body (e.g., you fret the 17th fret right at the joint between neck and body, and you can just barely slide the tip of a pick between the first and 12th frets without "sticking"). Bear in mind this is just a starting point. Once you are COMPLETELY done with the setup, take your best-performing nut and fix it down a TINY drop of superglue in the center-- the strings will mostly hold it in place, and you want it to be easy to tap/pry out in the future.

2. Intonation. This is how "in tune" each note up and down the fretboard is. The simplest test is to tune each string according to the 12th fret harmonic, and then see whether it's still "in tune" when you actually press down on that 12th fret (which should be exactly half the string length). If it's sharp when fretted, then string is shorter between the 12th fret and the bridge than it is between the 12th fret and the nut. If it's flat, vice-versa. Adjust your bridge saddle until both the fretted and harmonic notes are identical. Now do the same test with your 7th and 19th frets and harmonics. The idea is to get all those frets perfectly in-tune for each string. Ideally, ALL frets will be perfectly in-tune, but those are good starting points, since the 7th fret is 1/3 of the string length, the 12th fret is halfway down, and the 19th fret is 2/3 of the way down. Plus, each of those has prominent harmonics that easy to compare to the fretted note. The harmonics and fretted notes should both be correct on each string. Note that you should "test" the intonation the same way that you would "play" the note. If you tend to "squeeze" the frets a bit, as many guitar players do, then your setup should reflect this. Note also that changing the intonation may require some back-and-forth adjustments of neck bow and angle, and some compromise may be required with playability and fret buzz, above.

3. Electronics and pickup height. Pickup height is crucial to the sound of a guitar, and is easily adjustable. Pickups set very close to the strings tend to clip and distort. which can be kind of cool for a "chirpy", "clicky" attack when sent through a tube amp, but tends to get very ugly through digital setups. Plug your guitar into your digital front-end and put on a good pair of headphones and start playing perfectly clean notes and chords. If you are hearing brittle, clicky, "clipped" attacks, crank down your pickups or mess with your input level to see if you can subdue them at lower gain. This is exactly where the "pushback" of analog circuits fails when recording digitally. Crackly, noisy knobs and switches can usually be dealt with easy by a good shot of contact cleaner and some aggressive "swiping", i.e., cranking the knob up-and-down rapidly to get the internal brush to clear off all the dust and grime that's making the pot noisy. Hum is a topic unto itself, but can often be massively improved with some simple foil shielding and good grounding. Both cheap and expensive guitars often display shameful lack of attention to this stuff. The topic is big, but well within the realm of a competent amateur to correct. This site offers an excellent overview:

http://www.guitarnuts.com/wiring/shielding/shield3.php

The critical point to all this is multifold:

- Even an awesome guitar trough a top-of-the-line emulator (or real amp) can sound bad if poorly set-up.

- Cheap guitars can often improve several letter grades in playability and tone with a good setup. In fact, I would say that setup is the biggest and maybe even only substantive difference between a USA Fender and a cheap Squier, for example.

Last edited by yep; 11-11-2010 at 07:51 PM.
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Old 11-11-2010, 10:02 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yep View Post
Guitar setup for digital recording.
Yep, excellent post. I've just spent the last two days doing all the above e.g., two or more hours on getting the neck bow right where I wanted it, more time adjusting pickup height (a critical issue for my Humbucker), replacing a pot, doing the fine intonation adjustment, etc.

While all this had a big effect (I'm not blaming Line 6 for crappy tone any more), I found it not only changed the hardware but it also changed my approach. Though am only one day into this, I can reduce the nasty push-back, bad breakup, and harsh tonal qualities of my cheap guitar by using a much, much ligher touch.

I had set out to improve the action as much as possible for playability and found that it could be improved dramatically (though to a limit) by caressing the strings instead of using the medium heavy strum/picking/plucking I've used for many years. Playing speed is already up and the harsh tones are gone.

So, yes, adjust the hardware carefully but let's not forget that to play the instrument is to interact with it - it will play the musician too if he/she is open to this.

Thanks again.
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Old 11-11-2010, 10:57 PM   #4
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This is also a matter of psychology. If you think your gear is crap you will play crap. So spend some time to adjust your guitar properly and find a good tone, no matter if it's a real amp or a simulation. You have to like what you hear. You have to trust your equipment, then you will play much better and it will sound much better.
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Old 11-12-2010, 04:21 AM   #5
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I've been working on electric guitars and basses for almost forty-five years, and used to swap setup and maintenance tips with Dan Erlewine (who is a wonderful guy, BTW). At the moment, I own or have in route sixty (I believe!) personal guitars and basses of all sorts.

I may not be a fantastic player, but I know gear.

A few comments on setup and tuning and the misnomer, "setting intonation." Man, I hardly know where to start...

Well, randomly, here goes!

Take setup and "intonation" advice you hear on guitar forums with a grain of salt or disregard it completely, because 95%+ of these people simply have no clue. Real guitar pros who know what they're talking about leave within days. Dan lasted about two weeks when he tried to give advice on a major forum. Guitar forums are almost entirely about wannabees pooling their ignorance and aggressively institutionalizing it as unthinking peer group dogma. They resist new and better data with great hostility...largely because, well, they're stupid.

Avoid self-ordained "guitar techs" who offer instant "While-U-Wait" setups at fixed fees. My local Guitar Center had a big event where you could drag your guitar in and have it "professionally set up" on the spot for $20. Quick and dirty setups like this have about a 50/50 chance of improving or worsening a guitar, but they're never complete nor correct. A setup done right takes time and has to be rechecked after a couple of days after the adjustments, particularly to the neck, have had time to "settle." A pretty large majority of "guitar techs" I've encountered didn't know what they were doing and were duffers learning (if at all) on other people's gear as they went along and charging them for it.

Your guitar will NEVER be "intonated" or even "in tune." Jack Endino did a great little article about the sheer impossibility of the recorded guitar ever being "in tune," even if there was any actual agreement on what "in tune" even is, and there isn't. There are wide opinions on the proper temperament for guitar, and the played note does not have stable pitch in any case. To the extent "intonation" means anything at all, it means that all the notes you actually play sound more or less correct by your definition of on-pitch. And good luck on even getting that much in the ballpark. Fooling around with the 12th fret and its harmonic and adjusting the saddle to that is only an approximation, a starting point. In itself it means nothing. THE SINGLE BIGGEST TUNING PROBLEM IS THE NUT, particularly at the big E string, which is grossly mis-cut on probably a majority of the new production guitars I'm seeing at any price point short of Custom Shop. Pre-cut nuts are becoming the rule, and they are a scandal. The problem is that the big E, especially, cannot handle the break angle. The nut is not ramping the string properly and is levering it up at the back of the slot, which becomes the witness point rather than the front face of the slot where it is supposed to be and must be for the string to tune properly.

The above problem is extremely easy to diagnose and I'm amazed so few people notice it, including all these shake and bake "guitar techs"...but they don't because they have become idiotically hypnotized by electronic tuners and fiddling with 12th fret intonation at the expense of developing a good ear for finding bad notes.

OK, if you have "intonated" your guitar and have the open E "in tune," play the F, F# and G. Are they "in tune"? If so, cool. Are they decreasingly sharp as you go up the scale? You have this problem, and it's probably going to require expert nut work. Check the other strings as well. Until this is repaired, the whole string is off, just as if you'd backed a saddle 1/8" out of place. One of your two critical witness points is not where it should be.

I'm seeing this on brand new $2000 US Fenders (for example) as well as on cheap imports.

That's enough for now. In the next installment, maybe we can get to the grosser misconceptions about shielding.

Last edited by Bezmotivnik; 11-12-2010 at 04:53 AM.
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Old 11-12-2010, 07:21 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by yep View Post

4. This is huge: get in touch with your parametric EQ. For reasons unknown to me, digital guitar effects, even when they sound quite good, tend to leave a certain imprint of fizzy trash at certain frequencies, most often in the 2kHz~11kHz range. Set up a parametric eq with a sharp boost (say, +10dB with a Q of 3 or higher), and sweep around that upper midrange. What you are looking for is places where the EQ'd guitar sounds like a steady-state whine, with no change between notes, chords, beats, or whatever. Ten-to-one says you find at least one such frequency. When you do, zero in on the most obnoxious, offensive frequency (the one that sounds most like high-pitched fan noise, for lack of a better example) and turn the boost into a cut. You'll have to play around with Q and cut amount to find the best compromise, but a one or two such rips can make a huge improvement in a fizzy or nasal guitar tone (analog or digital, but digital amp emulators seem to be the worst offenders). You might find similar offenders in the lower mids, or anywhere else. It's trial-and-error to figure out how much and how many cuts you can get away with before killing the guitar sound, and sometimes it works better BEFORE the distortion/amp simulator, but usually after. But once you have it set up, it tends to work pretty well as a preset/template for that guitar sound.
Great thread! Thanks for the advice so far. I've jsut started working on recording/mixing my first album, and for a variety of practical necessities, and I'm using primarily digital amp sims and sampled drums, so any help I can get is appreciated. I get some great sounds from Guitar Rig, but sometimes the high gain amps do have a nasty fizz going. Hopefully this will help.

I'm wondering -- you mention the pre-amp push-back when using a physical amp. I have an old Crate Powerblock that I sometimes use as a DI box - just to warm the tone before it hits Guitar Rig. It's solid state, but actually quite warm. Would this restore that push-back?

Thanks again.

Finally -- there's another great thread starting up that is a great pair with this one:
The Metal & Hard Rock Production Thread
http://forum.cockos.com/showthread.php?t=68501



Thanks to the Reaper community for being so eager to share!
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Old 11-12-2010, 07:25 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Bezmotivnik View Post
Avoid self-ordained "guitar techs" who offer instant "While-U-Wait" setups at fixed fees. My local Guitar Center had a big event where you could drag your guitar in and have it "professionally set up" on the spot for $20. Quick and dirty setups like this have about a 50/50 chance of improving or worsening a guitar, but they're never complete nor correct. A setup done right takes time and has to be rechecked after a couple of days after the adjustments, particularly to the neck, have had time to "settle." A pretty large majority of "guitar techs" I've encountered didn't know what they were doing and were duffers learning (if at all) on other people's gear as they went along and charging them for it.
Hey - thanks for the warning. I'm lucky to have a really excellent shop near me that can do this for me. http://www.actionguitar.com/

If I'm asking for a set-up, should I separately ask about the electronics and pick-up height etc...or should that be included and addressed by a competent setup?
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Old 11-12-2010, 08:16 AM   #8
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I just started a thread along the same lines, Yep. But, very interested in your take.

I am going to link to this thread in my thread, because it's good to know stuff that, well... people should know.
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Old 11-12-2010, 08:32 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bezmotivnik View Post
I've been working on electric guitars and basses for almost forty-five years, and used to swap setup and maintenance tips with Dan Erlewine (who is a wonderful guy, BTW). At the moment, I own or have in route sixty (I believe!) personal guitars and basses of all sorts.

I may not be a fantastic player, but I know gear.

A few comments on setup and tuning and the misnomer, "setting intonation." Man, I hardly know where to start...

Well, randomly, here goes!

Take setup and "intonation" advice you hear on guitar forums with a grain of salt or disregard it completely, because 95%+ of these people simply have no clue. Real guitar pros who know what they're talking about leave within days. Dan lasted about two weeks when he tried to give advice on a major forum. Guitar forums are almost entirely about wannabees pooling their ignorance and aggressively institutionalizing it as unthinking peer group dogma. They resist new and better data with great hostility...largely because, well, they're stupid.

Avoid self-ordained "guitar techs" who offer instant "While-U-Wait" setups at fixed fees. My local Guitar Center had a big event where you could drag your guitar in and have it "professionally set up" on the spot for $20. Quick and dirty setups like this have about a 50/50 chance of improving or worsening a guitar, but they're never complete nor correct. A setup done right takes time and has to be rechecked after a couple of days after the adjustments, particularly to the neck, have had time to "settle." A pretty large majority of "guitar techs" I've encountered didn't know what they were doing and were duffers learning (if at all) on other people's gear as they went along and charging them for it.

Your guitar will NEVER be "intonated" or even "in tune." Jack Endino did a great little article about the sheer impossibility of the recorded guitar ever being "in tune," even if there was any actual agreement on what "in tune" even is, and there isn't. There are wide opinions on the proper temperament for guitar, and the played note does not have stable pitch in any case. To the extent "intonation" means anything at all, it means that all the notes you actually play sound more or less correct by your definition of on-pitch. And good luck on even getting that much in the ballpark. Fooling around with the 12th fret and its harmonic and adjusting the saddle to that is only an approximation, a starting point. In itself it means nothing. THE SINGLE BIGGEST TUNING PROBLEM IS THE NUT, particularly at the big E string, which is grossly mis-cut on probably a majority of the new production guitars I'm seeing at any price point short of Custom Shop. Pre-cut nuts are becoming the rule, and they are a scandal. The problem is that the big E, especially, cannot handle the break angle. The nut is not ramping the string properly and is levering it up at the back of the slot, which becomes the witness point rather than the front face of the slot where it is supposed to be and must be for the string to tune properly.

The above problem is extremely easy to diagnose and I'm amazed so few people notice it, including all these shake and bake "guitar techs"...but they don't because they have become idiotically hypnotized by electronic tuners and fiddling with 12th fret intonation at the expense of developing a good ear for finding bad notes.

OK, if you have "intonated" your guitar and have the open E "in tune," play the F, F# and G. Are they "in tune"? If so, cool. Are they decreasingly sharp as you go up the scale? You have this problem, and it's probably going to require expert nut work. Check the other strings as well. Until this is repaired, the whole string is off, just as if you'd backed a saddle 1/8" out of place. One of your two critical witness points is not where it should be.

I'm seeing this on brand new $2000 US Fenders (for example) as well as on cheap imports.

That's enough for now. In the next installment, maybe we can get to the grosser misconceptions about shielding.
This is awesome. For someone like me just starting to learn how to do guitar setups, this is really good to know. It's not rocket science to me - but knowing all of the nuances and how they interplay with other parts of the guitar is really useful information.
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Old 11-12-2010, 09:31 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Bezmotivnik View Post

Avoid self-ordained "guitar techs" who offer instant "While-U-Wait" setups at fixed fees.
Big +1 to this. I've corrected totally hacked up setups from friends that had their stuff "set up" at a big music chain.

Find a good local guy that is recommended from long time local players. Pay the extra $20-$30 for the setup. I can almost guarantee he/she listen to your requests, ask what style of music you play, set up the guitar for YOU. Also, they will often even tell you what they did to improve your guitar, which in turn is a learning experience for you.

Quote:
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Your guitar will NEVER be "intonated" or even "in tune."
This is also true, in a sense. I'll add that a perfectly intonated guitar will still be out of tune if you man handle chords (like I do). If the tech pressed on the 12th fret lightly and intonates it and you grip the neck like a bear and press harder on the strings, the chord will be "out of tune". Jumbo frets amplify this problem.
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Old 11-12-2010, 12:48 PM   #11
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This is awesome. For someone like me just starting to learn how to do guitar setups, this is really good to know.
Here's where I got the starting point. There might be a similar site for your guitar model.

http://www.fender.com/support/strato...etup_guide.php
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Old 11-12-2010, 01:15 PM   #12
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Since we're on the topic of setup, has anyone tried PLEK? http://www.plek.com/en_US/home/
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Old 11-12-2010, 01:17 PM   #13
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Here's where I got the starting point. There might be a similar site for your guitar model.

http://www.fender.com/support/strato...etup_guide.php
I've always felt that the Fender Strat recommended 'action' settings are too low. Although they do say that they're for a light touch. In addition to using a light touch, I like to option of hitting the guitar quite hard. It just supports the view that you need to set up your guitar action for your own personal playing style. Which is why I would recommend learning to do it yourself to your own tastes and not rely on so called 'experts'.

Interesting thread. I check my octave intonation every time I change my strings, which is before every gig, and it's often necessary to make slight adjustments.

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Old 11-12-2010, 01:31 PM   #14
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Here's a quick tip for improving your amp sim's tone:

Try adding Liteon/nonlinear or some other saturation (though nonlinear sounds nice) before/after/both the amp sim plugin.
For some people this might be stating the obvious, but I just figured this out a couple of days ago and it has really made a difference in the sounds I get out of Amplitube 3.
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Old 11-12-2010, 02:12 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by l0calh05t View Post
Since we're on the topic of setup, has anyone tried PLEK? http://www.plek.com/en_US/home/
Plek gets a lot of dis because it's only doing what was once routinely done by skilled craftsmen on all guitars at the factory.

It's hilarious that Gibson [spit!] was proudly using it on their high-end instruments.

Plek can go wrong and apparently has for some people who have taken their instruments in to the few shops that offer it. Other people are very happy with the results. My view is that it does nothing I can't do myself.
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Old 11-12-2010, 02:21 PM   #16
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a perfectly intonated guitar
If it existed...
Quote:
will still be out of tune if you man handle chords (like I do)
It will anyway.

When you play a note, it briefly goes sharp before settling back to pitch.

The harder you play, the worse it is.

Funny that people staring reverently at those electronic tuners never noticed this.

With fast-strummed chords played hard, pitch goes totally out the window. In recording, these tracks are frequently done with slightly downtuned guitars.
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Old 11-12-2010, 02:28 PM   #17
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With fast-strummed chords played hard, pitch goes totally out the window. In recording, these tracks are frequently done with slightly downtuned guitars.
Then there is also the fun fact of equal temperament tuning always being slightly out of tune in chords.
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Old 11-12-2010, 02:30 PM   #18
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Your guitar will NEVER be "intonated" or even "in tune."
so true - many people dont realize that not only does a guitar have to be intonated and tuned - it also has to be PLAYED in tune! lol
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Old 11-12-2010, 02:36 PM   #19
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Then there is also the fun fact of equal temperament tuning always being slightly out of tune in chords.
Yep, either 3rds or 4ths or 5ths, or the middle-ground of all being slightly off.
Though while recording, it's possible to change the tuning for every riff slightly according to the content.
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Old 11-12-2010, 02:50 PM   #20
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Here's where I got the starting point. There might be a similar site for your guitar model.

http://www.fender.com/support/strato...etup_guide.php
You can destroy a neck using this information, which is duplicated on nearly every "How to Set Up Your Axe" site I've ever seen.

Inept trussrod adjustment has ruined more instruments than any other thing I've seen.

To adjust a neck properly is somewhat complicated, but at the very least, do this:

Make 100% sure the wrench fits properly and is fully seated. Just because it came with the guitar doesn't mean it fits. The hole may also be filled with debris. I've seen them totally filled with hardened buffing compound that had to be laboriously picked out.

Slack the strings some (or totally, if needed) to reduce pressure on the the trussrod.

Slightly loosen the trussrod nut before tightening it to unstick it from the neck finish or other things that freeze it under great pressure over time. Tightening into a stuck nut strips more wrench holes and causes more damage than anything. It's easier (on you and the neck) to bust it free loosening than tightening.

To really adjust a neck properly, you have to backload the neck to completely remove all pressure on the trussrod, but this is a bit complicated and tricky. Dan (who was the first person I encountered other than myself who used this method) uses an elaborate bench jig for this. I use a simpler but less foolproof method I won't share because it's risky if you don't know what you're doing.

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Old 11-12-2010, 02:58 PM   #21
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Then there is also the fun fact of equal temperament tuning always being slightly out of tune in chords.
Chording is tonal misery.

Which is why -- ultimately -- you have to adjust tuning to ear.

I've seen chords tracked separately with different tunings to get past some of the worst of this.
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Old 11-12-2010, 03:00 PM   #22
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Here is a tip for improving ampsim sound and playing response from Bootsie(Variety of Sound) that I tried last night. I was floored by the results.

VST Signal Chain: VST Compressor of your choice(set to a modest compression setting) > Fender style ampsim > FerricTDS saturation VST (Dynamics high, Saturation low, SC high, rest to taste)> any other FX

I ran this configuration using my Variax on a Tele setting, Bootsie's Density compressor and Amplitube 2 Duo with a Fender Super Reverb preset. WOW! It "felt" like I was playing through a real amp. The sound also improved dramatically. I have routinely used a compressor in front of ampsims but including FerricTDS behind the ampsim was a revelation.

FYI - The above settings for FerricTDS are for a clean to edge of break up amp sound. If you are doing anything crunchy to high-gain you will probably want to tweak it a bit.
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Old 11-12-2010, 03:08 PM   #23
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Since we're on the topic of setup, has anyone tried PLEK? http://www.plek.com/en_US/home/
There's one of these in Sydney. In combination with a good guitar tech, they can do a great job. There's a catch, though - the process leaves a tiny, near invisible groove on the neck next to each fret, something to do with the cutting head. It doesn't affect anything too badly - it's invisible unless you know where to look - but I'd be hesitant to put an actual vintage/rare guitar in for that service just in case.

Having said that, the guitars I've had back from there all play and sound like champions, and the techs there also do a lot of the recommended stuff mentioned in this thread. Huge waiting list to get in too.
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Old 11-12-2010, 03:40 PM   #24
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Something alluded to but maybe has been mistakenly in a previous post is that fact that NO fretted instrument can be perfectly in tune right across the fretboard up and down as the frets have to obey the laws of,"Even Temperament".
This is easily demonstrable.

Set the intonation for the gauge of strings being used.Tune the guitar as accurately as you would.Now play an Full G chord and then play the barre version at the 3rd fret.You should notice they are slightly off with each other.
The frets being rigid cannot adjust for the difference in thickness and therefore tension of the strings at the different points on different strings unlike say a Violinist who,through training,will naturally flatten and sharpen the same notes depending on what string they are played on.

This it only slight in most cases and we as humans have basically ignored it and got used to it in Pop/Rock music.

My 10 penn'th.
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Old 11-13-2010, 06:26 PM   #25
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Something alluded to but maybe has been mistakenly in a previous post is that fact that NO fretted instrument can be perfectly in tune right across the fretboard up and down as the frets have to obey the laws of,"Even Temperament"....
Respectfully, this is confusing "equal temperament" with "out of tune", and is drifting way off topic.

Equal-tempered instruments include not only fretted string instruments like guitar, but also pretty much every modern instrument anywhere, including keyboards, horns, and all the rest of it.

Frankly, talking about different temperaments is so far off-topic from guitar setup as to almost amount to trolling, although I'm sure it was not intended as such. A guitar should be set up such that each note it plays is "in tune" with the same note played on a conventional piano, trumpet, harmonica, or any other equal-tempered instrument. Suggesting that there is something "wrong" with equal-tempered tuning is going way off the reservation, so to speak. It's a topic for theoretical discussions of music and sound, not a practical concern for recording setup.

Bezmotivnik above made some excellent posts abut the real-world difficulties of tuning guitars, specifically that a plucked note tends to start out "sharp", settle into its steady-state "note" and then decay somewhat "flat". Personally, I consider the ability to find the "in tune" sweet spot for your playing style to be a sort of prerequisite. And in that sense, tuning a plucked-string instrument is something that requires some degree of art and judgement.

But to bring different temperaments into the discussion of how to set up or record a guitar is both confusing and irrelevant. Guitars, like pianos, saxophones, vibes, and practically every other instrument made today, use equal-temperament. There is little or no point to talking about alternate temperaments unless we're talking about completely different instrumentation and physically different instruments. Please start a new thread if you want to talk about the pros and cons of various temperaments. Bringing them up here is like introducing quantum physics into a discussion of appliance wiring.
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Old 11-13-2010, 06:33 PM   #26
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Respectfully, this is confusing "equal temperament" with "out of tune", and is drifting way off topic.

Equal-tempered instruments include not only fretted string instruments like guitar, but also pretty much every modern instrument anywhere, including keyboards, horns, and all the rest of it.

Frankly, talking about different temperaments is so far off-topic from guitar setup as to almost amount to trolling, although I'm sure it was not intended as such. A guitar should be set up such that each note it plays is "in tune" with the same note played on a conventional piano, trumpet, harmonica, or any other equal-tempered instrument. Suggesting that there is something "wrong" with equal-tempered tuning is going way off the reservation, so to speak. It's a topic for theoretical discussions of music and sound, not a practical concern for recording setup.

Bezmotivnik above made some excellent posts abut the real-world difficulties of tuning guitars, specifically that a plucked note tends to start out "sharp", settle into its steady-state "note" and then decay somewhat "flat". Personally, I consider the ability to find the "in tune" sweet spot for your playing style to be a sort of prerequisite. And in that sense, tuning a plucked-string instrument is something that requires some degree of art and judgement.

But to bring different temperaments into the discussion of how to set up or record a guitar is both confusing and irrelevant. Guitars, like pianos, saxophones, vibes, and practically every other instrument made today, use equal-temperament. There is little or no point to talking about alternate temperaments unless we're talking about completely different instrumentation and physically different instruments. Please start a new thread if you want to talk about the pros and cons of various temperaments. Bringing them up here is like introducing quantum physics into a discussion of appliance wiring.
You are entitled to your opinion.I disagree.Tune a Guitar to a standard E chord and then play an open G and a Barred G and hear the difference in tuning between the two chords and I don;t mean just because the notes are in a different order.I respect your posts Yep but to bring the word ,"Trolling" applied to me is beneath you.I've even helped,"You" in the past.

I'll stand corrected if I'm wrong but this page explains the,"Small" point I've made,

http://www.guyguitars.com/eng/handbo...ng/tuning.html.
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Old 11-13-2010, 07:03 PM   #27
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Funny that people staring reverently at those electronic tuners never noticed this.
I would hope they do and find the sweet spot while testing different plucking pressures etc. If not they'll be playing sharp all the time.

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Bezmotivnik above made some excellent posts abut the real-world difficulties of tuning guitars, specifically that a plucked note tends to start out "sharp", settle into its steady-state "note" and then decay somewhat "flat". Personally, I consider the ability to find the "in tune" sweet spot for your playing style to be a sort of prerequisite. And in that sense, tuning a plucked-string instrument is something that requires some degree of art and judgement.
Agreed.

Let me add that I wouldn't want readers thinking a properly intoned guitar doesn't carry high value because it does, its just not a panacea. There may be a multitude of other tuning issues with the guitar meaning moving saddles pieces isn't the way to fix those problems. Not that anyone said that but we can easily split hairs when it comes to the phrase "No guitar is perfectly in tune". No cymbal (that isn't in a vacuum) ever stops vibrating, ever but who cares. The point is that a well made guitar, that is intoned and setup well, will "sound" very intune in the right hands (see sig )

When one knows how to tune(even very slightly detuning in just the right spots) the instrument will sound much more musical and in tune across the entire instrument. Its organic though, clinical tuning has no value, you have to tune to the act of playing so to speak. The average pressure used when playing should also be used when intonating. The only thing I'll add about equal tempermant is that there are certain, very slight adjustments to it that sound better on a guitar when strumming open chords but that's a different subject and creeps into hair splitting as well.

Lastly... Pickup height...

Need to add that if they are too close the magnets in the pickups pull the strings sharp. Its most noticable on the low E string (more mass). The problem is that the symptom sounds just like an intonation issue.... IE: a G power chord using the E and A strings will sound in tune but the same power chord slid up to D will sound out of tune. Try it.... It is more pronounced on guitars with two humbuckers.

Karbo
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Old 11-13-2010, 07:09 PM   #28
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I understand that the brief transient at the start of a note looks sharp on a tuner. And yet, overall the note doesn't sound sharp to my ear.

Also, when I vibrato a 'non-bent' fretted note, it can only be going sharp and then returning to pitch. This means that, on average, it must be sharp. And yet (to my ear) it doesn't sound sharp (see example 2 at link below).

Guthrie Govan (the guitar god that I worship) illustrates ideas of 'pitch' well in a couple of clips below. Importantly these are guitar playing (aural) examples and not just words talking around the point.

Example 1
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R64DW_uSNrA

Example 2
See 3:21 for an example of the 'non-bent' vibrato, technique that somehow sounds in tune.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWWvTIKg3Vo

You may or may not appreciate the genious of Guthrie, but I feel these discussions must include aural examples and not just words. I want to hear actual audio examples, not just read words on the subject.

btw. Sheppola's guitar playing sounds great to me. So, whatever he's doing, his playing is an actual audio example of what sounds good to my ear.

Edit: Note to myself. I must not post in the early hours of the morning when I'm not thinking clearly.

Pete

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Old 11-13-2010, 07:24 PM   #29
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I understand that the brief transient at the start of a note looks sharp on a tuner. And yet, overall the note doesn't sound sharp to my ear.
I agree but do hear it sometimes when I pluck hard which I've been known to do. There is some value to tuning just a "frog hair" flat because the average center point of the pitch (based on the slope of the fall) will be the intune point. IIRC if you pluck and watch the tuner there is a certain fall off time wise.. The pitch falls slower later, than it does earlier (just after the transient). The trick is to tune to the spot that lands in tune most of the time your playing. IE: we normally don't let a string ring out for 5 seconds and so there isn't much use to making sure its perfect 5 seconds later. I'm hair splitting again but it does make a difference especially when playing with other instruments.

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Old 11-13-2010, 07:37 PM   #30
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...Tune a Guitar to a standard E chord and then play an open G and a Barred G and hear the difference in tuning between the two chords...
Tuning a guitar to an "E" (or any other) chord is categorically incorrect. Just as it would be grossly incorrect to "tune" a piano to sound perfectly consonant at a particular chord.

At this point I cannot tell whether you are genuinely unaware of how tuning a guitar works, or just being obstinate.

With equal-tempered tuning, chords are not SUPPOSED to sound perfectly "in tune", there is (for good or for ill), supposed to be some amount of dissonance and "imperfection" in the intervals. The whole idea of equal temperament is to facility the ability to change keys by "spreading out" or "averaging" the imperfections.

Pointing to a just-tempered E chord (or any other) as proof that a guitar can never be "in tune" is flatly wrong. A just-tempered chord would in fact be OUT of tune with every other instrument: horns, pianos, harmonicas, synthesizers, etc. "Tuning" a guitar to an E chord or any other is doing it wrong.
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Old 11-13-2010, 07:50 PM   #31
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Tuning a guitar to an "E" (or any other) chord is categorically incorrect. Just as it would be grossly incorrect to "tune" a piano to sound perfectly consonant at a particular chord.

At this point I cannot tell whether you are genuinely unaware of how tuning a guitar works, or just being obstinate.

With equal-tempered tuning, chords are not SUPPOSED to sound perfectly "in tune", there is (for good or for ill), supposed to be some amount of dissonance and "imperfection" in the intervals. The whole idea of equal temperament is to facility the ability to change keys by "spreading out" or "averaging" the imperfections.

Pointing to a just-tempered E chord (or any other) as proof that a guitar can never be "in tune" is flatly wrong. A just-tempered chord would in fact be OUT of tune with every other instrument: horns, pianos, harmonicas, synthesizers, etc. "Tuning" a guitar to an E chord or any other is doing it wrong.
Shep is exactly correct and so are you because you are both saying the exact same thing. Not tuning the guitar to equal temperment will cause the problem shep described. "Tuning to an E chord" is the opposite of using equal temperment.

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Old 11-13-2010, 08:29 PM   #32
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Shep is exactly correct and so are you because you are both saying the exact same thing. Not tuning the guitar to equal temperment will cause the problem shep described. "Tuning to an E chord" is the opposite of using equal temperment.

Karbo
Well, more precisely, "tuning to an E chord" is wrong. As in, the guitar will be out-of-tune, by any normal measure.

this is not some fault of the guitar, or of guitars in general (I cannot believe we're even talking about this). It's how "tuning" works. One may as well say that a guitar can never be perfectly in tune because if you tune it to the hum of the electrical transformer outside my house then nothing else will be in tune.

At first I thought Sheppola was being irrelevantly picayune and bringing up different temperaments just for the sake of saying something. Now I'm not sure whether he, or anyone else, might be genuinely confused by the fact that "tuning" a guitar to a particular chord is actually wrong.

IOW, at first I thought talking about temperament was just a pointless distraction, but now I cannot tell whether some people genuinely don't understand that "tuning to an E chord" is actually outright wrong, and will necessarily produce an out-of-tune guitar. I can't tell whether we're trying to be polite or respectful or something, or whether there is some genuine confusion.

I mean, maybe there is some old hippy in Ohio teaching guitar students to fret an E chord and then tune all the strings until they are perfectly consonant or something... I'm not trying to be a dick or to pick a fight, I just thought everyone knew that each string had to be tuned to the correct equal-tempered note, if you want to play music that will be in tune with all the other instruments in the wide world.

Maybe this notion of "tuning to chords" is more common than I realized, but I honestly can't believe we're even seriously talking about it.
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Old 11-13-2010, 08:41 PM   #33
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casual observer here - Yep i don't think anyone has suggested tuning to a chord as a good idea from what i've read, i think it was used as an example to show that IF you did that, then the 'same' chords played elsewhere on the guitar will sound different, so in essence you're agreeing with each other.

had a feeling this thread, well intended as it is would get a lil' messy! as its a topic that so many can contribute their experiences to without much ability to weed out the fudge!

so can i politely suggest you good chaps put down your beautifully intonated axes and 700years of guitar playing experience and stay on target for the good of reaperkind?

i for one echo the suggestion already made of using tape sim/saturation after a digital amp sim to help reduce the digital fizz of ampsims -
I also recall our old buddy Tedwood raving about some light compression used before the amp head too. his fx chains are/were pretty cool and explained the idea behind it since they were uh.. fx chains.

acmebargigs redshift pickupreplacer did nice job on my dodgy pickups to clean up source sound too btw.

carry on!

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Old 11-13-2010, 08:54 PM   #34
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Maybe this notion of "tuning to chords" is more common than I realized, but I honestly can't believe we're even seriously talking about it.
Me either, I was trying to make it easier to move back to the main topic.

But before we do... It is however usable in some rare instances where there are few/no thirds in the voicings and few or no open strings. Say someone recording root/5 power chords for the entire recording.

I agree its on the fringe not this discussion.


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Old 11-13-2010, 09:14 PM   #35
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I had to look up 'picayune'. I got 'Of little value or importance; paltry'. It would be helpful if everyone spoke in plain English (or what ever your native is language is).

Yep, post some stuff of what you’ve done. At least Sheppola sticks his neck out and does it, which I respect, even though I might have some criticisms.

I don't want to be an arse. But there's something that grates about those that pontificate (i.e. transmit mode) and don't have open ears (i.e. receive mode) and learn from others at any level.

Edit: An ill thought out post made in the early hours of the morning because I was annoyed. Apologies

Edit: Note to myself. I must not post in the early hours of the morning when I'm not thinking clearly.


Pete

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Old 11-13-2010, 09:17 PM   #36
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Tune a Guitar to a standard E chord and then play an open G and a Barred G and hear the difference in tuning between the two chords and I don;t mean just because the notes are in a different order.
http://www.guyguitars.com/eng/handbo...ng/tuning.html.
the fact is, if you got a song with an open E chord, open g chord, and a barred g chord, not only should you hope got a sweet axe, it better be setup like a dream, and then you can HOPE it will all be in tune - temperments aside (tuning wise ) when it comes down to it, if it sounds out, it's out -

especially in the studio, often your gonna have to tune for certain parts of the tune, based on where they're played - this has nothing to do with equal temperment - im talking by ear - i have a PRS, keep it intonated (i studied under a luthier for a year) and there' is just no doubt - obviously a world class tech can do a way better job then me - though till the person works on my guitar - i will MOST DEFINATLY tune my guitar to a chord if neccesary to be in tune with the music
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Old 11-13-2010, 09:31 PM   #37
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i will MOST DEFINATLY tune my guitar to a chord if neccesary to be in tune with the music
You really should not have to do that. Not saying it's not needed in your case but you really should not have to.

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Old 11-13-2010, 10:01 PM   #38
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well like i said, unless your guitar has an immaculate setup, chances are what you "should" need to do, arent the same as what your actually gonna need to do

if you can make a recording of an open E and G, barred G, and say an E in the open A shape (7th fret) that's sounds great tuningwise - then either your a wicked guitar tech, or you know one
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Old 11-13-2010, 10:17 PM   #39
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if you can make a recording of an open E and G, barred G, and say an E in the open A shape (7th fret) that's sounds great tuningwise - then either your a wicked guitar tech, or you know one
Been tunin and setting mine own up for 30 years but thats not really the whole story. I can do the above and it will sound great musically.

All my guitars tune very, very good. However, the point is, (not that you are) we shouldn't chase our tails on perfect tunings at every interval, it doesn't exist on any instrument (at least guitars) due to physics and I do agree with yep that the practice of trying to make every interval sound perfect is a lost cause and actually makes things worse. I wouldn't debate it and screw up yep's thread but perfectly tuned intervals and musically in tune aren't really the same thing. Just something I have learned over those 30 years.

It is possible to take a guitar tuned with a tuner (equal temperment) and ever so slightly adjust a few of those strings by a very few cents out of equal temperment. Call it a very slightly adjusted equal temperment. When done right, playing all the chords "together" in a song structure actually sounds richer functioning together than when perfectly tuned believe it or not. Some of the newer tuners have this ability built in these days such as the Sonic Research ST-200.

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Old 11-13-2010, 10:33 PM   #40
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i fully agree with you karbo,

though i'd still like to to hear that recording (tuned to a tuner)
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