You are here

Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

For all things relating to guitars, basses, amps, pedals & accessories.

Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby CS70 » Wed Aug 26, 2020 8:09 am

Honch wrote:I have even read (I am trying to find it on the internet now) an interview

Hm, not sure how reading about guitars tells you anything about playing guitars.

At least with hardtail guitars, just string 'em up properly - with the right technique for winding the strings around the pegs - and you'll find out they stay in tune pretty well. Nylon may take a little more to settle, but afterwards it's as solid as the others.
You just check the tuning before playing, and you're set. If you are having tuning issues, there's something off in the peg windings or the saddle.

Most "tuning" issues that people experience when playing even a half-decent acoustic aren't about the guitar at all, but about their technique - inadvertently bending strings, pushing too hard and unevenly, bad barres, fretting notes in the wrong spot, bad picking or finger control and so on. Since acoustics tend to have slightly larger necks, thicker strings, and no crunch, distortion and reverb to hide errors, the player's technique is more important, there's just less to hide behind. You can tell a good guitarist in the first three seconds after handing over an acoustic guitar.

Nothing really special or inevitable about it: nobody's born knowing how to play guitar. so, so long one realizes that the issue is most likely in one's playing, it's just to start looking at the fingers and practice til they do it right.
User avatar
CS70
Jedi Poster
Posts: 6075
Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 12:00 am
Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video and the FB page

Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby blinddrew » Wed Aug 26, 2020 8:43 am

There are few things more depressing than thinking, 'whoah, I need to tune up' and then checking your tuning and finding it perfectly in concert, it's just your fingers that are out of tune... :thumbdown:
User avatar
blinddrew
Jedi Poster
Posts: 11299
Joined: Sat Jul 04, 2015 11:00 pm
Location: York
Ignore the post count, I have no idea what I'm doing...

Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby Sam Spoons » Wed Aug 26, 2020 9:42 am

They're only in tune if A=432 anyway ;)
User avatar
Sam Spoons
Jedi Poster
Posts: 13403
Joined: Thu Jan 23, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Manchester UK
Finally taking this recording lark seriously (and recording my Gypsy Jazz CD)........

Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby AlasdairEaston » Wed Aug 26, 2020 2:40 pm

I don't think anyone's mentioned this already...

I've always thought it's important to tune *up* to the correct pitch rather than down to it. That is to say, that the last turn of the machine head should always be up the way, increasing tension on the string. So if the string is too sharp then you tune down first, going slightly beneath the correct pitch then bring the string back up to pitch. The idea is to remove any backlash (is that the right term?) from the machinehead screw mechanism and to keep the string windings tight in place on the peg.

Is it just me? Or alternatively, is this so obvious that everyone just does it, and are right now rolling their eyes at my post? :headbang: :)

Ali.
AlasdairEaston
Poster
Posts: 37
Joined: Fri Feb 10, 2017 1:17 pm

Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby CS70 » Wed Aug 26, 2020 2:45 pm

AlasdairEaston wrote:I don't think anyone's mentioned this already...

I've always thought it's important to tune *up* to the correct pitch rather than down to it. That is to say, that the last turn of the machine head should always be up the way, increasing tension on the string. So if the string is too sharp then you tune down first, going slightly beneath the correct pitch then bring the string back up to pitch. The idea is to remove any backlash (is that the right term?) from the machinehead screw mechanism and to keep the string windings tight in place on the peg.

Is it just me? Or alternatively, is this so obvious that everyone just does it, and are right now rolling their eyes at my post? :headbang: :)

Ali.

No, no good mentioning it, it's definitely right. Always down a little and then back up :)
User avatar
CS70
Jedi Poster
Posts: 6075
Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 12:00 am
Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video and the FB page

Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby Honch » Thu Aug 27, 2020 6:45 am

AlasdairEaston wrote:I don't think anyone's mentioned this already...

I've always thought it's important to tune *up* to the correct pitch rather than down to it. That is to say, that the last turn of the machine head should always be up the way, increasing tension on the string. So if the string is too sharp then you tune down first, going slightly beneath the correct pitch then bring the string back up to pitch. The idea is to remove any backlash (is that the right term?) from the machinehead screw mechanism and to keep the string windings tight in place on the peg.

Is it just me? Or alternatively, is this so obvious that everyone just does it, and are right now rolling their eyes at my post? :headbang: :)

Ali.

Well of course. I agree completely, but that is so with any guitar, classical, electric, acoustic. My experience is that a string should have as little as possible behind the nut and behind the bridge. The more string you have there, whether it is winded up on any post, no matter how tightly, it is bound to have problems in KEEPING in tune in different climate and humidity. The best and most stable tuning ever, is unanimously, those headlesss electric basses and guitars made of graphite, with double ball end strings. The strings end behind the zero fret, and just behind the bridge. No slack, no excess string that needs time to settle. But this thread is about acoustic, and I still stand by my opinion that acoustics are harder - in general - to keep in tune, especieally if you're varying the environment you play in, outdoor, indoor, air-con rooms, etc IN COMPARISON to electrics*. The only electrics that may be prone to unstableness are those with floating tremolos and semi-acoustics.

And since we had one here with Emerald carbon fibre acoustic guitar, that was stable as **** in tuning we all now know it's about the wood contracting, expanding and shrinking as we go along.

The thing with tuning UP to a note instead of tuning DOWN to a note, has merit. Even with locking nut tremolos, like Floyd Rose, if you do a pull up and do a release they are SLIGHTLY more out of tune, than if you do a dive bomb first and release it up again. Look into a tuner. Floating tremolos as well on ordinary strats. I have had numerous strats that holds tune like it had a locking system (Floyd Rose) when JUST doing down dive bombs in pitch and back up again. As fast as you do a pull up and release it back it goes out of tune more severely...it holds tune one way, not the other.


* Ok I'll give in. Gibson SGs excluded.
;)
Honch
Regular
Posts: 71
Joined: Mon Dec 25, 2017 11:56 am

Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby shufflebeat » Thu Aug 27, 2020 6:56 am

Honch wrote:
* Ok I'll give in. Gibson SGs excluded.
;)

:)

Point well made.
shufflebeat
Jedi Poster
Posts: 5043
Joined: Sun Dec 09, 2007 12:00 am
Location: Manchester, UK
"Dance, dance. wherever you may be, for I am the Lord of the damp settee..."

Do yourself a favour, wear earplugs at gigs.

Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby Honch » Thu Aug 27, 2020 7:16 am

And this with detune, say drop D between any songs live. Some do it on acoustic and drops it to C# and then tune slightly up to D. And checking with precise tuners and it stays there...they think....

During the song that is drop D one can hear clearly in the audience that the low E string STILL want's to go back to whatever position it was before, it will very slowly drag its way back up onto E. And you can't do a touch up in the middle of a song. It's always inherent in the strings resiliency and built in steel flexibility, otherwise they wouldnt function at all as a flexible string/spring. It takes a lot longer before it settles. You have to wait a couple of minutes for one string and do a touch up before it really STAYS at a pitch, no matter that you properly tuned it from UNDER pitch up to PROPER pitch.

That's one reason I can't stand Hipshots Drop D tuners for bass. They always drag anyway up towards the E tone. But never reaching it of course. Checking in tuner it is like 10-15 cents sharp after a while. If you have it in drop D for days, and decided to retune to standard, it will stay in E for one minute and then "slack" back to D again. You have to constantly touch up for several minutes like 10-15 before it really stays there without another fine tuning again.
Honch
Regular
Posts: 71
Joined: Mon Dec 25, 2017 11:56 am

Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu Aug 27, 2020 11:31 am

If a string is 'dragging up' to previous pitch you have a sticky nut.
User avatar
Sam Spoons
Jedi Poster
Posts: 13403
Joined: Thu Jan 23, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Manchester UK
Finally taking this recording lark seriously (and recording my Gypsy Jazz CD)........

Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby shufflebeat » Thu Aug 27, 2020 1:55 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:If a string is 'dragging up' to previous pitch you have a sticky nut.

I...

...it doesn't matter.
shufflebeat
Jedi Poster
Posts: 5043
Joined: Sun Dec 09, 2007 12:00 am
Location: Manchester, UK
"Dance, dance. wherever you may be, for I am the Lord of the damp settee..."

Do yourself a favour, wear earplugs at gigs.

Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby shufflebeat » Thu Aug 27, 2020 1:58 pm

Honch wrote:And this with detune, say drop D between any songs live. Some do it on acoustic and drops it to C# and then tune slightly up to D. And checking with precise tuners and it stays there...they think....


I've been tuning between standard and Drop D for 30 years and don't have this issue. The only rational explanation is that your instruments are haunted.
shufflebeat
Jedi Poster
Posts: 5043
Joined: Sun Dec 09, 2007 12:00 am
Location: Manchester, UK
"Dance, dance. wherever you may be, for I am the Lord of the damp settee..."

Do yourself a favour, wear earplugs at gigs.

Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu Aug 27, 2020 10:24 pm

:D
User avatar
Sam Spoons
Jedi Poster
Posts: 13403
Joined: Thu Jan 23, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Manchester UK
Finally taking this recording lark seriously (and recording my Gypsy Jazz CD)........

Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby zenguitar » Fri Aug 28, 2020 12:04 am

It might be worth taking a moment to step back and disentangle a few things that are at risk of being conflated here.

In the UK, and a large part of mainland Europe, we experience a remarkably temperate climate. Rarely reaching extremes of hot and cold temps or low and high humidity. Continental America does experience far greater seasonal extremes of temp and humidity. And because of those greater extremes, air conditioning and central heating also come into the equation in continental America. Acoustic instruments in particular are sensitive to large swings in heat and humidity, and air-con and central heating exacerbate those swings.

Historically, tuning was less precise than it has become in recent decades. Few people had access to strobe tuners, bands would tune by ear to whatever piano was being used or one member with a good ear and/or a tuning fork. Orchestras tuned to the leader of the oboes who would use the piano as a reference or a tuning fork. And it was common practice when recording to vari-speed the tape to fine tune the feel of a piece.

Now we have cheap, accurate, digital tuners. And a whole generation of listeners who have grown up with Autotuned recordings as the norm.

And finally we have those with excellent relative pitch or perfect pitch. Listeners who are incredibly sensitive to subtle changes of pitch that don't leap out even to most experienced musicians. And that is amplified when so much current musical output is tuned to within an inch of it's life. Those small differences can really stick out for those blessed (or cursed) with perfect pitch.

As far as I can see, all of the above are in play in this discussion.

Andy :beamup:
User avatar
zenguitar
Moderator
Posts: 10450
Joined: Thu Dec 05, 2002 12:00 am
Location: Devon
When you see a fork in the road, take it.
Yogi Berra

Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby CS70 » Fri Aug 28, 2020 1:50 pm

zenguitar wrote:Rarely reaching extremes of hot and cold temps or low and high humidity.

Ah, I wish. Oslo can easily go to 30c in summer and to -20c in a winter night - that is, just when you're finished the gig and you're rigging down..

I surely have lead ears, knew that already :D
User avatar
CS70
Jedi Poster
Posts: 6075
Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 12:00 am
Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video and the FB page

Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby Honch » Fri Aug 28, 2020 1:55 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:If a string is 'dragging up' to previous pitch you have a sticky nut.
Total bogus! You make assumption that all guitars, basses have nuts. I have experienced this on headless basses, guitars, WITH A ZERO FRET too, with less friction than any nut, and the Drop D tuner headless bridge system. Even there where headless instruments are supposed to keep in tune better than other, and they do. But even if I manually detune drop D on a bass, it doesn't stay there at all pitch perfect at 0 cents deviance. After a minute and a half it wants to go up in pitch towards E again...3-5 cents isn't noticeable but 10-15 cents up sharp is way noticable when you arrive to the middle 8 or solo of a tune.

Of course it doesn't goes up or back all the way to E but it raises in pitch. Only if ever so slightly. All strings does this and - frankly - they should.

Not all strings behaves the same due, or thanks to, different tension. The low E string, and the plain G string (if needed to retune ever) are the ones most prone to this. A taut D-string or wound G string stays for longer, but wants to "creep" anyway but it takes a lot longer say 10-15 minutes, and that is sufficient enough to find breaks, where you can stop play and do a touch up.

It's inherent in all strings. Physical laws. It's the same with the dreaded G# of the first fret on any G string on a guitar that (if) always frets a bit too sharp. Put a capo on the first fret, measue that the G# is a bit too sharp, wait half an hour, go back to the guitar and check with an accurate tuner, and G# has crept back to a percect 0 cent pitch G# again. Same thing, the flex of the string has settled.
Honch
Regular
Posts: 71
Joined: Mon Dec 25, 2017 11:56 am

PreviousNext