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Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby adrian_k » Mon Aug 31, 2020 4:36 pm

Well I was intrigued so I tried the first fret thing on my acoustic and couldn't detect any issue. Also tried the A string thing and again no issue. Even if I press really hard. But then the nut is decent quality bone, properly fitted and slots cut correctly.

I took the nut off a guitar I was setting up recently to find it sitting on a huge blob of some sort of glue and not touching wood in some places. With it being made of plastic and the bottoms of the slots too high I can imagine that causing problems.

But I do agree - guitar tuning is always going to be a compromise. Don't get me started on pianos.
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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby Honch » Tue Sep 01, 2020 9:48 am

adrian_k wrote:Well I was intrigued so I tried the first fret thing on my acoustic and couldn't detect any issue. Also tried the A string thing and again no issue. Even if I press really hard. But then the nut is decent quality bone, properly fitted and slots cut correctly.

I took the nut off a guitar I was setting up recently to find it sitting on a huge blob of some sort of glue and not touching wood in some places. With it being made of plastic and the bottoms of the slots too high I can imagine that causing problems.

But I do agree - guitar tuning is always going to be a compromise. Don't get me started on pianos.

Well then, you have good guitars. You can do, to make it extreme, the following slightly more simple test. While I know it's hard to bend strings on any acoustic guitar due to thicker string gauges, it's worth trying:

1. Fret at 12th fret and bend the second string (B) upwards on an acoustic guitar. Don't play it. Even if it doesn't go that high up in pitch and it might hurt your finger, try it.
2. Play the open LOW E-string instead while just bending that B-string, listen carefully or read the tuner readings for the low e-string... ;)

Most acoustics, and virtually all of the Gibson SGs, I've owned, played, and especially repaired, has a pitch drop in the low E. Sometimes slight sometimes huge. Albeit slight but SG's the worst of them all. Some other brands that copies the SG like LTD/ESP has not this phenomenon. On acoustics, it's more preevalent on thicker gauge strings like 012 sets and so on, and on Nylon strings it's on all kind of nylon sets. Fender strats (with hard tail) and Teles have virtually none of this phenomenon happening, and also, any guitar with zero fret (save for floating tremolos) and headless Steinbergers with Zero fret, not at all under any circumstance (super thin gauge, to super thick gauge sets). But let's keep it to acoustics since the thread was about this. I find it peculiar that no YT video from any no-no basement nerd has been produced yet, that addresses these problems. They do exist.
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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby Honch » Tue Sep 01, 2020 9:59 am

adrian_k wrote:I took the nut off a guitar I was setting up recently to find it sitting on a huge blob of some sort of glue and not touching wood in some places. With it being made of plastic and the bottoms of the slots too high I can imagine that causing problems.
.

Yes, such kinds of nuts are dime a dozen on most mass produced guitars at both low end and middle end. It causes a see-saw effect. It presses down the nut on one end more, and the other end, not. The thing is, if you try - for example - to have the high e-string as a tuner reading guide, that open string doesn't move a zot. Just some strings are more sensitive to this than others, mostly those with the slackest tension (low E, A in acoustics case). And you have to press on the first fret of any string that has the HIGHEST tension which - on acoustic - is the 3rd spun string. The one to aim for is the one that has highest pressure down on the nut only.

Actually, that's why I don't like to glue my nuts at all, on acoustics or electrics. On Teles, and Strats, the whole nut resides in a slot on/in the fretboard so to speak, and doesn't have the "free" back as most nuts on acoustics, i e the side of where the strings behind the nut moves towards the tuners. If you'd take off all strings, the nut would fall out very easily, but they don't on Strats or Teles. There seem to be more firm and rigid bottoms there (especially those with hard maple), and it doesn't move. No need for glue there.

EDIT: So as a word of caution, the OPs initial issues with it going out of tune all of the time, can - even when strings are anchored and winded up properly - depend on any tiny tiny slack, and leeway inside the nut as a whole, while banging and whacking it with the pick whie playing, it can move just a hair forward or backward (tilt it), and or up and down (due to the glue blob underneath it, if any) and get stuck in that tiny new position. And when you examine all strings in their individual slots on the nut, they're still cut precisely and immaculate, and you're still scratching your head of why it's going out of tune....
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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby Alba » Tue Sep 01, 2020 10:33 am

Nuts :beamup:

I've noticed that tuning stability is completely dependant on the moon phase, but depends on the wood. Spruce more stable at full moon and cedar at new moon. The affect increases and decreases as the moon approaches its state. This is reversed when travelling in the southern hemisphere so i know its a lunar issue.

Simple fix though. If i want to record with a spruce topped guitar i just wait for the full moon. If i want to record with a cedar topped guitar i wait for the new moon.
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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby Honch » Wed Sep 02, 2020 2:59 pm

:D :D :D

Don't forget you have to be faced north too, so bring out your compass. I wonder what Eric Johnson thinks about this... ha ha...
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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby merlyn » Wed Sep 02, 2020 4:28 pm

Couldn't find anything about Eric Johnson's thoughts on the matter. I did find Johnson's thoughts on the relative merits of different makes of speakers, how many strands of copper should be in the shield of your guitar cable and which batteries are the best for effects pedals.

What did Jimi Hendrix think about intonation? Again scouring the internet for interviews with Hendrix in which he discusses the subject I came up with nothing. As is typical for Hendrix he put his thoughts into his work, resulting in the blues classic If Your Intonation Is Rotten, Stay Down The Bottom (Lord Have Mercy).

Good advice.
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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby Honch » Wed Sep 02, 2020 6:15 pm

Back on topic:

Today I made a rare visit by bicycle to my local Music Shop the only in town. Now, weather was clear. As I was in no hurry, I hung around. But all of a sudden, it started to rain, and I thought "sods" but felt I could hang around until the shower had stopped. They have a buttload of Taylor acoustic guitars, and are a major player regionally in this particular brand. So, in a line, 6 GS MINI hung in a row. 6 pieces of them. All from the cheapest ones without electronics, to the most expensive one (KOA) with electronics. I decided to sit down and try all of them in a row. With my experiment above.

All of them performed with the slight dropped A and E string with the test above, and I could hear it without having to use a meticulous tuner. BUT the Koa one! I e when I bent the B string as high as I could, the low open E dropped severely in pitch. Tested the first fret experiment, and open A chord, and the open E string dropped flat - by ear, not tuner - except the most expensive KOA one. Brand new guitars, no demo ex, or second hand. I do not know if the KOA one would drop flat whenever connected with an accurate tuner, but it didn't drop anything by ear.

So again:

1. Fret the second B string at 12th fret, bend silently as high up as you can muster and...
2. Listen to the open low E string if it goes flat or not.

If it doesn't you're well off. Have a good guitar...you gonna go far...
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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby Sam Spoons » Wed Sep 02, 2020 8:22 pm

Unless the guitar's structure is completely solid bending one string will cause a drop in pitch of all the others, attach two strings to an iron girder, bend one and the other will undoubtedly fall in pitch but in this case it will probably be un-measurable, but simple physics tells me it will happen. I'm beginning to think I have cloth ears as my experience does not agree with yours WRT my guitars and others I've played.
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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby Honch » Thu Sep 03, 2020 6:06 am

Sam Spoons wrote:Unless the guitar's structure is completely solid bending one string will cause a drop in pitch of all the others, attach two strings to an iron girder, bend one and the other will undoubtedly fall in pitch but in this case it will probably be un-measurable, but simple physics tells me it will happen. I'm beginning to think I have cloth ears as my experience does not agree with yours WRT my guitars and others I've played.

Yes, and I tell you that some solid guitars (Teles, Strats with hardtail) doesn't perform this at all, and acoustics with Zero frets, not at all too. I have in vain tried to do this on all zero fretted guitars (acoustic, electrics) whenever I stumble upon them, and like a Karl Popper like philosophy I do my best to falsify my findings, by trying to prove my research wrong. Like I want to encounter and discover any a) acoustic b) electric guitar with a zero fret, that this experiment is proves me wrong. I have no doubt that it exists, because there can be other things with the zero fret that is shoddy from the start on, turning loose, or not gripped tightly to the fretboard and so on.

BTW Gibson SG guitars are completely solid too, don't you think? They perform this experiment with the worst results. Most Les Pauls not, the pitch of the open strings remains stable when bending other strings, and those are regarded to go out of tune the most while bending at all. Mind you that the GS one made out of Koa did not perform this "phenomenon". So that one was ok by my standards.

And if a guitar do have this particular nit picky phenomenon chances are that they do not stay very well in tune either in other cases. Or that you have to keep on doing touch ups all of the time, especially after using a capo and so on. Simple physics tell me that this phenomenon can be dodged, bucked, and with little effort, as it seems to be a hit and/or miss thing.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Solid brass nuts on certain electric guitars, and basses, doesn't have this phenomenon at all, too. I doubt that Floyd Rose locking tremolo systems would perform the same phenomenon, if you could manage to lock the floating tremolo, because of their steel locking nut, but I don't know any FR system that can be locked or set flush with the top of the body, like a regular strat floating trem can.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

If you'd split the nut into 6 individual small nut pieces, and used glue underneath each of them too, I doubt that they a) would fall off if breaking a string b) be susceptible to this kind of thing. So the solution's there for all acoustic guitars, and the others as well, and with no rocket science. If you had to keep a nut. Instead of walking across the river to get water, I'd suggest a zero fret and be done with it once and for all. The simple and most effective solution. The strings don't bind, kink, ever.

Think Occams Razor in this case.

Now, I can hear people go "zero frets looks ugly" and it's just the same as Nigel Tufnel replying..."erhh...well...but these ones goes to eleven..."
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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby Honch » Thu Sep 03, 2020 6:19 am

merlyn wrote:Couldn't find anything about Eric Johnson's thoughts on the matter. I did find Johnson's thoughts on the relative merits of different makes of speakers, how many strands of copper should be in the shield of your guitar cable and which batteries are the best for effects pedals.

What did Jimi Hendrix think about intonation? Again scouring the internet for interviews with Hendrix in which he discusses the subject I came up with nothing. As is typical for Hendrix he put his thoughts into his work, resulting in the blues classic If Your Intonation Is Rotten, Stay Down The Bottom (Lord Have Mercy).

Good advice.
:D
There's no money above the 5th fret.

However, it should be said that turning any right handed acoustic upside down (he has the scratchplate upwards) and play and sting lefty leaves the bridge askew the wrong way, so little wonder...

Eric Johnson is at it again. When discussing his newest - yet another - signature strat guitar, from Fender, the Virgina remake, he vehemently opposed to having a rugged, jagged washer at the output jack and claimed a flat one performed better distortion sound, it hadn't that rash. :wtf:
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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby Honch » Thu Sep 03, 2020 6:35 am

Conclusion: Acoustic guitars in particular, are more sensitive to tuning, intonation issues, in comparison to solid electric guitars. They require more constant vigil, and awareness by and large, due to their construction.

You may make small adjustments, and modifications to mitigate these idiosyncrasies, quirks, but never ever get them to work as solid as their electric solid body counterparts.
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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby anna-marie music » Mon Sep 14, 2020 5:21 pm

I ended up getting both of my guitars set up at my local music store... haven't had any problems with tuning/intonation since :) This has been a very interesting thread to read so far; I've learned things about guitar tuning that I didn't even know!
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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Sep 14, 2020 5:25 pm

:thumbup: And probably more than you really wanted to know ;) but that's the nature of these discussions.
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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby anna-marie music » Mon Sep 14, 2020 5:28 pm

Sam Spoons wrote::thumbup: And probably more than you really wanted to know ;) but that's the nature of these discussions.
Haha! It's all good... I still see myself as being totally new to music, so all this extra info is really helpful (even if it is more than I wanted to know!). :) As they used to say in those TV commercials from the 90s, "THE MORE YOU KNOW..." :thumbup:
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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby Honch » Mon Sep 14, 2020 9:31 pm

anna-marie music wrote:I ended up getting both of my guitars set up at my local music store... haven't had any problems with tuning/intonation since :) This has been a very interesting thread to read so far; I've learned things about guitar tuning that I didn't even know!
Then, all good! Maybe the local music store read this ... ? [sorry, couldn't resist] :D
Good luck with your guitars, music, songs, and may you not ever encounter problems with tunings and intonations again!
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