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Making guitar and bass sound in tune.

Discussion in 'Bass' started by penb, Feb 16, 2011.

  1. penb

    penb Active Member


    I have a question about tuning guitars and bass on record. When i listen to records of pop musicians, i hear that everything stays in great, incredible tune, that me and my band can't rich on record. Today i've listened Simple Plan, Oomph!, Powerman 5000 - they sound like it was played on synths, not on stringed instrument - very clear fifths on guitars and octaves between bass and guitars. For example Metallica's Death Magnetic sounds less tuned - like my own guitar records. I hope you understand what i talk about. I can't believe that it is just well tuned instruments, you know guitars are very not ideal because of their construction.
    Maybe i am mistaken, and they have just perfect prepared instruments? Or they use some recording technique? It is main question for me!
    Ofcourse we can use pitch-tuners on vocal line, but guitars is not the same.

    Please, if anybody knows what am i talking about, and knows how to solve it, please, help me!:smile:
  2. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Well, fact is, no stringed instrument is ever perfectly in tune up and down the neck. Physics is a harsh mistress.

    That being said, you betcha a quality instrument will be more accurate up and down the neck than a cheap one.

    I've heard of people splitting the guitar tracks into different sections and punching in on those sections with a retuned guitar, one that is tuned for "those certain chords".

    I've never done the like, but I painstakingly tune my guitars before tracking. I let them adjust to room temp on the stand out of the case for at least 1/2 hour before tuning. And then I'll do several takes of whatever, and tune again. I stretch my strings the day before so they won't slip or stretch anymore. And so on...

    But we as humans "get used to" certain things. We are used to hearing guitars out of tune ALL the time because that is normal. Only when they are a little too far out do we notice. Just like when Bach switched us over from the old tuning method to Equal Temperament. People complained back then that the new way was out of tune, but we don't complain about it because we've heard it all our lives.
  3. Big K

    Big K Well-Known Member

    Good instruments and accurate tuning is a must,...up to now...lol..

    There is a hardware way to correct intonation on guitars:
    True Temperament - Fretting systems
    True Temperament - Fretting systems

    and a software do-it after-recording way with Melodyne DNA.

    We are used to slightly incorrect tuning with guitars, but it is pure pleasure if intonation/tuning is perfect. Listen to some videos of True Temp. It is ear candy...
  4. song4gabriel

    song4gabriel Active Member

    first, if you have one or more tuners make sure they are set to tunning to 440

    a good tuner DOES make a difference- do yourselves a favor and buy a high quality tuner such as a Pederson http://www.petersontuners.com/index.cfm?category=37 .) if you are stacking more than 1 guitar, try a 'sweetened' tuning

    if you still have this problem, bring your guitars in for a setup.

    notes- thinner strings will have intonation problems more than thicker strings. If you are using 9's on a not so set up guitar this could be a problem for you.

    recording multiple guitars is different than playing live and therefore oftentime requires better technicque to sound good.

    a little more info would be helpful- what kind of guitars are you playing?
  5. penb

    penb Active Member

    JohnTodd, thank you for theory details, and useful tips. I know something about tuning, "how it has to be", but i always whas interested in "how it really done".
    Also was surprised with DNA function of Melodyne, i thought it works only with one melody line, thank you Big K!

    song4gabriel, i use boss-tu on stage for quick tuning, but i prefer to tune by ears in every other situation. I use test tone from my KORG metronome or boss-tu to tune 1st string, then i tune others by ear, making octaves and fourths as good, as i can, because my playing is based on fifths. I think good tuner can help, but i used different tuners - pedal, rack, soft, and i always made some aditional tuning by ears to make chords sound accurate. I use Scheter blackjack with 10-52 strings and drop-c tuning. It is not top guitar, but built good. I bought it 3 years ago, so at this time im going to make general setup in guitar workshop and want to buy hi-leveled instrument by the autumn: esp, gibson or mayones. I check scale length and tross road number of times through year, but now i want it to be made by professional. With Drop C 3rd and 6th strings have less tension than others, and they are most difficult for tuning. I set saddles heigt not high, not low, just for comfortable playing - when strings are set too high, note may get sharp, when i hold down string it on neck.

    "requires better technicque to sound good."
    i think it is right - too high pressure and attack are sharpen sound. But i have some problem with it: on thick strings i need more attack to make chord sound agressive, full. May be i really have no need in this and moderately played and tuned guitar would make mix more emotional. It is what i'm looking for - the way i should work on my tehnique and gear. Usually i have no time for experiments in studio, and my hometapes are not ideal reference to what i should do in studio. So i try to ask people, who have knowlege and expirience:cool:
  6. jurassicpark

    jurassicpark Active Member

    Aaaaah. I can be a bit of an expert here for a change!!
    1) Try to all use the same tuner - and tune accurately (obviously)
    2) Because you're in a low tension tuning, you might want to try using even thicker gauges on the problematic strings. For our dropped C tunes, we use 11-56s on guitars and 50-110 on bass. The longer the neck, the better too! Fender style are naturally carrying more tension than gibson style necks.
    3) Make sure your guitar is perfectly intonated for the tuning you're using...often the schecters are shipped really well intonated - but at regular tuning - EADGBE
    4) Hit the strings softer....I would assume you're using a lot of distortion (?) so the performance won't be compromised as the gain compression will eat dynamics anyway. I THINK IT'S THIS POINT THAT YOU'RE ENCOUNTERING THE MAIN PROBLEM ON. The harder (and less accurately) you pick the strings at this tension they will bend out of tune before coming back in line.
    5) Record low end and high end stuff on separate, retuned tracks. Track all the low end on one track and tune the open string. Track the high register stuff on the guitar tuned to, say, the 12th fret octave.
  7. penb

    penb Active Member

    You are right about string gauges, i will try heavier. But then i will never become excellent shredding machine hahaha)))
    I set my bridge seddles for drop-c, using guitar-rig tuner and rule of clear octave between 0 and 12th fret. I don't know how accurate is it, but i hear, that it really sounds better. Also i check it when i change strings to another brand or model.
    I don't use lot of gain, beacause i like dynamic, strumming sound, despite that i play heavy style. I never use this deathblack overcompressed guitar hum:)
    Separate tuned tracks- i'll try it, thanx!

    Also most difficult thing in tuning band is to convince members follow this rules..:biggrin:
  8. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    The only insert I have here is that Bach didn't tune in equal temperament. Ever. At all. Nada. Bach tuned in a well temperament. That is not the same as equal tempered. Equal temperament was known since Pythagoras but no one liked it or wanted it until about the 1920's. Some claimed to tune it prior to that (Broadwood, some others) but they were simply tuning mild Victorian temperaments. The whole Bach-Equal Temperament thing has been misstated for so many years in the 20C it is hard to get it dispelled. I could go on about tuning and temperaments for a very long time but choose not to.

    Temperaments Visualized
  9. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Good setup. Heavier strings. Lighter touch on the fretboard. Electronic tuner. (Forget your ears. It's much too easy to fool them into tuning to "perfect" intervals. And unless you are playing fretless instruments or singing a capella you don't want perfect intervals.) Dropped tuning makes everything worse, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

    You are probably very sensitive to pitch variations. This is a curse since it makes people resists a tempered scale and screw up their tuning. And if you are playing on standard guitars and use the whole neck you have to use an equal tempered tuning.

    Of course, you can always scrap the guitars and play electronic keyboards - with most of them you can pick any tuning you want.
  10. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    You are totally correct on that; I have misspoken. It is well-tempered.
  11. song4gabriel

    song4gabriel Active Member

    cool link jackattack!
  12. penb

    penb Active Member

    New idea for me - than you!
    But if 99% of what i play is fifth chords, and different 3rds are played by synth, or walked in bass line, and i use my guitar only for playing octaves, 4th and 5th intervals - is it bad if i try to tune them as perfect as possible?

    Or eqal-temp contains not perfect 4ths and 5ths, so i may sound bad in mix?
  13. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Use a good tuner and then tune the chords you need for a given song. My acoustic has a slight intonation problem in that I can be in perfect tune with the tuner, but my D major chord will be out a little. If it gets worse, I will have to have the guitar looked at. For now I "custom tune" the D and compromise the tuning between a solid D and the rest of the chords.

    Perhaps your instrument needs work?
  14. strings1

    strings1 Active Member

    Hey Big K,

    Thanks for posting the video on Melodyne. Truly amazing stuff right there.
  15. penb

    penb Active Member

    A heard, that D major chord problem is usual for every guitar, ofcourse live playing needs compromise in tuning. Using different positions of same chord sometimes helps. Since i've been invented that equal-temp tuning can't be tuned perfectly, i became to look at this more in artistic way:smile:
  16. song4gabriel

    song4gabriel Active Member

    many guitarists (myself included) use "sweetened tunings" to combat the infamous d major chord problem when recordiing.

    the pederson tuner i mentioned earlier has this option. its around $150, which might seem steep for a tuner, but it has been some of the best money i have spent ever on equipment. nothing drives me crazy like intonation problems, and i dont have them anymore.

    John todd- i did what you do but once i picked up on this very useful tuning, i no longer have to. you should pick one up!
  17. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Tempered tuning is what you are looking for. Petersen offer tempered tunings for guitar, violin and bass amongst others, but its really something you can do by ear.

    I'm not an expert on the theory but you can approximate it in your head by thinking about the fact that something which divides by 4 will divide less well by 3.

    So for example on the guitar, you want to tune outwards from your centre note. If I am working with an acoustic band, perhaps me on guitar, a mandolin, a violin and a bass, the majority of the instruments there are quite high - so I will tune out from a G.

    In a rock band, I'll tune from a 440hz A.

    The two methods are as follows.

    For tuning out from a G, tune your 3rd string from the top, G, to the other instrumentalists. Then tune your B string to the 5th, D, and your E string to the octave at the 3rd fret, G.

    Tune the D string open below, and tune the A string at the 5th fret, the D. Finally tune your bass E string to the E.

    For tuning outwards from A, tune your 5th string A, with the other instruments, then tune the E string at the 5th fret, A, and tune the D string at the 5th, E. Then tune the G string at an octave, 2nd fret A, and tune the B and E strings both to the 5ths at 5th fret E and open E respectively.

    Once tuned from either centre, if you are going to be working in C or G I find its useful to the take the C9th chord, fretting the 3rd frets on the A string, B string and E string, C,D,G. Detune the A and B strings (2nd and 5th string) very slightly (not all the way, but just detune each one very slightly to even things out) to bring yourself into the best average tuning for most standard chords.
  18. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    Hey Jeemy;
    This is fascinating. Do you have more info like this?
  19. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    This is true in those universes in which the number 12 does not exist.
  20. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

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