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  Help!...Tuning issue

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Author Topic:   Help!...Tuning issue
Terry Edwards

From: Layton, UT

posted 09 April 2002 03:23 PM     profile     
I'm still relatively new to steel guitar (I've been saying that for 2 years now)! I always tune my guitar using the handy chart that Jeff Newman publishes where you purposely tune strings high or low so many cents. Jeff says don't ask why - it's too complicated to explain- just accept it!

OK. I recorded some steel at a studio and we decided to try recording the steel direct through the board using some compression otherwise dry. When we played it back it sounded way out of tune! As a matter of fact it was very hard for me to play when I went direct because I seemed to be chasing the bar trying to keep everything in tune. When I record with my Session 1000 I don't have this problem!

Is it me or is there some kind of science behind this that I'm missing?



Terry Edwards .... steel dreamin'

Larry Bell

From: Englewood, Florida

posted 09 April 2002 03:54 PM     profile     
It's art more than science, Terry, but I doubt it was related to going direct to the board. The studio is one BIG MAGNIFYING GLASS and every little transgression is etched in stone. When you play live it's easy to forgive yourself those little problems, but, on tape, they will live forever to haunt you. I have my share, believe me. I have a hard time listening to most of the stuff I've recorded. You must be your own harshest critic.

If you tune to the chart and sound in tune then play back and sound out of tune, something must've happened between the time you tuned and when you recorded. The bigger the string the more expansion/contraction due to heating/cooling will occur. The 5th and 6th (if plain) on E9 are the biggest offenders. Tune your 5th or 6th straight up to the tuner, then run your thumb and forefinger up and down the string two or three times and check the tuner.

The best time to tune is after you've been playing for a couple of minutes (or more). It's frustrating, but a fact of life. If you can use a wound 6th you'll only have to worry about the 5th. I lower the 6th a whole step on a lever so the throw with a wound string would be too long, so it's not an option for me.

Tuning the guitar is only one part of playing in tune. Use your ears and your hands to constantly monitor and adjust. And, yes, it's easier said than done. That's why not all steel players play in tune.
The other possibility is that you are in tune with yourself but some other instrument like an out of tune guitar OR a keyboard that uses a different temperament than the Newman chart caused the same note to be slightly different.

Hope this helps. Send EMail if you want to discuss further or search the Forum for Tuning topics in Pedal Steel and Bar Chatter (archive).

Larry Bell - email: - gigs - Home Page
2000 Fessenden S-12 8x8, 1969 Emmons S-12 6x6, 1971 Emmons D-10 9x9, 1971 Dobro

Bob Carlson

From: Surprise AZ.

posted 09 April 2002 07:52 PM     profile     
If I don't play my steel for at least five minutes before tuning it, it does the same thing.



From: Cape Town, South Africa

posted 09 April 2002 11:52 PM     profile     
Your perception of pitch will be different when you use headphones. That may explain the difference when you listen to your Session 1000.
Johan Jansen

From: Europe

posted 10 April 2002 07:20 AM     profile     
if you go direct, try to set up your steel in the room where the board and monitors are. Listen to the monitors instead of the headphone. Play on your ears. If there is a keyboard in the mix, tune on that, at least your root strings (A, B, E) From that, tune on. JJ
Jerry Hayes

From: Virginia Beach, Va.

posted 10 April 2002 09:08 AM     profile     
Hey Terry,
I did a couple of sessions where other instruments were added after I'd done the steel parts. Once was a keyboard doing string section stuff and another time was a lead guitar to the mix. In those instances I sounded fine until they were added then I was noticeably out of tune. The guy producing the thing thought it was OK but I went back and re-recorded my parts and everything sounded good then. Since that time I've come to the conclusion that it's best to record the steel last after everything else is done. I think you have to intonate your guitar to the whole mix to get a really in tune thing going. I know at the time this happened I was using the Jeff Newman tempered tuning chart where the G#'s were at 436.5 etc. The last few years I've been tuning almost straight up and everything sounds a whole lot better.

Livin' in the Past and the Future with a 12 string Mooney tuning.

Bobby Lee

From: Cloverdale, North California, USA

posted 10 April 2002 10:37 AM     profile     
Jeff Newman's chart is for just intonation, which is the way most players tune. Those numbers will not be 100% accurate for your guitar. Every guitar is a little bit different once the stresses of pedal pulls are applied to the body. Your ear is the ultimate guide to getting in tune.

Most of the other instruments in the band are not tuned to just intonation. This can make a pedal steel sound out of tune if you aren't paying close attention to intonation while you play. Very small bar movements can make a world of difference.

One big problem is the A+F position, which must be played about 1/8 of a fret sharp to sound in tune with the band. The use of the A pedal itself (which is tuned flat) can even be a problem. A slight forward roll of the bar as you engage the pedal should do the trick.

I reduce my tuning headaches by "tempering" the just intonation numbers. Try cutting all of the numbers in half. The guitar won't sound as nicely in tune by itself, but it will take less effort on your part to blend with the band.

Bobby Lee - email: - gigs - CDs
Sierra Session 12 (E9), Williams 400X (Emaj9, D6), Sierra Olympic 12 (F Diatonic) Sierra Laptop 8 (D13), Fender Stringmaster (E13, A6)

[This message was edited by Bobby Lee on 10 April 2002 at 10:38 AM.]

Terry Edwards

From: Layton, UT

posted 10 April 2002 02:15 PM     profile     
Thanks to all that posted here and those that e-mailed me. You guys have given me some new things to think about



Jim Bob Sedgwick

From: Clinton, Missouri USA

posted 13 April 2002 08:30 PM     profile     
Just to add a small tidbit to b0b's post. I find that the E to F change must be tuned flat to sound in tune with the B to C#. (I'm talking about using the F pedal and A pedal, if you use the Emmons set up) Then, if you center the bar over the fret, the chord will be flat. As b0b states, you have to play the bar a tad sharp to sound in tune with the rest of the band. Hope this might help.
C Dixon

From: Duluth, GA USA

posted 14 April 2002 07:57 AM     profile     
b0b is correct. Also, he is right in calling it "just intonation" tuning. Many incorrectly call this "temper tuning". Equal temperament (straight up 440) is temper tuning. Or any deviation from beatless is temper tuning.

I once read, "tuning with harmonics, while sounding great, will get you in trouble." After years of using this, I have to agree.

Here is an example:

1. Harmonic the 1st string and the 5th string for no "beats".

2. Harmonic the 5th string and 6th string for no "beats" with A and B pedals engaged.

NOW, try harmonicing the 1st string with the 5th string (A pedal engaged). It is WAY out of tune. 'jest a whole lot of beats .

So, the question is, which one (if any) is correct? I do NOT have the answer.

By the way if you don't know how to find these harmonics, email me and I will be glad to tell you.


Larry Bell

From: Englewood, Florida

posted 14 April 2002 11:36 AM     profile     
I think that the answer to your question is that all tuning methods are right if you PLAY in tune. Case(s) in point:
Paul Franklin (and many others) take a reference tone (E's relative to A=442, as I recall) and tunes all other open strings to the E's, by ear. Anybody ever heard Paul sound out of tune?

Weldon Myrick, Buddy Emmons, and others tune everything but the thirds straight up and they ALWAYS sound in tune (to me anyway).

I think that experimentally proves that either method works. The only conclusion I can draw is that learning to PLAY in tune is much more important than obsessing over how to tune the guitar open (which we've all done from time to time).

Just my li'l ole opinion.


[This message was edited by Larry Bell on 14 April 2002 at 11:38 AM.]

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