Posts Tagged ‘tuning’

A couple of days ago, I wrote an article about how James Taylor tunes his guitars, utilizing the “cents” on the tuner to compensate for the shape of an acoustic guitar, and how the bass notes ring sharper than their tuning, and also to compensate for a capo pulling the strings sharp. Here’s the video for a refresher:

At the end of the article, I said I’d try it out and I’ll be damned if it didn’t sound good both with and without a capo!

My test of a tuning is always to play a root E chord after I tune my guitar. Usually, I get to the exact tuning, then end up tuning strings a little down because the E chord just doesn’t sound right. So I suppose I’ve been doing this by feel all these years. But now I have a fool-proof, sure-fire, and most importantly, a measurable way of tuning that I can repeat.

If you don’t want to watch the whole video, here’s the tuning (high to low):

E -3
B -6
G -4
D -8
A -10
E -12

Values are in negative cents. For my guitar, a full -12 cents on the low E sounds slightly off, so I end up using -10 to -11 (I know, it’s a tiny amount, but I can hear it). But I set the rest of the strings as directed.

As they say, it’s the little things in life… I’m nothing short of amazed at how this small adjustment makes a world of difference.

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If you go to a gear board like The Gear Page and search on tuners, you’ll see a lot of talk about a tuner’s “cents.” A “cent” is hundredth of a 1/2 note. People like to talk about “cents” to compare the accuracy of the tuners that they use. In general, if a tuner is within 1 – 2 cents accurate, it’s not a bad tuner. Some, like the Peterson strobe tuners, are even more accurate, as in 10ths of a cent. All penis size comparisons aside (this happens on the boards a lot: “My tuner is more accurate that yours” kind of bullshit, I was amazed to see a video of James Taylor explaining how he tunes his acoustic guitars, and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen “cents” used in this way.

Check out the video:

I have to admit that I’ve spent years hitting the exact center of the gauge when tuning my guitar. But what JT explains is something I’ve never seen before explained, BUT to be fair to myself, I have experienced this sort of “off” tuning with my Peterson StroboClip before I broke it. 😦

Peterson has what are called “sweeteners” built into all their tuners, which is why if you use a Peterson tuner, you need to pick the instrument you’re tuning. These, I believe, are similar in effect to what JT is talking about in that because of the construction and shape of different stringed instruments, you have to make compensations for each different string so that they “play” correctly.

When I first started using a Peterson StroboClip, I felt that after I tuned, my individual strings sounded just a little off. But when I actually played, the sound was so much better. My chords sounded so much more in harmony. I think this is the key to what JT talks about in the video.

I haven’t tried this yet as I’m writing this during a break at work, but I’m going to have a recording session tonight and will try it out.

Thanks JT! Even after all these years, I’m still learning stuff from you!

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