Why does the F# on my bass sound out of tune?
Old 19th December 2012
  #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jules View Post
Possibly two issues at play here

1 )Out of tune note

2) Room with resonance peak / node? at or near that frequency
Don't forget or underestimate the resonance of a bass amp/cab itself in addition to the room. These can actualy amplify any inharmonic overtones (as per what Blue was saying above) in the fretted note and exacerbate that issue.

I have a few cabs that seem to be really resonant on open A (bass not guitar, less so on the octaves, though all As sound nice and clear/strong); for me this isn't a pitch issue as much as a volume consistency issue, but if the resonance is a bit more off from the note than in my case, if can really make that note sound wrong.

If the cab is sealed and empty (as most bass/guitar cabs I have seen are, at least vintage ones) stuffing it will help reduce resonance (take the edge off) as well as move the resonant freq downwards (hopefully to a location where it it won't be as much of a bother). If the cab is reflex/horn etc, you can line the inside of it with felt/cork/asphalt based damping sheet (like for car audio so the stupid subs don't rattle the trunk/doors). This should take the edge off the resonance but won't move the freq of it like with a sealed cab.
Old 19th December 2012
  #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Granny Gremlin View Post
Don't forget or underestimate the resonance of a bass amp/cab itself in addition to the room. These can actualy amplify any inharmonic overtones (as per what Blue was saying above) in the fretted note and exacerbate that issue.

I have a few cabs that seem to be really resonant on open A (bass not guitar, less so on the octaves, though all As sound nice and clear/strong); for me this isn't a pitch issue as much as a volume consistency issue, but if the resonance is a bit more off from the note than in my case, if can really make that note sound wrong.

If the cab is sealed and empty (as most bass/guitar cabs I have seen are, at least vintage ones) stuffing it will help reduce resonance (take the edge off) as well as move the resonant freq downwards (hopefully to a location where it it won't be as much of a bother). If the cab is reflex/horn etc, you can line the inside of it with felt/cork/asphalt based damping sheet (like for car audio so the stupid subs don't rattle the trunk/doors). This should take the edge off the resonance but won't move the freq of it like with a sealed cab.
ya but he said he was going direct, so room resonance shouldnt be a prob during recording.
Old 19th December 2012
  #33
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How embarrassing; I usually pay more attention than that.

Anyway, might help someone else.
Old 19th December 2012
  #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Granny Gremlin View Post
How embarrassing; I usually pay more attention than that.

Anyway, might help someone else.
I'm afraid I led us off the path there.

But is is fascinating -- and illuminative -- to consider some of these issues as they relate to the eternal dilemma of tuning stringed instruments.
Old 19th December 2012
  #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Granny Gremlin View Post
How embarrassing; I usually pay more attention than that.

Anyway, might help someone else.
No worries, could happen to anyone.

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Old 19th December 2012
  #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by javenscale View Post
My uncle was a luthier and guitar repair man, he used to say if you play an instrument in one key for long enough it aligns itself to that key, he thought it had something to do with vibration at set frequencies over time, he only noticed it in old instruments, even after a re-fret he could tell which key an instrument was played in, I've heard it said that piano manufacturers age their frames in piano schools before putting them in a new case and selling them as new, worn in is a phrase that comes to mind, perhaps your bass is worn in and has an aversion to F# ??
no. vice versa. a player notices an instrument sounding in one peculiar key better than in another key, so he plays the key that fits to the instrument much more often.

you always see people playing the next tune in another key fingering at the machine heads and adjusting their instrument to the key of their next song.

this is for guitarists an automated behaviour. because you know, when had played in Dmajor and the next one in is Bbmajor that it will rip your ears of. you dont think about it, you adjust you g-string at least.

tune to Emajor, play, and change suddenly to Gmajor. with a normal Srat you will die - if your ears can get what happens, I assume they can.

every stringed instrument is somewhat more adjusted to some keys better than to others. except it is compensated.
Old 20th December 2012
  #37
Quote:
Originally Posted by skinnypete View Post
What key is the song in, when the F# sounds out of tune? If you're playing an F# on a D major chord, than the F# will sound sharp, because of equal temperment.

Also it could be a "wolf" note, eg. a note that doesn't resonate well on the instrument. This is more noticable on hollow instruments, but I'm pretty sure it can happen on solid body instruments as well.

What happens when you play the F# into a chromatic tuner?

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HAH! Finally somebody mentioned this. If very likely may be a resonance in the neck/body construction of the instrument where there's a resonance just off the correct pitch.

Concerning tuning with an electronic tuning device - try tuning to the harmonic at the 12th fret, not the fundamental.
Old 20th December 2012
  #38
Quote:
Originally Posted by skinnypete View Post
ya but he said he was going direct, so room resonance shouldnt be a prob during recording.
Yep, probably a "wolf tone" all right!
Old 20th December 2012
  #39
Quote:
Originally Posted by FFTT View Post
The intonation of the low E & B stings can fool even the most experienced player.

You think you've got the octave and harmonic dead on, but then you go down
to the G or D on the fingerboard and it's off.

It's harder for tuners to read the lower notes because of the way the note decays.
It drove me Bat Sh*t crazy sometimes trying to work with a sampling needle tuner.

I tend to fine tune on the harmonic, rather than the open strings and then
check the G & D mid neck.
Don't use a sampling needle tuner. Use a Peterson Strobe. They cost more but they're worth it.
Old 20th December 2012
  #40
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Could be so many different things:


• Upper register harmonics causing seeming dissonance...

• Your ear simply not liking the note against other notes -- i.e., your sense of harmonic temperament (just one of those subjective bents we all have)...

• Fingering discrepancy; the pressure/push-pull you apply at that fret space...

• A technical fault with the fret itself...

• Reverberant frequency of the room...


Hard to pin point.

My personal experience/take, maybe worth considering: There's a threshold whereby the more your instruments are mathematically precise in regards to intonation and rhythm, the more you become hyper-aware of their inherent tuning and timing imperfections. That is, often, a touch of discordance actually sounds more concordant.
Old 21st December 2012
  #41
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
Don't use a sampling needle tuner. Use a Peterson Strobe. They cost more but they're worth it.
That's fer damn sure!

I'm using Peterson Strobosoft right on my MBP these days.
Old 21st December 2012
  #42
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
HAH! Finally somebody mentioned this. If very likely may be a resonance in the neck/body construction of the instrument where there's a resonance just off the correct pitch.


The only prob with this theory is that he said the note sounded "out of tune". In my experience the wolf note usually sounds choked or quieter.

OP have you tried another bass with your recording set-up? That could rule out the room, the musical context, the way you're hearing it, the way you're playing, etc.

BTW guys I use a Korg CA-30 Chromatic Tuner, it's not a strobe tuner but it's pretty good. I do intonation on all my guitars and basses with it. And yes I usually tune the low strings on a bass using the 12th fret harmonic, if I'm using a tuner.

Korg CA-30 Tuner
Old 21st December 2012
  #43
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Old 21st December 2012
  #44
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FFTT View Post
I agree with Jules, that it could also be coming from another instrument in the mix...
Yesterday I started a mix; when I added a DI bass track to the drums the F# sounded 'not quite right'. I nearly re-tracked it but as soon as I added a guitar and keyboard tracks it sounded perfectly in tune.

I find the F# needs precise finger position; also I read that if the nut is too high it can cause intonation issues.
Old 21st December 2012
  #45
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I find most of the odd overtones happen when you're just going up or down a half step
and the decay of the previous note fights with the next note, if that makes sense?
Old 21st December 2012
  #46
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FFTT View Post
I find most of the odd overtones happen when you're just going up or down a half step
and the decay of the previous note fights with the next note, if that makes sense?
Yeah - makes a lot of sense...it's kind of ambiguous and unpredictable in that region...sure makes for fun.
Old 21st December 2012
  #47
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I think it's probably safe to say that there are a wide variety of overlapping issues that cause tuning fretted instruments (and particularly those with metal strings) to be a bit of a klusterfudge.
  • The inherent inharmonicity of strings (particularly metal ones) that causes a string's overtone series to diverge from the simple Pythagorean formula. (And that can cause a string's fundamental to register as smack on when measured in such a way as to filter out overtones -- but the sharper overtones may cause apparent tuning mismatch with other strings or 'perfectly' tuned instruments. And that may be aggravated by repro on systems that don't report the low bass fundamental forthrightly, since the overtones will seem louder vis a vis the fundamental and, so, more out of tune.)

  • Stretched strings will cause different tension (and so different pitch than expected) when fretted at different places on their length.

  • Problems with a particular guitar's intonation related to nut, saddle, fret placement, neck bow, etc.

  • The 12 Tone Equal Temperament system trades slightly out of tune intervals (except for intervals) for a 12 tone system where every has the same harmonic relationships (independent of pitch) and where we may modulate freely from one key to another. But that does mean that ET instruments like guitars and keyboards will never have 'perfect' harmonic relationships -- there will always be perceived beat frequencies in chords. (But if it doesn't bug you on a perfectly tuned keyboard, then a 'perfectly tuned' guitar shouldn't bug you either. To my thinking, while people grasp at the ET straw when trying to explain guitar problems, it seems clear to me that most folks problems tend to come more from the first three issues.
Old 21st December 2012
  #48
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In this old demo, while I'm not hitting the lower F#,
I am playing a whole bunch of climbing and falling half note runs.

I'm playing flats and I have the treble cut back on the bass, so you don't
get the same detail you might want with a pick and round wounds.



In some places the relationship between notes does play with your head a bit, but I'm not making any major mistakes.

I'm playing here with fingers, where Paul would be playing with a pick, so there are plenty of variables in how the same part can sound as a whole by itself or in the mix.
Old 21st December 2012
  #49
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[QUOTE=Jules;8555082]A strobe tuner can be used to re tune the fretted F sharp string, then you can punch in / do an alternate take - [B]

that reminds me of bad times recording a metal band with the average metal bassist and an instrument that was totally out of time

the strobe tuner is your friend - we ended up tracking at most 5 notes at a time... sometimes just 1 note ... took an afternoon

and no, he wouldnt use my ovation magnum mkiv or the stingray or any other bass. just this one...
Old 21st December 2012
  #50
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When you consider the old Jamerson/McCartney trick of using a foam block to
deaden the string, to keep it from ringing too long, we begin to see where this
may have been directly related to controlling conflicting decay and attack notes.
Old 22nd December 2012
  #51
Quote:
Originally Posted by skinnypete View Post


The only prob with this theory is that he said the note sounded "out of tune". In my experience the wolf note usually sounds choked or quieter.

OP have you tried another bass with your recording set-up? That could rule out the room, the musical context, the way you're hearing it, the way you're playing, etc.

BTW guys I use a Korg CA-30 Chromatic Tuner, it's not a strobe tuner but it's pretty good. I do intonation on all my guitars and basses with it. And yes I usually tune the low strings on a bass using the 12th fret harmonic, if I'm using a tuner.

Korg CA-30 Tuner
The term "wolf tone" originated with violin makers to describe a resonance that caused one particular note to sound louder and often out of tune compared to the rest of the scale - to "howl like a wolf".

What you are describing is not a wolf tone, it is the opposite - a "dead spot".
Old 22nd December 2012
  #52
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Some wolfs can appear as dead notes though.

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Old 23rd December 2012
  #53
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As silly as this might sound, stop playing in F# on that bass.

Also, borrow several basses over the next few months and try playing in F#.

The problem is all about asking one string to do the impossible: to behave like a piano.

All the reasons given on the topic are accurate. Physics; maths; amps; rooms etc etc.

How do you deal with it with this bass? Tune down a tone or semitone and relearn the parts in new positions.

I don't know what parts you're playing against but synths are notoriously out of tune too.

We haven't heard any examples, so it's at your word.

One more thing, out-of-tuness is relative.
Old 23rd December 2012
  #54
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Quote:
Originally Posted by famousbass View Post
Tune down a tone or semitone.
this experiment needs to be done, as it would eliminate a host of 'possibles' from the consideration

tune the bass down and see if it is still F# that is out, (i.e. fret a G) or if the second fret note is the problem.

if it is a wolf tone, amp, room, or speaker resonance the second fret note will be fine and the third fret note will be the issue. If it is temperament, intonation, etc., the second fret note will still be 'out' in the new key.
Old 24th December 2012
  #55
Quote:
Originally Posted by famousbass View Post
How do you deal with it with this bass? Tune down a tone or semitone and relearn the parts in new positions.
If the problem is a resonance that probably won't help.
Old 24th December 2012
  #56
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skinnypete View Post
Some wolfs can appear as dead notes though.

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Not in any parlance I'm used to, and I hang around a lot of luthiers (and build myself).

Wolf tone is a note that barks out. A dead note is a note that is quieter than the surrounding notes.

To the OP - in my experience as a bass player, I come across these things:

- bad string in a set. Every once in a while a string just doesn't play right.

- infrequent on factory guitars, but fret is in the wrong spot. Sometime from a refret or badly placed jig in a custom job.

- Similarly, a fret that is crowned lopsided in a bad setup. The contact point on the fret isn't centred. <-- more often than not this is the culprit. When I pick up a guitar, I can usually tell if the owner plays in D too much. The frets wear in on that chord shape and everything else sounds out of tune because the strings touch at a different scale on the rest of the frets.

- Sometimes not out of tune as just a different timbre that throws you off. Maybe because of a wonky string, fret or particular finger technique. Are you rolling your fingertip or playing too far back from the fret?

- as mentioned above, is it simply the note just a victim of equal temperament and the key you are in?

My quick solution when I hear an out of tune bass note when mixing is auto tune it.

The best fix is a fanned fret guitar or bass. Next best is a compensated nut. Third best is learning to compensate by finger pressure and placement.
Old 24th December 2012
  #57
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I'm with SkinnyPete...Equal temperament or bad resonance.

Also, add fretwork...I had a guitar once that would intonate the octave/harmonics perfectly, but would just never be consistent across the neck. It's a give away of an inexpensive guitar. I had the best tech in town give up on it. Didn't matter that the tone was great--it was frustrating. constantly tuning differently for different keys...ehh...life's too short. Borrow someone else's bass.

Also...any pianos in the mix? Stretch tuned will get sharp down low by design. I tend to rely on my fretless bass for piano ballads for that reason. Easier to play complimentary pitch.
Old 27th December 2012
  #58
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Quote:
Originally Posted by travisbrown View Post
Not in any parlance I'm used to, and I hang around a lot of luthiers (and build myself).

Wolf tone is a note that barks out. A dead note is a note that is quieter than the surrounding notes.
I know what a wolf tone is because I hang out and have studied with pro string players and know various luthiers and repair guys (god I hate how you have to name-drop on forums :rolleyes: ). Wolf tones can do different weird things. Yes there is usually a loud honky warbly thing at the actual center. But if the wolf appears between two notes, both notes appear dead.

For example, any stand-up bass player who has practiced arco alot in thumb position is used to the wolf that appears around G# and A on the A string (on almost every bass). If that wolf is between G# and A, then both notes will appear dead, with the ugly loud honk being between the two pitches. If you bow hard enough on the A for example, then you will hear the wolf. Its like there is a gravity pulling the note out of tune.

Source: I have practiced arco alot on two different basses with that same wolf.

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Old 27th December 2012
  #59
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skinnypete View Post
I know what a wolf tone is because I hang out and have studied with pro string players and know various luthiers and repair guys (god I hate how you have to name-drop on forums :rolleyes: ). Wolf tones can do different weird things. Yes there is usually a loud honky warbly thing at the actual center. But if the wolf appears between two notes, both notes appear dead.

For example, any stand-up bass player who has practiced arco alot in thumb position is used to the wolf that appears around G# and A on the A string (on almost every bass). If that wolf is between G# and A, then both notes will appear dead, with the ugly loud honk being between the two pitches. If you bow hard enough on the A for example, then you will hear the wolf. Its like there is a gravity pulling the note out of tune.

Source: I have practiced arco alot on two different basses with that same wolf.

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Okay. So I kind of think you are confirming what I wrote. That the actual wolf tone is that note that is louder and barks out. The collocated notes are usually only dead by comparison. The whole problem is caused by the wolf tone. Correct the wolf tone, perceived problem with surrounding notes disappears.

I don't mind the name-dropping. I'd prefer someone qualify their opinion instead of the convenient "instant expert on any given topic" opinion that happens around here.

Anyway, if I said "wolf tone" and meant a dead note, or vice versa, I'd get askance glances from my luthier friends. If you don't, then run with it.
Old 28th December 2012
  #60
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Quote:
Originally Posted by travisbrown View Post
Okay. So I kind of think you are confirming what I wrote.
Not exactly. Both you and johnepstein had corrected me, so I was explaining what I meant.

So from a practical and musical standpoint, without getting caught up on semantics, luthier jargon or physics, wolf notes can appear as choked, quiet or "dead" notes. In my experience this is not uncommon.

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