James Taylor on tuning a guitar

Discussion in 'Music, Theory, Tab and Such' started by Papa Joe, Apr 6, 2019.

  1. Papa Joe

    Papa Joe Squier-Axpert

    Dec 12, 2009
    Swanton Ohio
  2. Joe90

    Joe90 Squier-Nut

    Jul 6, 2014
    Western Canada
    My guitar teacher told me about this about 5 years back. I get that strings will tend to pluck sharp but even the bass strings at 12/100's of a half step is pretty miniscule for a tin ear like me. It might make a difference for some of you folks who have better ear for pitch than I do.

    I'm curious now about the tuning of guitars in some of the classic songs from back in the days before digi-tuners -- how many 100's off of a half step were they tuned?
    mbroadus and BlueSquirrel like this.
  3. Papa Joe

    Papa Joe Squier-Axpert

    Dec 12, 2009
    Swanton Ohio
    The only tuners I saw back then were those ones with reeds in them that you blew on at first..Then I learned of the fork tuners..It still required a good ear to tune.
    .I quite often played with a bar room piano..They were seldom in correct tune..
    I would play a chord on the piano for each string..
    I once worked with a jazz bassist that had a remarkable sharp ear..He would tell me when a string was out..Most of the time I barely touched the tuners and he would say it was good..
    Now through the years I seem to have developed that kind of ear..Almost..
    My ear started getting better when I started on steel..No frets for a guide..
    Kenneth Mountain, Joe90 and RoyalWe like this.
  4. IronSchef

    IronSchef Dr. Squier

    Jun 18, 2012
    Flew here on my Dragonfly
    that is really cool - JT always sounds fantastic - so he obviously knows his stuff!
  5. Personally speaking, I don't like digital tuners. I use harmonics.
    Cheers, Barrie.
    Kenneth Mountain likes this.
  6. bgmacaw

    bgmacaw Squier-Nut

    Jan 19, 2018
    GA USA
    When I started playing in the early 70's, I used either pitch pipes or a piano to get a reference tone and I did either harmonics or relative pitch tuning. Somewhere around 1978, I bought a handheld tuner, I think it was a Korg W10 knockoff.

    I got to see backstage with a few bands in the 70's since I was on my college's student entertainment committee. Some of those bands had big, bulky, strobe tuners that the band's guitar tech used but they weren't used on stage.
  7. SoundDesign

    SoundDesign Squier-holic

    Completely agree with the "concepts" he's putting forward and the why's that might be behind them but as to his specific recipe, I'm not sure this is "go out and try it yourself" advice.

    Nuts, bridges, frets, capos and playing styles are all in the mix which adds up to something I believe - "in tune" can sound out of tune. My ears are very sensitive to "out of tune" but not good enough to zero in on the solution often. Rather than descending into madness, I try to just trust the tuner. If the issue is still cringe-worthy, I probably have a guitar maintenance issue.
  8. techowiz

    techowiz Squier-Nut

    Aug 21, 2014
    new york
  9. duceditor

    duceditor Dr. Squier

    May 29, 2014
    The Monadnocks, NH USA
    That what he was doing "worked" was apparent to my ear. No one has ever charged me with having "cents" (spell it as you will) ;), but I could hear what the meter was showing.

    I almost never use a capo, but the principle which reflects the difference between pitch set by a nut vs by a fret is very real. -A fact that I am having to work through with my Supro Americano guitars as these use "zero frets" and thus tuning them "right" by my nut-trained ear assures pitch issues up high on the neck.

    The reason for this difference for those who never analyzed it is that fretting a string requires downward pressure that an open string does not receive. A zero fret equalizes the pressure to a far greater degree (although not perfectly since the strings get higher off the frets progressively as one goes up the neck).

    Using a meter is "better" in its accuracy for the chosen pitch, but that does not reflect perfectly the playing pitch all over the neck as the instrument is actually fretted and picked/plucked.

    In the old days our ears and experience got us there in many cases better than does the meter in the same way that climbing a stairs is best done without thinking about what you legs and feet are doing. (So much in life is that way! "Just trust your gut" is not nonsensical in the real world. Nor is trusting your ear if you learn to rely upon it rather than a meter.

    No, we didn't have meters "back when." In my bands the keyboard set the basic pitch (piano, organ, accordion), or if none was in the combo than an E or A blues harp.

    Were we "on"? For gigs, yes. in the studio not perfectly.

    The reason for that was several fold. One was the dead acoustics. That played havoc with our ears. The other was that we played differently. Picked differently. Both threw off pitch.

    A person who always played in a studio would likely have adjusted to those issues and found his issues playing live.

    For such the "stagy" was born. "God bless them, each and every one!" :)


    Last edited: Apr 7, 2019
    Joe90 likes this.
  10. Papa Joe

    Papa Joe Squier-Axpert

    Dec 12, 2009
    Swanton Ohio
    Well put Don, and on the money correct..
    duceditor likes this.
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