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Worship Workshop:20 Ways To Solve Guitar Tuning Problems (Part 2)

IMG_6636By Nigel Wiggins…In part two of this blog, we look at how a guitarist’s playing technique affects the tuning.

Playing Technique

Problem #15: Hard Attack…The initial attack on lower pitched strings will be sharper before returning to the “resting” pitch.  You can see this when using a guitar tuner.  The needle starts a little higher and then returns to centre. This kind of problem is particularly noticeable for playing successions of 16ths hit with a lot of force.  The instrument will sound sharp because all you hear is the frequency of the initial attack.

Solution: Tune the string(s) to a slightly lower pitch so that the “initial attack” is in tune.

Problem #16: String Squeezing…Pushing the string too hard against the fret board on will cause the string to be stretched enough to make the note go sharp.  This can happen with tall frets or even with normal frets if you push too hard just behind the fret. This is more likely to happen if you have strong fingers (or light strings).
Solution: Apply less force to the strings when fretting the notes.

Problem #17: Pulling Back the Neck…When a guitarist’s wrist gets tired through extended period of playing, there can be a tendency to compensate by using the arm to apply the extra force necessary to fret the chords.  This causes the neck to flex backwards and sharpens all the strings to varying degrees.

Solution: The best approach is to re-assess your technique and make sure that you’re placing your thumb correctly behind the neck.  You could also fit a stronger neck to compensate for your technique.

Problem #19:…Accidental String Bending.  When notes are fretted, the strings are pushed down and sometimes unintentionally sideways causing the note to sharpen.

Solution: Re-assess your technique and make sure that, if possible, you’re pushing the string(s) downwards without bending.  Fitting heavier gauge strings can also help a little.

Problem #20: Capo…Cheap or poorly adjusted capos apply some serious pressure to the strings, much more than is possible with your fingers.  This can cause the guitar to go slightly sharp.

Solution: Buy an adjustable Capo such as the ones made by Paige which allow the pressure to be adjusted. Put the capo into position and tighten the screw until you there is enough pressure for each string to sound clearly without any buzz.

Some additional tips
* Buy a good chromatic guitar tuner.

* When using a tuner, select the neck pickup, remove all the highs and pluck the open string directly over the twelfth fret.  This gives you a “pure” note without any unwanted overtones which can confuse the tuner.

* After tuning the open strings, check the notes on the 3rd fret using a chromatic tuner.
Use an inline tuner when performing live on stage.  No one wants to listen to you tuning.  There are also small, compact tuners which clip onto the head of the guitar and allow you to tune with the volume turned right down.

* Use special designed audio ear-protectors at rehearsals. Prolonged exposure to high volume will damage your hearing – and hence you ability to know whether or not you are in tune!

This article was written by Nigel Wiggins, a teacher with the European Worship Institute, and originally published here:

Nigel Wiggins has 25 years experience working with church plants in the United Kingdom, The Netherlands & France. Working in small but growing churches has given him the opportunity to move between different roles and instruments (bass, electric, acoustic and keys & vocals) gaining a broad knowledge of how worship teams function. He believes that worship is inclusive not exclusive and that “There is always room for one more” – we are called to create the space, gather the lost & broken and point them to Jesus.

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