Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How To Not Suck, Chapter 20: Tune Your Ears

I busted a string on Sunday, and proceeded to do the fastest string change on an acoustic that I've ever done. I had clippers, capo and strings, but what I did not have was a portable tuner. The only one I had along was integrated into my multi-effects unit.

Tuning a guitar to itself is doable. Fifth fret to the next string's open. Fifth fret harmonic to the next string's seventh fret harmonics. 12th fret to the next string's seventh fret. Counting the beats and all. All that is a good to practice, to work on, to know. Magic boxes are good to have, because pitch pipes are horrible for tuning to, but you should still know how to tune your guitar to itself.

But that's one thing. The trick, the thing to learn, is a way to remember what a concert-pitch. And I thought I had that trick. "The Theme to Peter Gunn". One of the first things I ever learned on guitar. I get that riff going, and it sounds right, I thought, then I know I have the low E right. I honestly thought I had it.

Until I got back to the tuner.

I had it tuned to C. Not E. 4 half-steps flat.

Back to the drawing board.


patrick said...

My strategy for finding a starting note when I have none uses something I always have with me: my voice. The lowest note I can sing under most conditions is a G. (actually, a little bit sharp of a G, but not quite a G#.) So I can sing that and get pretty close. Of course, it changes if I'm warmed up or worn out, or if I have a cold and my cords are extra stretched.
If you're tuning to play with a band, though, you need a crutch. Nothing in your brain or on your body has the ability to get close enough without comparing it to something else.

Anonymous said...

you can train your ear to hear a pitch correctly all the time, without having perfect pitch... I can sing an A440 whenever I'm asked, with no reference pitch. Get a tuner that has an A440, put it under your pillow, and go to sleep. Do that for a week, and you should be able to just HEAR an A440.

Dave Jacoby said...

That is an idea. I think I'd do it another way, like recording it, putting it on my phone, plugging it in and having it play all night. My metronome has a steady A440 tone, but I don't want to drain my 9 volt.