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Mike Beley


From:
Alberta, Canada
Post  Posted 3 Sep 2018 10:16 am    
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Just listening to a board tape (phone tape? recording?) of my playing from this weekend.

I noticed there is one song I'm really having trouble with.
Slow, long phrases and I'm annoyingly flat on the whole song... the same song 3 weeks apart.
The song is Lightfoot's "If You Could read my mind", but that's irrelevant.

Are there any exercises you guys recommend to help with pitch?

Especially on those long, drawn-out phrases that work well with songs like that.

I've been playing a year and a half, and it's certainly not the only thing I need to work on, but right now after listening to this week's set, I'm making pitch a priority.

I'm sure tuning comes into play here also, but in this case I think I'm just simply flat on everything I did in the entire song and I need to get that figured out...especially for those slow long phrases.

Obviously, I need to touch up my ear training a bit.

Any thoughts or advice?

thanks

Mike
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Paul Sutherland


From:
Placerville, California
Post  Posted 3 Sep 2018 11:38 am    
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Not very many players with just a year and a half experience can play with perfect intonation. So don't be too hard on yourself. The good news is you can hear the problem and you want to make fixing it a priority. With sustained effort you will get there.

I suggest you practice making a conscious effort to not slide into notes. Try to hit the pitch right on the money, and then bring in a small bit of vibrato. If you slide into every note, then you are much more likely to sound flat, because you are by definition playing flat until you finally get to the pitch. So even if you do ultimately get to the pitch, the listener has already heard you playing flat, and the first impression is hard to overcome.

The Paul Franklin bar control exercises should be part of your daily practice routine.

Intonation is all about the left hand and the ears. Learn to trust your ears. Don't rely too heavily on the fret markers. I play slightly above the fret when using the A & B pedals, and a lot above the fret when playing the A & F combo.
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Ricky Davis


From:
Buda, Texas USA
Post  Posted 3 Sep 2018 11:43 am    
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WEll it is all about learning to hear intonation. Here is a thread with many many great ideas....and the main idea I spoke of is learning to hear you play against a fixed tone.
Quote:

It is NOT how you tune your steel(cause you gotta put the bar on strings at some point...then what???. IT is NOT the tuning of the other instruments you are playing with. it is ONLY about your ear for intonation and how far along it is. If you are playing out of tune; don't RETUNE you pedal steel to whatever suggested tuning solution there is these days...> ONLY WORK ON YOUR INTONAION.....Period. Read Bob Hoffnar's comment and link and that is the only way to progress YOUR intonation....Period!!!
Ricky



https://bb.steelguitarforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=316030&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0


Ricky
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Lane Gray


From:
Topeka, KS
Post  Posted 3 Sep 2018 12:37 pm    
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I believe Herb Steiner has some drone tones for practice.
There are also reference tone generators for smartphones. Plug those into your stereo or second amp input.
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Rick Abbott


From:
Indiana, USA
Post  Posted 3 Sep 2018 1:20 pm    
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Lane Gray wrote:
I believe Herb Steiner has some drone tones for practice.


I think it's Bob Hoffnar?

It may have been in jest, but I was told as a beginner it takes about 2 years to play in tune. Seems about right, haha. It's, in my opinion, THE hardest and most important part of playing steel. Volume pedal technique is pretty tough as well, I think.
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Dan Kelly


From:
Boston, MA
Post  Posted 3 Sep 2018 3:27 pm    
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I'll second Lane's suggestion. Playing along with drone tones can really help. Just 10 or 15 minutes a day in different keys will help. I use this web based tool:

http://www.dronetonetool.com/
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Kevin Fix


From:
Michigan, USA
Post  Posted 3 Sep 2018 3:46 pm    
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Once in a great while I will record myself at a gig. It is a eye opener for hearing me hit a flat spot. Makes me more careful when I am playing. I watch my bar hand more closer. I may glance at my right hand once in a while. I always pay most attention to my left hand only.
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Dan Robinson


From:
Colorado, USA
Post  Posted 3 Sep 2018 6:27 pm    
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Mike, were you playing a gig? How well are you able to hear yourself?

I don't know your situation, but high stage volume can make perception of pitch a challenge for anyone.
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Donny Hinson


From:
Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post  Posted 3 Sep 2018 6:51 pm    
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You may be "sight playing", concentrating too much on the frets, instead of really listening to how your playing melds with the band's tonal center. I've know so many players that worried about their "tone" when their emphasis should have been on their intonation. The fact that you can hear the pitch problem on a playback is half the battle, and you're right to make good intonation a priority. The other half (fixing it) will come with time.

I find playing with drones boring. My suggestion is to play along with any prerecorded material, records, YouTube stuff, tapes, the radio, etc. Purposefully look for stuff that's not in perfect tune with your guitar. Learning to play in-tune regardless of the frets being "off" is the best intonation exercise I know of.
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Jim Cohen


From:
Philadelphia, PA
Post  Posted 3 Sep 2018 6:57 pm    
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Not to detract in any way from the suggestions of working on one's pitch, which we should all do, but I'll tell a short story here. A few weeks ago I got a call for a studio session to overdub steel onto some almost-finished tracks. The first two tunes went fine and the producer was happy with what I put down. When we got to the 3rd tune, I had to stop about one line in, because I felt I was out of tune. So I rechecked my tuning, tweaked it a slight bit (I wasn't far off) and we re-started. Nope! Same thing: still OUT of tune! WTF was going on??

Then the engineer suggested, "How about if I mute the mandolin track?" So, he did just that and, BAM! I was suddenly in perfect tune with the rest of the band!

I suppose it was the mando track that was out of tune (though I hadn't noticed it before) --- or perhaps just uses a different tempering of the tuning that I do on steel? I don't know but that's what happened.

Perhaps one of the studio pros out there can tell me the moral of the story...?
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post  Posted 4 Sep 2018 1:58 am    
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Jim Cohen wrote:


Then the engineer suggested, "How about if I mute the mandolin track?" So, he did just that and, BAM! I was suddenly in perfect tune with the rest of the band!

I suppose it was the mando track that was out of tune (though I hadn't noticed it before) --- or perhaps just uses a different tempering of the tuning that I do on steel? I don't know but that's what happened.

Perhaps one of the studio pros out there can tell me the moral of the story...?


Next time tune your Steel with a tuner for a Mandolin ? Rolling Eyes
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Dale McPherson


From:
Morristown, Tennessee, USA
Post  Posted 4 Sep 2018 4:57 am    
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If the engineer knew to back out the mandolin track----sounds like he knew that track was off pitch. HUH
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 4 Sep 2018 7:00 am    
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Paul Sutherland wrote:

I suggest you practice making a conscious effort to not slide into notes.

I play slightly above the fret when using the A & B pedals, and a lot above the fret when playing the A & F combo.


I remember encountering this same advice in a Jerry Byrd interview. For him, I think it was a matter of taste as much as anything else. Regardless, I think that fortifes your advice, Paul.

But it makes sense, especially if you slide UP to every note, that the odds of hitting something flat increase. It is something I am working on with my own playing, because it is so much fun sliding around that I forget that I’m supposed to be making music too Cool

Playing slightly above the fret with pedals down, as intuitive as it seems, is also easy to miss when sliding up. It’s about the ears, not the eyes!
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Mike Beley


From:
Alberta, Canada
Post  Posted 4 Sep 2018 7:57 am    
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Jim Cohen wrote:

Then the engineer suggested, "How about if I mute the mandolin track?" So, he did just that and, BAM! I was suddenly in perfect tune with the rest of the band!


LOL...ironically the guitar player was playing mandolin for this song in both instances.

That having been said, I still better do some work on intonation and pitch.
I've started paying more attention to my tuner while I play, and I'm definitely going to spend a few minutes each practice session with drones.

I'll also try not sliding for some reps also.

Someone also suggested practice in the dark ("pitch" black??) so you are leaning on your ears and not your eyes.

Thanks guys, useful and encouraging replies, and greatly appreciated.

Mike
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Brett Lanier


From:
Vermont
Post  Posted 4 Sep 2018 8:20 am    
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It can be especially tough to get in tune with a band when the lead singer is playing chords throughout the whole song on an instrument that is slightly out. It's bound to happen from time to time when they are just slapping a capo on and going for it.

There's usually a slight dissonance between that acoustic guitar(or mandolin) and the bass, and playing along with that dissonce can be nearly impossible if it's bad enough. Much easier when the singer is really hitting it, and hopefully the bass and the rest of the band can hear where they're singing to and adjust ever so slightly.
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Georg Sørtun


From:
Mandal, VA, Norway & Weeki Wachee, FL, USA
Post  Posted 4 Sep 2018 8:46 am    
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Mike Beley wrote:
I've started paying more attention to my tuner while I play, and I'm definitely going to spend a few minutes each practice session with drones.

Hope you do not mean that you are adjusting pitch based on what your tuner tells you, while playing. No tuner can keep up – they all lag several cycles behind, and so will you.

Also, drone-notes/-chords are best kept "in your head", where you can "switch" between them as fast as you need to in order to keep up with, and stay ahead of, changes in the music.
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Joseph Napolitano


From:
New Jersey, USA
Post  Posted 4 Sep 2018 5:58 pm    
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I've been practicing with drone tracks for a long time . I use a Cello Drones cd, you can get it on Ebay right now. I'll play iconic solos I've lifted note for note ,from recordings , and play them along with the note of the primary key. Sometimes I'll improvise . Occasionally I'll play long notes along with the drone, while using a tuner with a mic/visual meter, just to make sure I'm spot on and not kidding myself.I work more on intonation than anything else. If we don't play reasonably in tune, we're not much good to anyone else. It's so important, and for me, takes a lot of effort. But no, it's not boring.I've also found that just because my intonation has gotten better, that doesn't mean it can't get worse again if you neglect it . Kinda like a golf swing.
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Bobby D. Jones


From:
West Virginia, USA
Post  Posted 5 Sep 2018 11:31 am     Pitch
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Many Electronics change the tuning from the guitar to the actual Pitch that is coming out of the amp.
I have an amp. that actually raises pitch about 4 cents when the tuner is placed in front of the amp., Compared to when it is plugged into the guitar. I wondered why my steel sounded high and I Fudged a bit behind the fret to make my ear happy. The tuner explained it.
When I played in band with a key board I noticed in certain locations I had to Bar Fudge more, Sometimes in front of the fret.

Was talking to a clerk in an electronic store. He talked of a club he played sax in was not with Keyboard. A tech came in to work on a refrigerator in their kitchen. He checked the supply voltage was 140 volts. The power company had to change the transformer on the pole. He said his band was tight and right together after that.
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 5 Sep 2018 3:32 pm    
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Quote:
I have an amp. that actually raises pitch about 4 cents when the tuner is placed in front of the amp., Compared to when it is plugged into the guitar.

An amp that raises the pitch of your guitar strings? I’ve never heard that one before. Good thing you weren’t running stereo Cool


Last edited by Fred Treece on 5 Sep 2018 3:59 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Barry Blackwood


Post  Posted 5 Sep 2018 3:46 pm    
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Quote:
If the engineer knew to back out the mandolin track----sounds like he knew that track was off pitch. HUH

Dale, that would be my take on it as well..
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John McClung


From:
Olympia WA, USA
Post  Posted 5 Sep 2018 4:26 pm    
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I've recently been using a free iPhone app, insTuner, which can create a synthesized drone tone for any note in any octave, and also has a fake needle chromatic tuner, so you can play a note and immediately see if it's sharp or flat. Lately I've been playing to drones and watching the real needle on my BOSS TU-15 tuner, so I can do audio and visual tuning simultaneously. Very good training regimen.
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John Goux


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 5 Sep 2018 6:48 pm    
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Drone tracks and PF pitch exercises are excellent, BUT, they don’t give you the full picture of playing pedal steel chords in tune with music calibrated to modern electronic tuners and keyboards, which are in Equal Temperament at A440.

The idiosyncrasies of PSG, especially how we temper our major thirds, and then temper the major thirds of those notes, gives you a succession of increasingly flatted notes....verses a keyboard.
As an example, most players have their F (E sharp, the third of the C# major) flatted at least 20 cents, and often more. That is going to sound flat to a well tuned track or band.

There is nothing wrong with this type of intonation. To help you sound more in tune, adjust the calibration of your Es and As upward by 4 to 8 cents above zero, an effective compromise.
(This is what some players call tuning to 442, which is close to 8 cents sharp of 440.)
This will give you a leg up on the flatness issue.

And yes, you still need to use your ears and hands to play in tune.

To the OP, look at your intonation method and notice if your Es and As are above ET, and by how much.

Most importantly, practice intonation with tracks that have keyboards, and guitars tuned to “440”. You won’t get a full picture of the harmonic landscape with your drone tracks. You need to be practicing minor chords and major chords in different keys, and listen to your pitch, and compensate for all the flatting that is part of the traditional pedal steel tuning methods.

John
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John Goux


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 5 Sep 2018 11:33 pm    
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“Many Electronics change the tuning from the guitar to the actual Pitch that is coming out of the amp.
I have an amp. that actually raises pitch about 4 cents when the tuner is placed in front of the amp.,”

This is a new one on me. What electronics and how? Anyone else have this?

John
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Bengt Erlandsen


From:
Brekstad, NORWAY
Post  Posted 6 Sep 2018 4:30 am    
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If the tuner is mechanical with a needle that moves because of a magnetic field generated by current in the tuner itself, then you might get incorrect readings if the tuner is placed near another magnetic field, like on top of your amp if it got speakers inside or if placed close to the pickup on your guitar. A digital tuner should not neccessary be affected by an external magnetic field however.

For the original questioner and topic, are there any other players on the recording that play the same note as you are playing and thereby creating conflicting issues between temperaments? Then both instruments would sound out of tune in relation to each other.

B.Erlandsen
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Bud Angelotti


From:
Larryville, NJ, USA
Post  Posted 6 Sep 2018 4:55 am    
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Like a lot of us, I dabble in recording.
I've found that near the beginning of a recording process with multiple instruments, it helps to use a dummy track using an electronic keyboard of some type that is tuned to A 440. Real simple drone notes or simple electronic piano will do, long as it's tuned to A440. Then the other instruments and/or singers will have a reference pitch. You can then delete the reference track at any time, but it helps to keep the mandolin and banjo players pitch honest.
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