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Keith Hilton

 

From:
248 Laurel Road Ozark, Missouri 65721
Post  Posted 1 Aug 2021 11:46 am    
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I have a compensator that slightly lowers the 7th string when a certain pedal is pushed down. I have always chime tuned the 7th string open, and then chime tuned with pedals down. When I look at the F# note (open) on my Peterson strobe tuner, set on one of the Emmons sweetener settings, it is always really sharp. If I remember correctly Buddy Emmons tuned 440 straight across. If I tuned the 7th string according to the Peterson strobe tuner Emmons sweeteners, it would be really flat compared to me chime tuning the string.
I sound more in tune to (ME) when I chime tune the 7th string open and pedals down. With that said, I totally respect those that tune 440 straight across. I have always wondered if I am right or wrong, and in what situations with other instruments?
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Dick Wood


From:
Springtown Texas, USA
Post  Posted 1 Aug 2021 2:03 pm    
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I'll step on out and say that I've tried 440 and it just doesn't work in any way. It could only work if your guitar had tunable saddles like a six string does.

There's no way to tune 10 strings of equal length and the pedals/levers combinations be in tune.

The 7th string will have to be several cents sharp and a compensator used for it to work pedals up and down in my opinion. I had numerous guitars that I find that issue with and that's just how it has to be unless someone comes up with tunable saddles at the nut.
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 1 Aug 2021 3:23 pm    
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First of all, 440 is a pitch standard, not a temperament. Just because a lot of sweetened tunings use A=442 doesn't mean that 440 has to be ET. You can tune in ET to any A you like.

Next, if you tune in equal temperament (which is what I understand "straight up" to mean) then compensation is meaningless as the two F#s coincide by definition. If you tune by ear (which is what I assume Keith is calling chime tuning), then the F# should be a natural fourth below the 5th string B with pedals up, and a natural fifth below 5th string C# with them down.

If it sounds right, it is right, regardless of what any tuner may tell you Smile
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Donny Hinson

 

From:
Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post  Posted 1 Aug 2021 6:10 pm    
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Out Westernized ears naturally seek beatless intervals, so the 7th string will sound "out" with either the pedals up, or the pedals down. There's no getting around that with any choice of offsets unless you have a compensator on that string. But even if you use a compensator on the 7th string when using A&B together, that will make other intervals on other chords sound "out". Everything you force "in" makes something else go "out", so you wind up like a dog chasing his tail to try and get everything perfect so you can use a tuner for every string and note.

The more pedals, strings, and changes you have, the more notes that will have to be compensated to make everything sound perfectly in tune. Know when to quit. Devil
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Keith Hilton

 

From:
248 Laurel Road Ozark, Missouri 65721
Post  Posted 1 Aug 2021 6:44 pm    
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I think you are right Donny, "Know when to quit". Yes Donny this is the way I see it also--- Force one thing to be in and it makes something else go out. What made me wonder, was a you tube video of a guy who tuned his pedal steel straight across. He played harmonies, and chords against piano chords. He sounded perfectly in tune with the piano. When he played those same harmonies and chords by himself, he did not sound as in tune. At least to my ears. But the scary thing was he sounded more in tune with the piano tuning straight across with no compensation. With compensation he sounded out of tune with the piano.
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Tucker Jackson

 

From:
Portland, Oregon, USA
Post  Posted 2 Aug 2021 8:28 am    
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Keith, you're tuning the 7th string (with a compensator) correctly.

After using your method, it shouldn't match what the Peterson sweetened tuning is. Apples and oranges. The Peterson sweetened target note assumes the guitar doesn't have a compensator. It tries to solve the "two F#s" problem in a different way -- by compromising between the two "ideal" ends of the spectrum and shooting the note down the middle.

But you don't have to do that with a compensator. You can get both 'ideal' F# targets (one offset when open, a flatter one in pedals-down).

I've added a compensator on my 7th string now and it's a wonderful thing, and I still haven't run into any intervals that are out because of it. It's solved the F# problem entirely and I find myself using chord grips and chord positions I avoided before. In particular, the DMaj7 chord actually sounds really good (for the first time) and is getting a lot of use now. I think it's the fattest, most beautiful chord on the E9 tuning.
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 2 Aug 2021 1:52 pm    
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Keith Hilton wrote:
What made me wonder, was a you tube video of a guy who tuned his pedal steel straight across. He played harmonies, and chords against piano chords. He sounded perfectly in tune with the piano. When he played those same harmonies and chords by himself, he did not sound as in tune. At least to my ears. But the scary thing was he sounded more in tune with the piano tuning straight across with no compensation. With compensation he sounded out of tune with the piano.

Not scary at all. If you tune "straight" you will be in tune with the piano, note for note, because pianos are tuned in exactly the same way. They don't compensate, they compromise. Equal temperament really means "equally out of tune", but the reason pianos get away with it is because they have a hard attack and little sustain. On the steel, which is all about sustain, that out-of-tuneness is uncomfortable bordering on painful.

So I tune my steel the way I like, more or less in natural intervals, with compensation, so that enjoy all the advantages that Tucker describes. I don't have to play with keyboards very often, but when I do I'm quite content to let whoever's playing them wonder why he sounds out of tune Smile

Music theory says that the 7th string F# can't do two jobs, but a couple of extra pulls means that in practice it can.
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Keith Hilton

 

From:
248 Laurel Road Ozark, Missouri 65721
Post  Posted 2 Aug 2021 7:21 pm    
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Tucker, you are correct. When I chime tune my 7th string open and with the pedals down----it is very sharp to the tuner using the Emmons tuning sweetener. I look at the tuning wheel spinning fast to the right and know it has to be that way to sound good in harmonies.
I suppose one solution when playing with a piano, or other instrument, where there is a clash---just concentrate on playing single notes. Then all you have to do is move the bar to sound in tune.
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b0b


From:
Cloverdale, CA, USA
Post  Posted 2 Aug 2021 8:32 pm    
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It used to drive me crazy, tuning by chiming harmonics. I'd get that 7th string in tune with the 5th for a real pretty B6th with the E's lowered. Then I'd chime it against the pedals down position and it was awfully sharp.

I ended up splitting the difference and suffering the consequences. Later I added a compensator to raise the 7th string on the knee lever by about 10 cents, and then all was right with the world.
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Daniel Morris


From:
Westlake, Ohio, USA
Post  Posted 3 Aug 2021 10:42 am    
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About 3 years back, I hooked up with a couple jazz players (out of my league, but that's a way to improve).
In rehearsals, the guitarist would ask me if I was in tune. I thought I was.
Then, after suggestions from several pro steel guitarists, I tuned almost straight up ET on my Peterson tuner. I didn't tell the guys this, but the guitarist remarked that I now sounded in tune. Of course, this time I was. Just as I was told, playing ET alone can sound out of tune, but with other musicians - who are naturally tuned to ET - it sounds just fine.
Doug Jernigan told me that Buddy Emmons had ultimately settled on ET, but that he (Doug) didn't care for it.
Obviously, neither one sounds out of tune, so the ears are the final arbiter.
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Tucker Jackson

 

From:
Portland, Oregon, USA
Post  Posted 3 Aug 2021 12:24 pm    
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Yes, Daniel, you can potentially blend better with other instruments if they're tuned to ET and you're tuned to ET. Your contribution may not sound quite as sweet, but clashes with others are minimized (the trade-off).

To keep the record straight, Buddy Emmons was of that mind, but did not actually tune to ET, even though he usually referred to it that way. It was more the ideal he was attempted to achieve, but didn't quite get there. He usually qualified his statement after saying he tuned to ET and discussed tweaking the 3rds a little flatter (thereby making it no longer true ET and moving back -- far back -- in the direction of JI).

Buddy said:
"Ideally I like to be 440 all the way or as close as my guitar will permit. 438 to 440 on thirds is acceptable for for me. Sometimes I'll tune the thirds at around
438 to keep from snapping the high G# if conditions are where I think the temperature might get cooler.... [Later] A problem in detuning that is rarely discussed is lowering strings which releases tension on the cabinet and raises the pitch of some strings. The 6th or G# is vulnerable which is another good reason to tune it to 438."
https://bb.steelguitarforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=249690

I've seen other interviews where he threw around the 438Hz number for tuning the 3rd intervals.

OK, so, he's shooting for ET but compromises and sets his 3rds at around 438Hz... converting to cents, that's a full -8 cents!

Backing up.... of all the small differences between ET and JI (his former choice), the really glaring one is that the major 3rd intervals are tuned quite differently between the two systems:
ET = +0
JI = -14 (that's a relative: it's 14 cents below whatever offset the root note is set to.)

Buddy was tuning in the -8 cent range, which is a compromise between the two systems, but it's actually closer to JI than ET. And as compromises go, it's a good one because it sounds far sweeter than ET, but is a little easier to blend with ET-tuned 6-stringers and keyboards than when using JI.

I do a similar compromise, but don't refer to it as ET, because, well... it's not all that close to that system. Most E9 players either tune JI -- or pull a Buddy and do "JI-adjacent" thing of their own creation.


Last edited by Tucker Jackson on 3 Aug 2021 1:41 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Daniel Morris


From:
Westlake, Ohio, USA
Post  Posted 3 Aug 2021 1:40 pm    
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Thanks for that, Tucker.
Yes, when I said I tune almost to ET, it's because I also make a few tweaks to be more palatable.
When people ask me if pedal steel is hard to tune, I must sigh...
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Jack Stoner


From:
New Port Richey Florida
Post  Posted 3 Aug 2021 1:48 pm    
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Daniel Morris wrote:
About 3 years back, I hooked up with a couple jazz players (out of my league, but that's a way to improve).
In rehearsals, the guitarist would ask me if I was in tune. I thought I was.
Then, after suggestions from several pro steel guitarists, I tuned almost straight up ET on my Peterson tuner. I didn't tell the guys this, but the guitarist remarked that I now sounded in tune. Of course, this time I was. Just as I was told, playing ET alone can sound out of tune, but with other musicians - who are naturally tuned to ET - it sounds just fine.
Doug Jernigan told me that Buddy Emmons had ultimately settled on ET, but that he (Doug) didn't care for it.
Obviously, neither one sounds out of tune, so the ears are the final arbiter.


I had the opposite experience. When I first got a tuner (a Korg WT12 if I remember correctly) I tuned everything to "0". Everybody told me I was out of tune. Luckily shortly after I got the tuner, Jeff Newman published his tuning chart (ref to 440). I tuned using his chart and no one ever told me I was out of tune. I now tune with the Newman sweetened with a Peterson tuner.

As far as the 7th string (or any other string), Paul Franklin Sr. told me everything on a pedal steel is a "compromise".
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Tucker Jackson

 

From:
Portland, Oregon, USA
Post  Posted 3 Aug 2021 1:52 pm    
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I hear you, Daniel. The completely straight not-tweaked version of ET is a challenge for me too. I need at LEAST -4 cents flat to keep the hair from standing up on the back of the neck. The magic really kicks in about -8. I use -10 as a good compromise value. It's also fail-safe against strings drifting out several cents and putting things over the line into 'definitely flat' territory.

One advantage of the PSG over some other instruments (most, really) is that we have the opportunity to tune to JI if we decide to do it. I'm convinced that one reason people melt when they hear our (unusual JI-tuned) instrument is because it's what physics and the natural world tell their ears is "most in tune." That 'stepping into a warm bath' feeling of JI is the secret weapon we have over 6-strings and keyboards -- but few people out there really understand the 'why' behind that. "I LOVE the steel." But they can't quite put their finger on it.
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 3 Aug 2021 2:19 pm    
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"Warm bath" is right! My background is trombone, and I was attracted to pedal steel partly because of that opportunity to play the beatless chords that a trombone section does better than any other. C6-type close harmonies sound so much cooler than on piano, which sounds like a bag of nails to me.

And yes, the rest of the band love the sound without knowing why, which all adds to the mystique Smile
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Brint Hannay

 

From:
Maryland, USA
Post  Posted 3 Aug 2021 4:02 pm    
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Tucker Jackson wrote:
The magic really kicks in about -8. I use -10 as a good compromise value. It's also fail-safe against strings drifting out several cents and putting things over the line into 'definitely flat' territory.

If you like the major third at -10, you might be interested to know (maybe you already do) that if you tune PSG to Meantone, all the major thirds are at -10.

In E9: E-G#, A-C#, D-F#, B-D#, C#-E#.
All the fifths are at -2.5.
And just one F# works for all uses (assuming you're OK with -2.5 fifths).
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Tucker Jackson

 

From:
Portland, Oregon, USA
Post  Posted 4 Aug 2021 10:30 am    
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Yeah, definitely, Brint! I use meantone throughout the tuning, at least for the 3rds. It doesn't make sense to me to only sweeten the open tuning and not also tune the pedals/knees to yield the same interval across the whole instrument. I want all the most common chord positions to have the same setting for 3rds.

But I can't get all the way to meantone when it comes to the 5ths. So I compromise and use ET (+0) for 5ths.

The logic: everything is a tradeoff. In the case of 5ths, you're trading off sweetness for improving the '2 F#s' problem. Or vice versa.

* At one extreme, the 'sharp' end of the spectrum with JI (+2 over the root), you have maximum sweetness -- but also maximum distance between the 'two F#s,' and it's a real problem because the ideal target notes are a full 18 cents apart. Compensators on one or both F# strings are really helpful here.

* At the other extreme, the flat end of the spectrum with meantone (-2.5), you have minimum sweetness -- you're sitting right at the border of too-flat yuck and couldn't go flatter even if you wanted to -- but at least the 'two F#s' problem is completely solved if you apply the -2.5 setting across the whole instrument (all pedal/knee chord positions); the target you want to tune the F#s to ends up being the same in the pedals-down world as it is in the open position.

My argument against using meantone for the 5ths is why would I want almost every chord to sound noticeably less sweet, just to completely eliminate the issue with the F# strings? In my opinion, that's letting the tail wag the dog. Or using a nuclear weapon to kill an annoying bee. There are more nuanced solutions to deal with the F# outage that don't negatively impact every single chord you play that has a major 5th interval in it (i.e., everything except augmented or diminished). Unlike the 3rd interval where you have a big range to play with, that 5th interval is really finicky and must be either JI, or only slightly flat of that.

So... I shoot down the middle of the two extremes and tune 5ths to ET (+0), which is a really common solution. It's a compromise that retains most of the sweetness of JI. It also builds in a fail-safe aspect; strings can drift a couple of cents sharp or flat and they're still within that very narrow 4.5-cent-wide (or so) range of what's acceptable to the ears for 5ths. Using +0 also brings the 2 F#'s close enough together that they can be dealt with, particularly the 1st string:

* The 1st string F# is tuned down the middle between the two 'ideal' targets, and is sweetened by using the slightest slant of the nose of the bar. It's a slight forward slant (just 5 cents worth) in open position, and slight back slant in pedals-down. Took 5 minutes of practice to lock it in.

* The 7th string is tuned to the sharper target, and I installed a compensator to flatten it in pedals-down. That string is used in several chord positions, and since it's not on the edge of the neck like the 1st string, you can't really bar slant you're way out of it when it's the middle string within a grip. For those that haven't dealt with one, a compensator sounds like a complicated device, but it's just another pull attached to a pedal, like any other change under the hood... and worth it's weight in gold. The parts (another bellcrank, pull rod, nylon nut) costs around $40 and installed in a half hour. Recommended!

Even without the compensator, you end up with an acceptable Dmaj chord that's unsweetened ET, just like the guitar player's. And you can forward slant the F#m position to get that one in tune.

* The C-pedal 4th string is tuned to the flatter version of F# to match up with the other strings in the pedals-down world (the C#, mainly), and that compensator is also in play slightly flattening the 7th string to perfectly match it.

Problem easily solved, and everything still sounds very sweet. The fail-safe aspects of the tuning (setting the 3rds and 5ths in the middle of their 'acceptable' ranges instead of at the border) mean it's easy to sound good even when some strings drift a little off of their target or the temperature changes during the gig. This is the same principle behind B0b's excellent Quick and Easy tuning chart. https://b0b.com/wp/2018/08/quick-and-easy-e9th-tempered-tuning/
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b0b


From:
Cloverdale, CA, USA
Post  Posted 27 Aug 2021 2:35 pm    
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Tucker: In meantone, the few cents off on the 4ths and 5ths isn't really noticeable due to the wideness of the intervals and the slowness of the beat frequencies. The ear resolves them automatically.
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Tucker Jackson

 

From:
Portland, Oregon, USA
Post  Posted 27 Aug 2021 7:09 pm    
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My ear isn't happy with Meantone 5ths. But a few cents sharper than that works better for me. I think that's how you tune too, with 5ths matching the root, no?
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b0b


From:
Cloverdale, CA, USA
Post  Posted 27 Aug 2021 10:21 pm    
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Tucker Jackson wrote:
My ear isn't happy with Meantone 5ths. But a few cents sharper than that works better for me. I think that's how you tune too, with 5ths matching the root, no?

I used to match the E and B notes on an electronic tuner, which made the 5ths about 2 cents flat of JI (harmonic tuning). I've switched to a meantone now that makes the 5ths about 4.5 cents flat of JI. Honestly, I don't hear the difference. They both sound in tune to me.
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Chris Templeton


From:
The Green Mountain State
Post  Posted 28 Aug 2021 5:22 am    
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All this discussion is about tuning open strings using a tuner.
Then there's the bar and vibrato.
If the bar is slightly slanted at a fret, that can throw tuning out the window.
I have seen/heard that sometimes a beginning steel player will go to the fret and start right in with a fast vibrato and doesn't sound natural to me.
By "natural", I mean the way a good singer starts on the note and then applies vibrato. launching right into a fast vibrato and it sounds like the player is insecure about being in tune and covers the tuning bases with an immediate fast, wide vibrato.
Before tuners were invented, players tuned by ear from a tuning fork, pitch pipe, piano or other instrument.
Check out Jerry Byrd's vibrato: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXEP5DFDMM4 and Buddy and Hal Ruggs vibratos
on the Bell Cove video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGb9XLFY6C4
They start by hitting the note(s) and then bring on the vibrato.
I was a little surprised, watching again, how fast Buddy and Hal's vibratos are after going to the the note(s).
I remember on slower material, Buddy would sometimes use a combo of sliding the bar and rolling the bar for vibrato.
Buddy and Hal Bell Cove: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGb9XLFY6C4
Also let's not forget that the further up the neck you go, the vibrato is narrower.
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Bob Hoffnar


From:
Austin, Tx
Post  Posted 28 Aug 2021 8:19 am    
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I would suggest recording yourself playing on one string only. Play a simple major scale VERY slowly along to a sustained chord. With and without any slides. If you can’t do his perfectly without adjustments it doesn’t matter how you tune. Really record yourself and listen back. It’s way harder than it sounds. Oh yea , do not use any vibrato.

I currently tune ET straight up to 440. I can play sorta in tune as long as I remain focused just like when I tuned JI. I need to stay super focused and pretty much have as much brain power available as possible to play in tune. I have problems with intonation mostly when I’m bowling for notes and not sure of what to play.
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Chris Templeton


From:
The Green Mountain State
Post  Posted 28 Aug 2021 9:41 am    
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Also, like a chorus effect, instruments being slightly out of tune can "thicken" a band's sound.
Being in tune with oneself (no beats), is what I like. Oh that E>F lever!
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Lane Gray


From:
Topeka, KS
Post  Posted 3 Sep 2021 11:43 am    
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All the talk of JI vs. ET ignores the fact that everyone else on the stage is in ET, until the Tele player mashes too hard on some strings and less hard on others, and the bass drifts a bit.
I've gone to a "barely modified ET", where I don't program, I just use a needle
Everything goes straight up except for: A#, C#, D#, E# & G#. Those go somewhere between 4 and 6 cents flat. Not enough to be full-on JI, but just flat enough to be sweeter than ET.
The D chord may jangle a little, but the B chord is still perfectly fine.
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