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Thread: Looking for a tuner that saves my sweetened tunings.

  1. #1

    Default Looking for a tuner that saves my sweetened tunings.

    Is there a tuner or app that will store my own sweetened tunings for different instruments? In other words, if I get an instrument's tuning tweaked to the point that everything works for my ear and I want to save that tuning, is there a device or app for that? (Note: I am talking about intonation, not altered tunings!)

    If not, why not, and can someone please create one?

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    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a tuner that saves my sweetened tunings.

    Perhaps the Peterson Stroboclip might be a start…
    I can’t recall if you can store custom sweetened tuning, but it does have lots of options
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    Default Re: Looking for a tuner that saves my sweetened tunings.

    The Peterson line of tuners have a large selection of preset sweeteners. You can also create your own custom sweeteners and download them to your Peterson devices and share them with other users. Here is a description and tutorial.

    https://youtu.be/UUe-gApJnT0

    I’m not sure I follow your definitions of intonation and altered tunings. Aren’t sweetened tunings another name for altered tunings? Can you help us understand what you mean?
    Mark Lynch

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    Default Re: Looking for a tuner that saves my sweetened tunings.

    I have a Peterson StroboPlus, and that will definitely store and import custom sweetened tunings. My understanding of 'sweetened' is very small alterations of a fraction of a tone/step. It can also store altered tunings. I'm not convinced, though, that string timbre doesn't alter you ear perception of tuning. So, you might set a sweetened tuning that sounds great, change string brand (or even just put a new set on), and find the same tuning sounds different to your ear.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Looking for a tuner that saves my sweetened tunings.

    Quote Originally Posted by MarkELynch View Post
    I’m not sure I follow your definitions of intonation and altered tunings. Aren’t sweetened tunings another name for altered tunings? Can you help us understand what you mean?
    "Sweetened" tunings just slightly change the temperament of a note or two, so that you are not in 12TET anymore. It makes some chord shapes more in tune with the overtone series, but makes other shapes less in tune.

    "Altered" tunings change the tuning to a completely different note(s), like open G or dropped D.

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    Default Re: Looking for a tuner that saves my sweetened tunings.

    Quote Originally Posted by MarkELynch View Post
    ... Aren’t sweetened tunings another name for altered tunings?
    IMHO, "sweetened" means modifying a known tuning by miniscule amounts, to get either a known few =or= the widest possible set of scales & chords to sound good together. OTOH, "altered" tunings bring different placement of notes & chord shapes to the fretboard (as often done on guitar: tuning all open strings to a given chord).

    Edit: What David L said, above!

    Aside comment, previouisly discussed here and in countless doctoral theses:
    NO fretted instrument can play 100% in tune in all keys and in all positions. We mere mortals can barely agree on what "100% in-tune" actually means! And yes, a good piano tuner knows which strings to put out of tune by just the right amount.

    So... "Sweetening" can make a given instrument sound better, in some cases. Which leads to my question:

    Because such adjustments are so dependent on string gauges, string architecture, string age, scale length, fret placement, fret wear patterns, neck & body stiffness/mass/resonance, current temperature & humidity ... why should one instrument's current sweetening be transferable to other instruments?
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    Default Re: Looking for a tuner that saves my sweetened tunings.

    I used my Peterson to work out a sweetened tuning for my nyckelharpa that favoured keys nearest C. I did this as an experiment, because as a folk player, most music I play is in keys at that end of the circle of 5ths: C F D G A, related modes, minors etc. As I understand it (corrections please?), Tempered tuning as developed by JS Bach ensures that instruments such as the piano are equally out of tune in all keys. As I understand it, if you tuned a piano to a natural scale it would in tune in C and audibly out the more sharps and flats you added to the key signature.

    I'm not that good a nyckelharpist, so the experiment was uncertain. However, at one time I was used to playing Celtic folk music without a tempered instrument like piano or a big accordion. We were then joined by an excellent pianist who would sometimes play a concert grand if there was one in the venue. At first I had trouble with pitching some fiddle tuning with him - I think because the other musicians tended towards natural scales at times.

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a tuner that saves my sweetened tunings.

    Quote Originally Posted by EdHanrahan View Post
    So... "Sweetening" can make a given instrument sound better, in some cases. Which leads to my question:

    Because such adjustments are so dependent on string gauges, string architecture, string age, scale length, fret placement, fret wear patterns, neck & body stiffness/mass/resonance, current temperature & humidity ... why should one instrument's current sweetening be transferable to other instruments?
    Some of the concepts in sweetened tunings are instrument-agnostic, they apply universally.

    One example would be the way many guitar players slightly flatten the B string away from 12TET pitch. That's because the 3rd interval in basic guitar chords usually lands on that string, and a 12TET minor third can sound a little sour. It's useless if you're playing with other chord shapes where the third lands on a different string.

    Another example: The "mandolin" sweetened tuning on my Peterson StroboPlus HD is a "deflection offset," designed to compensate for stretching the strings to make contact with the frets. It makes sense on a theoretical level, but I don't hear enough of a difference to bother with it.

    I just use the 12TET equal tuning on all my instruments -- steel and nylon string acoustic guitars, mandolin and octave mandolin.. If you go too far down the "sweetened" rabbit hole you can have conflicts when playing with other people.

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  11. #9

    Default Re: Looking for a tuner that saves my sweetened tunings.

    Thank you all for your responses and for helping to clarify my question.

    The Peterson tuner looks a bit involved to save tunings but I'm tempted to get it anyway.

    I was hoping there would be an app or tuner that would 'record' the pitches I choose without me having to write down and input numbers into my computer.

    Thanks again!

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    Default Re: Looking for a tuner that saves my sweetened tunings.

    I have a Strobostomp HD pedal that needs a preamp to get the Peterson to work properly with piezo clipon (including the one Peterson sells) so, yeah a bit involved.

    However, you can skip the instruction manual and do a lot of configuration by plugging in the SS HD or other recent peterson into your computer, logging into their website and then choose sweeteners and other settings. It's a necessity for pedal steel guitar but I wouldn't say it's a necessity for fretted guitar/mandolin, I still mostly use a Snark.
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    Default Re: Looking for a tuner that saves my sweetened tunings.

    Check out the Peterson Strobotune smartphone app. I’ve not delved into sweetened tunings formally…I get everything close with the tuner and then finalize it by ear most days, though there is the occasional day where I rely totally on the tuner. The Peterson app is much more precise than any of my clip ons (Snark, intellitouch, d’addario) and offers sweetened presets for a reasonable (to me, realizing that 22 year old me would have never even paid for the basic app) upgraded price. The basic app is worth the price of admission, though it’s so sensitive you have to have other noises controlled…live on stage would be tough. But, dialing in unisons and setting intonation at home, it’s as good as I’ve experienced…
    Chuck

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    Default Re: Looking for a tuner that saves my sweetened tunings.

    My experience suggests that sweetening with a tuner may be largely wasted effort, unless you have an instrument (say a micro fret 12 string guitar in open tuning) that you want to record that really benefits from it, and is a bit complex to do by ear. I've had violin lessons from classical teachers who sweetened open string violin tuning by ear - but a) you've then only sweetened four notes on violin and b) as others have posted, unless you have some kind of fractional fret board, fretted instruments will be a little out of tune as soon as you fret them. Then there's c) - can the listener hear it?

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a tuner that saves my sweetened tunings.

    Quote Originally Posted by EdHanrahan View Post

    Aside comment, previouisly discussed here and in countless doctoral theses:
    NO fretted instrument can play 100% in tune in all keys and in all positions. We mere mortals can barely agree on what "100% in-tune" actually means! And yes, a good piano tuner knows which strings to put out of tune by just the right amount.
    Then why was 12 tone equal temperament developed?

    I assume those theses all refer to some sort of just intonation or Pythagorean tuning?

    And how about the Turkish fretted instruments that have MANY frets to the octave?

    Also, if you sweeten a tuning and make a few tonal centers "better" how do you play in more distant keys?

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post

    I just use the 12TET equal tuning on all my instruments -- steel and nylon string acoustic guitars, mandolin and octave mandolin.. If you go too far down the "sweetened" rabbit hole you can have conflicts when playing with other people.
    Same here. 12TET all the way!

    Except for my oud and Turkish lute, which has no frest, or respectively lots of frets.

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    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a tuner that saves my sweetened tunings.

    I'm with DavidKOS on this one!

    If you happen to play bluegrass or oldtime music on the 5-string banjo, you can "sweeten" its usual open-G tuning (gDGBD) by slightly flattening the open B-string (the 2nd string) from the basic tuner value by around 12-16 cents. This sweetening scheme works for two very good reasons: (1) the major third (the B note of the G scale) is about 14 cents sharp in 12-tone equal temperament (12TET), making it sound a bit "off" to sensitive ears. In fact, it's the second-most off note in 12TET, relative to just intonation: the minor third/major sixth beats it by a smidgen. Also (2) you mostly play the 5-string in the key of G, capoing up for tunes in the keys of A, Bb, and B. And sometimes C or D are played capoed, as well. So, this sweetening scheme works for at least 4 keys, and sometimes 6 keys. It even helps you when you play in the key of D out of root positions, since the B note (the 6th note of the D scale) is ALSO sharp in 12TET, by about 16 cents. So, a detuned B-string winds up closer to just intonation once again. Finally, if you play in the key of C out of root positions, the B note is now the 7th scale note, which is sharp by 12 cents in 12TET, so detuning the B helps here, as well.

    However, detuning the B-string does not help if you're playing in many other keys out of the root position. If you play in E out of root positions, for example, where B is the 4th scale note, then 12TET would be about 2 cents sharp relative to just intonation, but you have detuned it by 12-16 cents. If you're playing with other instruments that stick with 12TET, your B note will be 14-18 cents below theirs. This will sound bad to most people. Of course, not many bluegrass or oldtime banjo players tend to play out of E from root positions. But I know several banjo tunes in the key of F (like "Sweet Georgia Brown") that do not benefit from that flattened B string!

    Almost none of the above applies to the mandolin, however! We don't tend to play mandolin with a capo -- at least, most of us don't. We therefore play in all keys out of a root position. And sweetening the tuning for any given key will tend to make it sound out of tune for a whole bunch of others, as we have seen. You obviously don't want to be re-tuning your instrument between every tune. So, unless you will be playing in a single key for many songs in a row, sweetened tunings are not recommended. They are also not recommended if you are playing with a bunch of other 12TET instruments, like guitars, fretted basses, keyboards, etc. Your "sweetened" tunings will clash with theirs, and therefore not sound so sweet after allQ

    But if you are just playing solo, or with violins and cellos and bass viols, which can play in just temperament, and you're playing for a long time in a single key (or a set of related keys that share many notes), then sweetened tunings might work for you.

    I cannot, however, recommend that you use sweetened tunings in general on a mandolin. 12TET works for a reason, and it's built in to all our most popular fretted instruments (mando family, banjo family, guitar family, bass, etc.), as well as most keyboards. Many folks have tried and failed to improve upon it over the years, but it's clearly the best compromise for intonation in Western music, bar none.
    Last edited by sblock; Nov-13-2021 at 9:47pm.

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    '`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`' Jacob's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a tuner that saves my sweetened tunings.

    "Sweetened" tunings on a fretted string instrument probably aren't the best approach.
    They are effective for a single key when playing in first position.
    Equal temperament - 12th root of 2 - was adopted to make each mode equally in/out of tune.
    For true tonal fluidity, the solution is fretless.
    Still a beginner on fiddle with sixty plus years of slide trombone.

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    Default Re: Looking for a tuner that saves my sweetened tunings.

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    And sweetening the tuning for any given key will tend to make it sound out of tune for a whole bunch of others, as we have seen. You obviously don't want to be re-tuning your instrument between every tune. So, unless you will be playing in a single key for many songs in a row, sweetened tunings are not recommended.



    ... Many folks have tried and failed to improve upon it over the years, but it's clearly the best compromise for intonation in Western music, bar none.
    Well said!

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