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  1. #1

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    This is weird, just asking anyone experiencing similar...

    I always bugged when playing with backing tracks it is hard to sound not having out of tune.
    (I am not talking Aebersold, where the piano is so out of tune by default, that it is hopeless)
    I use Hal Leonards, some Bobbys, and PAJ (which is _great_ btw)

    So far I used my Fender Mustang built in tuner for reference, and played back the tracks with Transcribe where cent grade adjustment of pitch is possible and tried to tune my guitar an the tracks together.
    Sometimes I've tried to tune my guitar to a particular track, with no success, here is why, keep reading.

    Recently I installed Amplitube and discovered that a usable tuner is in it, so I tuned my guitar with that. Loaded a backing track, and my guitar was perfectly in tune! I cross checked the guitar with my Fender tuner which found it flat. Heureka, I though my Fender was sharp always so that was the problem.

    Unfortunately it quickly turned out, it is not the problem. So I was playing with my perfectly tuned guitar and within 5 minutes the music turned well hearable out of tune. I did know the guitar could not go out of tune so quickly especially not all strings in equal measure so the guitar itself remained clear...

    (so it was not the guitar)


    My suspect was the actual player (VLC) this case, so I changed to Transcribe. Detto the same. So I relaunched Amplitube and checked with the tuner: all stings was 3-4-5 cent sharp. So it seems either the soundcard either the computer clock is not stable enough to keep the pitch. Interestingly when I realunched any player it seemed to play in tune, for a 1 minutes, but not always...

    Some more diagnostics:

    - Player softwares seems to be all exhibit this phenomena, like VLC, Transcribe and Amplitube (import sound file)
    - I risk the hypothesys that it is NOT the soundcard, beacuse the playback is in a motherboard Realtec, but the tuner guitar input was via Behringer external. They seems to suffer both equally the pitch instability.

    - My first question is: is this only me, or somebody else experienced similar?
    (The hard thing is that we all suppose that a backing track could be slightly out of tune, so we do not make a case about this saying, the guys were a bit out of tune, but maybe in the reality most professional backing track are perfectly in tune, probably our guitar too...)

    - Second question: any solution?

    Feeling even slightly out of tune is definitely a thing which destroys the inspiration and invention when soloing (especially if you have not got too many :-). so I think this is a really bad thing...

    Thanks in advance
    Last edited by Gabor; 02-25-2017 at 02:52 AM.

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  3. #2

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    One of the immutable physical properties of metals is that they change size with temperature changes. Not much, but enough to be measurable. If you tune a guitar with the strings at a certain temperature, and then play it, as you play it the strings will probably warm up from the friction of vibration and from your hands. As they increase in temperature, they lengthen slightly, often enough to need a tweak to get them back perfectly in tune. They won't get grossly out of tune with each other, but may sound flat compared to a source that doesn't change, like a digital recording. The cooler the strings were when tuned the more they will change as they warm up. OTOH it's also possible for the strings to be very warm, and have them cool as they are played, although this is much rarer. This was less common in the good old days before air conditioning was everywhere, and was more common in the winter in places with inadequate heat. The only remedy I know for this is to retune the guitar when it goes out of tune.

  4. #3

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    If your guitar goes a bit sharp after a few minutes of playing, I'd suspect your body heat is warming up the wood. That happens to me all the time, especially with carved archtops. The fix is to retune after your guitar's temperature has stabilized.

  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by KirkP View Post
    If your guitar goes a bit sharp after a few minutes of playing, I'd suspect your body heat is warming up the wood. That happens to me all the time, especially with carved archtops. The fix is to retune after your guitar's temperature has stabilized.
    Is't it the other way with steel stringed guitars? I've only experienced steel stringed ones going a bit flat when my fingers heat that steel. Nylon strings seem to act the opposite way though, and more severe.
    Last edited by Runepune; 02-24-2017 at 07:49 PM.

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Runepune View Post
    Is't it the other way with steel stringed guitars? I've only experienced steel stringed ones going a bit flat when my fingers heat that steel. Nylon strings seem to act the opposite way though, and more severe.
    My guitars always go sharp over the first 20 minutes or so. Seems to me touching a long string with a fingertip wouldn't heat it up much.
    Yet most of my guitars are rock stable if they're stored at constant temperature and humidity. Humidity is can cause detuning too, but it's much slower acting than temperature, since the wood needs time to absorb or dry.
    Last edited by KirkP; 02-24-2017 at 08:24 PM.

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by KirkP View Post
    My guitars always go sharp over the first 20 minutes or so. Seems to me touching a long string with a fingertip wouldn't heat it up much.
    Strange, I've never experienced that. Finger touch and movement heat up those strings allright. I can feel that cold touch from steel is gone in minutes

    Yet most of my guitars are rock stable if they're stored at constant temperature and humidity.
    Yeah, I rarely notice much of a difference in my steel string guitars anyway. The nylon is another story; the unwound strings always go sharp after a while.
    Last edited by Runepune; 02-24-2017 at 08:36 PM.

  8. #7

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    Found an answer on the nylon issue

    On top of this you have the thermal expansion of nylon. As it warms up it expands (0.004% per Kelvin degree) - but here you've got to be careful to think in 3D. Does it expand radially (increasing tension along the length) or linearly (decreasing tension along the length)? Most strings are produced by drawing, so the alignment of the molecules is along the length of the strong, known as "machine direction orientation". Most of the VdW bonds will then be radially aligned, since they are between parallel molecules. Since the VdW bonds between molecules are much weaker than the covalent bonds within the molecules, they'll loosen first when warmed or put under mechanical tension. What you get here is - with new strings - a "caterpillar crawl" along the chain where the molecules dislocate. That makes the strings go flat. Then - with old strings that have acquired a degree of temper wherein the VdW bonds don't move so much any more - it's the radial bonds that elongate and make the string swell a bit. That tends to pull the chains, so to speak, and can result in sharpening of the note.

  9. #8

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    In my experience this can vary greatly from instrument to instrument. My main instrument is very unstable. It constantly needs tweaking and not by an iota either. Drives me crazy but I love the sound and playability. I have others that are the rock of Gibraltar, I can leave them for weeks, heck sometimes longer, and they are still basically in tune. But I think it mainly a characteristic of the instrument that strings can vary their pitch in relatively short periods of time. Wes made a comment to this effect discussing tuning with the pianist on one the YouTube videos. I can post a link if wanted.

    p.s. I'm not certain but think it more true of instruments with shorter scale length, i.e. 24.75 vs 25.5.
    Last edited by deselby; 02-24-2017 at 09:04 PM.

  10. #9

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    ...well.. this thread was successfully hijacked from the very beginning to talking about how various strings and instruments are going out of tune... but the original topic was about the computer and soundcard and playing back music goes out of tune...

    I admit the original post is quite verbose and maybe lack of focus, which may lead the question being unclear. So I did some bolds, and changed a very few words to make it more clear.

    The phenomena effectively ruins my play along practice experience.

    Any help appreciated if anyone interested in OP questions.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by jazzyjackrabbit View Post
    ...well.. this thread was successfully hijacked from the very beginning to talking about how various strings and instruments are going out of tune... but the original topic was about the computer and soundcard and playing back music goes out of tune...
    It seemed like you just assumed it was the playback...and the analyse seemed vague. Did you confirm that playback speed/pitch drifts?

    I have never experienced this, and it just seemed unlikely. To lower the playback pitch 4 cents it has to drift from e.g. 44.1kHz to 44kHz....which is some serious drifting!

    You tried playback both through internal and external sound card?

    Did you make a reference outside of the computer (E.g. the Fender tuner) and see if that reference stayed exactly the same or not when you experienced these problems?

  12. #11

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    Does it happen on all computes you use? I guess I could see a particular pc having some odd issue with it. Even recently I have discovered my laptop causing odd issues where my actual PC doesn't. Took me weeks of messing with it to figure it out.

    So I say try a different PC and see if the issue continues?

  13. #12

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    I don't think the computer is going out of tune. It's more likely the guitar that's going out of tune. You may not want to believe it, but that's by far the most likely explanation. As you start playing the guitar, the strings warm up and change pitch slightly. The computer is playing back digitized audio, and that cannot be easily changed in pitch. All stringed instruments change pitch slightly over time, temperature, and humidity changes. It's just a matter of physics.

  14. #13

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    [QUOTE=jazzyjackrabbit;746076
    - I risk the hypothesys that it is NOT the soundcard, beacuse the playback is in a motherboard Realtec, but the tuner guitar input was via Behringer external. They seems to suffer both equally the pitch instability.

    [/QUOTE]
    Not an expert by any means... but If I understand what you're saying, then if the on-board sound has a pitch problem, then sound sampled via external s/card and played back via on-board would be off pitch? I suggest you take the guitar out of the equation. Most playalongs have a tuning track, try playing that out through on-board sound, check with tuner. If it goes out, then either your on-board sound is wrong, or the tuner. If you've got aother computer try with that too. You could try output via your external card. The only simple thing I can think of is perhaps a overheating problem - worth looking inside and checking if there is a lot of dust/fluff blockage.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by rahsaan View Post
    ...but If I understand what you're saying, then if the on-board sound has a pitch problem, then sound sampled via external s/card and played back via on-board would be off pitch?
    No exactly. I was talking about only input (not input and play back). Input: inputting the guitar to the computer and see the amplitube tuning.

    Quote Originally Posted by rahsaan View Post
    ...I suggest you take the guitar out of the equation...
    Yes, this is a very good idea. There are too many unknown in the equation, so diagnosing is not possible. I will shop a tuning fork, regardless if it is exactly 440Hz or not, hopefully it pretty much stable, so I can diagnose which component goes flat or sharp.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by FuseHead View Post
    Does it happen on all computes you use? I guess I could see a particular pc having some odd issue with it. Even recently I have discovered my laptop causing odd issues where my actual PC doesn't. Took me weeks of messing with it to figure it out.

    So I say try a different PC and see if the issue continues?
    Good diagnostic idea, but unfortunately I have only one computer. Anyway I will use a tuning fork to see what component does the trick.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Runepune View Post
    It seemed like you just assumed it was the playback...and the analyse seemed vague. Did you confirm that playback speed/pitch drifts?

    I have never experienced this, and it just seemed unlikely. To lower the playback pitch 4 cents it has to drift from e.g. 44.1kHz to 44kHz....which is some serious drifting!

    You tried playback both through internal and external sound card?

    Did you make a reference outside of the computer (E.g. the Fender tuner) and see if that reference stayed exactly the same or not when you experienced these problems?
    - Yes, I think the playback pitch drifts. However I can be wrong going to double check using more clear methods.

    - Just input from the external. Playing back on external is only possible on headphones, so hearing the headphone content and the amplified guitar out of tune or not seemed to be hard and not safe judgement.

    - Fender tuner is not suitable for this purpose (imho) because it jumps to into green ( an remain stable green) when the sound is within approx +-2 cents. This two cents out of tune could be very disturbing and very clear hearable in higher notes, typically in string E