WWSP's "The Alternate Boot!"

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Well-Tempered Life!

You would think tuning your guitar would be a simple thing. I mean, I've been tuning guitars for a long time. In fact, I used to have job where I tuned guitars all day long.

You'd think there'd be one way to tune a guitar. You'd be wrong. I mean, there are schools of thought and no consensus about tuning. There are "tempered" tuning systems - some people swear by them, some people swear at them.

There are tuners and tuning forks and all kinds of recommendations about how to "correctly" tune an instrument.

This is one of those topics that just seems to get more complicated and less settled the more you study it. Another one of those deep mysteries. So you can tune a guitar in the standard way, and some chords will sound great, and some chords will sound not so great.

You have to take into account that particular instrument, that particular player, that particular day. Whose finger is actually fingering whose fret-board? I've found that the more I pay attention to tuning, the harder it seems to get my guitar tuned.

I used to rely on a tuner with little lights and needles thinking it was all so scientific. And maybe it is, but not really the end of the story. I've followed some threads on the topic and ultimately you are left with lots of different opinions and theories, Pythagoras is invoked, Buzz Feinten is bandied about.

I've got two standard guitars and one Buzz Feiten tempered one. I discovered that I'd been tuning the "Buzzed" guitar correctly to my tuner but it just didn't sound right to my ear. Now I basically rely on my ear. It takes longer, I kind of go into an obsessive loop. I think I've found the sweet spot, but it takes work to get there, and finally it's really only my own ear that guides me.

I do think Buzz is onto something. My "buzzed" guitar does sound more in tune than the others in more places on the fret-board. But I find I really have to work and listen. My ear seems to be getting more sensitive. The more I listen the more I hear.

This is another one of those Holy Grail adventures. And maybe this isn't just a past-time, it's the whole thing. I mean the universe is a vibration too. And it's all about finding the right frequency and riding that vibe to enlightenment.

And all that obsessive tweaking of the tuning peg? That's just the essential work.

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