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Sweetened tunings

C-flat 29 Aug 18 - 11:24 AM
C-flat 29 Aug 18 - 11:32 AM
Jeri 29 Aug 18 - 11:42 AM
C-flat 29 Aug 18 - 11:46 AM
punkfolkrocker 29 Aug 18 - 11:55 AM
Stanron 29 Aug 18 - 12:28 PM
gillymor 29 Aug 18 - 12:40 PM
GUEST 29 Aug 18 - 12:51 PM
gillymor 29 Aug 18 - 01:04 PM
punkfolkrocker 29 Aug 18 - 01:16 PM
gillymor 29 Aug 18 - 01:20 PM
Backwoodsman 29 Aug 18 - 01:28 PM
GUEST 29 Aug 18 - 01:35 PM
GUEST 29 Aug 18 - 01:39 PM
gillymor 29 Aug 18 - 01:51 PM
Jack Campin 29 Aug 18 - 02:56 PM
GUEST,Fyldeplayer 29 Aug 18 - 03:10 PM
GUEST 29 Aug 18 - 03:32 PM
leeneia 31 Aug 18 - 09:24 PM
doc.tom 01 Sep 18 - 09:05 AM
doc.tom 01 Sep 18 - 09:08 AM
Bee-dubya-ell 01 Sep 18 - 11:17 AM
Backwoodsman 01 Sep 18 - 11:35 AM
Backwoodsman 01 Sep 18 - 11:37 AM
Stanron 01 Sep 18 - 12:32 PM
C-flat 03 Sep 18 - 05:33 AM
GUEST,Rigby 03 Sep 18 - 11:24 AM
C-flat 04 Sep 18 - 04:29 AM
C-flat 07 Sep 18 - 04:54 AM
punkfolkrocker 07 Sep 18 - 05:10 AM
C-flat 07 Sep 18 - 05:48 AM
Backwoodsman 07 Sep 18 - 07:17 AM
Stanron 07 Sep 18 - 07:41 AM
leeneia 07 Sep 18 - 03:57 PM
Jack Campin 07 Sep 18 - 04:49 PM
GUEST,V 07 Sep 18 - 05:46 PM
leeneia 08 Sep 18 - 12:20 PM
punkfolkrocker 08 Sep 18 - 01:46 PM
C-flat 10 Sep 18 - 05:41 AM
leeneia 11 Sep 18 - 09:46 PM
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Subject: Tech: Sweetened tunings
From: C-flat
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 11:24 AM

Although I've been playing music for more than 45 years, until recently I'd never realised that anyone had gone to the trouble of formally addressing the tuning issues around acoustic guitars.
Anyone who routinely uses a capo will know what I'm talking about, especially that sharp bottom E string.
It can leave you fiddling about between songs with the tuning pegs and capo which is never ideal.
So I was particularly interested to hear James Taylor talking about the way he deals with it by de-tuning a few "cents" per string.
This requires a tuner that will display how many "cents" sharp or flat you are as you tune each string.
He goes on to describe how many "cents" flat to tune each string to achieve this solution. (from low E to high -12, -10, -8, -4, -6, -3)
Apparently some Peterson tuners have an additional function called "sweetened" tuning which is pre-set the same (or similar).
It may well be that everyone here is already well aware of this "sweetened" tuning system and have been doing it for years, or maybe, like me, you've been feeling frustrated and blamed your guitar, the capo, your own ears, etc. etc., so I thought I'd share here and ask for others experiences and thoughts.
I'm going to try a clip on Peterson strobe tuner, with the sweetened function and, although more than twice what I paid for my last clip-on, it'll be worth every penny if it makes me sound like James Taylor. (trust me it'll take more than a tuner)
Appropriately; C-flat


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Subject: RE: Tech: Sweetened tunings
From: C-flat
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 11:32 AM

Further to my original message; what brought this to a head was that after years of playing alongside other guitarists, or accompanying myself, I've more recently being playing alongside a keyboard and violin. Neither of these instruments suffer the same inaccuracies that the humble guitar does and makes the issue more glaringly obvious.


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: Jeri
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 11:42 AM

Rick Fielding cut a new groove, and split the saddle. My low E on my Martin can be in tune open, but when fretted, goes really sharp. The split saddle helped. I think he used it for the three low strings, and it was angled.


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: C-flat
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 11:46 AM

Hi Jeri,
A lot of guitars do have a compensated split saddle, in fact one of those I regularly use does, but it seems (to my ears) to be not enough and still requires constant adjustment.
The problem is, once you start down that road, you end up see-sawing around the pitch and risk spending more time tuning than actual playing!


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 11:55 AM

Nuts cut too high are a perennial problem..

Compensated nuts are available to help combat intonation problems.

I have 2 Washburn electrics factory fitted with Buzz Feiten Tuning System,
and a tuner programmed with the same system..

but I never used them enough to get my head around it...


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: Stanron
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 12:28 PM

There is a contributor to the Frets.Net Forum who talks at length about nut compensation. It is not a universally accepted idea but he is completely sold on it.

I can't see the point myself. The guitar, like the keyboards, is an instrument that has compromised tuning at it's heart. It is always going to be a bit out of tune. If you can't be doing with that you should play an instrument like the fiddle or the fretless banjo where, skill allowing, you can always play in tune.

It's a trade off between being perfectly in tune for one key only or slightly, but consistently, out of tune all the time.

I can live with the guitar as it is.


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: gillymor
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 12:40 PM

I have a Lowden with a split saddle, probably similar to what Jeri is referring to and it is the guitar I have the least intonation problems with.
I have Planet Waves micro tuners clipped on to the underside of my instrument's headstocks and tweaking the tuning after applying a capo only takes a matter of seconds.


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 12:51 PM

I think Stanton is missing the point a little. The problem is fairly minor until the guitar is playing alongside a violin or keyboard, wherein the tuning becomes noticeably “off”.
I can “live with it” easily enough, especially if I’m accompanying myself, but I’d like to get closer to the other instruments once I start going up the neck (the deep end!)
C-flat


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: gillymor
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 01:04 PM

C-flat, when you say "once I start going up the neck" are you referring to moving the capo up the neck or moving up the neck with your left hand
(even after capoing)? Is "sweetened tuning" designed to make intonation more accurate as you move up from 1st position as well as after capoing?


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 01:16 PM

..so how common are zero frets on acoustics these days...???

They've been near banished from electric guitars...


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: gillymor
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 01:20 PM

I went to the Peterson website and it seems you can preset the tuner for each capo position. Interesting.


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 01:28 PM

I have a Peterson StroboClip HD clip-on tuner. I found the 'ACU' tuning, which utilises the 'James Taylor' offsets, to be 'sweetened' OK when capoed, but noticeably 'sour' when un-capoed (which is what you might expect, as JT capos a great deal, and his tuning offsets are designed to take account of that).

For my own use, whether capoed or not, I use the 'GTR' tuning, which is equal temperament - exactly the same as my TC Electronics Polytune Clip tuner.


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 01:35 PM

Hi gillymor,
In answer to your question, both.
Once you start fretting from the 4th fret up there’s a noticeable sharpness to the note on a guitar, particularly with the lower E and A strings. This is aggravated if you pick hard on the string, causing the more to pitch further sharp.
It’s the same with a capo.
I’ve noticed it on all guitars but it’s all the more pronounced when playing with other, less affected instruments.
Given it’s just “one of those things” to be tolerated, I was very pleasantly surprised to see that some serious musicians have taken steps to minimise and compensate for this shortcoming.
I have a very expensive floor tuner which shows all six strings in led display but which doesn’t offer adjustment by the “cent”, so I’m hoping this clip on, with its “sweetened” feature offers an improvement.
I’m hoping to hear from others who have used these adjusted tunings
C-flat


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 01:39 PM

Thanks for the info Backwoodsman.
That seems to make sense although Peterson (unsurprisingly) don’t make mention of any “sour” ness in their literature! Haha
As you say, JT does make extensive use of the capo, particularly around fret 2.
Maybe that’s the optimum point for his tuning system.
C-flat


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: gillymor
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 01:51 PM

Thanks for that response, C-flat.


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: Jack Campin
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 02:56 PM

Can't guitars be made like lutes or viols, with adjustable nylon-cord frets? On those instruments you nudge them around to suit the piece you're playing.


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: GUEST,Fyldeplayer
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 03:10 PM

As someone who is facing a guitar neck reset I find this thread fascinating and will try it - I have a Martin as well with similar bass note inaccuracy. I try not to use a capo preferring to write parts that use chords in the song key - if using DADGAD I play the G chord rather than capo at the 5th and use the D chord. Works well alongside concertina / melodeon.


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Aug 18 - 03:32 PM

I should also add that I have taken care to have my instruments set up by a professional. A badly set up guitar, no matter how expensive, can worsen the problem and, for not a lot of money, you can make a budget guitar feel and sound great to play.
I've recently used a guy in Barnard Castle (John Wesley) who is very reasonable and did a first class job on two of my acoustics.
Hope the neck re-set goes well Fyldeplayer, scary stuff having your "baby" in for major surgery!
C-flat


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: leeneia
Date: 31 Aug 18 - 09:24 PM

About pianos: how in-tune the piano is depends on when it was last tuned. One pays to have them tuned, then they slip until it simply can't be endured, then one tunes them again. How a piano sounds against your guitar depends on where the piano is in that cycle.

There is another factor: for example, my church has an old (1950's, maybe) Steinway grand. We used to have a violinist with an excellent ear. (She has a master's degree in violin performance.) She told me that the piano changes tuning throughout the service, and that she listened to it and adapted her playing to match it as the service went along. Not to be outdone, I tried to match the tuning of my recorder to her violin. (The piano produced too many notes for me to try to match it.)

Recorder, flute and violin are both instruments that you can adjust as you play. Piano - not so much. :)

Whether you call them violinists or fiddlers, fiddlers' notes can vary a lot. Fiddlers should be listening to the group and making sure they are in tune. This is not complicated; just listen and ask yourself, "Does this sound good?" If the guitar is a little funky, a fiddler can adjust his notes to match it.   

I remember a country dance where the fiddler played out of tune all night. When we got done, I felt like somebody had brushed my brain with a suede brush. Nobody said a word, probably because all we would get is snapped at.

(When we are getting a band together, I "call in sick" if we wind up with two fiddles.)


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: doc.tom
Date: 01 Sep 18 - 09:05 AM

This thread actually seems to be about tempered and untempered pitch. Any fretted or other non adjustable (by the player) instrument is, these days, invariably tempered - where all the semitones are of equal size to each other. A tempered scale uses notes that fall on the harmonics of the root (tonic) note. People who are particularly sensitive to natural harmonics find equal temperament offensive. As stated above - equal temperament is a compromise designed to allow changes of key with the least offense! J.S. Bach wrote his 48 Preludes and Fugues to argue (or demonstrate the need for) for equal temperament when a keyboard instrument changes key. (For anyone who is wondering about 'cents' as cited above - a 'cent' is one hundredth of a tempered semitone) TomB


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: doc.tom
Date: 01 Sep 18 - 09:08 AM

Correction: it should read - An untempered scale uses notes that fell on the harmonics.... (otherwise known as a 'natural' scale). Sorry for that!


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 01 Sep 18 - 11:17 AM

In standard tuning, I tune my low E string so that the G at the third fret is in tune instead of the open E note. That's usually going to mean the open E is a few cents flat, but that's preferable to having all the other notes up the neck be a few cents sharp.

For open tunings, I ignore the electronic tuner and tune the bass string by ear. Tuning it rxactly to the note it's supposed to be per the tuner never sounds right.


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 01 Sep 18 - 11:35 AM

I do the same for DADGAD, Bee-Dubya. I set the 5th, 4th, 3rd and 1st string's to the tuner, then do the 6th and 2nd by ear. The intervals between the 2nd and 3rd string's are especially ticklish, and I listen carefully to the beats with the 2nd open and the 3rd fretted at the second fret.


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 01 Sep 18 - 11:37 AM

Apologies for the unnecessary apostrophes in the above post - bloody iPad auto-correct!


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: Stanron
Date: 01 Sep 18 - 12:32 PM

I agree with doc.tom that at the heart of this discussion is tuning temperament. I remember watching a player, sadly no longer with us, who before singing would play a G chord, give the B string a little tweak, and then play a D chord. The D chord would sound wrong so the first and second string would need a tweaking before it sounded right. Then he would play the G chord again. Guess what happened next.

I didn't know about tuning temperament back then but I now see that he was tuning his chords so that the 'third' intervals sounded sweet or 'a just temperament third'. Of course the tweaked string was playing a root or a fifth on the next chord and therefor had to be out of tune.

If the OP's problem is not to do with tuning temperaqment then the problem has to do with the instrument. As punkfolkrocker pointed out a high nut can adversely affect intonation, as can an inaccurately placed saddle. Indiscriminate tweaking of the truss rod can throw out the intonation and in certain climates the weather can have a similar effect.

I'd be interested to know if the 'sweetened' tuner corrects the problem.


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: C-flat
Date: 03 Sep 18 - 05:33 AM

Thanks Stanron, I hope to be able to offer an update on this as soon as my new tuner arrives. There's a lot a potential factors and every solution is a compromise.
Here's hoping!
C-flat


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: GUEST,Rigby
Date: 03 Sep 18 - 11:24 AM

If strings are going sharp as you move up the fretboard, then either the guitar is poorly intonated or you are pressing too hard when fretting them. 'Sweetened' tunings are not designed to correct this, and nor can they.

From the OP's description it sounds as though James Taylor's version of a sweetened tuning is in effect a stretch tuning, where each octave interval is set to be slightly larger than the theoretical doubling of the frequency. This is routine in piano tuning so that might well account for why a guitar tuned this way sits better against a keyboard.


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: C-flat
Date: 04 Sep 18 - 04:29 AM

My Peterson tuner arrived yesterday and I had a tinker with it last night, comparing against another guitar tuned in standard 440.
Using the "sweetened" function certainly does improve the intonation at certain positions on the neck (Guest, Rigby - I have to disagree with your comment about the guitar being poorly intonated etc, there's plenty of info out there regarding this issue and my guitars are good quality and have recently been professionally set up).
Until I can get together with my other band members and use it alongside the violin and keyboard I won't know how much of an improvement it will offer but, given this device offers a tuning option for using a capo at different neck positions, I'm assuming I'll need to pick a compromise to avoid too much retuning between songs.
What I can say is Peterson do make very good tuners and the strobe display is super-easy to use.
I've a couple of gigs coming up this week and will report back.
C-flat


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: C-flat
Date: 07 Sep 18 - 04:54 AM

Last update on this thread;

I did a gig last night with the band and used the "sweetened" tuning on two acoustic guitars.
There's no doubt that there is a benefit in using this function but I'd be exaggerating if I said it was anything more than marginal. When using a capo at different points of the neck the Peterson tuner offers a sweetened tuning option for each position but that's hardly practical in a gig situation.
That said, any improvement is a positive, and the tuner is by far the best of it's kind (clip on) that I've ever owned, so I'm happy with the purchase.
I could still hear some occasional disparity between the violin and my guitar but maybe I'm a little too focussed on the problem and listening for it. In addition, you only have to strike a string a little hard to get it to sound sharp and then there's capo-placement, etc, etc, so I might be chasing shadows.
In conclusion, it's good piece of kit but it won't make you(me) a better player!
C-flat


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 07 Sep 18 - 05:10 AM

surely in such a situation, it's really a good violin players responsibility
to intonate by ear to accomodate other band menber's set in fixed tunings...???


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: C-flat
Date: 07 Sep 18 - 05:48 AM

Thank you punkfolkrocker!
I'll try that on my violin player and she how she responds.
Hopefully I can still access Mudcat from the hospital.... haha


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 07 Sep 18 - 07:17 AM

I hear a great many violin/fiddle (call it what you will) players who struggle to play in tune. I'd definitely put my money on it being the fiddle-player who was creating the 'occasional disparity'.


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: Stanron
Date: 07 Sep 18 - 07:41 AM

Sorry if this sounds like I'm just repeating myself but a violinist can play with just temperament in any key if he/she has sufficient skill. A guitar has to play with equal temperament all the time, however sweetened the tuning. The violinist has the potential ability to play in tune with the guitarist but this would require abandoning the true sweetness of just temperament.

Some guitarists draw out a chart of strings and frets and, using a good tuner, make a note of how in or out of tune the guitar is at each fret of each string in terms of plus or minus cents.

If you can be bothered to do this it might also be worth repeating the operation with the capo in different positions.

If you are into spreadsheets you can plot the blank chart in one and copy it into different pages for different capo positions.

If the results of this show that your guitar is reasonably in tune all over the neck then the problem is with the fiddle player. If the guitar is not in tune all over the neck you could show the results to a luthier or guitar tech and ask for advice.


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: leeneia
Date: 07 Sep 18 - 03:57 PM

I have attended workshops with university-level teachers.

This is a technique they use. When you're practicing and the music sails to a high note, tell everybody to play to that note and then hold it out.   Listen to it. Does it sound good? If not, use your ears, listen to one another, and make it sound good.

That sounds hard to do, but the musical part of your brain can do it. It cannot explain it to the left temporal lobe, which thinks it has to understand and control everything, but nonetheless the musical part can do it.

Try it.

At the same time, C-flat, I understand your reference to the hospital.


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: Jack Campin
Date: 07 Sep 18 - 04:49 PM

I was in a session earlier this week where I was playing recorders, among other things, and there were two people with parallel bore whistles which sounded predictably terrible with the other instruments, me especially. So I fired up ClearTune and demonstrated why. Whistles get progressively flatter through the second octave: you can compensate by blowing harder, and I tried blowing hard enough to get these in tune. Octave D: fine. E: doable but you have to make it pretty loud. F#: you really don't want to be sitting next to someone doing what it takes. By the time I got up to A, I had a whole roomful of people crying uncle.

Even with somewhat better whistles than those, you have a problem: unless the player is confident enough to play VERY loud, they will always be flat. Which puts you in a bind if you're a beginner and don't want to dominate the group.


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: GUEST,V
Date: 07 Sep 18 - 05:46 PM

alert("XSS");


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: leeneia
Date: 08 Sep 18 - 12:20 PM

Jack, I was in a class with a member of the Flanders Recorder Quartet once, and he seized a soprano around the throat, shook it, and cried, "Why do we play this instrument?"

My answer is that it's a lovely instrument, it just needs to be the only one of its kind in a given piece of music.

Whistles are a whole nother ball game.


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 08 Sep 18 - 01:46 PM

Yesterday for fun and curiosity I googled violin and trombone duets...

Those I found seemed well enough in tune together for my ears..

Then I found a violin, trombone, and piano trio..

again, no significant tuning problems detectable - and that pianist was at the mercy of the other two...

No room for a prima donna violinist at that level...


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: C-flat
Date: 10 Sep 18 - 05:41 AM

Interesting contributions, thanks all.
I'm coming to the conclusion that I may need to risk upsetting the violinist! ....

On the plus side, we had a great gig on Saturday with an enthusiastic crowd, making any tuning issues seem like a trival and minor irritation.
So the answer might be to just get louder, more enthusiastic audiences!
Simple!


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Subject: RE: Sweetened tunings
From: leeneia
Date: 11 Sep 18 - 09:46 PM

Congratulations, C-flat. I'm glad it went well.


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