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Why your guitar sounds out of tune

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Have you ever tuned your guitar using an electric tuner, a digital tuner, only to find it still sounds out of tune? You strum a chord one string at a time and the chord sound dissonant… out of tune. Or you go up to the twelfth fret to play a lead and it sounds so out that you decide to check your tuning. Then, you pull out the digital tuner and it shows that you’re in perfect tune. This is one of the most frustrating things about playing guitar. I will explain what you’ve been missing. BTW I created this video today in response to a YouTube comment I read this morning. Thanks for your comments, they help!
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Text Comments (1144)
wijk89 (1 year ago)
Very uncalled for. Just buy a good guitar from a respected brand. Because they have very precisely positioned frets. Make sure the nut is properly cut. If not see to it. Replace with bone nut. Make sure the intonation is as precise as possible. Tune the strings as good as possible. What's left of the imperfection is part of the personality of the guitar. But the imperfection of the pitch will be very small. Accept that or go play a synthesizer. Oh and don't try to make us listen to imperfect pitch on a heavily distorted guitar that's blurring the sound of different notes together into a mush in which it's impossible to hear the sound of the individual strings anyway.
Rene Otten (15 days ago)
Dumbest comment ever. Doug explained perfectly well and what he said are the simple facts.
Christopher Cee (1 month ago)
Wow...what a dick....
DJMasterWillyB (1 month ago)
+siriusisastar With distortion on you can hear a wobble very easily on an out of tune perfect 4th (difference between strings in standard tuning) and if someone is mainly using distorted this is the one of the simplest ways to tune by ear.
siriusisastar (1 month ago)
The OPs point still stands. If you're going to do a video on tuning, having a tizzy distorted signal is your first mistake. It's akin to doing a video on colours in painting and wearing sunglasses.
cdreid99999 (1 month ago)
jesus so dumb Wijk89. ALL guitars have precisely positioned frets. Because theyre cnc'd or they use a jig. And bone nuts arent magical. I have a guitar that sounds fucking horrible with a bone nut. Because it's already bright. A tusq nut is far better on it. Also folks: if you have your guitar in standard tuning it will sound perfect to the audience because: we love the music we love because it's what we're used too in WESTERN music. Eastern music is radically different and they love it...
knockitofff (1 day ago)
Whoa, back off on the processy sound bruh, sounds like mud
dmnks (5 days ago)
because it is out of tune
Salt bush Bill (6 days ago)
Toon or tune your English is out of tune
R O B B I E (6 days ago)
'WHAT'?? ! I would go 'InZane' with all that f'king Tuning !! Tune that f'ker at the 12th and just get on with it!
Harvey Terry (10 days ago)
Doug I have a js32 Rhoades w doble locking trem. I can't keep it in tune,any idea.
ziblot123 (12 days ago)
Use new strings. Check tuning at 12 fret for each string. Most bands that you are copying are out of tune too. If they have keyboards I trust they are playing in tune. Your neck could be warped. None of my instruments are out of tune when I play alongside something easy to copy, like Satisfaction. These are things that are related to Fibonacci numbers. Everything on earth from body size, to the spiral of an ammonite to the distance from the nut to the perfect harmonic, 12 fret, Fibonacci. I don’t lose sleep over it. I have a good ear that will beat any tuner.
FMDL Studios (13 days ago)
Hey man, thanks! I’m relearning electric and you’re throwing out things I’ve always wondered about! Much different than acoustic but I’m really stoked! Keep em coming!!!
Rick Robillard (19 days ago)
I was sure it was Joe Walsh... after 2sec... wait, not joe!
deep strasz (21 days ago)
Hey Mr. Marks, I'm encountering a weird problem with my guitar and I wonder if it's a factory issue. When I tune it and the sol major sounds good, la minor sounds awful and the other way around. I think there's some weirdness going on with the sharp G B and E. I even tried intonating it but the same thing happens.
Rauchenroll Outdoors (23 days ago)
good advice for tuning. I never knew to tune to the initial strike of the string. I always have let it sustain a bit and go for that. So definitely gonna give that a try. Thanks for the vid.
Gary Garner (24 days ago)
my ibanez stays in perfect tune,,its called intenation and bridge adjustment..get a clue
Sean Hammer (28 days ago)
I only made it to 2:44 but evidently you don't know how to tune the bridge. I can have a guitar dead on in the open position and the 12th fret and all the way really. It's a little tougher with a Floyd.
Shadow (28 days ago)
Lose the distortion and remake this video under a straight clear sounding Amp ( No fuzz)
Hans Nesbitt (1 month ago)
I have played for 55 years....and tuning still drives me nuts no matter what method I use..........I can get much better tuning out of a quality acoustic electric....my electric guitars always seems somewhat out of tune... everything you said sounds familiar.....now I know why I prefer the Bass...thanks for your tutorial.....
DON TWAN 47 (1 month ago)
I'm relieved that someone else believes or understands me when after 35 years of practice I still spend most of my time attempting to tune my guitar. The better player hears too well.I have to let it go and keep playing and accept the truth.I try and try.Getting closer every day. Thanks for sharing and nice to know I'm not insane or terrible at tuning.
puppykicker (1 month ago)
Good God, man! Set your intonation, tune your open A string to the tuner, tune the guitar to itself by each string after that, then do it one more time.
Paul Gibson (1 month ago)
Aw what a grotty sound,what's wrong with your ears ! Don't forget to check and adjust the intonation at the 12 fret after putting new strings on. Shorten the saddle to sharpen the octive note and lengthen the saddle to flatten the octive note.
fndrn8 (1 month ago)
i think thats were being able to control how hard you play helps. what i mean is how hard you fret the notes. i used to pay hard and just sounded better every year after by learning how to get good pressure while playing fast
Randy Aivaz (1 month ago)
Really wish you mentioned Intonation, maybe I missed it.
Alan Bohm (1 month ago)
Great video I had been wondering about that for some time. Biggest problem and frustration that i have is not remembering what I played. One day ok next day cant remember what I played.
Alan Bohm (1 month ago)
Great video. I had been wondering about this for some time. Must admit my biggest problem is memorising music without usingn tab. In fact it is the thing that turns me off playing- one day ok next cant remember how i played it!
real really (1 month ago)
This guy's a tool
real really (1 month ago)
That has to be the worst distortion tone I've ever heard
Eddie Parker (1 month ago)
Hard to get past that awful tone.. couldn't watch the video past that first bees in a jar ear piercing tone.. doesn't matter if you're in tune or not, if that's your tone, your audience has left the building.. wow!
dave f (1 month ago)
hummm ?
Martin Roberts (1 month ago)
Turn off the fuzz, man. Let's hear it clean, then we'll know what you're talking about !!
Martin Roberts (1 month ago)
+Ryan Preston - Yeah ... I guess !!
Ryan Preston (1 month ago)
LOL. Don't get me wrong, I agree...but I think there is a certain market segment for whom using clean tone is probably a sign of weakness.
Martin Roberts (1 month ago)
+Ryan Preston - OK - but for the purpose of demonstration ! ... Anyways, Doug doesn't explain that it is impossible to 'tune-up' any chromatic instrument 'mathematically' - our ears won't accept it. The intervals between notes have to be artificially accommodated. Even a Steinway grand piano has its tuning compromised in order to achieve 'concert' status. But there again ... I guess you can't play metal on a Steinway !
Ryan Preston (1 month ago)
Yeah, but clean isn't metal....
N S (1 month ago)
I hate Line 6
Redneck Rosey (1 month ago)
Gosh I've been playing my axe out of tune 😜
Carne nyx (1 month ago)
So...Use a bottleneck!😉😀
Tomas Molina (1 month ago)
Wtf are you talking about, my guitar doesn't sound out of tune :S Oh wait! it doesn't because i already watched this c: ahehe
Steel Fury (1 month ago)
New Strings & temperature effects your guitar staying in tune also, if you live in cold places like England then always cover your guitar before you finish playing, you will see that your guitar generally stays close to optimal tune when you pick it up again the next day. Thanks Doug, Loved the old school Blackie story =) \m/
Steel Fury (1 month ago)
*Metal Till The End*
Cliff Sullivan (1 month ago)
Found your lesson very useful will be using all the tips from now on thank you.
trillrif axegrindor (1 month ago)
you were my guitar teacher in the 80s,the big problem is i learn from sight,not from reading.i also play by ear and intuition(i know a fair bit of theory now,but not in the 80s)
Earnest Woodall (1 month ago)
Just needs a good set-up
trillrif axegrindor (1 month ago)
it needs idiots to listen to what it is saying,not shitty advice from nobodies
kiwibass (1 month ago)
In my experience, the exact same note can sound in tune or out of tune, depending on its harmonic "function" or context. One example: If a given note (or pitch) serves as a major 3rd, it tends to sound a bit sharp. If the exact same note serves as a minor 3rd, it sounds correct. On a fretless bass, I usually compensate for that by fretting a "major 3rd" note a tad lower than the actual position (where the fret would be), and that does the trick!
Jean-Paul Aussel (1 month ago)
Excellent for beginner ! I don't know if you have a video about the importance of timing (play in rythm) on Solo ? I think that's another reason for my solos to be bad (not "Bad'" In M. Jackson way : )
Mike Roady (1 month ago)
In the first place, your tone sucks! You sound very pompous in you tutoral.
rony cstro (1 month ago)
I'm a Guitarist after the tuner i do harmonic Tuning by Ear and what you say is all true i have one... also don't let your String stay long in the guitar by just cleaning you will notice an old string will be in tune on the head but not on the 12th fret like the string is already bended too far. just thing i noticed.
rony cstro (1 month ago)
How Bout Harmonic Ear Tuning
kurikokaleidoscope (1 month ago)
very interesting thanks.
RadioFreePG (1 month ago)
That's why "fan-fret" guitars exist. Also, if you have a guitar like a T-5, and you have gone back and forth between a wound G (accoustic) set of strings, and an unwound (electric guitar) without changing the saddle, it's going to sound out of tune. Of course, in my case I'm just fretting more sloppy as you suggest at the end!🙄
Lost (1 month ago)
It sounds like shit with all that over drive
raffy zoo (1 month ago)
you need to use a compensated nut and a compensated bridge. then you will be in tune within one cent.
Shaun mcinnis (1 month ago)
An important thing to note, especially with open chords is that by pressing harder than necessary on the string will actually sharpen the note. Try it on one string by the nut and see. Especially if the nut is too high. All else should be almost immeasurable with a good setup IMHO
Gregory Ferguson (1 month ago)
Steve Vai has zig zag frets
michaeldavis2585 (1 month ago)
I do the same thing in tuning ,have you ever tried tuning to the song sailing it s way out there further than regular tuning ,I'm subscribing to your channel very smart info great video
TheJukeboxhero15 (1 month ago)
James W (2 months ago)
all that distortion doesn't help matters either.
Arthur Cockrell (2 months ago)
G strings, plain ones, always sound out of tune to me, even after 30+ years of playing. A wound G sounds so good on an electric guitar ... especially gibson sg’s and les pauls...
Ricardo bailando (2 months ago)
was jimi Hendrix in tune
Ricardo bailando (2 months ago)
dode jur yout yof tuney
R (2 months ago)
Great video Doug! I used to be in a band with a bass player that pulled every note that he hit on the low e string downward, pulling it slightly sharp. I tried desperately to break him of this habit but he would go right back to doing it. If that wasn't enough to drive me crazy, one day he brought a fretless bass to practice. His ears were not trained to adjust for pitch (obviously) so I tried to explain to him that he would have to fret the notes right where the frets would be. He couldn't grasp that concept either and his playing went even farther out of tune, and he was making the band sound like crap. I insisted that he go back to his fretted bass because it was the lesser of two evils. But yeah, I can relate to what you are talking about!
famos amos (2 months ago)
Someone who understands fretting. I have always tuned my guitar by fretting, mostly the 7th fret to get a happy medium. never open string unless I'm playing open chords, then the D is out. Thanks for getting this out, Doug. When I started no one had tuners, A Conn was way too expensive. Listen to songs from the 60s, guitars out of tune on records!
Shay Stripling (2 months ago)
I have a hardtail
Shay Stripling (2 months ago)
My guitars always in tune
jess jesse (2 months ago)
1: out of tune ! Right dude ! 440 hertz tune = hitler nazi rule ! 432 is your nature dude ! Are you brainswashed by hilter nazi cocain aggresor ?
Woluf178 (2 months ago)
I have too much fun playing to care about this tiny amount. But I see what you mean. It's good to know about that side of the spectrum. Good video man thanks.
Frank Keval (2 months ago)
1. how´s about you get yourself another guitar???? and 2. stop mindfucking...and 3. switch off d distortion;-)) 4. try the Taylor tunig method ( you said your single note sound sharp, so here you go...). E -12 cent/ A -10 cent/ D -8 cent/ G -4/B-6/E-3
Christopher Lawrence (2 months ago)
It's great to know that I'm not alone in feeling like my guitar is never in tune,or intonated.I can use a tuner but just as you stated an Am may sound great,the a D sounds just a hair off.I actually thought I had somehow gotten WORSE over my 25 yr career at tuning and intonating somehow,but now I can resty easy knowing I'm not losing it :)
David Moullet (2 months ago)
good advice all guitars are not created equal because humans make them. don't buy a tuner that you know you won't want in a year. keep your strings fresh! practice daily.
Novak Ingood (2 months ago)
Didn't know Chief Dan George played guitar.
Avatar7x7 (2 months ago)
Good info but that tone is terrible - makes being in tune pointless if you're playing through sound like that...
Karen's Guitar Channel (2 months ago)
Thank you Doug for your valuable advices, great tutorial!
Ed White (2 months ago)
get a Peterson Strobotuner and shut the fuck up.
luapsel77 (2 months ago)
Doug, I've been playing about 40 years, and what you said in this video needed to be said, so many times, over so many years, to so many students, that it's incredible.... I don't think I've ever seen anybody come on YouTube and actually say this kind of stuff, which is incredibly important, and sometimes my own friends call me a nut job, because I'm so obsessed sometimes, with the guitar being perfectly in tune, which of course is impossible, on a fretted instrument, "tempered tuning" , what we call.... I mean I'm not a professional, but I'm a professional when it comes to being critical about being as close to perfectly in tune as possible in my own playing, even in my bedroom.... The only thing I would add to what you said, especially for beginners , if they're not aware of it of course, is the INTONATION of the guitar, the saddles on the bridge being perfectly adjusted, so that the FRETTED note on the 12th fret sounds the SAME as the HARMONIC note played right Over the fret. What I'm saying is for beginners , you know the saddles, but other than that you hit all the marks...... get it ,marks?..doug marks? good job man....
Steve Gray (2 months ago)
Well, at least these are some "solutions" to an impossible situation. We are saddled with equal temperament. When compared to just intonation, which is related to the harmonic series that occurs in nature, the intervals are going to be out of tune. The intervals that are closest to being in tune in equal temperament are the perfect fifths and the octaves. The fifths are ideally just a couple cents flat. Our music is based on thirds, and the thirds in equal temperament are horribly sharp compared to two notes tuned to a 5/4 ratio. The piano gets away with it because the notes aren't sustained. Violinists and other non-fretted strings of the family plus the slide trombone let a skilled musician adjust the intervals properly -- but then they have to adjust to the equal tempered instruments around them. There is an additional problem because, of necessity, a guitarist playing vibrato will move the pitch slightly sharp. Violinists, violists, and cellists traditionally learn to home on the target pitch and make the movement for their vibrato down, which would be slightly flat. A symphony orchestra has all kinds of clashes going in the overtones over the notes, which ultimately make for a huge chorusing effect. Again, no easy answers. Phil Spector overcame it with the "wall of sound" overcoming tuning anomalies with sheer numbers of musicians.
Peter DeLameter (2 months ago)
Fantastic work on here mate
axe2grind911a (2 months ago)
Great video. Don't forget to mention proper intonation at the 12 fret using the adjustable bridge saddles. I find this is the number one issue with intonation as the neck is traversed. Strings in tune at the nut will easily go out of tune as they approach the 12th fret which has not been properly compensated by the bridge adjustment. In short, the chimed 12th fret should be precisely the same as the plucked 12 fret. This rule is also taking into account the differences in string gauge and string height over the frets. Everything has an adjustment and can be compensated for on a well built guitar. If you change your action (height) or your string gauge, ALWAYS adjust the bridge saddles to compensate.
Brad Tomlin (2 months ago)
Funny, I intonate my guitar and its in tune at the nut and the 12th fret. If your worried about getting it closer than that, your a freak. People should spend more time practicing and less time worrying about stuff like this, or obsessing over how so n so got his tone. I gotta get a strat with the finish worn off on this side n part of the back n a 1965 blah blah pedal with a half run down battery......wow shit no time left to practice, but if I could play I'd sound just like Jimi. Sorry got carried away. Gotta go practice.
trillrif axegrindor (1 month ago)
all this talk and you still suck,keep at it
Brad Tomlin (2 months ago)
Should mention your guitar should be intonated properly or all bets are off. Also if you fret back from the fret, how hard you press will push it sharp. More so the taller the fret, more so the lighter the string gauge. Some of this gets corrected with experience. And not trying to be a jerk but some mids in your tone might help it come across better, for my preference. Sorta sounds like a skill saw.
Sam Puckett (2 months ago)
I've always found that if a first position D maj sounds out of tune my axe is going to sound like crap until i get that D maj tuned. Just sayin.
ziblot123 (2 months ago)
Why are u using the fuzz tone? It doesn’t help.
trillrif axegrindor (1 month ago)
no,if you mainly play distorted YOU FUCKING TUNE WITH DISTORTION
jason pomegranite (2 months ago)
Hey Dude, was your line 6 amp made by a mosquito?
STU POC (2 months ago)
I haven't seen him in years . I have his VHS tapes from the 80s , yeah , still .
Jeremy C (2 months ago)
The first thing you really should have mentioned is to make sure the guitar especially the bridge, is properly set-up and that your strings/frets are clean and in good shape. I like your idea of tuning to the chord, thats a great studio trick
egads2 (2 months ago)
Chuck Berry "chucked" any tuning....no one cared.
nantucketjeep (2 months ago)
James Pollock (2 months ago)
Dissonance doesn't equal out of tune.
Adam (2 months ago)
...which sounds very good for playing punk rock.
Mike Floutier (2 months ago)
Many thanks, this explains a lot
Christian V. (2 months ago)
Why on Earth would anyone use a heavily distorted guitar tone (and a terrible one at that) with chorus to explain guitar tuning?
kitsmedia (2 months ago)
Everything everyone said about the tempered scale AND ...how can you tell with all that distortion? Or does it matter with all that distortion? You make piano players crazy!
trillrif axegrindor (1 month ago)
no,if you mainly play distorted YOU FUCKING TUNE WITH DISTORTION
Zeek M (2 months ago)
Because guitars don't have perfect pitch.
tall man (2 months ago)
If we don't hear perfectly, what does all this matter? If people listening to us can't hear properly, then what does all this matter? If we are not very good players, what does all this matter? I believe the phrase, "close enough" applies here. Just play and have fun.
Angry Clown (2 months ago)
Yawn, so much fuss about "tooning", only to disguise it with too much shitty distortion.
Michael King (2 months ago)
I haven't used a tuner in years so my 2 guitars are pretty low haha I never play with other people or record tho so it's good enough
Frank Mcgee (2 months ago)
Very understandable you explain it very well thank you
Anthony Clarke (2 months ago)
Clapton does not sit and sook about guitar tuning...he just made hundreds of millions playing his guitar instead of sooking about it.....I fell asleep with your moaning turned it off......
Phantasm Masquerade (2 months ago)
Hi Doug marks, I have a question as a beginner guitarist and some what intermediate. I would like to know how to get a better foundation on the basic and knowledge needed to get on to the next step of intermediate and up. most of the songs I play I pick up a little by ear or running in to a part of a song from practicing or monkeying around on the fretboard. any ways I would like to get a better understanding and foundation for my self with learning the guitar and tips or video that you made to give a hand in this??
Kenneth Mills (2 months ago)
Now I am Happier, Thanks.
Warren Allen (3 months ago)
I made a demo on Majestic Records put on Countrywine publishers God knows when it will become of anything,any how,I played many brands of guitars I tune mine to records like Creedance Clearwater Revival is the one of the best to do this,wonce I tune my guitar to the song and it matches its in but,but there's one string I truly hate even Johnny Cash hatted it is the cusing G string,I wish they go back to the old wound G string,the G string today really throws tunning off.
Erin Calvert (3 months ago)
My Peterson strobe tuner gets me as close as it gets. Pricey but you get what you what you pay for.
Eddie Puddy (3 months ago)
I have found that temperature effects the tune. I practice in the morning my guitar sounds out of tune. I pick it up in the afternoon its back to normal. A new set of strings can help that problem. It could be humidity a lot of time i leave my guitar out and the humidity here in houston get bad some times
Even Seb (3 months ago)
You should play clean sound, the distortion camouflage everything. And itonation on the bridge is alter important. Nut slots tend to be too high, then correct intonation is almost impossible. File it down with slot files, the Ibanez set is really good (u-shaped). I got a new guitar after doing this.
trillrif axegrindor (1 month ago)
no,if you mainly play distorted YOU FUCKING TUNE WITH DISTORTION
Chaos Knight (3 months ago)
wow just wow what a presentation. that was my recent problem man! this video completely helped me big fan of yours from Iran
Rick Massey (3 months ago)
Proper setup and intonation setup at the bridge solves alot of the issues mentioned here...next player technique.
Steven McGinnis (3 months ago)
Ask steve vai how crappy his bends sound moving over those zigzaggy frets… there are such a thing as equally tempered fretboards
MrAdammassacre (3 months ago)
whats a fancy term for line 6 are dog shit...there aint one they are simply just dog shit.

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