Guitar intonation: how to keep your guitar in tune | Disc Makers

Many factors can cause your stringed instrument to have intonation problems, including old strings and fluctuations in weather and humidity. Maintain and protect your instrument to keep your guitar in tune.

I was chatting with a teaching colleague about a class recording project that his students were wrapping up, and he mentioned that a rock band had come into our campus studio for a weekend recording session and couldn’t manage to get their electric guitars to stay in tune. They had to live with the recordings of poorly intonated instruments, and we used it as a lesson to our own sound recording students to meet with the band well before the session day and emphasize the importance of getting their instruments into studio shape for every recording project.

While the next band to come in had better luck with tuning, a few of the following ones didn’t, which prompted us to add a well-intonated Taylor electric guitar to the recording studio’s gear kit. Now, when a band shows up with guitars that are not set up properly, the students can suggest trying the Taylor, which we know has rock solid intonation. Most guitarists are happy to do so and are pleased with how “in tune” the results are.

But what causes a guitar to have intonation problems? And what can you do about it if your instrument is causing you to be frustrated? How can you keep your guitar in tune?

Symptoms of intonation problems

Guitars use what is known as an equally tempered scale, as do pianos and most western musical instruments. Without going into the science, the guitar’s tempered scale is a compromise and doesn’t result in 100% precise tuning or intervals between notes. Since guitars have this inherent weakness when it comes to being in tune, it’s important to develop a basic understanding of guitar intonation and adjustments to get the best performance out of your instrument.

Most guitar players have a tuner of some sort, whether it’s a stomp box on the floor, an expensive rack mounted LED cascade, or a simple portable LED-model – all of which can speed up tuning and accuracy. Tuners can be helpful in diagnosing and making basic intonation adjustments yourself, which we’ll discuss. One of the most obvious signs that your instrument has intonation issues is if each string played open is in tune, but when you play a bar chord anywhere up the neck, it sounds out of tune. Shaun Conrad, an experienced luthier, lists some of the potential causes for guitar intonation issues on his informative website, guitarrepairbench.com.

      Guitar intonation issues can be a result of:

 

  • Faulty or worn out strings
  • High action/Extreme relief (truss rod adjustment needed)
  • Bridge/saddle pieces need adjustment
  • Nut or frets need adjustment/repair
  • Changing string gauge or tunings

The first thing on this list may be the most overlooked. If you can’t remember when you last changed the strings on your guitar or bass and are having trouble with intonation, stop now, get a new set and put them on before proceeding any further! According to Conrad, “Replacing your strings could solve your intonation problems. Also, it is impossible to properly set your intonation with worn strings.”

Advice to keep your guitar in tune
While we can’t address the full range of possible problems and solutions that spring from Shaun’s list, one of the most basic adjustments can be done by any electric guitarist with a tuner: fine tuning your saddle pieces. I spoke with Bill Stevens, a guitar repair expert who manages The Music Box retail music store in Stockton, CA and who has been adjusting and repairing guitars for more than three decades.

keep your guitar in tune
“For a quick check to see how much intonation adjustment is needed,” says Stevens, “I like to use one of the guitar tuners that has a needle to register intonation and an LED that goes to green when the string is in tune. First, tune an open string so it’s in tune using the tuner, then go on up to the 12th fret and press down and play the octave of the open string. If it’s a bit flat, you can shorten the string length by moving the saddle toward the fretboard using the adjustment screw [on an electric guitar]. If the octave registers as sharp, then you’ll lengthen the string by using the adjusting screw to move the saddle in the opposite direction, away from the fretboard.

adjusting guitar intonation
“Use the tuner to get the octave in tune with the open string. Carefully adjusting the saddle pieces in this way can help clear up some of the most typical intonation problems on your electric guitar. If you have an acoustic guitar, you won’t have individual saddle adjustments, however most manufacturers are shipping new acoustics with compensating saddles which help improve intonation.

“Weather can have a lot to do with how your guitar plays,” Stevens continues. “Try to avoid extreme temperatures when your guitar is in its case. Particularly leaving your guitar in a car in summer, as it can get incredibly hot. In winter, don’t leave your guitar out in the garage or anywhere there will be extreme temperature or humidity swings. Although it sounds pretty basic, get a decent case to protect your instrument, too. Nearly every guitar sold used to come with a case of some sort, but today, many guitars don’t include a case to protect your investment. So I encourage everyone getting a guitar to at least get a soft bag. Also, don’t lay down your guitar when storing it, it’s better to keep it upright in the case, like you would store a vinyl record album.

“Mandolins and ukuleles are less likely to have intonation problems due to their smaller scale. Bass guitars, however, may need regular attention since the amount of tension on the neck is way more than a typical electric guitar.”

Truss rod adjustments

Most modern guitars include a metal rod that helps stabilize the neck and reduce or eliminate neck bowing that plagued older guitars without truss rods. According to Stevens, “Summer is a time when you may typically need a truss rod adjustment due to the heat causing a bit of neck bowing. It’s mostly the case with newer guitars where the wood is not quite cured. Then in winter, the neck may bow a bit in the other direction and you may need a little relief, moving the truss rod in the opposite direction than you did in the summer. Many older guitars won’t require regular truss rod adjustments so long as they don’t experience any extreme conditions, since the wood is settled.”

Your instrument may also require a truss rod adjustment if change to a different gauge of string and end up with action that is too high to play comfortably. Or if you want to use a lowered tuning which results in annoying fret buzz.

“Most new guitars need a truss rod adjustment once you start playing them,” Stevens adds. “Although the guitar was probably set up to play properly at the factory, it’s usually been in storage for a few months time, so it will need a tweak. We offer a free set up and adjustment on every guitar we sell here. I suggest the customer take the guitar home and play it for a week or so, then come back in and tell me how they want it set up. No matter where you are buying a guitar, you should ask that the store go over the intonation and set up for you, ideally at purchase or within the first week after.”

Check your neck’s relief

Unlike adjusting the saddle pieces on your electric guitar, which can only affect string length, truss rod adjustment can have a major impact on your guitar’s playability. I always have an experienced guitar tech make any truss rod adjustments on my guitars. But I can check to see if I need an adjustment using two simple aids, a capo and a thickness or “feeler” gauge to measure the amount of neck relief.

checking guitar intonation
Start by placing a capo at the first fret on your guitar neck. Then with your feeler gauge within reach, hold down the string where the neck joins the body. Insert the feeler gauge between the string and the fret at the eighth fret. On a typical electric guitar, there should be between .3 mm and .5 mm clearance. This clearance is referred to as “neck relief.” Too much neck relief can cause the neck to have higher action in the middle of the neck resulting in poor intonation (fretted notes will be sharp) and just being hard to play. Not enough neck relief can cause fret buzzing.

Conrad also states there is no one measurement for how much relief should be used. “Just like anything else in adjusting guitars, neck relief is a player’s preference. It depends on the style of the instrument and the player.” Should you want to go ahead and dive into making your own truss rod adjustments, Shaun shares detailed instructions on electric guitar truss rod adjustments.

Closing thoughts

As a guitarist myself, I’ve played and owned many guitars over the years and I’m happy to say the guitars we have at home now all have very good intonation and are quite stable. Others that I’ve owned over the years were more temperamental, or fluctuated greatly with changes in weather, requiring seasonal adjustments. And while I’m comfortable checking my neck’s relief or adjusting intonation via the saddle pieces, I get a pro to do my truss rod tweaks, when needed. Hopefully, this article has helped you learn a little more about guitar tuning and intonation and you’ll have a better idea of what it takes to make your guitar more playable and in tune, especially if you’ll be using it for recording.

Story Links

Equal temperament (Wikipedia)
Explains the equal temperament system of tuning in a musical instrument.

Guitar Tuning Nightmares Explained (Jack Endino)
A fascinating three-part article on the realities of working to get guitars in tune in the recording studio by Seattle-based engineer/producer Jack Endino.

Tuning the Guitar (Paul Guy)
Delve deeper into the science of how the tempered scale evolved in a fascinating article by Swedish guitar guru Paul Guy.

Keith Hatschek is a regular contributor to Disc Makers Echoes blog and directs the Music Management Program at University of the Pacific. He’s also written two music industry books, How to Get a Job in the Music Industry and The Golden Moment: Recording Secrets from the Pros.

Read more: Guitar intonation: how to keep your guitar in tune – Disc Makers http://blog.discmakers.com/2014/07/guitar-intonation-how-to-keep-your-guitar-in-tune/#ixzz37ac6bUDv

Singing tips for vocalists in any genre | Disc Makers

by DISC MAKERS

Singing tips from recording to maintaining vocal health to improving your vocal performance will help you on the road to being a better vocalist

Singing tips for vocalists - learn how to sing well.

Video: Vocal warm ups for your upper register (April 2014)
Learn vocal exercises for singers in our videos for vocalists series. Conservatory of Music at University of the Pacific professor Daniel Ebbers explores the upper register in these vocal warm ups videos.

Video: Vocal warm ups for singing to connect breath, vibration, and resonance (April 2014)
Daniel Ebbers, voice instructor at the Conservatory of Music at University of the Pacific, shares insights and vocal exercises for voice resonance and connecting the breath in our video series for vocalists.

Elevate your vocal performance: focus on rhythm and intention (April 2014)
In a standout vocal performance, how you end a note is as important as how you attack it, and rhythm and intention can be as relevant as note choice and intonation.

Producing great hip hop vocals (January 2014)
If you produce hip hop music and hip hop vocals, these production tips from Grammy-nominated Ken Lewis can help make your experience recording and mixing hip hop vocals and your final product a whole lot better.

Stop Shredding Your Vocal Cords (October 2013)
Veteran vocal coach Cari Cole talks about proper vocal care and five things you can do to avoid major vocal health issues.

8 Ways to Improve Your Vocal Health (September 2013)
Your voice is an instrument housed inside your body, and taking care of your mind and body is essential to optimal vocal health.

Improve Your Singing: Make Vocal Exercises A Morning Ritual (July 2013)
Daily vocal exercises will improve your singing and produce lasting results.

Singing Tips – How to Sing Better Right Now (May 2013)
Veteran vocal coach Cari Cole shares five singing tips to make your voice sound better.

Singing Tips – A Vocal Warm Up Is Key To A Great Vocal Performance (January 2013)
This excerpt from The Vocalist’s Guide to Recording, Rehearsing, and Performing focuses on the importance of warming up before a vocal performance.

Singing Tips – Don’t Tax Your Voice Before a Vocal Performance (November 2012)
Resting before a vocal performance is key, but environmental things, like being in a place where the decibel level is too high, can adversely affect your capacity to sing.

How To Record A Great Vocal Take (August 2012)
Capturing the ultimate vocal performance can require push and pull between the producer and talent, and the tact and technique of the producer plays a pivotal role in the quality of the performance.

Vocal Health Basics – How to Properly Care for Your Voice (January 2012)
Vocal health is often taken for granted, but problems can stop you dead in your tracks, so it’s important to understand how to keep your voice in good health.

Creating a Great Composite Vocal Recording (February 2010)
We take a look at the techniques used to create composite lead vocal tracks, referred to as “comping” the lead vocal by studio engineers.

Read more: Singing Tips For Vocalists | How To Become A Better Singer– Disc Makers http://blog.discmakers.com/2014/05/singing-tips-for-vocalists-in-any-genre/#ixzz32M0hhGGP

Pre-production tips for recording drums | DiscMakers

by DAN GONZALEZ

Every studio recording should begin with pre-production – here are tips to help you prepare for a drum recording session

pre-production and recording drumsThis post on pre-production tips for drummers originally appeared on Cakewalk’s blog. These tips apply to drummers, producers, and engineers preparing for a session recording drums. Reprinted with permission.

1. Practice to a click track
If the drummer in a session isn’t rehearsed, you will either spend a lot of time in the studio or a lot of time editing drums. Spending time in the rehearsal room practicing to a click track is much easier than spending hours and hours behind an editor. Sit in on rehearsals and even record them to get an understanding of timing and how proficient the drummer is. Here are some solutions for drummers who have a hard time playing to just a click:

• Have someone else in the group play along with the drummer
• Use song demos as guide tracks
• Record in shorter sections, instead of longer sections
• Try different percussion as click tones (e.g. cowbell, woodblock)

2. Demo songs before you record them
Prepping for a studio recording is the only way to successfully take advantage of the time you have and cut the best performances of your songs. Practice recording yourself playing your band’s songs to understand how your tracks will come together in the recording studio. Review your recordings and focus on the group and your parts to understand where improvements need to be made to lock down the tracks. Take the time to finalize specific drum fills, hits, and patterns.

Techniques vary from drummer to drummer: some play behind the beat and others will play ahead of the beat. Sometimes drummers do not realize how hard they need to be hitting the drums to get a proper sound for recording. As an engineer or producer, you want to eliminate all the possible surprises before entering the studio.

3. Find the right type of drum head for the music you are recording
Different jobs call for different tools, and pairing the right drum head with a music genre is an important factor in the final sound of any record.

Single ply. These are some of the most common drum heads. Their sensitivity is perfect for light hitters. Single ply heads produce high-end frequencies when hit, and their pronounced tone and sound can be useful in arena rock shows as well as quiet jazz ballads. Single ply heads are typically made from one layer of 7 mil Mylar and are considered the thinnest of all types of drum heads. Unfortunately this means their durability can be sacrificed if they are hit too hard.

Double ply. Double ply heads have two layers of Mylar and can vary in thicknesses, the most common being two 7 mil layers. Double Ply heads do not produce as many overtones and frequencies as single ply heads, and the two layers of Mylar provide more attack and better control of the sound. Double ply heads are typically easier to record in studio applications.

Coated. “Coating” a drum head means that some degree of dampening has been applied. There are many variations of this, but the goal is to soften up the sound of the head so that it produces a warmer sound. Drum heads that are coated are sprayed, covered with Mylar film, or have some sort of other substance applied to make the drum sound warmer and less like abrasive.

Pre-muffled. Eliminating overtones and resonant frequencies from a kick drum is common practice for many styles of music. Rock, metal, pop, and country typically keep the tone of the kick drum from ringing in order to achieve a blend of the “thud” of the drum and “thwack” of the beater against the batter head. Pre-muffled heads come pre packaged with foam or other damping features to suppress unwanted frequencies, which can be important in a recording studio setting.

Once you’ve found the head you want to use, start the session with new and seated (broken in) heads. Make sure to have spares on hand.

4. Tune your drum heads, and continue to tune them as you record
Drum heads always need a good tuning before any recording. They start to change in tone as they are played or left idle and should constantly be re-tuned as you record for long periods of time. Drum tuning does not necessarily mean the drums are tuned to a set of pitches. They are usually tuned so to sound compatible when played in succession. Each size drum head has an optimal range for its tone, and tuning your drums outside of this range can result in strange aliasing or cause other drums to be pushed out of their own optimal tuning range.

5. Prepare in advance for tempo and time signature changes
Tracking a session that has multiple tempo and time signature changes can get complicated if your metronome track is not set up in a way that makes sense to the drummer. Once you get your hands on some demos of the group, tempo map the songs so you can give the drummer a decent click track to practice to before entering the studio. Getting used to multiple tempo changes and time signature changes can be a tricky task, and you do not want to break the drummer’s spirits by surprising him or her with a confusing or inefficient click track while they are trying to record. Prepare a track before you enter the studio with cues and count-ins.

6. Consider using triggers
A trigger is a transducer that is placed on the head of a drum. Once the drum is hit, a signal is sent to a sound generator which sends the programmed sound of a drum or MIDI information. A drum trigger can come in handy regardless of what style of music you are recording. You can record the MIDI information of the drum for easier time adjustment, to enhance the acoustic sound of your drums by blending the two, or to use the information to better understand where the attacks of each transient are. In music styles that are kick-drum centric, a common practice is to use a trigger to level out the differing hits in order to achieve an almost inhuman sound. As an engineer, the use of triggers has not handicapped my session flow or drum editing at all. In fact, it has made certain situations a bit easier.

7. Be prepared
Here are a few items that you as an engineer or producer should always have on hand with you when tracking drums.

• Moving blankets. Use these to isolate kick drums, cover hard/reflective surfaces, and change the acoustics within a room.

• Spring camps. Helpful for holding loose cables and moving blankets.

• Bungee cords. For tying up blankets, loose cables, etc.

• Counterweights. Counterweights are useful when working with inexpensive microphone stands that can fall and lose their placement.

• Extra tuning keys. Tuning keys always get lost. Purchase a few of these to keep on your keychain.

• MoonGel. This is a blue dampening pad that you can buy to place on drum heads during recording. It reduces the ringing and decay of a drum.

• Measuring tape. When setting up overhead microphones, you need to make sure the distance from the snare to both overhead microphones are the same distance.

• Gaffers tape. This tape is great for the studio because it is strong and does not leave a residue when removed.

• Acoustic foam. It is always good to have extra foam on hand if you need to muffled drums.

• Pillows. Removing the front head of a kick drum and stuffing it with pillows can reduce resonance and bring out more attack from the drum.

• Cinder blocks. Placing one of these in front of the kick drum can keep the whole set from moving forward in a room with a slippery floor.

• Camera. Take pictures of the mic placements to save for the future in case you need to re-track.

• DI box (triggers). Most trigger outputs are quarter-inch jacks, you will need this patch into a tie line box that only has XLR inputs.

• Spare snare head. 14” coated snare head. A broken snare head can bring a session to a sudden halt.

Read more: Pre-production tips for recording drums – Disc Makers http://blog.discmakers.com/2014/03/pre-production-tips-for-recording-drums/#ixzz31hIT592b

Vocal warm ups for singing to connect breath, vibration, and resonance | DiscMakers

Daniel Ebbers, voice instructor at the Conservatory of Music at University of the Pacific, shares insights and vocal exercises in our video series for vocalists

You wouldn’t see a top athlete compete without going through a comprehensive set of warm up activities, and if you are a vocalist, you need to do the same kind of preparation every time you sing. Professor Daniel Ebbers has been training singers for more than twenty years, and in the following vocal warm ups for singing videos he explains the benefits of warming up and takes us through a series of vocal exercises.

Vocal Exercises video #1: “Why Warm Up”

Loosening up your vocal instrument allows you to “take the pulse” of your voice, and connecting the three main parts of your instrument will allow you to produce your best sound and help ensure you are ready to perform at your peak the next time you head to a gig, recording session, or rehearsal.

 

Vocal Exercises video #2: “The Basics”

In Video #2, “The Basics,” Daniel takes his student Ricky though a series of basic warm up vocal exercises to loosen his instrument. Focusing on your breath and connecting the three elements of your instrument (breath, vibration, and voice resonance) will prepare you to sing your best.

 

 

Professor Daniel Ebbers is a classically trained singer and voice instructor on the faculty at the Conservatory of Music at University of the Pacific, Stockton, CA and was a major contributor to Disc Makers’ The Vocalist’s Guide to Recording, Rehearsing and PerformingIn addition to his teaching, he performs regularly in both concert and operatic settings throughout the U.S.

Keith Hatschek is a regular contributor to Disc Makers Echoes blog and directs the Music Management Program at University of the Pacific. He’s also written two music industry books, How to Get a Job in the Music Industry and The Golden Moment: Recording Secrets from the Pros.

 

Read more: Vocal Warm Ups For Singing | Vocal Exercises | Voice Resonance – Disc Makers http://blog.discmakers.com/2014/04/vocal-exercises-warm-ups-for-singing/#ixzz30KBd6J6s

10 lessons learned from the worst band website in the world | CDBaby.com

Chris Bolton

lessons learned from worst-websiteThe Lazer and the Beams website is a sight to behold. Flashing gifs, text marquees that scroll across the screen, head-bobbing cats, mixed fonts, tiled photos–it’s mesmerizingly bad. Luckily, they built a new website with HostBaby that looks totally awesome, but they’ve left the old site up so people can still gawk at — and learn from — the site that was dubbed the “worst band website in the world.”

If your stomach is strong you can view it here: www.lazerandthebeams.com

Once you’ve recovered, here are 10 things we can learn about web design from the worst band website in the world:

1. Where the hell is the nav?

Don’t reinvent the nav bar. As web users we have been trained to look for navigational items in the top third of the screen. We also look for particular words like “About, store, contact,” etc. This makes it easy for us to get the information we need. lazerandthebeams.com barely even has a nav. Instead, it has links about halfway down the page that are poorly organized. Keep your navigation simple — your fans will thank you.

2. It’s a rainbow of insanity

A color scheme is important to creating a well designed website. Choose your colors and stick with them: The fewer colors, the easier it will be to keep the look and feel of your site consistent. There are quite a few online tools out there for choosing a color scheme for your site. Here is one of my favorites.

3. This is fonting ridiculous

Using too many type styles will make your site look messy and hard to read. If you do use multiple fonts, make sure to use them in a consistent way. For instance, you could use one font for titles or headers and another for body copy.

4. One website please; hold the animation

Animation often gets in the way of the user experience. Lazer and the Beams is the perfect example. Way too many things are moving and flashing, distracting the visitor. Simple animations on a drop-down menu or when you click on something can be fun, but animations that bombard the visitor whether they like it or not are a bad idea.

5. Why is the background repeating?

Don’t let your background photo “tile”(repeat over and over in the background). Usually this means your image is simply too small to fill the background of you site. When this is the case, use a larger background.

6. The music! Make it stop!

There is nothing more annoying than landing on a website for the first time and getting blasted with music (especially if it’s past midnight and the kids are asleep). Give your fans the power to choose when they want to play your music and which song they want to listen to.  They know how to click the play button themselves. Give them that option.

7. I have no idea what you’re saying

Never sacrifice readability for style. Be careful not to use fonts that are so ornate you can’t read them. Also be careful of putting light text on a dark backgrounds. Definitely don’t let text and images overlap in confusing ways like the Lazer and the Beams site does.

8. Tell me what to do

Every website should have at least one clear “call to action.” You know, like “Sign up to my email list here.” What do you want people to do when they land on your website? Is it listen to your songs, buy an album, leave a comment? Make sure your biggest priorities are reflected on your site with clear calls to action.

9. Think before you link

Lazer and the Beams have some really random links on their website. That’s cool, but is it a good idea? Do you want people to leave your website and go somewhere else? Wouldn’t you rather they stayed on your site and bought some music? Think before you link.

10. “I came. I puked. I left.”

One of the great pioneers of web analytics, Avinash Kaushik, describes a website “bounce” as a visitor who comes to your site, pukes, and then leaves. This is what people do when they see bad website design: they leave in disgust. This is why design is so important: People no longer have the patience for bad design.

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