Guitar Players - Anyone have an idea why my low E string is slightly "off"

Discussion in 'Music' started by Semper Fidelis, Aug 3, 2010.

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  1. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    OK, I can't think of the right word. I know there are a few guitar players here and I'm hoping you can help.

    I have a pretty nice Taylor. There's part of me that wants to get a better guitar but mine is just fine and, frankly, I'm neither good enough nor play regularly enough to spend more right now.

    Anyway, that's not the problem.

    I've been frustrated because I can tune my low E precisely and then when I begin to move up the fretboard, the tuning is off. It's especially prevalent when I Capo the guitar. I played at Church on Sunday and it seemed that if I tuned the low string to F for Capo 1 that it seemed to hold the tune moving up the guitar (played a couple of songs Capo 2 and 3) but if I went with no Capo then the Low E was a bit sharp.

    I thought I had the problem licked. I took it to the local Guitar Center to see if it was a neck problem and they noticed that the bridge had a slight crack. I thought that must be the problem but even with a fixed bridge the behavior continues. There was a fringe benefit, at least, because they lowered the action on the guitar and put extra light strings and it made much more of a joy to play.

    Perhaps the answer to my quandry is that I just need to get another guitar. Is there a level below I should not consider buying a guitar to avoid this in the future. My Taylor is on the low end of their product line and this might account for it although it has been a nice guitar.

    Of course, Lawrence in this thread has me desirous of a Larrivee.
  2. au5t1n

    au5t1n Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Is your capo meant for an electric guitar, perhaps? I have found that my acoustic guitar sounds awful when I use my dad's capo for his electric guitar. I don't know if there's even supposed to be a difference, but it sure sounds like it to my ears.

    And I can't believe you don't appreciate your Taylor! Taylors sound beautiful! Nice and bluesy.
  3. Miller

    Miller Puritan Board Freshman

    Is the E string wound 3 or more times around the tuning peg? That was my problem once with staying in tune. Maybe a local "Mom and Pop" guitar store would be more helpful than Guitar Center?
  4. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    Has the guitar always had this problem?
    How are you mounting the strings?
    Are you frets worn?
    What type of capo are you using?

    There are a lot of variables that can cause this.

    BTW, most guitars require some tweaking when you put on a capo. About the only capos I have found that minimise the tweaking are Elliot and Shubb. But, even then there is usually some adjustment necessary.
  5. moral necessity

    moral necessity Puritan Board Junior Planet Waves Dual Action Capo: Musical Instruments - The "Product Description" and "Comment #2 and 3" are good.

    Buy Dunlop Trigger Curved Guitar Capo | Capos | Musician's Friend - Click on "Read 56 Reviews" over by the price on the right, and look at the 2nd comment.

    Capo's = out of tune= headache [Archive] - The Acoustic Guitar Forum - Some comments here are useful.

    original Shubb Capo

    Shubb: Fifth String Capo

    It seems like a few of the strings are being pulled to the side by the cheaper capos, thereby making them sharp. The other capos apply more direct downward pressure, eliminating this. Also, be careful when putting on a capo. Many just slap in on without even considering whether or not the strings are being pulled to one side or not, or remaining evenly spaced. Capo placement is also important to reduce pulling. It should be as close to the fret as possible.

    Hope this helps, Rich.

  6. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Well, it's good to know I'm not alone on this problem. I've never experienced such a change to the strings going out of tune as I have with this guitar but it might just be the Capo.

    I have a G7th capo. Frets are in good shape. I think I've always had the problem. I've had the guitar for about 5 years and it has traveled to and from Japan. I've also sometimes gone a very long time without playing it so it's hard to remember back when I got it whether it had the problem. It hasn't been until recently that I've regularly played the guitar.
  7. littlepeople

    littlepeople Puritan Board Freshman

    the problem is either the intonation of the guitar, or it is related to capo-ing.

    1. check for intonation problems first: pluck the E string open and then pluck with the 12th fret pressed down. They should sound perfect octaves from eachother. If the 12th fret position sounds sharp or flat from the perfect octave, your intonation is off (not that big of a deal, but it requires neck or bridge adjustment) There are other more precise ways of determining intonation quality, if you want more info/details, just respond.

    2. The problem I consistently see when capo-ing is not the quality of the capo. It's how the capo is placed on the neck. You should NOT place the capo in the center of the 2 metal frets. Clamp the capo as close to the upper (bridge side) fret as possible. I mean, almost right on top of the fret. If you are right handed: the right edge of the capo will basically drop down in the center of the fret. Placing the capo in between the frets places extra tension on the string; making it go sharp.

    Lemme know if I'm unclear, or this doesn't help diagnose your problem. My guess is that your intonation is probably fine. 9 times out of ten, I would have someone bring me a guitar for an intonation repair, and they left with a lesson on how to properly capo. Stick with the Taylor BTW- even their economy line guitars are pretty sweet.
  8. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Thanks Brandon. I just recently had the guitar "set up". I'll check intonation when I get home. If they didn't check intonation when they did everything else then I may be able to take it back to them to fix that if they neglected it.

    I was just reading about intonation in one of the referenced links above and I'm glad you gave me a quick way to check it.
  9. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    Rich, sorry I didn't think about intonation. That really is the first place to go. I didn't think about it because frankly every time I tune up I check it. Brandon is probably right that it and capo placement are the two biggest reasons. If the shop that set up your guitar did not check it you should get your money back. When I set up guitars for folks I routinely rework saddles and nuts as part of the deal to get the intonation correct. It is not all that difficult. . . if you hold your tongue just right :) Nuts and saddles can also wear over time, especially plastic ones. This can change the intonation of an instrument. That is one reason I like to make nuts and saddles from bone and ivory. They are more slippery and seem to last a lot longer. Plus they transmit a lot more vibration to the top.

    I mentioned capos because I have seen cheaper capos that were not straight or clamped unevenly. This can cause a problem as well.
  10. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Thanks all. I checked intonation. At first it didn't seem very good but then I started tuning the E string based on fret position. It seemed that tuning to the note at different points helped me to lock in the exact tuning of the E string. I placed the capo close to the fret at that point and the tuning was spot on.

    I think my problem has been caused by not being able to tune the top string very precisely. I have a fairly decent ear (not perfect) but have a tuner that allows me to see if the note is ever so slightly sharp or flat. It's very hard to get the tuner to check tuning for the E string (works through the vibrations of the guitar) but as I checked the tuning of the third fret, for instance, I could see that the G was either slightly sharp or flat and then the string was more precisely in tune. Once the tuning was spot on then the intonation sounded great and the capo issues went away.

    I think I'm just going to start making it a habit to tune the string that way.
  11. moral necessity

    moral necessity Puritan Board Junior

    You've probably already thought of this, but remember to change the battery in the tuner frequently also. It's harder to get a stable read when the battery is weak.
    Reminds me of the line from the guy in the movie who fixed the lawnmower that no mechanic could..."there ain't no gas in it."

  12. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    Rich, I'm glad you got it figured out. When you are using an electronic tuner make sure you mute the other strings so that the tuner doesn't pick up the harmonics. If you are using an Intellitouch it will make that E really hard to tune. You may know that already. Are you using a clamp on tuner or a mic tuner?
  13. KMK

    KMK Moderator Staff Member

    Capos are for wimps! Get that index finger in shape, Rich. :)
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2010
  14. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    Or, better yet, just learn the neck! Even knowing it in only diatonic scales is a great benefit.
  15. tlharvey7

    tlharvey7 Puritan Board Freshman

    i would call taylor.... i bet they have a great customer service
    maybe you can get an RMA number and send the guitar in.

    sounds like an intonation issue to me
  16. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Battery is new.

    It's a clamp on type. Thanks for the tip.
    Yes, well I have wimpy fingers. I have small hands.
    I enjoy playing now and again but don't really have the time or interest to get much better. I know that sounds blasphemous to some. I'm OK and can play well enough to sound decent but I don't really know scales or a ton of chords. Call me lazy but I'm happy to stick with Capos to make up for my laziness in getting any better.
  17. SolaScriptura

    SolaScriptura Puritanboard Softy

    What?! You, Sir, are a Lieutenant Colonel in the USMC! You are an Officer and a Gentleman! Everything you own should be of the finest quality. If you settle for less in your stuff then people will think you'll settle for less in your subordinates. So, go on out and spend... it's your patriotic duty! ;)
  18. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    :lol: I actually have joined the Larrivee forums and have been looking to see if someone is going to sell an entry level Larrivee at an affordable price one of these days.
  19. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    Rich, I like your style. I saw a guitar yesterday that mad me think of you. It was a Larrivee that someone had customised. On the maker's label someone had inscribed, 'You don't hurt them if you don't hit them.' On the head was a beautiful EGA mosaic. It just screamed, 'Ooorah!'

    I have a friend who owns a D3R that he is thinking of selling. It will probably go for a good price. He loves it, but has a bad case of GAS (guitar acquisition syndrome) and it is his least costly instrument. I can check on it if you like.
  20. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Please do. You have me sort of lusting for a D-09 though. The way I look at it I can always graduate to another. The thing that amazes me about the Larrivee forum is how much the members there love their guitars.

    One thing, though. I'm kind of partial to acoustic-electric but I've also heard that the built in amps kind of mess the tone up for a guitar ever so slightly. What are your thoughts as I read where you thought that guitar mic was really great.
  21. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    I don't like built in amps at all, especially in a guitar not designed originally to hold them. Right now my Larrivee has a LR Bags feather under the saddle. I don't think that they make that one. I run it through a LR Baggs Para Di pre amp. It is a great combination. I used to have a K&K Mini Western system in her. They are adhesive/removable mics that mount on the bridgeplate. They are the most 'real' things I have ever heard. I pulled it out and gave it to a friend who really needed the quality more than I did. You can read about them here, Index, at my buddy's website. Bryan, is one of the best guitar luthiers in the country. His waiting list is LOOOOOONG. He is a fantastic Christian man who ranches in eastern New Mexico and serves a Reformed Baptist church as well.

    You are right about Larrivee owners. I don't know of any other factory made guitars that instill such a loving loyalty. (The do have an incredible amount of hand work in their construction, much more than most.) One would think that they were all hand made by a single luthier by looking at their loyal following. They are amazing instruments; and the folks that make them are top rate. Jean himself worked on my guitar when it had a problem. He called me every week until it was back in my hands. For free he did some tweaking on the instrument that normally is only a for fee operation. On one phone call he said, 'Lawrence, I would like to scallop the bracing a bit and do some other mods to your guitar when I get the new bridgeplate in place. I think you would really like it. Is that all right?' Wow. You just don't get service like that in very many places.
  22. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I was looking at those amps you mentioned and it seems like you have to know how to take apart a guitar in order to install them. According to their website, the "electric" guitars that Larrivee sells use the L.R. Baggs Element system.
  23. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    Actually, the K&K is easy to install. You do the work through the sound hole. You replace the end pin with a plug - end pin. That is the only 'dicey' thing: reaming the hole, but it is not that big of a deal.
  24. heartoflesh

    heartoflesh Puritan Board Junior

    The K&K is a great pickup and it really is as "natural" an acoustic sound as you can get with a pickup. I used to have one inside my old Martin and it sounded great.
  25. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Says you. :lol: I'm a bit nervous about reaming a hole in a really nice guitar. But my point is that why wouldn't I just want to buy one that Larrivee has installed an L.R. Baggs into? You said you were against built in amps. Is the L.R. Baggs Element an Amp whereas the K&K is not? Either way it seems like you're having to put something inside the guitar.
  26. heartoflesh

    heartoflesh Puritan Board Junior

    I don't know about the Element, but the K&K is a passive pickup (no batteries or anything inside the guitar) and you'de probably want to run it into an external preamp of some sort.

    If you're going to be playing acoustic guitar in more of a band situation, you may not want a real "natural" sound but something that cuts through the mix a little better. In this case you may want to go with some kind of under saddle peizo pickup.
  27. Kassie_Blair

    Kassie_Blair Puritan Board Freshman

    Take it to guitar center or a music shop and have someone look at it. It could be that the tension in your neck is too tight and the neck of your guitar is bowing or your bridge can be warped. Both cause tuning problems. Hope this helps. :eek:)
  28. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    The K&K and the Baggs Feather are passive. There are also some pickups made for classical guitars that are passive and do a good job on steel strung guitars. You need to use a pre-amp with all of these to sound good and to shape the sound for the type of setting in which you are playing. The pre-amp I use is the Baggs Para-Di. It is on the floor, not in the guitar. The same type of set up works with the K&K. The Larrivee guitars with the factory installs are made so that the on board pre-amp does not interfere with the vibration of the guitar body as much. I just prefer the other set up. It gives me great sound either plugged or unplugged and much more versatility if I want to change out the type of pickup or mic that I use.
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