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NEW VIDEO - How to Intonate a Guitar or bass. This is a 'must-know'!

Credits to:  Mr. Guy, Jack Herrick, Maluniu, Lewis Collard (see all) 

 
Intonating a guitar is vital to good sounding musical performance. What determines a strings exact pitch is the distance between the nut and the bridge. The bridge saddles on electric guitars are adjustable to allow for fine adjustment of this distance to ensure that every note rings true and on pitch. Since weather conditions, a change of string gauge, or a hard knock (common in the world of Rock 'n' Roll) can cause intonation to wander off, it's a good thing to know how to quickly and accurately intonate your guitar.

Intonate a Guitar

Guitar Chord Diagrams: How Guitarists Learn New Chords

Guitar chord diagrams are crucial for all guitarists from beginner to advanced to learn how to play new and exciting chords. Learning new chords with chord diagrams is not only easy and straightforward but it also helps in visualizing the chord shapes on the neck of the guitar.

What Is A Chord Diagram?

A chord diagram is essentially a square/rectangular grid consisting of 6 vertical lines which correspond to the 6 strings on the guitar and a number of horizontal lines which correspond to the frets on the neck. More specifically the left most vertical line is the Low E or 6th string and the right most vertical line is the High E or 1st string on the guitar. The rest of the lines obviously correspond to the middle strings. The top most horizontal line correspond to the nut on the guitar while the lines there after correspond to the 1st fret, 2nd fret, 3rd fret, ect. There are usually 4 of 5 horizontal lines but sometimes you may see more if the chord is exceptionally large and requires considerable left hand stretching. Thus a chord diagram is essentially just a graphical representation of the guitar neck, as if you pointed the neck of the guitar towards the ceiling and had the strings facing you.

How To Read Chord Diagrams

By adding dots and other markings on the empty grid, we have information on where to place our fingers on the neck. For example, as already discussed the left most vertical line is the Low E or 6th string, by adding a dot between the 1st and 2nd horizontal lines (which represent the nut and the 1st fret) on this string, it tells us to place our finger between the nut and 1st fret on the Low E string, or more easily described as playing the 1st fret. If we move that dot between the 2nd and 3rd horizontal line, you then would play the 2nd fret on the 6th string.

As chords use more then one note, we can place more then one dot at a time on the chord diagram. But for every dot on the chord diagram, make sure you fret the corresponding note on the guitar. Chord diagrams also feature circles above some of the vertical lines or strings. These circles represent that the string is to be played open or without fretting.

Other Markings

Chord diagrams can also use numbers below the strings which indicate which left hand finger frets which string. For example a 3 below one string would mean to fret that string with your 3rd finger. An X above or below a string would indicate not to play that string at all. Unless there is a dot or circle on the string you wouldn't play that string anyways, but an X is sometimes used to make that point clear. An arched line may sometimes appear on chord diagrams. This is done to indicate that a "barre" (when one finger frets more then one string) is to be used. Sometimes a number is applied to a fret on the right hand side of the diagram. This is done for chords that are played much higher on the neck. A number 7 for example would indicate to fret at the 7th fret.

With this information you should be able to read and play any chord diagram that you will come across. Not only are chord diagrams easy to read but they also give you the ability to learn new chords on your own without a teacher.

About the AuthorJonathan Dykerman is a professional guitar player and instructor. He also operates http://www.guitarwarp.com. Copyright 2008.

 

15 minutes to great sounding guitar!                                                                                          by Larry Collins

You love to play – maybe live to play! You think about the sound of the guitar, the music and the songs, your tone, your big amplifier – if it’s an electric … and the beautiful complex notes that project from your guitar – if it’s an acoustic. All are important – like that one great drive off the tee in golf!
 
But, how do you get those notes? It’s in the strings. Have you given much thought to your strings?  Often overlooked – always underrated, the strings are WHAT MAKE THE SOUND! They’re the most important part of the sound chain.
 
The type of metal, the construction, the finish, the tension, the length, the coating -- it’s a process.   Once you’ve determined by asking around, listening, trying lots of brands and types – what strings are right for you, then you change them EVERY FOUR WEEKS FOR THE REST OF YOUR GUITAR-PLAYING LIFE! No exceptions; except one. If the strings you like have a protective coating in which case you change them when they stop sounding bright and musical – maybe as long as three months.
 
Changing your strings is easy – no tricks, no special knowledge – and with practice you can do it in 10- minutes or less! To do this right you’ll need an electronic tuner. (We can also do it using a guitar that’s already in tune, a nearby piano, a harmonica or a pitchfork. But, that’s another article.)  
 
Here’s how:
 
  1. First thing; all of the strings on your guitar wind into or toward the center of the headstock no mater which side they are on or what position they are in. It’s a constant. This principle will allow you to tune your guitar on autopilot once you get used to it. And, it will become very important when stringing your guitar.  
  2. Now, detune – lower the pitch – of existing strings A (#5), D (#4), G (#3), B (#2) and high E (#1) by turning the tuners (or machine heads) on the guitars’ headstock. Once there is some play in the string unwind it from the peg on the headstock. Leave the low E or 6th string in place and unhook the other 5 strings. We’ll use the low E string later on for reference. Make sure you don’t stick yourself with the sharp ends of the strings. 
  3. Once the strings are unattached from the headstock - If you have an acoustic guitar, gently lift-out the bridge pins which anchor the strings to the guitar’s bridge. They pop right out – then completely remove the strings from the guitar. If you have an electric guitar, pull the string through-the-body or through the tailpiece. Either way, you have now removed 5 of the 6 strings. 
  4. Grab your new strings – take ‘em out of the box – and set them up high E (1st string) to low E (6th string) on your work surface. (A bed is great for changing strings!) This is also when people who love their guitar grab a rag and a little guitar polish and give their baby a good cleaning. 
  5. Because the low E string is still in place, we’ll start with the A string (#5). You’ll notice that the low E is wound to the first tuner on the headstock, closest to the fretboard. Now, unpackage your B string. Always anchor your string first into the bridge. It’s just the opposite of removing the strings from the bridge. Make certain the string is properly and firmly seated into the bridge. Set the string in the appropriate bridge slot – if there is one – run it the fretboard to the neck and position it into the appropriate nut slot.   
  6. Pull the string tight above the nut. Put 2 fingers under the string – then extend it 2 inches beyond the appropriate post or tuner peg. Cut the string at that point with a pair of wire cutters or sharp scissors. In order to keep the string in place during tuning (winding) put a ½” 90 degree bend at the end with a pair of pliers. This is what you insert into the small string hole that every post or tuner peg is made with. INSERT ONLY THE 90 DEGREE BEND until the other end comes through the other side of the hole. You’ll have quite a bit of slack still left in the string at this point. 
  7. Begin winding the string so that it turns into or toward the center of the headstock. Pluck the string as you go along to be certain it is elevating in pitch.   Bring it up a few turns so that it’s taught. Also be certain that the string is in the appropriate slot at the bridge and at the nut on the headstock. 
  8. Proceed by anchoring, measuring carefully, cutting and bending and inserting the remaining 4 strings into their respective posts or tuner pegs. Then wind them several turns as in the step above. 
  9. Pull each string gently, but firmly at the center of the string – above the pick-up or the sound hole – so that it is stretched a little. This aids in the strings holding tune. 
  10. Now – just as a reference – depress the low E at the 5th fret. Bring the A (5th) string up to that pitch. It’s time to replace the low E just as you did the other 5 strings. (Your A string should be near pitch if the E was in tune.) 

Now using your electronic tuner, raise all the strings to their proper pitch. That’s it! Over the next few days you will need to retune your guitar until the strings stretch to their proper playing length.  Now, go practice and enjoy!    

 
Larry Collins is and avid guitar and bass player and collector.  He has been playing music since the mid 60's in numerous bands and as a solo artist.  Collins lives in Baltimore and owns US Strings.com.  Visit us at www.USStrings.com for more information and a great selection of discount-priced strings, pedals and effects and accessories for GUITAR, BASS, BANJO OR MANDOLIN. 
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STRING TONE AND MATERIALS
 
Swedish steelis the most commonly used alloy for both electric and acoustics.
Nickel plated steel (NPS) produces a bright and warm sound - distinctive bright sound and excellent intonation.
Silk & Steel - these acoustic strings look like regular bronze strings, but the core (the center of the string) is actually silk.  They are easy to fret and have a mellow tone.
Pure nickelis an alloy which produces a tone not quite as bright as the NPS.
Stainless steelis commonly used for electric guitar strings since it has good magnetic properties and produces a very clear and bright sound. One advantage of stainless steel is that it's more resistant to oxidation than NPS or nickel.
Chromeis flatter sounding than nickel or stainless steel and is commonly used for flat Wound electric guitar strings since it also has good magnetic properties. It's also often preferred by jazz and blues players.
Bronze (is really brass alloy over a steel string) is the most popular alloy used for Acoustic wound strings – it produces a bright, crisp sound. They provide brilliance in sound. Select light gauge for finger-style playing, heavy gauge for strumming.
Phosphor bronzeis the second most popular choice and produces a bright tone, but is slightly warmer and darker sound than bronze.
Brass is brighter and more metallic sounding than bronze.  Brass works well to brighten-up dark/muddy sounding acoustics.
Coated stringsmake strings last longer. They also sound very bright and there's less squeaking when sliding your fingers on the strings.
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HERE'S THE PITCH --
A Vital Lesson In How To Keep Your Guitar in Tune
by Michael Ross

Ever been frustrated by a guitar that won't stay in tune? Perhaps even wanted to take that darned six-string and blow its wooden brains out? Fortunately, terminal measures are rarely necessary. A few simple preparations and precautions are all that are required to have an instrument that gets and stays in tune, at least well enough to avoid violent solutions. Gentlemen, start your peg-winders!

Before a guitar can stay in tune, you have to be able to get it in tune. This requires a guitar that is properly intonated. A guitar is considered to be in proper intonation when notes and chords do not get more and more out of tune as you play up the neck. Proper intonation does not mean that it is perfectly in tune at every fret, just that it is equally out of tune at any given point (more about this later). A properly intonated guitar should sound acceptably in tune for all your chords from the first fret to the highest fret.

Proper intonation is achieved by making sure that the distance from the nut to the twelfth fret is equal to the distance from the twelfth fret to the bridge. This can be easily checked by picking each string while lightly touching it at the twelfth fret, creating a harmonic. Fretting the string at the same fret should result in a note of the same pitch. (The harmonic is always the same as the open string whether the intonation is right or not.) If the fretted note is sharp compared to the harmonic its bridge point needs to moved farther from the twelfth fret; if it is flat, it needs to be closer.

BRIDGE TYPES
 

Most electric guitars and basses offer adjustable bridge saddles for each string, allowing them to be individually moved closer and farther as needed. Some guitars (i.e. vintage Teles, and basses) use one saddle for two strings. You can either split the difference (country players have made "in tune" records for years with unmodified Teles), or bend the intonation screw until each string is exactly intonated, á la Danny Gatton.

Classical guitars and steel string acoustics, meanwhile, usually have one saddle for all six strings, or individual saddles that are not adjustable. Experimenting with different brands and gauges brands of strings can improve intonation. Or, if your ears are more sensitive, the saddle can be compensated by filing back or forward underneath individual strings.

Many archtop jazz guitars will have a single wooden saddle mounted on a floating (movable) bridge. Some of these have been pre-compensated. Keep in mind, however, that they were probable adjusted for thick, flatwound, jazz strings with a wound G string. If you plan to use thinner, roundwound strings with a plain G you will need to modify the saddle, have a new one made or change to an adjustable Tune-o-Matic bridge, like those found on Les Pauls.

DIRTY STRING SYNDROME
 

Whatever you do to improve your instrument's intonation, first make sure it is done with new strings. One of the most common causes of tuning problems is old strings. Strings that are rusty, oxidized, or dirty will not stay in proper tune. If you want to be able to get and stay in tune you must change them. So here are a few words of advice: Just because you changed the strings this year does not mean they are new. And just because it is a new guitar the strings do not automatically qualify as new. If it has been hanging on the wall at the store for any length of time, your "new" guitar has probably been played by any number of sweaty, dirty fingers before you purchased it. And, even fresh out of the box, there is no telling how long it lay at the factory, on the ship or in the warehouse. So if you want to be assured of proper intonation, change those strings!

So what does qualify as new? A:fresh-out-of-the-package is a safe bet. Even then brand new sets have been known to harbor a bad string that will drive you crazy. If you have checked everything else and one string is giving you trouble, try changing that string. How often should you change them to insure proper intonation? That depends on how often you play, how much you sweat, and the corrosive quality of your sweat. If your hands sweat and your sweat is especially corrosive, you may have to change your strings as often every show for truly accurate intonation. Sorry. On the other hand, if you tend to be cool as a cucumber, you may be able to go weeks with acceptable tuning.

Wiping the strings with a lint free cloth (an old T-shirt can work) after playing can help prolong string life. Avoid liquids and solvents.

FRETS, ACTIONS & PICKUPS
 

So your guitar is intonated, your strings are fresh, and you are still having intonation problems. Take a look at the frets. If you have just purchased your first guitar with high frets or have recently installed them in your current guitar, you may experience difficulty playing chords in tune. This is because playing on high frets is sort of like playing a scalloped neck. The proper note is achieved as soon as you press the string to the fret. Further pressure toward the fingerboard just makes the note sharper. Different pressure from different fingers will make a chord sound out of tune as one or more notes are pushed sharp. A lighter touch and listening is required to play a guitar with high frets in tune.

The distance of the strings from the frets is called the action. Most players prefer low action for ease of playing, but if you are on of the ones who prefer higher action for its tonal properties and ease of string bending, you may have to compensate - in terms of intonation - for the added distance that you are pushing the string. In cases where the nut is raised or the strings are raised at the bridge, the note at the twelfth fret may not match the harmonic when properly intonated, but the guitar will play in tune.

Electric (and some acoustic) guitar and bass pickups are magnetic. Placing them too close to the strings will exert a pull, creating overtones that make accurate intonation impossible. This is especially true with "hot" pickups. Adjusting the pickups toward the strings will increase output and reduce high-end. Moving them away will reduce output and increase high-end response. Still, the exact height is a matter of taste. You can make sure you are not too close by fretting the guitar at the highest or near highest fret and listening for odd overtones or warbling.

STAYING IN TUNE
 

The first thing that most people assume when their guitar won't stay in tune is that the tuners are slipping, or somehow not doing their job. A logical enough assumption, but 99.9% of the time it is wrong. Given that all the intonation factors we have discussed are accounted for, making the instrument capable of getting in tune in the first place, the most common reason guitars go out of tune is our old friend...strings. "But I put new strings on today," you cry. Yes but did you stretch them? "Of course," you protest. Let's see that guitar. Well look at this. One yank on the low E and the pitch drops a step and a half. If your average guitar repairman had a nickel for every time that scenario took place, he would be working from a mansion in Malibu, not the back of the local axe shack.

When you put on new strings the windings around the tuners must be tightened by pulling the string until it no longer goes flat when pulled. This requires repeated moderate pulling, retuning, pulling, retuning and so on until done. Pull the string away from the fingerboard, not across it to avoid breaking the nut. If you don't do this, then every time you play a song or bend a string you will be tightening those windings, causing the string to go flat. By the time they settle in, it will be long past time to change your strings, and the whole process will start over.

If you find when stretching the string that it keeps going flat and eventually pulls out of the tuner, you may be stringing the guitar improperly. Pull the string through the tuner (or cut off the end and insert it, as with Kluson-style Fender tuners), leaving just enough slack for two to four windings - too many windings makes stretching difficult.

If the tuner is the type where the string pulls through, take each unwound string and bring it back and under itself in such a way that the windings will go over the end, thus locking it (POSSIBLE ILLUSTRATION). If it is the Kluson-style, wind the string part way down, then back up then all the way down to achieve a similar effect. Proper stringing and stretching of the strings will prevent going out of tune 90% of the time. As the folks at Nike say, "Just do it."

NUT TROUBLES
 

Often the strings will get caught in the nut. A properly cut nut will go a long way toward preventing this. Have a qualified repair person check yours. Rubbing a pencil over it to get some graphite dust in the slots can help lubricate it. Graphite and composite material nuts can work fine but a well cut bone nut is your best bet.

PLAYING IN TUNE
 

So you've done everything right. The strings are fresh and stretched, the intonation is set, the nut is lubed, even finger pressure is applied, and, okay, so the B string tuner was actually slipping and has been replaced. Now why won't the darn thing play in tune?

The bad news is - guitars don't play perfectly in tune! They are only relatively in tune. They are in what is called a "tempered" tuning. Even on a perfectly maintained instrument, if you tune it so that the G# in the first position E chord is sweetly in tune, the open G in your first position C chord will be flat. If you tune the C# in a first position A chord to be sweet, the open B will be flat. Guitars are tuned in a compromised tuning that makes that C# and G# a little sharp so that the open strings are only a little flat. Fortunately for most of us, our ears have become accustomed to these compromises so that it doesn't sound unpleasant. Still, you will often see classical guitarists re-tuning for different pieces that feature specific intervals.

The fact that guitars are not perfectly in tune can result in what we call "recording ears." In the recording studio we will listen so closely that we will hear these compromises more than is normal. Don't worry, neither you, nor anyone else is likely to listen that closely to your guitar parts ever again. Learning to tune your guitar so that it is equally out of tune for all the chords is part of the process of learning the instrument.

Another, more advanced part, is learning to make minor adjustments with finger pressure and slight string bends that push the guitar into better tune rather than throwing it out. It is said that other people picked up Jimi Hendrix's guitar and found it out of tune-right after he had just finished playing and sounding perfectly in pitch. Mythology or not, this goes to illustrate that how you play can affect your tuning.

In all, this may seem like a lot to deal with, but if you keep your strings new and stretched you will probably sound fine. And just in case-keep that electronic tuner handy and full of fresh batteries.

Michael Ross is a guitarist and writer, who has toured the East Coast, West Coast and all points in between. He recorded two CD's with the Potato Eaters, and done clubs and sessions too numerous to mention (or remember). He is the author of Getting Great Guitar Sounds (Hal Leonard), and lives in San Francisco with nine guitars that he attempts to keep in tune.

Thank you to Gutar Shop Magazine for this artcle.  (Edited for length by US Strings.com.)
 
 
GOOD VIBRATIONS
A Little Primer On Your Guitar Strings
by Lisa Sharken

"As a general rule of thumb, the bigger the string, the bigger the sound."

No question, strings are an essential part of the sound of a guitar. With the exception of a rare few, the majority of players will agree that their guitars sound noticeably better with new strings. Though it's no secret, this fact is frequently overlooked and taken for granted. Changing strings is probably the cheapest and simplest way to improve your tone. So if you're not entirely happy with the sound of your guitar you may want to consider trying another type of string before replacing pickups, or blaming the amp or your new bass player, since different strings may give your guitar an entirely new sound and feel. Remember, the string is really where the sound of your guitar begins. It's the vibration of the string that initiates everything else.

A string is constructed of a core, the center around which the windings of the string are wrapped, and the windings, the wrap of wire around the center core. The core is usually either round or hexagonal in shape, while the windings come in three shapes: round-wound, half-round (which are also known as polished or ground-round wound), and flatwound. Roundwound is the most common of all string types and produces the brightest and clearest sound. A half-round string is constructed from a round-wound string that has had the outer round wrap ground or burnished down to create a more even and flatter surface. The smoother surface allows the hand to glide more freely with less squeaking as it moves across the string, and are generally not quite as bright as round-wounds. Flatwound strings have a completely smooth outer wrap to provide the sleekest and most fluid surface for effortless sliding without squeaks. Flat-wounds produce a flat and dark sound and are most frequently used by traditional jazz players.

Let's take a look at the differences between some of the materials used to manufacture guitar strings and the characteristics of their tone. What are some factors about the string that affect tone? The first is the alloy, which is the type of metal used in the string's construction. Material used for the windings on electric guitar strings must have stronger magnetic properties to be capable of working in conjunction with the guitar's pickups. For plain strings, Swedish steel is the most commonly used alloy for both electric and acoustic. However, strings made for acoustic guitar do not need magnetic properties since the tone is not created with a magnetic pickup. They do however, require strong resonant properties to project the tone and work in conjunction with the wood of the guitar.

Here's a general run-down of some of the most commonly used alloys. I've already mentioned nickel plated steel, which produces a bright and warm sound and is favored by players of acoustic and electric guitar since it has excellent magnetic properties. Pure nickel is another alloy which is experiencing a bit of a "come back" as of late. It is not quite as bright as the NPS. Pure nickel is what most strings were made of back in the 60's. The resurgence of surf music and 50-60's music is causing the come back of the pure nickel. Stainless steel is an alloy commonly used for electric guitar strings since it has good magnetic properties and produces a very clear and bright sound. One advantage of stainless steel is that it's more resistant to oxidation than NPS or nickel. It's a favorite of pedal-steel players. Chrome is much flatter sounding than nickel or stainless steel and is commonly used for flatwound electric guitar strings since it also has good magnetic properties. It's also often preferred by jazz and blues players. For acoustic guitar, the most popular alloy used for wound strings is bronze, which produces a bright, crisp sound. Phosphor bronze is the second most popular choice and produces a bright, but is slightly warmer and darker sound than bronze. Another common material is brass, which is brighter and more metallic sounding than bronze. Brass seems to work well to brighten up characteristically dark and muddy sounding acoustics.

Of course, we can't forget about the gauge of the string, the actual thickness, which is measured to 1/1000th of an inch. The gauge of a string affects the amount of tension the string creates and how difficult it will be to press down or bend. Heavier strings have more tension and are somewhat harder to play on, however they do produce a stronger and fatter tone than thinner strings. As a general rule of thumb, the bigger the string, the bigger the sound.

As you can see, there are several factors about strings themselves that effect their sound. It's the result of those characteristics of the strings working together with the qualities of the guitar's wood, and the magnetic properties and tonal qualities of a guitar's pickups that truly define the instrument's voice. But it all begins with the string. Experiment with different kinds of strings; it's the simplest modification you can do. And remember, if you change strings, you may have to readjust the setup of your guitar to accommodate for the differences, especially if you change your string gauge. Happy stringin'.

Thank you to Guitar Shop Magazine for this article. Edited by US Strings.com for length.
 

 

 

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