My guts tell me no, but I want to make sure.

I've got an electric tuner that shows the pitch that it hears. You can plug a cable(e.g. form electric guitar), or use an embedded microphone for sound capture. I've noticed however that the pitch depends on how loud the produced sound is.

If I play a bit louder, I might "miss" the note a few cents, whereas going more "piano" means that I either hit note or go few cents lower(depending on the initial pitch). This applies to both cable(electric guitar), as well as microphone(violin) - is it my tuner malfunctioning, tuner's low precision, or does it work properly and pitch is affected?

  • WHen you say louder - do you mean purely pulling the string farther out as you pick? Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 11:34
  • @CarlWitthoft Well, I strike with greater force, so I would expect the string to be pulled out further. With violin I apply more pressure with the bow. Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 11:46
  • 1
    The effects are radically different with bowed instruments, because added pressure both deforms the string and changes the grip-slip behavior which creates the well-known sawtooth waveform. Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 12:53
  • @CarlWitthoft care to explain? Probably in the answer. Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 13:23

2 Answers 2


Briefly, yes, a harder picked note gives a higher pitch.

The reason for this is that picking harder stretches the string further, and a stretched string has higher tension, and therefore higher pitch.

This higher pitch rapidly settles down, but is one of those things to be aware of when tuning a guitar. Light picking gives you a much more accurate tuning experience.

This actually becomes a major issue with many of the new 7 or 8 string guitars - having those lower strings at the same scale length requires a low tension, which leaves them very susceptible to any change in tension - a strong pluck can raise the note significantly!

  • 1
    This is why multi-scale instruments were invented. And as an owner of both a multi-scale and fixed scale 8 string guitars, I can say the invention was well worth it. Tuning stability is much better in those low ranges.
    – Kyle
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 9:44
  • I totally agree. Planning on adding a nice fanned fret one of these to my collection specifically because of this: guitarguitar.co.uk/…
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 9:50
  • I have a friend that owns a few of those. They are fantastic. Not a fan of the headless look, but these play and sound incredible.
    – Kyle
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 9:55
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    leftaroundabout - it really does help you keep your high strings at the existing optimum, while having some of the benefits of a baritone string length for the low strings.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 14:05
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    "Light picking gives you a much more accurate tuning experience." – Yes, but only if you play with light picking. If you normally play hard, then you'll constantly be playing sharp! You should tune exactly the way you play. If you play hard, you should pick hard while tuning. If you play a lot of fast notes, you should tune directly after striking the string, not allow it to "settle down" or "ring out". If you usually play hard and fast, but have a few slow and soft sections in a song, you can always bend up ever so slightly. (Or, in the studio, re-tune for different sections of the song.) Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 18:09

I was going to comment, but found too many interesting pages. Please keep in mind that forum pages, including the ones listed here, can be full of wrongness.

First, another Google funny: "did you mean: violin pitch change with excessive bowel pressure?" . (No :-) , I wanted "...bow pressure" ). Meanwhile, check out Why does plucked and bowed string of violin produces slightly different pitches? or the argument at http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?ID=19859 ;
some nice diagrams of bow slippage at http://newt.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw/Bows.html .

  • Good commentary on bowed instruments - I hadn't touched on them at all. (spot my bias towards guitars - oops)
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 18:10

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