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I have a Schecter C1 Classic with D'dario XL EJ22 strings, down tuned to dropped A# (A#, F, A#, D#, G, C). The strings are relatively new, but broken in (a couple of weeks old, and I don't play every day). I use a BOSS TU-3 to tune it.

When I tune the guitar, I've noticed that for about the first half second after I pluck the string, the tuning is sharp by about a 1/4 step, then it drops into place at the correct tuning. This occurs more on the lower strings (4, 5, & 6), and happens regardless of how softly I pluck the string.

This concerns me because I play both fast and slow notes, so I want the tuning to be consistent whether I'm playing 1/16 notes or letting it ring out.

What could be causing this problem and how can I fix it?

  • It's entirely normal for a string to decrease in pitch as it decays. Normally this is 5-10 cents though - just enough to hear. 1/4 semitone out (if that's what you mean by 'step') is quite a lot. It also wouldn't be normal for this to happen even when plucked softly. Do you have any recordings of this happening? – topo morto Mar 3 '17 at 21:27
  • @topomorto Nope, no recordings. I'll take a closer look at the output of the tuner so I can be more specific about how far off the tuning is. I'll do a bit of reading about cents too, because I'm not familiar with those. I did mean "semitone" when I said "step". – skrrgwasme Mar 3 '17 at 21:39
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    Oh wow - i totally missed the bit about the drop tuning! Yes, if you're dropping that much, you will be much more likely to have a problem with this. – topo morto Mar 3 '17 at 21:54
  • I'd make a couple suggestions. First, a heavier gauge of string will have less of the effect that user37401 described, as the tension will be more appropriate for the guitar. You can also tune the strings based on your picking. The harder you pick, the higher the frequency, so if you're picking hard, you can tune it slightly lower. But the freq change is less drastic as the note rings out, so you may want to tune your strings after letting it ring out for a moment. The best solution I can suggest is the most costly, which is to get yourself a baritone guitar. – Basstickler Mar 3 '17 at 23:14
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This is completely normal behavior of plucked and hammered strings. The average tension is slightly higher when the physical amplitude of the string's vibration is greater. The higher tension leads to a higher restitution force which leads to a shorter period which is the same as a higher frequency which means a sharp note. As the amplitude of vibration dies down, the average tension decreases and the note flattens back down.

What creates the greatest pitch deviation is a greater relative tension. That means if the resting absolute tension is higher, the relative tension difference created by plucking will be less, leading to a lower pitch change. Also, greater resting tension will reduce the physical amplitude of the string, leading to a lower average tension increase.

In short, use thicker strings to minimize the pitch variation that occurs when you pluck the strings.

  • Thicker strings will minimize the pitch variation for a given volume level, but they will actually have more pitch variation (because of increased stiffness) for the same displacement, if they are of the same material and construction. – Scott Wallace Mar 6 '17 at 18:58
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You have the lowest string tuned to A# instead of E: that's a whole augmented fourth lower than designed. That's rather loose.

As a result, the string's tendency to straighten out the "kink" from plucking the string is lower than usual, and while the string is kinky, its overall tension is larger than when it is swinging in sinoidal manner, making it a bit higher pitched.

If you want to decrease the effect, try starting with less of a kink. Use a softer pick and/or attack, and play closer to the middle of the effective string than you usually would. Harmonics should settle faster than regular notes as they tend to kill off the kinkier bits of action.

  • It sounds like you're saying that there's not a whole lot I can do to the guitar to reduce, and I just need to adjust my picking technique to accommodate it. Does that sound about right? – skrrgwasme Mar 3 '17 at 22:14
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    A# to E is a Tritone, not a M3 – Basstickler Mar 3 '17 at 23:14
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    As Basstickler says, the strings are 6 frets lower than standard, not 4. Which exacerbates the problem. Heavier strings will sort out most of it, and also put back the tension in the neck, which may by now be relieving itself the wrong way, due to lack of tension in the strings. As Todd says, a baritone is a better answer if you need to play that low. – Tim Mar 4 '17 at 7:35

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