Absolutely true. So retuning it slightly differently for every key
areas and pitchs. On my guitar the imperfections needn't be chased
to reflect. This is just the level of tolerance I pursue.
Your mileage varies.
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The closest I've seen any fretted guitars come are those which have
been modified with a Buzz Feiten tuning system, and even then there is
no one 'perfect' tuning for all keys. Feiten suggests using his
exclusive electronic tuner only, but I get better results on those
guitars making a I or V chord on the most noticeable area of the neck
for the piece sound correct by ear.
It becomes most noticeable when pieces of a modern suite are in
different keys, or when a program has pieces in varied keys. Try
performing the Tansman.Cavatina - Sarabande having tuned with an
electronic tuner, and without compensating for the key of B (the I or
the V chord) at the 7th fret. If you can't hear that the intonation is
off, then your ear is simply not doing its job.
I'd make a good guess that Williams and Bream tuned with electronic
tuners (strobes at that) for their Duets albums (probably at the
suggestion of the recording engineer), and they are out of tune with
each other simply because of the different ares of the neck that each
are playing on.
Having the ability to make minor adjustments by ear is CRITICAL to good
musicianship, and any of the greats make those minor adjustments all
On pianos, paired strings are tuned slightly off to hide the intonation
problems, just as multiple reed instruments follow the same practice.
Non-fretted instrumentalists (and slide instrumentalists such as the
trombone)make adjustments 'on the fly' all the time as part of their
normal playing technique. In effect, their fingering becomes the
'moving fret', and they accomplish that through perfectly trained ears.
A 'C' is not always a 'C' is not always a 'C'.
When recording violins, one may use 1 violin or 3, but never two for
the same reason (as well as the idiosyncrasies of vibratos between
Further, there are psychological considerations which must be taken
into account, all of which the most experienced recording engineers are
acutely aware. Often, a saxophone tuned 'perfectly' with an electronic
tuner will impress the listener as being harmonically flat.
In short, a well trained ear is the best tuner there is, and is a
required skill for a professional guitarist. Teachers who allow their
students ears to become too accustomed to(and dependent upon)the
assigned frequencies programmed into an electronic tuner are not doing
them any favors. One has to get acclimated to the phenomena,
discrepancies, and nuances I've described above, and they don't even
take into account the changes which occur as an instrument, performer,
and room warm up.