Why do my strings sound off on my guitar when learning songs ?

So I have the tuned up to standard tuning but I notice with some songs I’ve been learning my notes sound off they don’t sound like the song and I don’t mean effect I mean the pitch of the note so I’m wondering what’s the deal with that

6 Answers

  • 1 month ago

    I've been playing for (damn I'm old) over 30 years, and I used to have that exact same problem.  It could be any one of a dozen things.

    ACTION / INTONATION:  Both of these are adjustable on most guitars, and they get set up & tuned up at the same time.  Action is (in layman's terms) the height of the string over the fretboard, and intonation is the string's distance between the bridge and the nut.  If either or both of those are slightly off for any string, you'll get a perfect tuning with open strings but the tuning will be 'off' with fretted notes.

    IMPERFECT NECK: If the neck has a slight bow or warp in it, you'll never be able to play fretted notes in tune.  You can have perfect pitch tuning with open strings, but fretted notes will always be sharp or flat.

    PLAYING STYLE:  Almost nobody frets every note on every string with even pressure every time.  If one of your fingers is fretting a note harder or lighter than the others, especially if your guitar has deep or jumbo frets, your chord won't be in tune.  This is especially common amongst inexperienced guitarists.  It's even common with experienced players, they just learn to compensate for it.  

    THE STRINGS THEMSELVES:  As strings get old and re-tuned over and over, they lose their ability to stay in tune.  If they get really old, they lose their ability to even sound good.  Not only are they affected by your playing, they're affected by temperature, humidity and barometric pressure.  Most guitars have to be tuned up before playing, then re-tuned after a few minutes of active playing.  And strings should be completely replaced every three months at a minimum.

    TOO MUCH WHAMMY:  This is more of a thing for us old farts, but the tremolo arm (whammy bar) is still attached to many guitars today.  And even if you have a locking Floyd Rose system, too much whamming will detune your guitar really quickly.  When guys like Mick Mars or KK Downing do their crazy whammy-dives onstage, it's because a) they have custom built tremolo systems that cost more than a new car and b) they have two backup guitars and a paid guitar tech waiting backstage to keep the show going.

    CHEAP GUITAR:  I'm not a guitar snob, I'm not going to tell you that unless you're playing this brand or that brand you're wasting your time, but the rule of "you get what you pay for" is a rule for a reason.  Entry-level guitars are the perfect birthday gift for a teenager who wants to be the next Slash, but they're built for the 90% of kids who will quit playing as soon as they realize they can't master the instrument in a week.  They're not built to last, in fact they're not built to make it through a small bar gig.  If you're not one of those kids who wants to quit after a few weeks, you need something more than a guitar from a department store.  And you don't sound like one of those kids.

    Almost every guitar shop will have a technician who can check out your guitar and fix any mechanical or tuning issues.  Don't feel bad if you don't want to adjust anything more complex than the tuning pegs, because most of us don't touch that stuff.  Truss rod, action, intonation, spring tension and all that wiring / knob stuff is the job of the technician, not the musician.

  • Me2
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    curtisports2 syggested, "Maybe the guitars ...were not tuned to standard tuning. There are ... alternative tunings," but I suspect that they were simply tuned a little flat or sharp.  Another culprit may be the mastering speed, which might have been slower (lowering the pitch) or faster (raising the pitch).

    I think that your best strategy is to use an audio player that permits adjusting the pitch by changing the playback speed.  Note that this can't be a "time-stretching" mode that changes playback speed without a pitch change.

    I believe VLC Player provides this option.

  • 1 month ago

    Do you have a proper tuner, or a good tuner app?

    If using pitch pipes or "by ear", it may just still be off tune.

    As other answers have said, some guitar pieces use alternate tunings.

    If it's "off" on everything, check the tuning carefully with the strings open, as normal.

    Then check each string in turn while you fret it at the 12th fret; it should show the exact same note as with the string open.

    If it's significantly different, the guitar intonation is off and you need to get it set up at a guitar shop.

    ps. If you have only just started playing? Be sure you are pressing the strings _between_ the frets, not with your finger on or overlapping a fret. It's quite a common beginners mistake. Also make sure you are not accidentally touching any other string while fretting a note.

  • 1 month ago

    I agree with Tony B.

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  • 1 month ago

    Maybe the guitars in the songs were not tuned to standard tuning. There are variant and alternative tunings.

  • 1 month ago

    You don't tell us how good a player you are or what guitar you are using.

    I can only think of three possibilities:

    Your guitar is not tuned correctly.

    You are playing the wrong thing.

    There is something wrong with the guitar and it won't play in tune.

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