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Author: Subject: Strange string pitch problem
Johnnyboy
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[*] posted on 6-23-2014 at 04:57 PM
Strange string pitch problem


Dear fellow oud players,

Since two weeks I have put new Pyramid strings (made in Germany) on my Maurice Shehata oud that I have been tuning since. However, today I noticed a weird issue with the second pair of strings on the oud (the C, my oud tuned as FADGCF);

It seems that although I tune the pair of C strings exactly the same, as soon as I play a note on this pair with my finger (C#, D, D#, E) there is a difference in pitch between the two strings. This difference in pitch increases when I move my finger closer to the neck-body junction of the oud. When I play the C strings open again, they sound exactly the same.

I checked the height of the string loops at the bridge and they're the same. The height of the nut and its string slots are also equal. The fingerboard isn't worn out; in fact, I put a new layer of ebony on it two weeks ago (done by Maurice Shehata in Egypt)

Now here's the weird part: I switched the two C strings to make sure there's nothing wrong with the bridge, the fingerboard or the nut and guess what; the difference in pitch also switched! This made me think there's something wrong with one of the strings itself although I could be wrong.

So could anyone here help me find the cause of this problem and provide me with a solution if possible? Could this be the cause of the strings still being new and should I wait? Or is there something else at hand here?
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Jody Stecher
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[*] posted on 6-23-2014 at 07:40 PM


This has been a recurring topic on this forum but until now it seems to have been confined to Aquila nylgut treble strings. This is the first time I've heard of Pyramids doing this. You might try this: after deciding which string is the culprit remove it and re-attach it with the the part that was at the bridge now at the tuning peg end and the part that was wound on the peg now attached to the bridge. This has worked for me twice and failed once.
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jdowning
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[*] posted on 6-24-2014 at 04:28 AM


This was once a problem with gut trebles as reported in the so called 'Capirola Lute book' manuscript written circa 1520. Gut trebles then were not polished as they are today so had a natural slight taper and consequent potential for string falsness was a common problem. Reversing the problem string - as suggested by Jody - was the recommended solution. As master lutenist Vincenzo Capirola stated "And also know that a false string next to a just one will never stay in tune but rather make two false ones instead of one"

You may be able to identify string falsness by plucking the open string and observing the string vibration under incident lighting conditions. A false string will show a number of random vibrations instead of one smooth curve of the fundamental - something that can be observed with modern strings (plain and wound) when they are worn.

What is the material of your strings - plain nylon, rectified (polished) nylon, PVF plain, PVF rectified or polished gut?
Faulty polishing of a string might result in string taper. Plain strings may not be perfectly round along their length or otherwise suffer from faulty extrusion. If string taper is not the problem then inconsistent material density along the length of a string could also cause the problem.

As this might be due to a production control problem at the factory it would be worth contacting Pyramid directly for their information and advice. High quality is a hall mark of Pyramid strings. Your contact (in English or German) will be Customer Service representative Sabine Holz at s.holz@pyramid-saiten.de
Good luck.
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Johnnyboy
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[*] posted on 6-24-2014 at 09:06 AM


Thanks for your answers guys

Since this was once a problem in 1520 I guess I can rewrite history about string issues all over again :)

It was hard for me to identify the false string. Reversing one string didn't help so I reversed the other one as well and now the issue is still there but to a much lesser extent; the difference in pitch is now only noticeable when pressing the string from the middle or further (towards the bridge). I use the middle of strings quite a lot during playing (to add emphasis to the note) so I think it would still be an issue to me.

The concerning string is plain nylon.

I think replacing the C strings with new ones would be the best solution here. I'm happy it's just a faulty string and not something caused by the oud itself.

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Brian Prunka
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[*] posted on 6-24-2014 at 03:02 PM


One comes across a bad string occasionally, particularly in the relatively inexpensive "oud" sets.
Still pretty rare, it's just the tradeoff of keeping the price down.

Sometimes an oud will have a troublesome wolf tone or overtones that could seem like tuning issues; however these would be relatively consistent regardless of the strings used.





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Johnnyboy
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[*] posted on 6-24-2014 at 05:39 PM


There were moments after reversing the strings where I was doubting if there was indeed a difference in pitch or if my brain was making that up.
That's when I bring my tuner to do the objective research. The difference in pitch is minimal now although still noticeable when I pluck each string of the pair. When hitting them together I can't hear it. Maybe I'm being too picky, maybe I have practiced too much pitch differences with the pitch adaptation test found here: http://tonometric.com/adaptivepitch/ :)

So you're saying that there should always be a minimal pitch difference when pressing the strings Brian?

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Johnnyboy
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[*] posted on 6-27-2014 at 05:04 AM


Guys, I think I found the culprit but I'm not sure about it.

I usually shorten the C strings a bit with nail clippers since they are too long to wind around the pegs. Since I'm encountering the problem only with this pair of strings and I don't cut any other pair, I thought that this could be the cause. I replaced the pair with a new one after cutting it as well and it shows the same problem.

Doesn't cutting the strings cause them to be not perfectly round in the length or something?

I could be all wrong so feedback is appreciated.

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SamirCanada
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[*] posted on 6-27-2014 at 05:54 AM


who cares what you do to the string after it exits the vibrating string length. I used to burn mine but I got anoyed of the smell, nail clipper is fine. I have also had many issues with strings that dont tune to eachother. its more frequent in the cheaper sets but aquila also was one that did this for me.

Tuning a oud can be difficult and experience counts for a lot. Here is my method which works provided there are no issues with the string.
first, use a tuner to reach the note you are seaking for 1 string ( I usually tune the bottom string first). I prefer ariving to pitch by tightening and not loosening so in case you are trying to reach a note and you overshoot the note loosen below the not again and try to slowly creep up again by tightening. If perhaps the string is not done stretching out or catching at the nut it will be complicated to do that so pinch the string slightly and manually stretch it out.

once you got your first string tuned, ditch the tuner and starting from slightly below the note you want to reach, start tightening the peg so that notes becomes closser, keep struming both strings at the same time. when you hear the 1 single note push down slightly on the peg to lock it in. Whatever you do, if you overshoot the note by tightening try not to loosen in order to reach that note, its best to loosen further and try to reach the note by tightening. If you dont, the tuning will only last a few minutes in my experience and your oud will go out of tune shortly.

It takes practice but this is the best way to do it.




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cjmichael
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[*] posted on 6-27-2014 at 06:19 AM


I would definitely look into replacing that course with a new set of strings. Sounds like a manufacturer defect. The Pyramid oud strings are cheap enough, so I'd save yourself the headache.
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[*] posted on 6-27-2014 at 08:00 AM


Cutting a string will only deform it at the point where it is cut - i.e. at the ends not along the string length.

Try the Pyramid rectified nylon strings. These are plain nylon strings ground and polished to a uniform cylinder.
Are you using the Pyramid transparent nylon or their more costly gut coloured nylon?
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Johnnyboy
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[*] posted on 6-27-2014 at 02:02 PM


SamirCanada: Thanks a lot for your advice, I'll keep it in mind.

cjmichael: I was surprised since I never had this kind of experience with Pyramid strings for the past 5 years or so. Got them for 75 Egyptian pounds

jdowning: I have been using the transparent nylon ever since.

I had a feeling my theory was a bit farfetched. Just tried a new pair again without cutting it and it had the same problem. This has been happening with 3 pairs now! :shrug:

UPDATE: Ok, the pitch difference is now a bit less again. I think that's how it's used to be for particular string brands just as SamirCanada said.



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