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RATIO TUNE-A-LELE, RATIO BASS AND RATIO GUITAR By Brian Berk Many MI products are designed to fill a need often identified by either engineers, professional musicians or other end users alike. Other products attempt to improve upon already introduced items. Less often, products are released to solve an issue that musicians might not yet be aware of. Graph Tech Guitar Labs, the largest guitar nuts and saddles manufacturer and distributor in the world, has introduced products fitting the latter description, including its Ratio balanced-gear tuning technology for the guitar. The company will also soon release Bass Ratio and Tune-a-lele Ratios for the ukulele. The problem that Graph Tech is solving is that, with standard tuner use, the same gear ratio is used for every string, and each string is treated the same, yet each string tunes differently to tuning adjustments. Strings with a thick core react quickly to any changes in tension — for example, a plain G string or a low E string. Turn the knob a little, and it goes up a lot in pitch, which is why many guitarists spend a lot more time tuning a plain G, low E or A string, or even a high E (because it’s so insensitive to tuning adjustments). Strings for every stringed instrument have this issue, making tuning, re-tunings and open tunings a lot more complicated than they need to be. “The Ratio line of guitar, bass and ukulele follow the Graph Tech mission of better performance, not a copycat product and really do what we say they will do,” Graph Tech founder Dave Dunwoodie told the Music & Sound Retailer. “Every guitarist and bass player would love to tune faster, tune on the fly or change to open tunings in a heartbeat. Who wouldn’t? And now, it’s possible! We can see the shift starting to happen. We let the choir do the preaching. Many top professionals are now using them, [including] Ed Sheeran, Steve Vai, James Valentine (Maroon 5), Jasen Rauch (Breaking Benjamin) and many more. Top-tier guitar techs like Thomas Nordeg (Frank Zappa and Steve Vai) love them as well. They are standard equipment on premium models of Framus, Martin, Washburn, Klos and many more.” According to Dunwoodie, Ratio is a perfect example of working on a project 25 years ago and learning a lot of cool things along the way, but nothing became of said project. “What I did find out was why my plain G string on my Strat was so finicky to tune and why it went out of tune more than my other strings,” he said. “Well, it turns out that a string’s sensitivity to tension is determined by how thick the center core is. The thicker the core, the more sensitive. So, a plain G string is really sensitive to any tension changes. The wound D string, right beside it, has a thin core, so it is a lot less sensitive to tension changes. So, barely turn the machine head on a G and it goes up a lot. Do the same amount of turn on a D or high E, and it barely goes up in pitch.” Dave Dunwoodie “What if every string reacted the same to any tuning


MAY 2019

Profile for Music & Sound Retailer

Music & Sound Retailer May 2019, Vol 36 No 5