A couple of folks have brought up the truly annoying problem of keeping B
strings in tune on both banjo and guitar. I had a chance to discuss this
with someone several years back who understood the problem well (I forget
who - but it was someone in a position to speak with authority). It was
The problem stems from the way Western music defines the pitch B. If you
go through the various naturally occurring harmonics by dividing a
vibrating string into its multiples (halves, thirds, fourths...) you will
eventually come across all of the tones of our chromatic scale, *but* the
pitch we define as B is reconciled slightly from its natural relation to
the harmonic series in order to 'harmonize' with our scale system.
Hence, B is always a tough pitch to tune as it never really *IS* in tune.
I have also been told that this is why the traditional violin family of instruments avoided the pitch as does the wind family.
Perhaps someone with a better understanding of this can offer
a more cogent explanation. =)
Thanks to John Lawless for this info!