HOW TO FIX THE GUITAR INTONATION



WARNING: WHEN CHANGING THE STRINGS OR DOING REPAIRS, YOU MIGHT CONSIDER WEARING APPROVED SAFTY GOGGLES IN CASE OF A STRING BREAK. IT COULD FLY UP AND HIT YOU!!!!! THIS COULD ALSO HAPPEN JUST FROM PLAYING THE GUITAR.


WARNING: IF YOU DON'T FEEL CONFIDENT IN YOUR UNDERSTANDING AND ABILITY TO WORK ON YOUR GUITAR, THEN DON'T. YOU CAN MESS UP YOUR GUITAR IF YOU DON'T DO IT RIGHT. IF YOUR GUITAR IS EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE AND IN MINT CONDITION, A SCRATCH ON IT CAN DE-VALUE IT. IT IS NOT HARD TO ACCIDENTALLY DAMAGE A GUITAR WHEN WORKING ON IT.

ALSO I CANNOT BE RESPONSIBLE FOR TYPOS OR ANY MIS-UNDERSTANDINGS OF THIS PROCCESS ON ADJUSTING YOUR INTONATION. THIS PAGE ONLY COVERS HOW TO ADJUST THE POSITION OF YOUR SADDLES TO CORRECT THE INTONATION. THERE COULD BE MANY OTHER REASONS WHY THE INTONATION COULD BE OUT, BUT THIS IS THE EASIEST AND MOST COMMON FIX, AND THE BEST PLACE TO START.

I ONLY WORK ON MY GUITARS AND HAVE SCRATCHED THEM, BUT I DON'T CARE. THEY ALREADY HAD SOME SCRATCHES, AND I'M NOT GOING TO PAY THE SHOP 70 BUCKS TO SET THE INTONATION. LAST TIME I TOOK IT TO THE SHOP, THEY HAD IT THERE FOREVER AND IT WASN'T EVEN SET RIGHT WHEN THEY WERE DONE WITH IT. I DIDN'T WANT TO COMPLAIN, SO I EVENTUALLY FIGURED OUT HOW TO SET THE INTONATION MYSELF.

ANYTIME YOU CHANGE FROM HEAVY TO LIGHT STRINGS, OR VICE VERSA, YOU SHOULD CHECK THE INTONATION. I JUST SET THE INTONATION ON MY GRETSCH AND IT WAS PERFECT. THEN A WEEK LATER I DECIDED TO PUT ON NEW STRINGS. I AM GOING TO TRY AND LEARN THE BLUES AND I WANTED TO BE ABLE TO BEND THE STRINGS WHILE PLAYING, SO I FIGURED I WOULD PUT ON SOME SUPER LIGHT STRINGS. ONCE THE NEW STRINGS WERE ON, AND TUNED UP, I NOTICED IT JUST DIDN'T SOUND RIGHT. I CHECKED THE INTONATION, AND IT WAS WAY OUT. I THEN HAD TO RE-ADJUST THE INTONATION AND NOW IT SOUNDS GREAT. SO NOW I KNOW THAT JUST BY CHANGING THE STRINGS CAN MAKE INTONATION ADJUSTMENT A GOOD IDEA.

I AM SO GLAD NOW THAT I KNOW HOW TO SET THE INTONATION MYSELF. I THINK IT MAKES A BIG DIFFERENCE TO PLAY A GOOD INSTRUMENT THAT IS PERFECTLY IN TUNE. NOTHING IS EVER PERFECT, BUT IF YOU DON'T TRY TO GET IT PERFECT, THEN IT WON'T EVEN BE CLOSE.

TRY TO DO THINGS RIGHT, OR DON'T DO IT AT ALL, UNLESS YOU ARE JUST BORED AND WANT SOMETHING TO MESS AROUND WITH, IS THE WAY I LOOK AT THINGS, BUT THAT IS JUST MY OPINION.

IF YOUR GUITAR IS BRAND NEW AND OF HIGH QUALITY, THEN THE INTONATION MIGHT NOT BE OUT. I GUESS THAT LAST SENTANCE IS A TOTAL GUESS BECAUSE I REALLY DON'T KNOW. BUT BELOW ARE THE STEPS TO CHECK TO SEE IF IT NEEDS ADJUSTMENT.




"CHANGING THE LENGTH OF THE STRINGS"
TO ADJUST THE INTONATION



IF YOUR GUITAR NEEDS THE INTONATION ADJUSTED YOU MIGHT BE ABLE TO FIX IT YOURSELF IF IT HAS AN ADJUSTABLE SADDLE ON THE BRIDGE. NORMAL WEAR AND TEAR, CHANGING THE GUAGE AND THICKNESS OF THE STRINGS, THE TENSION ON THE NECK, WORN FRETS, AND EVEN HOW HARD YOU PRESS ON THE FRETBOARD, CAN MAKE INTONATION ADJUSTMENT A THING TO CONSIDER IT YOU WANT TO SOUND YOUR BEST AND PLAY A PERFECTLY TUNED GUITAR.

IF YOUR GUITAR HAS AN ADJUSTABLE BRIDGE, THERE ARE PROBABLY A COUPLE OF ADJUSTMENTS YOU CAN MAKE ON YOUR OWN IF YOU ARE VERY CAREFUL AND GOOD WITH USING TOOLS. YOU NEED TO BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL THOUGH AND THERE IS ALWAYS SOME RISK THAT YOU COULD END UP DAMAGING YOUR GUITAR IF YOU ARE NOT VERY CAREFUL.

ALL GUITARS ARE NOT MADE EQUALLY. MY GRETSCH GUITAR IF IN MINT CONDITION IS WOULD BE WORTH AROUND $1,400. MY DAD GOT IT AT A PAWN SHOP FOR $300. HE KNEW WHAT TO LOOK FOR AND KNEW A DEAL WHEN HE SAW IT. THE BRIDGE ON MY GRETSCH LETS YOU RAISE AND LOWER THE STRING CLOSER TO THE FRETBOARD (THE ACTION)AND IT LETS YOU ADJUST THE DISTANCE BETWEEN THE NUT AND THE SADDLES ON THE BRIDGE OF EACH STRING INDEPENDENTLY. SOME GUITARS DON'T HAVE THIS OPTION AND NO ADJUSTMENTS CAN BE MADE. IF IT LOOKS LIKE YOUR BRIDGE IS MADE OUT OF ONE SOLID PIECE, THEN YOU PROBABLY WON'T BE ABLE TO MAKE ADJUSTMENTS OF THE TYPE I AM GOING TO DESCRIBE ON THIS PAGE.

THERE ARE MANY FACTORS PLAY A ROLE ON ATTAINING THE EXACT PITCH OF THE DESIRED NOTE OF A STRING WHEN PLAYED ON CERTAIN FRETS, (LIKE THE AMOUNT OF "ACTION" OR HOW HARD YOU PRESS ON THE FRET). THIS DIFFERENCE CAN BE COMPENSATED BY EVER SO SLIGHTLY CHANGING THE DISTANCE BETWEEN THE NUT AND THE BRIDGE SADDLE.(THE SADDLE IS THAT POINT WHERE THE STRING FIRST TOUCHES THE GUITAR AT THE END BY THE PICKUPS, AND THE NUT IS THAT POINT WHERE IT TOUCHES THE GUITAR AT THE END OF THE FRET BOARD UP BY WHERE YOU WOULD PLAY A STRING ON THE FIRST FRET.) IN BETWEEN THESE TWO POINTS IS THE PART OF THE STRING THAT VIBRATES AT A FREQUENCY THAT PRODUCES THE SOUND. YOUR GUITAR HAS 6 STRINGS AND FOR THEM TO TO SOUND LIKE MUSIC,(WHEN PLAYED TOGETHER) ALL OF THE FREQUENCYS BEING PLAYED NEED TO BE IN EXACT INTERVALS OF EACH OTHER SO THEY WILL RESONATE (OR BE IN HARMONY) WITH EACH OTHER. IF THEY ARE NOT REALLY CLOSE THEN YOUR GUITAR WILL SOUND OUT OF TUNE. THE INTONATION IS WHAT IT MEANS TO HAVE EACH STRING PLAY EXACTLY TUNED NOTES ON ALL OF THE FRETS.

YOU SEE, THE 12TH FRET IS SUPPOSED TO BE THE HALFWAY POINT OF THE LENGTH OF THE STRING. WHEN YOU PLAY A STRING ON THE 12TH FRET, IT RAISES THE NOTE EXACTLY ONE OCTAVE. IF THIS IS NOT EXACTLY ONE OCTAVE, THEN THIS MEANS THAT THE INTONATION NEEDS TO BE ADJUSTED ON THAT STRING. THE WAY TO CHECK FOR THIS, IS TO TUNE EACH STRING PERFECTLY WHEN PLAYING THE STRING OPEN (OPEN MEANS WITHOUT ANY FINGERS ON THE FRETS) AND THEN PLAY THAT STRING ON THE 12FRET, AND IT SHOULD BE EXACTLY IN TUNE THERE TOO.

(YOU MUST CHECK EACH STRING INDEPENDENTLY, AND ADJUST EACH STRING SEPARATLY ON GOOD GUITARS. SOME GUITARS DON'T LET YOU ADJUST ANYTHING, BUT MIGHT BE OF A HIGH QUALITY THAT DOES NOT NEED TO BE ADJUSTED.)

OK, NOW THAT YOU HAVE CHECKED TO SEE IF IT IS OUT OR NOT, HERE IS WHAT YOU DO. I JUST DID THIS PROCEDURE ON MY GRETCH AND IT WAS OUT AND IT TOOK ME ABOUT 40 MIN TO COMPLETE. IT SOUNDS A LOT BETTER IN MY OPINION, BUT MY EAR NOTICES THESE SMALL DIFFERENCES IN PITCH. SOME PEOPLE ARE TONE DEAF AND CANNOT HEAR THIS SMALL DIFFERENCE. THREE OF THE STRINGS WERE OUT ABOUT 17 CENTS, WHICH IS TWO RED LIGHTS UP FROM THE GREEN LIGHT ON MY TUNER. I USED MY "KORG" TUNER "MODEL DT-3". THERE IS A PICTURE OF IT AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE. YOU PROBABLY ALREADY SAW IT. IT COST ME 100 DOLLARS AND I LOVE IT. YOU CAN EASILY SEE THE LIGHTS EVEN ON A DARK STAGE. BENDING STRINGS IN YOUR GUITAR SOLOS USUALLY MEANS YOU NEED TO FREQUENTLY CHECK TO SEE IF YOU ARE IN TUNE BECAUSE BENDING THE STRINGS STRETCHES THEM OUT, WHICH MAKES THEM LOOSER WHICH LOWERS THE PITCH. ANYWAY...

CAUTION: MAKE SURE YOU DONT STRIP OUT ANY RUSTED SCREW THREADS, OR THE SCREW HEAD, OR LET THE SCREWDRIVER OR TOOL SLIP AND SCRATCH YOU OR THE GUITAR. YOU CAN GET SERIOUSLY HURT IF YOU STAB YOURSELF WITH A SCREWDRIVER, AND I AM NOT KIDDING!!!

ALSO BE CAREFULL THAT WHEN TURNING THE SCREWDRIVER THAT IT IS NOT TOUCHING THE BODY OF THE GUITAR. I SCRATCHED MY GUITAR WHEN DOING THIS, BUT IT ALREADY HAD SOME SCRATCHES, AND IT GIVES IT MORE CHARACTER. I AM PLANNING ON KEEPING MY GUITAR FOREVER. ANYTHING THAT IS USED, WHETHER A CAR OR A GUITAR IS EVENTUALLY GOING TO GET SCRATCHED. IF YOU WANT TO PRESERVE THE RE-SALE VALUE THEN JUST BE EXTRA CAREFULL. BUT IF YOU TOOK IT TO THE SHOP AND PAY 70 DOLLARS EVERYTIME TO SET THE INTONATION, HOW FAST WOULD THAT ADD UP.

OK...HERE IS HOW TO DO IT..........

WHAT WE WANT TO DO IS TO MAKE SURE THAT EACH OPEN STRING IS THE SAME NOTE AS THAT SAME STRING WHEN PLAYED ON THE 12 FRET. (EXACTLY ONE OCTAVE HIGHER). SINCE WE CANT MOVE THE FRET TO EXACTLY THE MIDPOINT OF THE STRING, WE WILL CHANGE THE LENGTH OF THE STRING SO THAT THE 12TH FRET IS EXACTLY AT THE MIDPOINT OF THE STRING. ONLY SOME GUITARS HAVE THE ABILITY LENGTHEN THE DISTANCE BETWEEN THE NUT AND THE SADDLE WHICH IS ON THE BRIDGE. TO SIMPLIFY THIS UNDERSTANDING I AM JUST GOING TO CALL "INCREASING THIS DISTANCE BETWEEN THE NUT AND THE SADDLE" AS "MAKING THE STRING LONGER", IN THE DIRECTIONS BELOW.



REMEMBER: IF IT HAS A HIGHER PITCH ON THE 12TH FRET=MAKE IT LONGER

REMEMBER: IF IT HAS A LOWER PITCH ON THE 12TH FRET=MAKE IT SHORTER

YOU SHOULD ONLY DO ONE STRING AT A TIME, UNTIL THAT STRING IS SET PROPERLY.

CONDITION 1: IF THE STRING WHEN "PLAYED OPEN" IS PERFECTLY IN TUNE, AND THEN WHEN YOU PLAY IT ON THE 12TH FRET AND IT IS "EXACTLY IN TUNE", THEN IT IS FINE AND PERFECT. THEN MOST OF YOUR OTHER FRETS ON THAT STRING SHOULD PLAY EXACTLY TUNED NOTES AS WELL. IF THEY DON'T, THEN IT IS "AS CLOSE AS IT CAN GET" OR IT IS SOME OTHER PROBLEM THAT I MENTIONED EARLIER AND ITS REMEDY IS BEYOND MY CURRENT SCOPE AND KNOWLEDGE BASE.



REMEMBER: IF IT HAS A HIGHER PITCH ON THE 12TH FRET=MAKE IT LONGER

REMEMBER: IF IT HAS A LOWER PITCH ON THE 12TH FRET=MAKE IT SHORTER

CONDITON 2: IF THE STRING WHEN "PLAYED OPEN" IS PERFECTLY IN TUNE, AND THEN WHEN YOU PLAY IT ON THE 12TH FRET AND IT IS "HIGHER IN PITCH", THEN YOU NEED TO MOVE THE SADDLE AWAY FROM THE FRETBOARD TO INCREASE THE DISTANCE BETWEEN THE NUT AND THE SADDLE OR "MAKE THE STRING LONGER" (I AM JUST USING THIS TERM "MAKE THE STRING LONGER" FOR CLARITY. IT REALLY DOESNT MAKE THE STRING LONGER, BUT IT INCREASES THE DISTANCE BETWEEN THE NUT AND THE SADDLE ON THE BRIDGE) IF YOU HAVE TO "MAKE THE STRING LONGER" MAKE SURE TO LOOSEN THE TUNING KNOB FIRST AND RELEASE ENOUGH TENSION TO LET THE SCREW TURN, AND ALSO SO THE STRING DOESN'T BREAK FROM OVERTIGHTENING. MOVE THE SADDLE BACK A FEW TURNS, RE-TUNE, RE-CHECK, AND IF THE "12TH FRET" IS STILL PLAYING AT A HIGHER PITCH THAN EXACTLY ONE OCTAVE HIGHER THAN "OPEN STRING" MOVE IT BACK SOME MORE AND RECHECK. MAKE SURE IT IS GETTING CLOSER AND THAT YOU ARE GOING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION. IT TAKES A LITTLE TRIAL AND ERROR. ONCE YOU ARE SURE YOU ARE GOING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION AND IT IS GETTING BETTER, THEN FINE TUNE IT UNTIL IT IS EXACT. CAUTION:REMEMBER TO LOOSEN THE TUNING KNOB EACH TIME BEFORE YOU MOVE THE SADDLE BACK!!! THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER TO DO!!! IF YOU FORGET THIS STEP THE STRING COULD BREAK AND PUT YOUR EYE OUT!!!

WHEN I ADJUSTED THE INTONATION ON MY GUITAR TODAY, I HAD TO TOTALLY TAKE THE SCREW OUT AND REMOVE THE SPRING THAT WAS ON THE SCREW THAT PULLS ON THE SADDLE, TO MAKE ENOUGH ROOM TO MOVE THE SADDLE BACK FAR ENOUGH TO GET IT IN TUNE. MAKE SURE IF YOU HAVE TO DO THIS THAT YOU KEEP IT SOMEWHERE SAFE JUST IN CASE YOU NEED IT LATER. IF YOU HAVE TO REMOVE THESE LITTLE SPRINGS, IT MIGHT MEAN THAT THE GUAGE (THICKNESS) OF THE STRINGS THAT ARE ON IT NOW, ARE DIFFERENT THAN WHAT IT WAS ORIGINALY DESIGNED FOR. THE MAIN THING IS THAT YOUR GUITAR SOUNDS GOOD WHEN YOU PLAY IT.

UPDATE 1-2-2008: (THANKS FOR THE COMMENT ON MY ARTICLE, WHOEVER YOU ARE.) I JUST PUT ON SUPER LIGHT STRINGS AND WHEN I ADJUSTED THE INTONATION AGAIN, I HAD TO MOVE THE SADDLE BACK CLOSER TO THE CENTER OF THE "ADJUSTMENT RANGE" SO I GUESS I WILL EVENTUALLY PUT THE SPRINGS BACK IN IT SO I DONT LOSE THEM. MY GUITAR PLAYS GREAT WITHOUT THESE LITTLE SPRINGS, AND I THINK THAT THEY ARE JUST THERE TO KEEP THE SADDLE IN PLACE WHEN THE STRING IS OFF WHEN RE-STRINGING, SO WHEN YOU PUSH THE STRING THROUGH THE BACK OF THE GUITAR, THE HOLES WILL LINE UP.



REMEMBER: IF IT HAS A HIGHER PITCH ON THE 12TH FRET=MAKE IT LONGER

REMEMBER: IF IT HAS A LOWER PITCH ON THE 12TH FRET=MAKE IT SHORTER

CONDITON 3: IF THE STRING WHEN "PLAYED OPEN" IS PERFECTLY IN TUNE, AND THEN WHEN YOU PLAY IT ON THE 12TH FRET AND IT IS "LOWER IN PITCH", THEN YOU NEED TO MOVE THE SADDLE CLOSER TO THE FRETBOARD TO"MAKE THE STRING SHORTER".

CHECK, RE-CHECK, RE-TUNE, UNTIL IT IS CORRECT. THIS MIGHT TAKE A LITTLE TIME. YOU MIGHT HAVE TO SET AND RETUNE 4 OR 5 TIMES PER STRING TO GET IT EXACT.

REPEAT THESE PROCESSES ON ALL OF THE STRINGS UNTIL YOUR GUITAR HAS PERFECT INTONATION. HAVING PERFECT INTONATION IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF SOUNDING GOOD.



WHAT IF THE ACTION NEEDS ADJUSTMENT

IF THE STRING IS TOO CLOSE THE FRETBOARD, THAT MIGHT CAUSE IT TO HAVE A "BUZZ" WHEN PLAYED ON CERTAIN FRETS. ALSO IF YOU HEAR A BUZZING SOUND, IT CAN JUST BE A PICKUP THAT IS BUZZING. YOU HAVE TO KINDA DO A LITTLE DETECTIVE WORK TO FIGURE OUT EXACTLY THE CAUSE OF ANY PROBLEMS.

IF IT IS TOO HIGH OFF THE FRETBOARD IT WILL HAVE A "HIGH ACTION" WHICH IS NOT GOOD BECAUSE WHEN YOU PRESS THE STRING DOWN TO THE FRET, IT STRETCHES THE STRING TO A HIGHER NOTE. THIS CAN BE ADJUSTED. YOU WANT IT AS LOW AS IT CAN GO AND STILL BE ABLE TO NOT HAVE A BUZZ. GOOD GUITARS "PLAY CLEAN" AND HAVE A "LOW ACTION". THE ACTION CAN ALSO BE ADJUSTED BY CHANGING THE TENSION ON THE NECK. BOTH OF THESE TYPES OF ADJUSTMENTS ARE VERY RISKY AND SHOULD ONLY BE DONE BY SOMEONE THAT HAS SUCCESSFULLY DONE IT BEFORE. I TRIED TO FIX THE TENSION ON THE NECK AND ENDED UP HAVING TO TAKE IT TO THE SHOP. IF YOU DON'T KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU ARE DOING ON THIS TYPE OF ADJUSTMENT, THEN DON'T RISK IT.

HOWEVER, A FAIRLEY EASY THING TO DO FIRST, IS TO "ADJUST THE LENGTH OF THE STRING". THIS IS FAIRLY EASY AND AS LONG AS YOU DON'T BREAK A RUSTY SCREW OR STRIP THE SCREW HEAD, YOU SHOULD BE ALRIGHT. HOWEVER, ALL GUITARS DON'T HAVE THIS ABILITY TO ADJUST THE LENGTH OF THE STRINGS.


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