A problem of "intonation?"

tomkatzz

Member
I bought a new Gibson 335 and the strings on it were lifeless. I replaced them with Fender Silverbullet 10s. I checked the intonation as follows: using a Korg tuner (the $20 model), I check the open E/6th string. It's good. I fret the 6th string at the 12th fret. Also good. I do the same for every string. They all check out fine.

Only, chords don't sound too good. A barre G, for example. The 6th, 5th, and 4th strings are all sharp.

Any ideas?
 
you should play at the frets, not between them, really easy when after you get use to it, playing between the frets does cause the pitch to change, and its noticible on chords, some chords that I can not play the string at the fret I will mute.
 

The Captain

Member
This is also partly an effect of tempered tuning etc. There was a great thread on this a while back. There was much discussion about the various ways around it, but at the end of the day, unless you get a guitar built with wavy frets, there will always be some notes that are a bit sour when fretting a full chord.
As I recall, this is one reaosn for teh popularity of power chords. The root and 5th intonate well together, but the 3rd is often sour.
Many other people here know more than me.
I am pretty bored though, so I shall search the back shelves for a link to that thread.
 

The Captain

Member
Hey, I had a look, but there is only 5 pages, then zip, so it seems to have been deleted. Shame as it was a very intetresting discussion with lots of illuminating information.
I am always bored at work, which is why I spend way too much time on this forum.
 

WaitForMe

Member
I've always checked intonation using 12th-fret natural harmonics. Within minutes there will probably be a slew of reasons set forth explaining why that's wrong, but it seems to work for me.
 

tone4days

Member
hmmm ... do you grip the neck/strings really hard? .. could be that you are pushing them sharp with too much fretting pressure as compared to to the pressure you use when fretting one note at a time
 

tone4days

Member
How do you do that?
play the note at the 12th fret by fretting it and check the intonation ... then play a harmonic at the 12th fret and see if it is intonated ... then adjust the saddle until the fretted tone and the harmonic tone match
 

The Captain

Member
Yes, that's what I do, and when it's right the open note, 12th fret note and 12th fret harmonic will all match. Which brings us back to tempered tuning.
 
play the note at the 12th fret by fretting it and check the intonation ... then play a harmonic at the 12th fret and see if it is intonated ... then adjust the saddle until the fretted tone and the harmonic tone match

I play the harmonic at the 12th fret, it should be directly over the 12th fret and pretty strong, if it moves back and forth from string to string, the saddles needs to be adjusted, the fretted note is going to be hard to do well, since any change in pressure will throw the note off,

I also check the harmonic at the 19th fret, it should not move back and forth string to string, and should be directly over the fret. I have my strings pretty low on my gibsons, so they are very close to the frets, if your strings are high this might have some error that you need to account for, you can also check the harmonic at the 7th fret, hopefully your intonation is that bad though.
 

Sadhaka

Member
Is the nut too high?
:agree

Check by fretting each string at the third fret and check the clearance at the first fret, or tap the string onto the fret at the first fret. There should only be a little bit of clearance and this is the no. 1 reason for lower position intonation problems (notes that are sharp).
 

JonR

Member
I bought a new Gibson 335 and the strings on it were lifeless. I replaced them with Fender Silverbullet 10s. I checked the intonation as follows: using a Korg tuner (the $20 model), I check the open E/6th string. It's good. I fret the 6th string at the 12th fret. Also good. I do the same for every string. They all check out fine.

Only, chords don't sound too good. A barre G, for example. The 6th, 5th, and 4th strings are all sharp.

Any ideas?
Don't tune to open strings.
Use the 12th fret harmonic (on each string), compared to fretted note at 12th fret, to check intonation (optimum bridge saddle positions).
Then check random fretted notes with a chromatic tuner. Few guitars will give perfectly in tune notes at every fret on every string - but most should be close enough, for most players' ears. Guitar tuning is a compromise, even on good guitars. (There is such a thing as "inharmonicity" of strings, which upsets the simple math of string division and fret placement. It's why bridges need to be staggered rather than dead straight, and will have a small impact on fret position too.)

The issue of equal temperament (mentioned above) doesn't arise if checking with a tuner, because tuners are set to ET. However, if by "sharp" you mean the tuner says it's OK but your ear says not, then ET is the issue. Equal temperament is the 12-equal-divisions-of-the-octave system, which allows every key to be equivalent so we can modulate freely, but means every note is very slightly out of tune (in pure terms) with everything else. Only those with very sensitive ears can spot this, on an acoustic or clean electric, but distortion enhances overtones so that a fretted major 3rd of a chord (which would read as perfectly in tune according to a tuner) will sound sharp compared with harmonics of the root. This produces a "muddy" sound, lacking in purity and sustain, and is why rock guitarists use power chords.

As I say, though, if your problem is with fretted notes appearing out of tune on a tuner (against other notes on the same string that are in tune), then the problem is to do with the guitar, or with the way you are playing. Excessive pressure when fretting will make notes sharp - this is why you should tune the notes you are going to play (fretted notes), not the open strings (which you probably play less). This is easily tested with a tuner, as you should be able to see it move sharp several cents as you increase your finger pressure (the effect will be worse with high frets, of course, and if the action is high, and with light strings - although 10s are not too light, IMO).
The guitar may need a professional set-up or (at worst, if none of the above seems to explain the problem) a re-fret. :(
 

The Captain

Member
Don't tune to open strings.
Use the 12th fret harmonic (on each string), compared to fretted note at 12th fret, to check intonation (optimum bridge saddle positions).
Then check random fretted notes with a chromatic tuner. Few guitars will give perfectly in tune notes at every fret on every string - but most should be close enough, for most players' ears. Guitar tuning is a compromise, even on good guitars. (There is such a thing as "inharmonicity" of strings, which upsets the simple math of string division and fret placement. It's why bridges need to be staggered rather than dead straight, and will have a small impact on fret position too.)

The issue of equal temperament (mentioned above) doesn't arise if checking with a tuner, because tuners are set to ET. However, if by "sharp" you mean the tuner says it's OK but your ear says not, then ET is the issue. Equal temperament is the 12-equal-divisions-of-the-octave system, which allows every key to be equivalent so we can modulate freely, but means every note is very slightly out of tune (in pure terms) with everything else. Only those with very sensitive ears can spot this, on an acoustic or clean electric, but distortion enhances overtones so that a fretted major 3rd of a chord (which would read as perfectly in tune according to a tuner) will sound sharp compared with harmonics of the root. This produces a "muddy" sound, lacking in purity and sustain, and is why rock guitarists use power chords.

As I say, though, if your problem is with fretted notes appearing out of tune on a tuner (against other notes on the same string that are in tune), then the problem is to do with the guitar, or with the way you are playing. Excessive pressure when fretting will make notes sharp - this is why you should tune the notes you are going to play (fretted notes), not the open strings (which you probably play less). This is easily tested with a tuner, as you should be able to see it move sharp several cents as you increase your finger pressure (the effect will be worse with high frets, of course, and if the action is high, and with light strings - although 10s are not too light, IMO).
The guitar may need a professional set-up or (at worst, if none of the above seems to explain the problem) a re-fret. :(
Thanks for improving on my incomplete explanation.
Shame that other thread disappeared, as it was the best one I have ever read on here. It explained so many things I never understood before.
 

DaveG

Gold Supporting Member
New Gibson nuts tend to be on the high side... like everyone else said, look there.

Also, what's the accuracy of your tuner? If it's +/- 3 cents or more, like some tuners (including the TU-2), you'll end up chasing your tail trying to intonate with it.
 


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