Intonation Issue

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by dryicekills, Jul 16, 2008.

  1. dryicekills

    dryicekills Member

    Apr 11, 2008
    Hey guys. I have a question regarding intonation...

    After tuning the open string to perfect pitch, do you use the 12th fret FRETTED, or harmonic, to judge?

  2. mike80

    mike80 Member

    Mar 8, 2008
    Near Lima, Ohio
    It's the 12th harmonic in comparison to the 12th fretted. If the fretted note is flat, the saddle needs to be closer to the neck. If it is sharp, the saddle needs moved away from the neck.

    Also, you'll want to use new strings when setting intonation, and have the action adjusted to where you want it before intonating it. If you intonate, then adjust the action, you'll have to intonate again.
  3. wavey63

    wavey63 Member

    May 28, 2007
    +1 Also, I find that sometimes I need to adjust a bit after intonation to get the pitch good to my ear.
  4. The_Whale

    The_Whale Member

    Jul 15, 2004
    Gaithersburg, MD
    12th fret fretted.

    And if you are using a tuner, you can use any fret to test/set the intonation. There is nothing special about the 12th fret.
  5. Bob V

    Bob V Member

    Dec 31, 2007
    Glen Head, New York
    Not to beat a dead horse, but perhaps theres some confusion since there are three things going on: open, fretted, and harmonic. First tune the open string, like you said. Then you're checking the fretted note to see how much the string stretches to meet the fingerboard, and how much compensation you need at the saddle to compromise for this happening. The harmonic is just a substitute for the open string.

    In the days before strobe tuners, with a good ear you could compare the harmonic (which is an octave over the open note, no matter what the bridge saddle compensation is set for) with the 12th fret note. Now with electronic tuners it's just as easy to tune the open string and check the fretted string without bothering with the harmonic.

    By the way there is something magical about the 12th fret - because it's the way it's done:stir. Reason being that any saddle compensation is a compromise and you cannot get perfect intonation over the entire fretboard, so the 12th is the most popular compromise and unless you have a Buzz Feiten ear, you probably don't want to venture out on your own using other frets to set your bridge saddles. Having said that, there are luthiers who tune the string while fretted at the third fret, and check the compensation at the 15th fret.
  6. K-Line

    K-Line Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 24, 2006
    St. Louis, Missourah
    +1, also, use the bridge pickup position. For some reason it gives a pure pitch when setting intonation.
  7. BryanMatthews

    BryanMatthews Member

    Feb 23, 2007
    Planet Claire
    1 set pickup to NECK position
    2 roll tone setting to 0
    3 sound open string and tune it using QUALITY tuner
    4 fret 12th fret and see how sharp of flat it is with the tuner
    5 adjust string as needed, sadle either forward or back
    6 repeat step 3 through to 5
    7 when open string and fretted 12th fret note are the same , you have done it
    8 go to next string

    all you need to know and good luck


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