Intonation: Pickups down or normal

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by dankayaker, Jun 20, 2008.

  1. dankayaker

    dankayaker Supporting Member

    Messages:
    4,628
    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2003
    Location:
    Blacksburg VA
    Well, I've spent way too much time intonating one of my guitars (has a VSVG trem . ..PITA). I'm using a Strobostomp and getting pretty different results depending on were I put the pickups during the process. I know the singles have magnetic pull. If intonation is really a function of matching distances then I understand removing pickups pull as a possible source of distortion, but if when the pickups are up the strobe says I need different saddle positions . . .then the distance thing falls apart.

    Wisdom from luthiers please.
     
  2. David Collins

    David Collins Member

    Messages:
    2,253
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2007
    Location:
    Ann Arbor, MI
    If the pickups are too close (especially the neck pickup), you will usually be able to see a pulsing pattern in the strobe. That's stratitis, and you just need to lower the neck pickup, and sometimes the mid a bit as well. If the bars are moving smoothly when testing and not pulsing, your pickup positions are probably fine.

    Best words of wisdom I can offer - don't sweat it too much, 'cause it will drive you nuts.

    Setting intonation is not a precision setting. The influence of your hands creates a far wider range of error than the precision your tuner is capable of measuring, and it can drive you nuts if you're trying to make it always land on steady. Of course you can play the same note 5 different times and get 5 different readings. Slide up to to a note, down to it, play it in a variety of chord shapes, and it's easy to get results of +/- 2 cents.

    With a good tuner you are also not bound to measuring at the 12th fret. Play around the whole upper range, maybe 10th to the 17th, or as high as you're likely to play any notes in chords or intervals (if you find yourself rarely playing more than single notes above a certain fret, don't let intonation errors in that range influence your compensation much). Play a few runs, stop in place, then look at the tuner (of course constantly checking to see if your open string is still dead on). If you find that in the 10th-17th range you're getting anywhere from 1-3 cents sharp, then you need to flatten it about 2 cents (or bring it back about .014").

    You'll quickly find that it's futile to try to get exact compensation that will be right on in every situation. The goal (in most cases) should be to set it so it falls in the middle of the range of error.

    Magnetic pull certainly influences this, but so long as you're not getting the pulsing just set your pickups to where you plan on keeping them and adjust to whatever is necessary. Don't try to adjust your pickups out of the way, set the intonation, then bring them back up, because things will change.
     
  3. testing1two

    testing1two Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    1,741
    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2008
    Location:
    Southern California
    +1...no +2. this guy is good
     
  4. dankayaker

    dankayaker Supporting Member

    Messages:
    4,628
    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2003
    Location:
    Blacksburg VA
    Thanks David,
    I appreciate you breaking it out like that. You're right, far to many variables for me to control to get the same reading every time. It IS DRIVING ME NUTS !

    The main issue is the fact that the VSVG is such a pain in the bum to deal with . . .and frankly, I'm not sure the saddles are staying put when tightened down . ..I think it may shift a bit.
     
  5. The Pup

    The Pup Supporting Member

    Messages:
    2,727
    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2005
    Well stated and informed response.
     
  6. epluribus

    epluribus Member

    Messages:
    9,175
    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2005
    Phew! I feel better now too. A while back, and after much futility, I finally settled on tuning my guitars for the region of the fretboard that gets used most--which is different for different music and different guitars.

    Esp useful notion, the part about imprecise fretting inducing more temperment error than saddle position--always wondered about that. Now I knows.

    --Ray
     
  7. dankayaker

    dankayaker Supporting Member

    Messages:
    4,628
    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2003
    Location:
    Blacksburg VA
    I'm going to revive this thread because I'm about to throw my guitar and tuner (strobo2) out the window. I've been using the harmonic on the 12th then fretting the 12th and adjusting from there. Sometimes I'd do the 2nd - 14th but a luthier told me that most guitars play sharp above the 12th fret so that does not always give you the best results.

    So . . . I decide to try tuning each string open, then fretting . . . .well it seems
    that when doing it this way I discover that the open string registers sharper than the harmonic . .or put another way .the harmonic is flat compared to the open string . . .so . . .I need a drink.

    The single most frustrating technical issue I've ever dealt with . . .that VSVG bridge makes it a PITA also.
     
  8. Guinness Lad

    Guinness Lad Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    15,344
    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2004
    Location:
    On top a mountain of Chocolate Chips
    Another thing you can try is play a harmonic on the 5th fret and play the next higher sting at the 7th fret. Double check the accuracy by playing the same harmonic played earlier as a fretted note and compare it to the 7th note fretted on the higher string. Getting the harmonic and the fretted note to play in tune to the fretted note at the 7th fret seems to work well.

    I pretty much quit using strobe tuners for intonation, I now try to get the sweetest sound, rather than perfect intonation.
     
  9. David Collins

    David Collins Member

    Messages:
    2,253
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2007
    Location:
    Ann Arbor, MI
    The open string is going to be sharper at the initial strike, because the string is stretching farther as it's moving. Strings change pitch a good deal actually from the initial drive though it's decay.

    How do the open string and 12th fret harmonic sound when you play them together?;)

    You're going to have to put away the tools sooner or later and play. There will never be perfect pre-set intonation, not on a guitar, not on a piano, not on an organ - nothing with pre-determined tones, nothing made of wood, and certainly nothing with frets and strings.

    All you can really do in the end is shoot for the middle of the range of error, then work for your intonation as you play. And yes, I certainly agree that the VSVG is not the easiest to adjust. I will often dial in my tuner to figure out how many cents I want to change a not, then figure change in position from that. This way I can loosen the string and usually have to only measure and move the saddle position once. I still like the traditional Strat bridge though.
     
  10. dankayaker

    dankayaker Supporting Member

    Messages:
    4,628
    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2003
    Location:
    Blacksburg VA
    Thanks guys . . . .I do have other guitars that don't give me fits so I get plenty of play time. I'm ordering another bridge (easier to adjust) for my guitar today.

    I've tried the 5th-17th . . . and I get dramatically different saddle positions than from using the 12th harmonic and note. I know not to expect perfection and am aware of my role in the intonation as I play, but this is just a bizarre unique experience.
     
  11. brent

    brent Member

    Messages:
    1,120
    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2002
    Location:
    chicago
    I agree with harryjmic, I pretty much don't use the strobe tuner other than to get close. It will make you crazy just relying on the scope.
    I find it is pretty easy to adjust it better for myself if I do the final tweaking by ear and compensating for the way I play
     
  12. GuitslingerTim

    GuitslingerTim Member

    Messages:
    2,178
    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2005
    I felt the same way till I started using the method Peterson recommends. Switch to the neck pickup, turn the tone and volume to zero, then turn up the volume just enough to get a reading on meter--works like a charm.
     
  13. Guinness Lad

    Guinness Lad Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    15,344
    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2004
    Location:
    On top a mountain of Chocolate Chips
    I use a tuner when playing, just not for intonating. I also do it lik eyou wrote, especially when it gets a little jumpy.
     

Share This Page