Setting intonation using a fret other than the 12th fret?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by Secret Ingredient, Apr 14, 2019.

  1. Secret Ingredient

    Secret Ingredient Member

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    I spend most of my playing time below the 12th fret, especially when playing chords. My time above the 12th is single notes or double stops, and often with vibrato or a bend. Since most of the chordal stuff is below the 12th fret, would it make sense to intonate on, say, the 9th fret? Would this bring the chords on the lower portion of the neck more in tune?

    Or, do I completely misunderstand how intonation works?
     
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  2. KGWagner

    KGWagner Member

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    A well-cut nut will satisfy most of that, but they're a little harder to get than you might imagine and may sometimes be somewhat subject to wear issues requiring more frequent replacement.
     
  3. Tone_Terrific

    Tone_Terrific Supporting Member

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    You can tune a chord at the 9th and that chord will sound good.
    Don't use any other chords, though.:D
     
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  4. B. Howard

    B. Howard Silver Supporting Member

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    I have had a few players in the shop who needed an alternate intonation setting. Usually due to playing style or instrument quirks. My procedure is to balance the octaves of the 3rd fret & the 15th or the 5th & 17th.
     
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  5. MikeVB

    MikeVB Supporting Member

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    So those are only for the two quirky guys? Or do you use those two frets for your standard setup?
     
  6. middy

    middy Member

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    I check a number of frets when I set intonation, from 5th to 17th.
     
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  7. The_Whale

    The_Whale Member

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    nope.

    There is nothing special about the 12th fret.

    Only two frets are ever "in tune"; the fret you tune to, and the fret you're intonated to. Every other fret is going to be off, at least a little.

    Intonate to the fret that works best for you.

    Here is how I intonate most guitars; fret a B chord at the 7th fret, and while fretting all 6 strings, check/set the pitch of each string.

    It's really simple.
     
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  8. Tone Meister

    Tone Meister Member

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    Ditto.

    But, beside a properly cut nut, fret slots that are also cut precisely and the actual fretwork itself will significantly help eliminate intonation deviations along the fretboard to a large degree. If you don't believe that, then work on a Suhr, Tuttle, or McInturff instrument and report back.

    Intonation integrity is one of the factors I use in deciding what guitars (necks) I will keep for personal use and which ones I'll move along.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2019
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  9. Obsessive Tinkerer

    Obsessive Tinkerer Member

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    It’s a long drive or ship, but look up Mike McConniville in Stratford Ontario. He has a proprietary compensated nut technique that is unlike any other. He’s even found a way to do it on locking nuts. I take mine to him and the intonation is perfect across the fingerboard.

    He has a ton of videos on this as well:
    https://mcconvilleguitars.blogspot.com/?m=1
     
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  10. Secret Ingredient

    Secret Ingredient Member

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    So, you tune the open strings to standard pitch, then fret the B chord, and set the bridge saddles to bring those fretted notes into proper intonation?
     
  11. bob-i

    bob-i Member

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    +1

    Also, technique is important for intonation. If you press down more on one string than others that chord will be out of tune, as well as bending notes in tune.
     
  12. B. Howard

    B. Howard Silver Supporting Member

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    No, these are the two sets of frets I will pick from for an alternate intonation. This is a very uncommon situation though and mostly of benefit when the distance between the nut and 1st fret isn't spot on.
     
  13. Khromo

    Khromo Supporting Member

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    I am not convinced any guitar will ever see perfect intonation, but I am pretty sure that few players have such precise technique that they could play it perfectly in tune in a live setting. Sit down with an accurate tuner, and grab the same note five times, maybe picking them harder or softer. Most players will find that they get about 3-4 slightly different pitches. The effect is greater on lighter strings.

    Which doesn't mean we shouldn't labor to get the hardware adjusted as "right" as we can.

    On my own guitars and basses, I try to put the "sweet spot" around where I am playing most often. Lower on the fat strings that sound choked if played too high, higher on the skinny strings. That means the low E gets intonated at about the 7th or 8th fret. The high E gets intonated at about the 10th fret, and the rest fall in between those two. I check the low positions carefully, because that's where all the money is, especially on electric bass. If I need to compromise on the 10th position on a string in order to get the 3rd position in tune, I favor the position in which I play the most.
     
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  14. The_Whale

    The_Whale Member

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    yep.
     
  15. Secret Ingredient

    Secret Ingredient Member

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    Thanks for the suggestions. I'll probably a couple different approaches.
     
  16. Mrmarshallhead

    Mrmarshallhead Member

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    Are you adjusting the saddles until the fretted notes are correct to a tuner? How are you setting the 3rd string? As in are you setting it to a D# according to your tuner, or setting it so it sounds a nice, beat free maj 3rd alongside the B on the 4th string and the F# on the 2nd?
     
  17. Tone_Terrific

    Tone_Terrific Supporting Member

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    So, how does that work out for you as you play other positions?
    Any radical outliers?
     
  18. The_Whale

    The_Whale Member

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    Tuner
     
  19. The_Whale

    The_Whale Member

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    Not typically.

    If there were one could simply choose a different fret/s.
     
  20. gunslinger

    gunslinger Member

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    No. The 12th fret is best. Don't worry that you don't play much on the upper areas of the neck. It just means that you'll sound more in tune. Because out of tuneness seems more apparent the higher up the neck a person plays.
     

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