What is the effect of scale length on intonation?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by boyce89976, Jan 21, 2015.

  1. boyce89976

    boyce89976 Supporting Member

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    I just read a Tom Anderson ad (not Tom's ad, but an Ebay ad for one of his guitars) and the ad says "24.75" scale length for easy playing, proper intonation and bold rich sound"

    Are shorter scale length guitars inherently better intonated or tempered? And if so, why doesn't everyone build their guitars to that scale length?

    Thanks in advance for educating me on this.
     
  2. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    it's just the opposite; the longer the scale, the less the strings will stretch with fretting pressure and the less compensation you'll need.

    (tradeoff being a stiffer feel and a brighter sound).
     
  3. icr

    icr Member

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    Compared to a mandolin, that is correct.
     
  4. Jasonspap

    Jasonspap Member

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    My Fender Mustang (24" scale), my Epiphone SG G400 (24-3/4" scale) and my Fender Strat (25-1/2" scale) all have perfect intonation. I don't think scale length, on a properly set up guitar, has anything to do with it. Of course, I do all my own setups ;)
     
  5. Eagle1

    Eagle1 Member

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    Of course it does, the shorter the scale the more effect small inaccuracies have.
     
  6. swiveltung

    swiveltung Member

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    I've been playing with various shorter scale guitars for a couple years now that my hands are starting to freeze up (68 YO). I've been doing strat types from 24" scale to 25.5 scale , including 24.75. I can say at this point pretty much universally that the 25.5 scale sounds a lot better on the lower notes, E and A strings. That's not intonation, but sound though.
     
  7. kimock

    kimock Member

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    That is correct.
    It's also true the string will be more in tune with itself, less false, as the length increases relative to the cross-section and the tension goes up, so shorter scale lengths are disadvantageous with respect to intonation beginning right at the string.
     
  8. boyce89976

    boyce89976 Supporting Member

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    You guys are awesome! Thanks for the great info!
     
  9. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    well, it's not so much that the shorter guitars themselves don't have "perfect intonation", but rather that it's harder to keep them that way when you play them.
     
  10. dennyman

    dennyman Member

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    Steve,

    I guess that applies to mandolins as well?
     
  11. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    Not Steve, but no, because mando strings are thin and tight.

    (edit: moving the bridge becomes more critical, the tiniest change makes a bigger difference in intonation, but the regular push-pull of playing has little effect compared to guitar because of the mando's very high string tension.)
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2015
  12. boyce89976

    boyce89976 Supporting Member

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    Okay, so next question is... My Tele suffers from really bad intonation on 3rds on the treble strings. Would a compensated nut, like the Earvana, help? By comparison my Duo Jet is much better tempered and it has the non-adjustable bridge (floating, but no individual string adjustment).
     
  13. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    that's just a matter of setup; nut slot height, intonation adjustments, that kind of thing.
     
  14. boyce89976

    boyce89976 Supporting Member

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    Hi Walter, thanks, I know the slot for the G string is a little high, but I think it's worse than just a set up. It's a Tele I built out of original Fender parts (all American Deluxe), and the intonation is spot on... re-intonated last night, and it's as close to perfect as I can get it... spent a lot of time on it. I'm definitely going to have the nut checked out by a pro though before I make any alterations to it.
     
  15. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    a high G slot is the worst culprit! that makes the first 3 or 4 frets sharp on the G string. intonate at the 12th fret all you want, with high nut slots the open chords still won't be right.

    if these are all american deluxe parts then trust me, it's not "worse than just a setup", that's the entire problem.
     
  16. boyce89976

    boyce89976 Supporting Member

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    Thanks Walter, I'll take it to someone locally on Monday and let you know. Appreciate a pro's perspective!
     
  17. MarkB71

    MarkB71 Member

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    I posted a separate thread recently asking for some help on an intonation problem on an ESP EC-1000:

    http://www.thegearpage.net/board/showthread.php?t=1530021

    I kinda got the answer I needed there, but walterw really nails it here! The physics and geometry of this make so much sense. Thanks walt!
     

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