Why Can't I Intonate my guitar!

radiohead625

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,572
This is pissing me off! So i could tell my low e was off when i was playing power chords high on the neck and now i just made my guitar completely unplayable.:FM I can't find a spot on the tuner where the harmonic and the fretted 12 fret aren't sharp. I didn't think it took a freaking rocket scientist to do this.
 

radiohead625

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,572
these ones are pretty new, but i'll put on a new set and try again. I feel like a freaking idiot.
 

Sweetfinger

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
12,520
What kind of pickups and how close are they to the strings? Pickups with a strong magnetic pull will yank your guitar out of intonation.
 

ronedee

Senior Member
Messages
552
Your strings MUST be NEW!! An old set is worn into position and WON'T intonate correctly.
 

radiohead625

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,572
they're p-90s and they are only a month old, but i'll put a new set on and try tomorrow.
 

gmann

Member
Messages
8,640
DR strings, by any chance?
Have you had a problem with DR Strings? I ask because I bought my 1st set yesterday but haven't put them on yet so I have no experience with them. I'd be interested in your experiences with them.
 

StompBoxBlues

Member
Messages
19,942
Funny this came up now. I just restrung my Les Paul with thicker strings in order to tune to Eb (please, no discussion about Eb except pertaining to intonation) and of course had adjust intonation on the guitar.

I got it working well as far as playing but a couple of things that ALSO might answer or help the OP (radiohead625) would really be good.

First, radiohead625, I was going to ask these but maybe in the "guitar" forum here instead of the general...it's right up the guitar forums alley and maybe not all the gurus there read the Lounge forum.

Couple of points in general...

1) as mentioned, have to have new strings to set intonation. This is a must, but also at least in one book I have they mention that when moving the bridge saddle to get intonation one should first loosen the string...I'm pretty sure this is in case the string is binding slightly when you set it, and maybe then slips again when you start checking.

2) Pickup height can mess with the strings. BUT here are two questions I have on this...

- If the pickup magnet is too high and affecting the note, will it tend to make the note sharp or flat?
- Would the pickup too close to the strings affect the OPEN string AND harmonic (both are using the whole string) MORE than the fretted 12th string? I suspect it would as the open string is more slack and easier to have the magnet influence, where the fretted 12th is shorter distance and more tension so less affected?

3) You have to intonate to either "attack" or "decay".. because when notes ring out they change pitch slightly... most intonate on the attack which means hit the note over and over not letting it ring out too long when adjusting (I do the same when tuning my guitar). Also all books say it is a must to do this in the playing position, not with the guitar laying on a table, etc. Have the guitar just in your lap, same way you play.

4) Remember to be very careful when fretting. If lighter strings especially it is very easy to bend the string slightly when fretting. I used to just fret the 12th as light as possible when doing this, but one book pointed out that when I play normally, I fret a little harder so it is best to have good fretting technique and fret it the same as you play it for real.

5) Most books and info say that the rest of the guitar setup ought to be correct before setting intonation. String height, truss rod (neck), nut, pickup height. So if one of those is out, you may have had a problem all along, but need to have it correct to be able to set intonation.

Now, if I may, what I experience that bothers me even though I "think" I have min set right now...

First- the 12th fret harmonic note is not (on all strings) the same as the open string note. I'm suspecting the magnetic pull from the pickups might be the cause. Anyone else experience this?

Second- on most guitars, and my ES-335 (newly setup by a tech) follows this pattern...
1st string high-E saddle close to the middle of it's range.
2nd string B - slighlty longer (towards the bridge)
3rd sring D- still longer slightly. NOTE: as most, this is not a wound string!
4th string- slightly shorter (towards neck) relative the 3rd string
5th string- slightly longer than 4th
6th string Low-E - longest length of all strings.

But when I set mine I end up with the first three about the same.
4th string a good deal shorter, 5th a little longer, BUT THE 6TH string is the shortest of all, with the saddle all the way it can go towards the neck...I tried a few times and this is the position it is intonated.

Also, don't just rely on the tuner. Use your ears!!! I noticed when using my VERY precise Turbo Tuner it is more variance, using a strobe tuner (the Petersen) was easier. I'm thinking mayb the turbo is too sensitive.

Any hints, answers to the bold questions, etc. might help both me and radiohead625?
 

Sweetfinger

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
12,520
- If the pickup magnet is too high and affecting the note, will it tend to make the note sharp or flat?
.........
But when I set mine I end up with the first three about the same.
4th string a good deal shorter, 5th a little longer, BUT THE 6TH string is the shortest of all, with the saddle all the way it can go towards the neck...I tried a few times and this is the position it is intonated.
Magnetic pull will cause your fundamental and harmonics to be two different notes. You can be sharp AND flat at the same time!

If I see a string that intonates way outside of the classic "stairstep" pattern and I know it isn't magnet pull, I just change the string because it is obviously bad.
 
Messages
17,695
I was always told to NEVER intonate with harmonics...use open note vs 12th fret note...

Before this, I had trouble intonating with harmonics, sometimes it just didnt sound right...but now I have no problem intonating my guitars with open notes and 12th fret fretted notes :)
 

jcarpenter

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,825
+1 don't use harmonics just go ahead and fret the 12th fret. So new strings, check your truss rod, then start moving the saddles.
 

chervokas

Member
Messages
6,840
Big +1 to new strings...month old strings are ancient for intonation purposes, always intonate with fresh strings..and to not using the harmonic. You have to intonate by matching the open note to the fretted note.

Also, I'm not sure what tuner you're using but make sure you're a super accurate strobe tuner or it's going to be impossible to get precise results and you'll be frustrated when the tuner says the intonation is fine but your ears don't when you go back to play.

It helps to remember too that the even tempered scale is a compromise to begin with and often it's more important for the intonation to be rock solid through the middle of the fretboard where most of the playing is done than above the 12th fret. So I always check the pitch on fretted notes in on something like the 5th and 7th frets as well when I'm intonating. Especially with the D/G pair on a 3 saddle Tele--always an intonation challenge--I can live with a being slightly off intonation at the 12th fret if the pair are spot on through the 7th or 8th frets.
 

stratzrus

Philadelphia Jazz, Funk, and R&B
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
21,428
Also all books say it is a must to do this in the playing position, not with the guitar laying on a table, etc. Have the guitar just in your lap, same way you play.
If that's the case, shouldn't you adjust your intonation while standing up (unless you're BB King)?
 

buddaman71

Student of Life
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
12,848
After years of tech work for myself and the store I ran for 10 years, I had an issue once where no matter what I did, I had a couple strings that would NOT intonate. Turns out, I had a bad batch of strings and they weren't consistent in wrap. I changed strings again and it intonated perfectly. Just a thought. (Always use new strings btw.)
 

Bluzeboy

Member
Messages
7,850
something I haven't seen here (or maybe missed it) you MUST have a VERY VERY precise and good tuner. Sitting intonation with say a boss tuner is just asking for it to be off.
 
M

Member 995

Have you had a problem with DR Strings? I ask because I bought my 1st set yesterday but haven't put them on yet so I have no experience with them. I'd be interested in your experiences with them.
Over the years, I have noticed that just about every internet discussion of "can't set the intonation correctly" or "got a bad string" involves DR strings. That is, if the string is at fault and not the pickups or some other issue.
 




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