How to Set Intonation on a Guitar?
Guitar intonation is important because, without good intonation, the guitar may sound out of tune even if you’ve tuned all of the strings. The term “intonation” refers to how in tune your guitar is along the entire length of the fretboard. If a guitar is considered to have bad intonation, it will be out of tune in some areas of the fretboard and not others, giving it an overall tone that sounds out of tune.
If your guitar sounds more out of tune when you play higher up the fretboard, this is a sign that it might have bad intonation. Fortunately, fixing the problem isn’t all that difficult.
How to Set Intonation on a Guitar
Setting the intonation on a guitar involves a series of steps that corrects the problem and allows you to play in tune regardless of which notes you’re playing. The first thing you’ll need to do is tune each string precisely so you know what they should each sound like. Then, check the intonation by comparing the pitch of the fretted 12th fret note to a 12th fret natural harmonic.
After these steps are complete, press down on the 12th fret on the low E string and play the note. If it is either flat or sharp, it means that your intonation is out. Once you do all of these things, you’ll have to make sure you complete the same steps for all of the other strings on your guitar. It may take some time, but the sound will be worth it in the end.
Some Tips to Make the Process a Little Easier
When checking the Intonation on your guitar, there are a few things that you can do to make the process a little easier. These include:
- When checking a natural harmonic on the 12th fret, don’t push down on the string. Just touch it lightly instead.
- Use your tuner to check the tuning of the 12th fret harmonic, and make sure that it is perfectly in tune before you go any further.
- If the intonation is off after you’ve checked all six strings, you’ll have to go to the next step and adjust it until it sounds the way that it’s supposed to sound.
Keep in mind that even if your fretted 12th fret is in tune, that doesn’t mean the entire guitar has good intonation. Instead, it simply means that the one string is correct. Your job now is to check all of the strings and make sure that each one of them is tuned properly.
Once each string’s intonation is checked properly, you can take a look at how to adjust the intonation of the entire guitar. This process will depend on the type of guitar you own.
Adjusting the Intonation on Your Guitar
As a general rule, you can adjust the intonation of your guitar by either increasing or decreasing the length of a guitar string. You can do this easily simply by adjusting the position of your guitar’s bridge. This task is easier on some guitars than it is on others, with acoustic guitars being the most difficult. If the fretted 12th fret note is sharp, the length of the guitar string needs to be increased, which lowers the pitch.
On the other hand, you’ll need to decrease the length of the string if the fretted 12th fret note is flat. This makes the pitch a little higher and will bring it to where it needs to be to get the right sound. Electric guitars tend to be easier when it comes to adjusting the intonation, but a lot of it depends on the brand of guitar you’re playing.
For most electric guitars, you’ll have to find the screw that connects the six “saddles” to the bridge. The screw usually passes through the end of the bridge, and you’ll have to adjust the screw to pull the saddle either closer to the bridge or further away. This is what adjusts the intonation of the guitar.
Other Guitars Might Be Different
While these are the basic instructions for adjusting the intonation of your guitar, keep in mind that the brand and type of guitar you’re playing could make the process a little different. For instance, Gibson style adjustments are a bit different because the screws are accessed from the other side of the bridge, which means that the direction you have to turn the screw will change as well.
Regardless of the guitar you play, you should check the instruction manual that came with it and if there is no manual, you’ll have to look it up online. Most guitars will have screws that you’ll need to work with in order to change the guitar’s intonation, but this isn’t true for all of them. In the Floyd Rose guitars, there are hex nuts that hold each saddle in place, and you’ll have to loosen those nuts before moving the saddle back or forth to get the guitar properly tuned.
Conclusion – How to Set Intonation on a Guitar
Checking and adjusting the intonation of your guitar might sound complicated, but once you get used to it and you’ve done it a few times, it becomes much easier. The first thing you’ll want to remember is that when you’re making the adjustments, you’ll want to make sure that they are small adjustments. After all, making the string too long or too short can cause problems of its own.
You should also be careful with any screwdriver that is getting near the body of your guitar. The last thing you’ll want to do is scratch your guitar or misalign one of the components of the guitar with your screwdriver. If you use a rag to protect your guitar from accidental slips, this can help a lot.
Changing your strings regularly also helps the intonation of your guitar be correct. And if you end up making adjustments to your truss rod, the guitar should have time to settle before you make any intonation adjustments. The more you check the intonation on your guitar, the easier the process will be, which means that it won’t be long before you’ll be adjusting your guitar’s intonation like a pro.
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