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alternate intonation setting

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Cristo, May 3, 2006.

  1. I also posted this in the Luthier's forum but I wanted to try here as well to see if I got some more traffic.

    Anyone here use a different method for setting intonation besides the oft-cited "open string 12th harmonic" method?

    Specifically I'm referring to fretting the string octaves apart, e.g. 3rd/15th, 5th/17th, etc.

    I've read that some people do this to spread the error across the fretboard more evenly, as opposed to having a 12th fret perfectly intonated and the lower frets too sharp.

    I'm considering this because I'm not too happy with that lower fret sharpness, and I find that the vast majority of my lines are played at 7th fret and below.
  2. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    If you have an accurate chromatic tuner, you can adjust the intonation for any note. First get the open string in tune, then check the intonation of the string at the fifth fret. Then check the seventh fret. Adjust the intonation so that the fretted notes are as close to in tune as possible. You might find one to be slightly sharp while the other is slightly flat - that's where compromise comes in.

    Be sure that you have the bass in playing position when you check intonation.
  3. Son of Magni

    Son of Magni

    May 10, 2005
    Builder: ThorBass

    I have to admit I've thought about it, but never actually ventured to try it. I'm surprised that no one (that I know of) market's fingerboards with pre-intonated frets. Iow, like fan fret, but just a tiny bit to help compensate the thicker strings.

    In any case, two things I would like to point out. First, the higher the note is, the easier it is for most people to hear the intonation error. So even if you don't play up there very often, it might sound worse than you care to deal with. Second, I've learned over the years to never use anything other than my ears or a strobe tuner. I've never had a regular chromatic tuner that was any use at all. (Though they might exist..)
  4. That's a good point about the higher pitches; I hadn't considered that.

    Still, I guess the only way I'll know is to try this out myself.
  5. barebones

    barebones Supporting Member

    Jan 3, 2005
    Denver, CO
    I use this method when I don't have access to an electronic tuner and I have to intonate my bass by ear. Works fine for me.

    On a related note (oh, that's bad) I heard Eric Johnson intonates his guitars by referencing multiple octave Gs on the fingerboard. I don't recall the specifics, but he definitely felt his method was better than your standard 12th fret reference.

  6. cerrem


    Apr 4, 2006
    San Diego
    I think the best way to intonate your bass depends on the way you play it... If you spend "most" of playing time below the 12th fret...then focus on that...
    If we all had perfect basses, then intonating would be a snap... The weak link here is FRETS... Yo can set your intonation perfectly, but how do you know if your frets are dead on perfectly positioned on the fretboard... Many basses, guitars don't alway have thier frets perfectly laid out...and the shape and crowning of the frets can make a difference.. There are instruments out there that are pretty dead on perfect..but not too many..
    I agree with Turnaround...you have to compromise and make the best of what you have...

  7. Steve


    Aug 10, 2001
    It's not open string, 12th harmonic, That's always in tune.

    Open string, 12th fret or 12th harmonic, 12th fret is what you want.

    What you're really trying to acomplish is to adjust for the slight sharpening you get when you push the string down.

    I think. As always, I could be wrong but, it's worked for me for the last 30 years.
  8. jeffhigh


    May 16, 2005
    If it's lower fret sharpness (first few frets)that is bugging you then playing with the innotation at the bridge will not help you.
    You could use a shelved nut which basically reduces the distance from nut to first fret.
    But first check that the nut slots are not too high as this gives extra tension and sharpens the note at the first 2 frets
  9. Audiophage


    Jan 9, 2005
    If I intonate my bass I'll usually check the whole range of the string for any out of tune notes after I get the 12th fret just about right.
  10. cadduc


    Mar 4, 2006
    and there are fanned fret models novax/or/novacks in san leandro california made models with the fan fret feature

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