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Basic Tuning/Intonation question.

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by REDLAWMAN, Dec 6, 2011.

  1. I could use the benefit of your collective experiences again, please!

    I've just re-strung my Precision for the very first time.

    La Bella 760 FM (previous set was the FS done in the store).

    I (think) I understand the whole intonation thing, but there's something I don't quite understand here.

    Open strings are in tune; 12th fret harmonic is great, but if the fretted 12th fret registers as completely in tune, then all my notes lower down the neck are a tiny bit flat.

    So, I've now got all or most of my notes from the headstock to, say, the 10th fret or so to play in tune, (except a weird 'D' on my 'G' string) but in order to achieve this, my fretted 12th fret octave notes are all showing as slightly sharp on the boss needle tuner.

    Could anyone shed a bit of light on what's going on here, please? I'm a beginner, so I may well be doing something wrong or missing something obvious.

    Many thanks.
  2. How sharp is sharp? Don't use the harmonic to tune the 12th, hold the string down. Harmonics are not dependable.
  3. It's difficult for me to be able to calibrate it, Pilgrim: enough for the Boss needle not to 'lock-on' to it and 'beep'.
  4. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    Your explanation is confusing.

    Tune open.
    Check 12th fretted and adjust as needed.
    Re-check until pleased.
    Forget about the other frets, -intonation is a compromise.
  5. If I understand you correctly you were trying to set your intonation adjustments (or verify it is set properly) and then when set the bass plays out of tune in certain positions but not others.

    If my paraphrase is close to what you are doing then I have a few questions that may help narrow the possibilities.

    1. Is the action (string height) set high or low? High action will cause out of tune fretted notes on an otherwise properly set-up bass due to larger amount of string deflection (would only result in sharp notes...)

    2. Is the neck relief excessive? (intended amount of bow in the neck usually measured in 64ths of an inch on this side of the planet) This condition will result in similar out of tuneness.

    3. You mentioned you were a beginner. Are you first realizing the limitations and compromises that begat the even-tempered scale? (no matter how hard you try tuning is a compromise)

    4. How good is your bass? (again you mentioned your status so I feel I should ask) as below a certain threshold of quality intonation suffers noticeably.

    5. Inexpensive tuners may have difficulty reading accurately enough to set or verify intonation, I'm not familiar with yours so just mentioning it.

    I hope this helped you narrow down the issue for you good luck.

  6. ^this
  7. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    Yes, the higher the action or more relief, the further the string travel to fret, the more you increase it's tension, the sharper the fretted note.

    If you like high action, you are gonna have sharps. How Sharp is the question? A couple of cents is nothing to worry about.

    You need to set relief, action, then intonation in that order.
  8. Match the 12th fret note w/tuner (pressing very lightly; just enough for a clean note) to the 12th fret harmonic, and your set.
  9. I've got the action very low; as low as it will go without rattles.

    The relief isn't huge: I can't calibrate it, but it's about right judging by all professional set-ups I've seen/had done.

    It's a MIA Standard 'P', 2010.

    What I'm really getting at is that it's all very well saying check the 12th fretted note is good, but the notes lower down towards the neck are all a bit flat if the 12th is pitch-perfect band these are the notes I'm going to be playing, so isn't it better to get those to pitch and not really worry about the 12th?

    Am I overlooking something simple here?

    The tuner is a Boss tu-12ex (about Ā£80) so not a cheap one.
  10. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    If it's in tune open and on the 12, it's good. That's just how its done. It's just the nature of fretted instruments. Open is the full scale length, 12 is half. If they're on, the rest are what they are. If you set it so the 5 is perfect, others will still be out because of the pre-existing condition of being flat when proper intonation is set.

    Your tuner may be a really accurate piece and its measuring a cent or two flat. Nothing to get in a bunch about. You'll never hear it unless you are a robot. :)
  11. using a tuner to check accuracy of the fretted notes will be frustrating. I am fairly sure judging by your info you have good equipment so in my opinion you have reached the point where you realize the limitations of the even tempered scale. As 96tbird said just forget about measuring the fretted notes for out of tuneness... the even tempered scale is a compromise.
  12. Now I think I understand!

    Yes- I've been going back and forth with the tuner on trying to ensure that all the fretted notes are perfectly in tune, but once i get them perfect at, say, frets 3-7, then by the time work my way to the 12th fret octave, that's sharp a little!
  13. yes I think you have hit an important landmark in learning about music. use a search engine to learn about the origin of the even tempered scale. Also about the use of strings to create musical notes and how the fretted instrument posed problems with tuning due to string deflection during fretting
  14. I will do, thanks very much indeed and thank you everyone else for your help.
  15. grendle


    Mar 4, 2011
    Central FL
    Be sure to press the string down at the saddle for a good witness point. That will throw you off a bit as well. Make sure your strings were twisted when you put them on also. Your tuner is plenty good enough ;)

    I just checked 4 of my basses, all in tune from the 12th down.
  16. WannaJazz

    WannaJazz Supporting Member

    May 7, 2010
  17. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    Attached Files:

  18. If you've changed string brands/models then the tension on the neck could be different.

    Start your setup from scratch using this guide...

    FenderĀ® Support

    The order you do things do count.

    BTW, how was the tuning with the original set of strings before replacing? Were the lower notes in tune to your satisfaction?
  19. If you can't hear any problem, there is no problem. Don't be a slave to the tuner. use your ears.
  20. JLS


    Sep 12, 2008
    Emeryville, Ca
    I setup & repair guitars & basses
    Don't make yourself crazy with things that you can't hear. Tuning is all about compromises.

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