Can't intonate the A string

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Jbbinney, Feb 9, 2020.

  1. Jbbinney


    Jan 24, 2020
    Good day,

    I got a new set of strings a couple of weeks ago and i was able to intonate all of the strings except the A string.

    Bass: Ibanez GSRM20B
    Strings: Daddario EXL160S

    Help would be appreciated.
  2. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Need some more detail, please. What was the outcome (too flat, too sharp) and what's your procedure?

    JLS and sissy kathy like this.
  3. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    You gave so little information, I'm going to assume you are a novice and don't know the proper procedure to install a string. I'll walk you through it.

    First thing is to move the saddle well back toward the ball end of the bridge (that will allow you to do multiple intonation tests with no damage to the talking length of the string.) Next install the string on the bridge. If you can, either top load or quick load the string; you want to avoid stringing through the body until you have more experience (IMO there is no real benefit anyway.) Next lay the string out straight past the tuning machine. Measure about 6 inches (15 cm) past the tuner you intend to use and put a sharp 90 degree bend in the string. leaving the bend on the bass side cut the string about 1/2 inch (10- 15 mm) longer than the bend. Place the bent portion of the string down the center post of the tuning machine and start winding the string onto the post. DO NOT wrap the string around the post, use the key and wind it on (this is important, wrapping the string around the post introduces twists that a novice will neither notice or know have to be removed, using the key prevents this.) As you tighten the string keep an eye on the post and ensure the string wraps down the post (wrapping down the post insures a good break angle over the saddle and helps with intonation.) Keep the wraps tight to one another (this keeps the string from slipping later.) Just before you start putting tension on the string grasp the string at the nut with your thumb and forefinger and slide them down all the way to the bridge (that should relieve any twists you have in the string.) Tighten the string a little more, until you are getting a clear note. Once you are getting a clear note you can start to worry about intonation. Now you want to use your thumbs on either side of the saddle and press firmly down (this is called setting the witness point) pluck the string. If you have lost clarity tighten the tuner a little to get a clear note.) Rinse and repeat at the nut. And finally, the post but sideways this time you want nice sharp bends at all those places. At this point you have set witness points and a clear note but you are neither tuned nor intoned. Start moving the saddle toward the neck until the string is intonated. Once intonated you can tune. Each time you move the saddle you need to do the thumb press, also every time you tighten the string, same drill.

    That is the most efficient way I know to install a string.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2020
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  4. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    that short scale bass will never intonate quite as well as a long scale, but usually when you have a thing where all the strings are fine except one string won't cooperate no matter where you put the saddle, it means the string itself is bad.
    JLS and Jbbinney like this.
  5. Jbbinney


    Jan 24, 2020
    It's too sharp. I adjusted the truss rod accordingly and set the action but the saddle just doesn't move further back on the A string.
  6. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Try re-setting the witness points at the nut and bridge saddle. This may buy you the necessary real estate. You're checking 12th harmonic vs 12th fretted?

    202dy likes this.
  7. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    1. Witness points.
    2. Nut slot.
    3. False string.
    Setting witness points is the most common and the easiest to fix. No tools needed.

    Nut slots that aren't flat or sloped incorrectly require files or proper work around. Drill bits and sandpaper are the best of the workarounds.

    False string: If neither witness points or the nut slot are the problem replace the string. Your retailer should do that for you free of charge. Well, they should give you the string. You install it.
  8. JLS


    Sep 12, 2008
    Albuquerque, NM
    I setup & repair guitars & basses
    "Help would be appreciated."

    So would some photos.
    sissy kathy likes this.
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