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Fender AmD Intonation Problem

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by axc1080, May 28, 2012.

  1. axc1080


    Mar 30, 2011
    Hey guys, I could really use some help with this, cause it's absolutely frustrating!

    Though I'm no technician, I think I've given my bass a pretty solid setup (Truss Rod adjusted, action set, intonation set, etc). But, there's one problem that I just don't know how to fix. As I go higher up on the strings (10th fret and beyond), the strings start to get progressively sharper in pitch. On the A, D and G strings it's not that bad, but on the E string it's an absolute nightmare! The notes past the 12th fret are over 30 cents sharp! When I drop tune to D, it gets even worse.

    What makes it more confusing, as said above, is that my bass has been given a decent setup. It's properly intonated (Open string/12th fret harmonic intonation), the action is set pretty nicely, and the truss rod has been properly adjusted. The only thing I can think of as a problem is what Billy talks about here in this video:
    Perhaps the level of the frets has something to do with it? Someone please have an answer, cause it's bloody depressing :scowl:
  2. ahsbass6


    Apr 13, 2004
    How did you set your intonation?
  3. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    My first thought, and I'm far from being an expert, is maybe the intonation would be better set open string/12th fret fretted.
  4. axc1080


    Mar 30, 2011
    The typical open string/12th fret harmonic combination

    Only to add to the oddity, is that the open string/12th fret fretted intonation is set as well. 12th fret harmonic as well as fretted is in tune. Once you start going past the 12th fret, whole 'nother story.
  5. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Just to clarify: intonation (per conventional wisdom) should be 12th fret fretted vs. 12th fret harmonic. There are variations on this including 7th & 17th fretted vs. harmonic. In any case, the intonation is adjusted between the fretted note and its own harmonic. Warning: lots of stuff can throw this off including incorrectly cut nut slots and failure to set witness points at the nut & bridge saddle.

  6. axc1080


    Mar 30, 2011

    Many thanks for the help. And forgive the novice question, but if you could please explain what witness points are? Never heard of them before :meh:
  7. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism

    Like Zoo said, you check intonation open and at 12th fret, fretted, not harmonics.

    It could possibly be your bridge being too close to the nut, but I doubt it.

    When you say you have adjusted everything, did you just adjust to how it feels and looks or did you actually get out the tools and measure your gaps?

    I would make sure it has a through inspection, with proper measurements taken of the string height and relief.

    A witness point is where the string makes contact over the saddle and nut.
  8. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    As I understand it, to set the witness points, press down the strings on each side of the saddle and nut in order to set a "break" on the strings.

    202DY or others, please correct me if I'm mistaken.
  9. axc1080


    Mar 30, 2011

    Afraid I'm not that advanced into the art of bass maintenance. I used more make-shift tools, like credit cards and allan keys as spacing references. I don't have any feeler gauges and whatnot. Went to my local Home Depot and they don't stock them :(
  10. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    I generally address it as depressing the string firmly on the fretboard side of the nut & bridge but your method works just as well. If ignored, the string (the thicker, the worse) has the tendency to form a "lazy loop" as it passes over the both the nut and bridge saddle which will foul up all subsequent intonation and string height measures. Setting the witness point(s) creates a clear delineation of the vibrating string length.

    Word of caution: if this is a fresh set-up, I recommend starting with the bridge saddles as far back as possible then advancing them forward as necessary. As a result, all bends will fall behind the saddle as you zero in on the optimal position.

    Also noteworthy: its been my experience that the process is more difficult with (1) larger diameter strings as the outer wraps are more resistant to bending (2) fully wrapped strings as opposed to tapered or exposed core (3) strung thru body as this creates a more severe angle as it approaches and passes over the saddle.

  11. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism

    Feeler gauges are more of an automotive or machinist's tool, so you have to go to a parts place or an tool shop that caters to industrial trades.

    I more meant a proper measurement, than a specific one, a credit card gets you close enough that intonation should not be an issue.

    You see far to many people on here that do their own setups yet they have 3mm high strings and 2mm of relief... :eek:
  12. JLS


    Sep 12, 2008
    Albuquerque, NM
    I setup & repair guitars & basses

    No, he said, correctly: "intonation (per conventional wisdom) should be 12th fret fretted vs. 12th fret harmonic."

    That said: If the only notes you ever played were the octave harmonic & F12, fretted, your intonation would be perfect. I intonate my instruments where I play, tempering the intonation to suit. Mine are setup for extremely easy action, because of my trashed wrists, and courtesy of the strings-on leveling/recrowning method I use.

    Big strings won't intonate worth a damn that far up on the fingerboard, same as it ever was...
  13. HereIGoAgain


    Oct 16, 2011
    I support the technique of setting the 12th fret fretted note exactly one octave above open string. I've had good results doing that with my bass.
  14. georgestrings

    georgestrings Inactive

    Nov 5, 2005
    Anything I've ever read from a credable source has always advocated fretted 12th vs 12th fret harmonic...

    - georgestrings
  15. axc1080


    Mar 30, 2011
    I've been tweaking it to the 12th fret fretted as all have advocated, as well as making sure the witness points are existent. It has certainly helped, but not quite perfect yet. On a side note, for the heck of it, I switched the strings from strung-through to top loaded. It seems to give it a much deeper sound. Do I need to make any adjustments to action or the truss rod in compensation for it?
  16. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Changing string-load method can alter the overall strength length in relation to the bass. IOW, what was behind the bridge saddle may now be in front of the bridge saddle. There's no need to re-tweak the relief unless it was screwed-up to start with. I would, however, re-set my witness points and re-check / adjust intonation as necessary.

    Feeler gauges can be found at Pep Boys for $4. They're located two aisles down from the chicks-in-bikinis air fresheners...this I know.

  17. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    Interesting - I've read both. I've got Dan Erlewine's book, How to Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great, in front of me - okay, so it's not bass but it's the same principle. For intonation he recommends tuning open and setting intonation so that the fretted 12th is in tune. He says:

    "A variation on the above method is to chime the open string harmonic at the 12th fret and tune the fretted note to match the chimed harmonic. Most experts agree that this is not an accurate way of checking the 12th fret octave. I suggest using the fretted note method explained above."

    On the next page, there's a detailed intonation piece by Joe Glaser which states:

    "We don't rely on the octave harmonic because it is not necessarily in tune with the open string."

    I'm not experienced to know what's right or not, and my bass has the Buzz Feiten system so I'm operating to slightly different rules anyway! Just wanted to raise the point that not all credible sources say tune to the harmonic.
  18. HereIGoAgain


    Oct 16, 2011
    The best way of summing it up that I can think of is this:
    In a perfect world, it's 12th fret harmonic to 12th fret fretted note.

    Because of real-world issues with fretted instruments, setting 12th fret fretted note exactly one octave above the open string yields good results.
  19. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    There can be a small difference between the open string and the 12th fret harmonic, but it is small indeed with any quality new string (used strings is a different matter).

    But the difference will be less than the variance you will find when you fret a note and pluck. How hard you press the string will affect the pitch as will how hard you pluck. So unless you are exceedingly precise and always press with the same force, and always pluck with the same force, you will experience varying degrees of intonation regardless of how precisely you set the bridge. And because of the nature of fretted instruments, having exact intonation at the 12th fret does not ensure that all other notes will be in tune - in fact they won't be.

    All I'm saying is that one shouldn't get too fussy about intonation. It's inexact.
  20. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    OP, Either way you choose it's:

    open and 12 fretted


    12th harmonic and 12 fretted.

    Open and 12th harmonic is not, as op said, "typical" nor will you achieve intonation.

    OP, that is just impossible. No matter what pitch your string is tuned to, the 12th harm will be the same with the open note. Always.

    The fretted note vs. the open is your objective.

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