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How to intonate...

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Microbass, Nov 26, 2002.

  1. I can't find the thread that explained how to do this...

    SO here I am. I wanna intonate my 4-string, and I have a tuner, and the nesserary (sp!) tools, just one thing, will the height of the saddles affect intonation? and how would I do this using a tuner?

  2. DougD

    DougD Bassman7654

    Sep 19, 2002
    North Las Vegas NV
    Play a note at the 12th fret G-string. If the note is sharp, move saddle forward (toward the headstock). If the note is flat move saddle backward (away from the headstock) adjust saddles until the note is in pitch with your tuner. Do this for all strings. Raising the saddles will affect your string tension so don’t do that while you are trying to intonate.
  3. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Actually it's the other way around.
    Play the harmonic at the 12th fret, then compare it to the fretted note there.

    If the fretted is sharp compared to the harmonic, move the saddle back (away from the neck).

    If the fretted is flat compared to the harmonic, move the saddle forward (towards the neck).
  4. OK thanks... but I don't understand "compare harmonic with fretted".. I know I sound dumb ;), but what d'ya mean?

    Thanks :D
  5. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    You lightly touch the string at the 12th fret with your fretting hand and pluck the string.
    You hear a bell-like tone, the harmonic. Use this tone to tune the string, e.g. the G-string to G.
    Now fret the G-string at the 12th fret and pluck it.
    If this note is sharp (compared to the G [harmonic]) move the saddle back, if it's flat move it forward.
  6. Matthew Bryson

    Matthew Bryson Guest

    Jul 30, 2001
    The 12th fret harmonic should be the same tone as the open string - compare that tone to the octave played at the 12th fret. When the tuner says your open G string is in tune, but you play the G at the 12th fret and the tuner says you are sharp or flat then you need to intonate by moving you bridge sadles forward or back. Up and down has some effect, but set your action where you want it for comfort, then intonate.
  7. Yes, the most important part of all- do this after you made any other setup adjustments to the bass, and after the neck has had time to settle if you've been adjusting the truss rod. Then tune all of your strings how you normally do, then follow the procedure the other posters have mentioned.
  8. Aight guys, thanks for clearing that up. :D :D
  9. OK, this just totally ain't working...

    e.g. I tune my E, playing at the 12th fret, once intune, I play the 12th fret, and move the saddle backwards, check again, tune the E again, and reapeat. But - what's happening, on every string, is the saddle seems to be very far back, and on the E string, the spring on the saddle is practically closed..

    I've straightend my neck, and lowered my saddles, but even before I straightend out the neck, I still had this problem.

    Oh, what to do?! :confused:
  10. help me :( pwease? :D
  11. Matthew Bryson

    Matthew Bryson Guest

    Jul 30, 2001
    So you are saying that the bridge saddles seem to all be very far back. You say that the E is almost all all the way back - and I take it the others are slighty closer to the nut. The big question is are you achieving proper intonation with them in those positions? If yes, then what's the problem - that it looks funny? Is your action really high? It might just be where they need to be for your string height. It might help if you describe how your strings are set up - high,low,medium action - are the strings set up rounded, following the curvature of the finger board or are the set up more flat. I'm certainly not the athority on this stuff, but the more details you post the better the answer will be when that guy comes along to help you out. Good luck.
  12. OK, sorry Creepy. here goes...

    Tonight I've set my saddles to follow curvature. The neck has some relief (a slight bend upwards! i think thats right..?) and my action is medium - at the 12th fret there is about 1/2 of a cm from the fret board to the E string.
  13. hmm well i tried intonating it anyway, and I started on the E.. looks like I'm gunna have to the srping off of the screw.. :confused:

    grrrr!!! just tried new batteries... still no bloody difference :(

    Im using a chromatic tuner (Korg CA-20), think this has anything to do with it?
  14. jani_bjorklund


    May 22, 2002
    I had a bass (Jazz Bass) years ago that was just impossible to intonate. I finally had to move the bridge slightly backwards and the problem was solved. Maby that's not your problem but it shurely was in my case.
  15. Urgh... How far did you move the bridge?
  16. I suggest goin' down to your music store first, see if they can get it intonated. If they can't do it, see if they can move the bridge for you if you don't feel comfortable doing it yourself.
  17. jani_bjorklund


    May 22, 2002
    As I remember it I moved the bridge 1/4". That's enough anyway. If you move it further there is a possibility that the old screwholes will show.
    Of course you'll have to plug the old holes with suitable hardwood dowels and glue!
    If the operation seems unmanageable, take the bass to a music shop or to a luthier.
    If it's a valuable instrument it's a good advice to take it to a luthier in the first place.
    If it's not, do it and you'll be one experience richer.
  18. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    I believe that before I did major surgery to the bass I would be a little more sure of what's going on.

    So far you have only mentioned the E string.

    Do the other strings intonate properly? If they do your prob is probably nothing more than a bad string.

    Has the bass ever played in tune as you play down the neck? If it has, the bridge placement CAN'T be faulty. By the way, an out of position bridge is a really, really rare thing on a production bass.

    I would suggest that, for the moment, forget the harmonic method of intonating. It works great but only if you have a very clear understanding of the mechanics of intonation.

    Do the following in this EXACT order.

    1-Adjust the action heigth if needed by changing the heigth of the bridge rollers.

    2- tune all the strings to exact standard tuning.

    3- Play the G string at the 12 fret. Note whether the tuner indicates sharp or flat. If it's sharp at the 12 fret, make the string longer- move the roller away from the headstock untill the 12 fret is in tune. If it's flat at the 12 fret, adjust the roller in the opposite direction.

    4- IMPORTANT: after each bridge adjustment, go back and retune the open string to standard pitch. It will have changed.

    5-Repeat for each string.

    If any string fails to intonate properly, CHANGE THE STRING FIRST. Yes you will occasionally get a new string that wont intonate. Old strings are notorious (sp?) for not intonating properly.

    If you want to make certain that your bridge is located properly, it's a simple matter to just measure it with a rule.

    Measure from the nut to the 12th fret. Measure from the 12th fret to the saddle (bridge roller). The measurements should be the same within about 4 to 5 times the diameter of the string with the rollers fairly well centered in the range of adjustment.

    The golden rule is BE PATIENT. the first couple of times takes a while.

    Hope this helps.

    Before the disagreers jump in with all the reasons that my advice is wrong, let me make it CLEAR! This is the way that has and does work for me. It's not offered as the ONLY way.
  19. I got yer back here pkr2!
  20. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I think you have to accept that some basses will be impossible to intonate - I've never heard of a "Jim Deacon P bass" - but some of the cheap basses I had when I started out, were just not worth attempting to intonate - anything above the 7th fret was hopelessly out! But then I am talking about basses that cost £15!! ;)

    If it was a current Squier/Fender, for example, then I would say that it was very rare for a production bass like this, to be impossible to intonate - but there are some basses out there, where it would be cheaper to get a new bass, than spend any more time/money on them! :D

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