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Intonation compensation--Ever gone backwards?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by pilotjones, Sep 12, 2006.

  1. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Here's a question for everyone who's made their bass. I could have posted it to the setup & repair forum, but I thought the luthiers might have the better knowledge of the specific initial bridge body placement to allow them to answer the question.

    Background: The basic bridge witness point is one scale length from the nut or zero fret; this is also twice the distance from zero to the twelfth fret.

    This bridge witness point normally gets moved, to compensate the intonation for string stretch from fretting, by moving the bridge saddle backward, away from the nut. Also, string stiffness (as a deviation from ideal) is a possible secondary cause for the compensation being necessary.

    Question: Has anyone, on any bass, ever found it necessary to move the bridge saddle towards the nut from the "ideal theoretical scale point" in order to properly intonate the string?

    As I said, this should theoretically never be necessary. But, at the same time, it is a fairly standard practice to allow at least a little saddle travel capability forwards when placing the bridge. It would seem that this is a waste. That's what I'm looking to confirm here.

    OK everybody, hands on buzzers--you need not answer in the form of a question--GO!
  2. Never.

    That's why I've taken to leaving my saddles fully extended and then mounting the bridge so the edge of the bridge is at or close to the witness point. That compensates for the initial movement of the witness point and it allows for the final position to be at a point where there isn't a sharp break angle over the saddle and the saddles are near full extension.
  3. What Hambone said.
  4. Dirk Diggler

    Dirk Diggler Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Anytown USA
    As a matter of a fact I had to move about 1/2 inch the other way. :)
    A good repairman friend of mine once said "where you think the bridge should be move it 1/4" back", I should have listened to him, but in my arrogance I forged ahead anyway.
  5. budman

    budman Commercial User

    Oct 7, 2004
    Houston, TX
    Formerly the owner/builder of LeCompte Electric Bass
    I leave a little wiggle room but not much. I locate bridges by referencing the position of the G string saddle almost fully extended at the 34" or 35" mark, whatever it may be. Often times there seems to be the need for an extended adjustment of the G-string saddle for proper intonation, making the G-string longer. The G-saddle will more or less line up with the A-string saddle with the D-saddle being out in front. I find that this happens more often with lighter gauge strings, say 0.040.
  6. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    It's pretty intreaguing that the D-string is the string that requires the least intonation! I have similar experience and approach to Bud. The D needs to be very close to the theoretical scale point, so I place the bridge at 0 intonation. Then the G has to be moved several mm's, A about the same, E awee bit more and B may use all the room left! F# needs a long bridge, I can tell you:bawl:

    But moving in the other direction? Never on a bass. I seem to recall one instance when that happened on a treble guitar, I think it was the infamous G-string, you know, the one that always breaks...:rolleyes:
  7. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    OK, so far:
    3 people simply never had to move the saddle forwards to intonate.
    1 leaves room to do it, but also never had to (if I understand you correctly, Bud).
    1 never had to, except once on a screwy guitar.

    How about some more responses? I'd like to lay this issue to rest, at least in my mind, forever.
  8. Cerb


    Sep 27, 2004
    I didn't have to move the saddles forward on my first bass to adjust the intonation. I did, however, leave room for it and almost ran out of adjustment room for the E in return.
  9. myka


    Jul 4, 2006
    Well let's think it through: why do we intonate? When you pull a string down to the fingerboard there is pressure on it that stretches the string. This pressure in turn raises its pitch. What do you do? You lengthen the string by moving the saddle away from the nut. If you have a string that does not change pitch then you have a perfect example of the scale length.

    If you were to lessen the distance between the bridge and the nut it would be because when you fretted the string the note went flat. Where do you ever a encounter string that lowers its pitch when you fret it? Good question.

  10. David, this being the Luthiers forum, the original question has the added aspect of where the bridge gets mounted the first time. All of us have had to do it and getting it in the perfect location can make a large difference in where the saddles finally come to rest.
  11. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    So to take this a step further, has anyone intonated a bass, and measured the exact distance of each string in accordance with specific string gauges? Seems like an interesting project for someone who has the time to do it.
  12. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Exactly. The point is that as David said, theoretically there's no reason to move the saddle any way but outwards. I think most of us are aware of this. What I'm looking for here is empirical data -- proof from experience. So that, if it proves out, then people may mount their bridges in the way that makes sense, rather than the way it's often done, and not have Cerb's experience duplicated. He followed conventional wisdom, leaving some extra space inwards, and this resulted in him nearly running out of adjustment space on his E string. And, if he changes string brand or gauge, that could still happen.
  13. budman

    budman Commercial User

    Oct 7, 2004
    Houston, TX
    Formerly the owner/builder of LeCompte Electric Bass
    When I say I leave a little wiggle room I mean a "little" wiggle room. I use a lot of Hipshot "B" bridges and when I'm positioning a bridge I leave a few threads exposed sticking out of the end of the G-string saddle, almost fully extended. There are times when I don't have to adjust the G-saddle at all, even with light gauge strings (go figure). I just don't want to end up with the saddle fully extended hanging on by a just couple of threads, that's all.
  14. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    OK, anyone else? Musiclogic and Myka, what are your results/experiences?

    How about Matt Schmill? You've done a few hundred, haven't you? Martin Keith? JP? All you other guys? Heck, Ken Smith, you've made a few thousand!
  15. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    well...I generally use the trev Wilkinson Monorail bridges, and generally leave about 1/8" of forward movement available just in case. I have on a very rare occassion had to adjust the saddle a touch forward, but never anything dramatic. Usually always backing it up, and with the individual saddles, I have a great amount of range with them, so 1/8" seems to be my standard.
  16. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Lineā„¢ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    not that I have built hundreds of basses, but in all the basses I have built added together with the nearly 30 fretted/fretless 4/5/6-string basses I have owned over the past 20+ years ... I have never compensated a saddle forward of the scale length that I can recall.

    This would include:

    several Rickenbaker 4001's
    numerous other custom 34" and 35" scale bolt-ons
    two 35" scale neck-thrus
    a 30" scale Silvertone
    a Steinberger XL-2
    a Kubicki X-Factor
    a few other less than memorables I know I'm forgetting

    all the best,


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