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Intonation help needed!

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by DblG, Mar 14, 2009.

  1. DblG


    Apr 27, 2005
    Buffalo, NY
    Well, I gone and done messed up my intonation trying to learn to adjust things myself. I read the sticky which points to some pages to read and printed those out & read them. I have a 2005 MIA Fender V and can't get the E string intonated for the life of me. I now have a few questions and need some TB wisdom.

    According to the stuff I've read, the 12th fret harmonic should be the same tuning as the fretted 12 fret. If the fretted note is sharp, you are supposed to lengthen the scale by adjusting the saddle away from the nut. I've been adjusting by 1/8 - 1/4 turns for over 1/4" back from the saddle on the A string and it still fluctuates between 12-20 cents sharp. Jeez, do I keep going?? The saddle is about at about 34-5/16" from the inside of the nut now, and almost even with the B string (which is intonated) saddle. Why can't I get this string intonated??
    It is not a tapered string, and it's a .105 or .110 while the B is a .130. Anyone else experience this? Should I put the saddle back a little behind the one on the A string and start over? Any help greatly appreciated!
  2. 1/4 turn is for truss rods.

    It fluctuates by 8 cent?!? That seems weird. Do you mean you've adjusted it from 20 cent sharp to only 12 cent sharp?

    I get you are nervous that your E can't be intonated. To reassure yourself slacken the string, bring the saddle all the way back, tune up & confirm you are now flat on a fretted 12.
  3. JLS


    Sep 12, 2008
    Emeryville, Ca
    I setup & repair guitars & basses
    Bad E string.
  4. stingray69

    stingray69 Talkbass Legit

    Aug 11, 2004
    St Louis Area
    Hopefully your strings are fairly new - old strings are a b*tch to intonate properly most of the time. They say brand new strings are best, but I kind of disagree a little with that. Brand spankin new strings tend to slip in & out of tune too easily until they settle in for a day or two.

    Setting intonation is not entirely rocket science, but there are some important techniques that have to be done correctly to get the job done. A very important step that I hope your not missing is that you must re-tune the string (re-tune the open note) after each & every screw adjustment. In other words, if you make any adjustment at all to the intonation screw (move the saddle forward or back), you MUST stop right there & tune the string your messing with back to standard 440 pitch BEFORE you check it against the fretted note at the 12th fret. This is because when you make any adjustment at all to the intonation screw (move the saddle forward or back) it lengthens/shortens the length of the string & puts it out of tune. If still not correct, repeat the same process - keep moving the saddle screw (forward or back), retune, check it against the 12th fret, repeat until correct. I think I failed to do that the very first time I tried to adjust my own intonation.

    If your doing all the above correct & it still won't intonate properly, you may have other issues going on that a repair person may be better suited to help you with.

    One last thing, you'll probably notice when your finished intonating your bass that your G saddle will be the one most forward, the D saddle a little behind that one, the A saddle a little behind the D saddle, etc. Kind of looks like a set of stairs...hope any of this helps. Best of luck. :cool:
  5. AlembicPlayer

    AlembicPlayer Im not wearing shorts

    Aug 15, 2004
    Pacific Northwet, USA

    this could be an issue
    a tapered string will intonate better IME

    if you can't get enough play from the saddle, try removing the saddle and flipping it around...this should give you more room to adjust back.

    no need to panic here...this is not a major issue
    patience, methodical.. attention to detail
    take your time, use a good tuner(I like Vstrobes)
    and set intonation in the "playing" postion with the strap, not on the bench
  6. Wizard idea!! Thanks!
  7. If within say +/- 25 cents, I disagree. I can agree with doing it when getting close to final adjustments.

    If an adjustment throws your open to 13 cents sharp your 12th fretted should be 13 cents sharp.

    Nothing wrong with your method, but I don't think it's needed to set intonation.
  8. DblG


    Apr 27, 2005
    Buffalo, NY
    Wow, thanks for all the replies so fast.
    Yes, I have been re-tuning between each turn of the adjustment screw. The strings are not new, maybe 3 months old...:meh:

    I went back and loosened the string, adjusted the saddle back up around to be by the one for the A string but a little back to create the "step". When there, I tuned and rechecked the intonation and was 12 cents sharp. Being sharp, I tightened the screw to bring the saddle back and it became a few cents more sharp. Keep going back sharper, keep going back and it gets back to 12. The closest I got was 10 cents. I adjusted even less this time...maybe 1/16 - 1/8 a turn of the screw. I was amazed that the slightest turn can make as much as an 8 cent difference...too bad for me that it didn't go the way I needed it to :atoz:.

    Is there a "sweet spot" or something I should be looking for where my adjustments will actually go the way I've read they should (sharp = make distance longer)? Should I not be afraid to go back and shorten the distance when I get to within 10-12 cents? Am I turning the screw too much/little? Is it really possible that this is a bad string and can't be intonated?

    I guess I'm confused because as I lengthen the scale to decrease the sharpness, it stays sharp and the cents will fluctuate up and down between 15 -25 cents sharp along the way :confused: I would think it would get into place along the way somewhere and get intonated, but no.

    I'm off to buy a new set of strings...
  9. YES try new strings.
  10. Sometimes the 12th fret harmonic won't be true, especially if the strings are old.
    Try it this way: tune E string open. Fret E at 12th fret. Sharp? Loosen string, bring back the saddle, turning the screw a full turn(small increments make little difference, just crank it). Tune string up again(open), then fret E at 12th fret again. Should be less sharp now. If not, you have a bad string.
    You usually need to re-tune between screw turns because each time you turn clockwise you will make the string go tight to a degree-depends on the angle of attack over the saddle. Important thing is to make the string longer to get it to go flatter at the 12th until you're there.
  11. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    One really common problem, especially with older and larger strings, is the lack of a good "witness point". The string takes off from the saddle at an angle instead of coming off it right at the leading edge of the saddle. Try pushing down on the string just in front of the saddle (the nut side).

    But, if the strings arent' new, trying to set intonation is an iffy prospect. The whole process of setting intonation assumes the string is vibrating equally along its entire speaking length. If it is, then the 12th fret harmonic BY DEFINITION WILL BE exactly one octave above the open string. But if the string is worn (dirt in the windings, compressed windings, worn spots, rust on the wires, last week's chicken barbecue fat still in the strings, that beer the drummer spilled at rehearsal Thursday, etc.) then it's not going to vibrate equally. And therefore it's going to be very hit-or-miss as to whether you'll be able to get it intonated.


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