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Intonation - How Can I Check It Myself?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by wannabe_bassist, Mar 23, 2003.


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  1. wannabe_bassist

    wannabe_bassist Guest

    Jan 25, 2002
    Florida
    What process is used to check the intonation of a bass?

    I believe that you check the harmonic on the 12th fret and then adjust the length of the string at the bridge appropriately.

    But I am still a beginner, so I just want to ask those in the know.

    I could take the bass to my local guitar store, but I have seen the people there and I suspect that I might be the best one to do this....

    Is there a website or link that goes into greater detail on this?

    I imagine that learning this myself would be a great way to become more familiar with my bass guitar.
     
  2. Ziggy

    Ziggy

    May 9, 2001
    Orange County, CA
    Wannabe,

    Sounds like you have it already figured out.

    You can rough it in - should you need to do so, by measuring the distance from the inside of the string guide / nut to the 12th fret wire.

    -double that distance and adjust the 1st string saddle to this distance.

    -adjust the second string saddle back from the first the same amount as it's string gauge.
    ie: 2nd string is .060" gauge, move that saddle .060" back from the first saddle... continue this procedure for the remaining strings and saddles.

    The 'fine' tuning, as you mention in your query is;
    -the 12th fret harmonic and the 12th fretted note should be the same.

    -sharp = lengthening the string (moving the saddle back)
    -flat = shortening

    Once the two are equal in frequency, check the tuning and recheck intonation. You might need to 'dial it in' a little as you retune / check intonation... additionally, depending on how precise you want to get, you should also check other points on the neck. An 'A' played on the 12th fret should equal that played at the 7th & 5th fret of the 'D' and 'E' strings respectively.. and so on, and so on.....

    Hope this helps... you can get other information at http://www.mrgearhead.com

    michael s.
     
  3. geezer316

    geezer316

    Jan 26, 2003
    NEW HAVEN ,CT
    check this out,could this be an easy way,with the bass tuner on,tune each string accordingly,then do the harmonic at the 12th frett,if its sharp or flatt adjust the intonation screw accordingly,do the same for each string, i know i've read this somewhere and tried it on my bass,since my basses are always set up professionaly it was already correct,could this theory work? this is only a suggestion,do not place money on this theory!could some of the masters comment on this ,please.:D
     
  4. Tune your bass as normal, and try to get the tuning as close to perfect as possible (we'll use the E string in this example). Play the 12th fret E harmonic and compare it to the 12th fret E. If the E on the 12th fret (played normally) is sharp, pull the saddle back (away from the nut). If its flat, turn the screw towards the nut.

    And of course, check out www.mrgearhead.com
     
  5. geezer316

    geezer316

    Jan 26, 2003
    NEW HAVEN ,CT
    the actual article came out of bass player mag,the bass review issue,instead of playing the harmonic like i said on the 12th frett,just play the 12th frett with the bass tuner plugged in and if its flat>turn it in,if its sharp>cut back,(the intonation screw) or it could be vica versa,but this should work,i tried it on an old gsr200 and it worked ok, remember i got this out of bass player magazine,it is not an opinion:bassist:
     
  6. well, you have to use the fretted 12th no matter what. if the open string is in tune, the 12th harmonic will be as well. so you can tune the open, and then use the tuner at the 12th fretted to see which way it needs to go. if you don't have access to a tuner and just want to check it, you can compare the harmonic to the fretted. our ears (most of us anyway) can't compare the tuning of two notes in different octaves. (unless you can play them at the same time)
     
  7. Mcrelly

    Mcrelly

    Jun 16, 2003
    Minnesota, USA
    If I understand this right if you tune the open string "right on" and the 12th fret harmonic is "right on", but the fretted 12th is sharp then the string is too high or you are pressing too hard on the fret. vertical saddle screws SHOULE be lowered, but watch out for fret buzzz down near the nut. if that happens truss rod may need adjustment, BUT I DON'T HAVE A CLUE THERE!!!
     
  8. thumbtrap

    thumbtrap

    Jun 26, 2003
    Intuitively the 3rd harmonic should be "on" if the 2nd is, but I always make a point to double check to make sure. If the 3rd is "on", then the 2nd will be. But if you check the 2nd only the 3rd may not line up with the 19th fret. It might be my ears, my fingers, or my Sabine (I know the Korg PX4B tuner will tune my 12 string guitar close enough, but the Sabine will not tune it close enough to get the unisons and octaves in tune without final tuning by ear.)
     
  9. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    not quite - the harmonic will always be in tune if the string is in tune. the compesnation factor of intonating comes into play with the frets. that's why you have to hit the 12th fret harmonic and then the 12 fret fretted note and compare the two. if the fretted note is sharp, move the saddle back, if it's flat, move the saddle forward.
     
  10. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    no, you should not adjust the height of the string except for comfort level - some folks want a higher or lower action, based on playing style and taste.

    only move the saddle back or forward to adjust intonation - back if the fretted note is sharp, and forward if the fretted note is flat.
     
  11. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    interesting idea, wouldn't be much help for tapered wound strings, though. i find that my tapered instruments end up almost in a straight line, possibly due to the similar string diameter over the bridge.
     
  12. pkr2

    pkr2

    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.

    You almost have it.:)

    Check that the open string is in tune. Fret in the 12th fret. if the fretted note is sharp, lengthen the string at the bridge. If the note is flat, shorten the string. That's it! There ain't no more.

    Forget the harmonic! TO EVEN MENTION THE WORD "HARMONIC" SERVES ABSOLUTELY NO USEFUL PURPOSE! The harmonic will always be in tune with the open note. The harmonic will always be in tune with the open note The harmonic will always be in tune with the open note. THE HARMONIC WILL ALWAYS BE IN TUNE WITH THE OPEN NOTE.

    Whoever first used the term HARMONIC in reference to intonation should be shot! The harmonic has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with intonation if you are using a tuner.

    Sorry for the tirade but it's such a simple concept until the water is all muddied with terms like "harmonic".

    Pkr2
     
  13. pkr2

    pkr2

    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    JT, It doesnt matter what kind of strings you are intonating, you have to start somewhere.

    If I have replaced a bridge and the strings I would normally rough them in staggered. I could rough them in straight across and it really wouldn't make any difference, they are ALL going to be changed anyway. How you start is totally irrelevant.
     
  14. thumbtrap

    thumbtrap

    Jun 26, 2003
    The 2nd and 3rd harmonics provide very useful reference points to check against the 12th and 19th frets. Did you forget your meds this morning? That's not the normal level of emotional intensity used for answering questions not involving Fieldy.

    Yes the harmonic is "always" in tune with the open note. That's exactly why it's useful.
     
  15. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    if you "start" with the saddles displaced and then you have to move them back, that's a lot of irrelevant extra work. :rolleyes:
     
  16. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    wow, man you might want to consider relaxing. i've been intonating my own instruments for over 18 years, and i've always used the harmonic as a comparator to the fretted 12 note, since they are the same frequency/octave. i can hear differences that my $200 korg tuner doesn't quite catch, even in strobe mode. this is especially the case with lower than e string strings, and forget about it with a little battery powered tuner like most folks have.

    as for it being "simple", it's also prone to inaccuracies.

    to intonate without using your ear to hear what you're doing is folly of the highest sort - in fact to do anything on your instrument without using your ear to _hear_ the results is unwise, imo. i've seen tuners that weren't exact, i've heard instruments that were tuner-intonated that were most definitely _OUT_ intonation-wise above the 12th fret and below the 3rd. you are going to bet a better "ear" comparison between the 12th fret harmonic and the 12th fret note than the open string and the 12th fret because the harmonic is the same note.

    to tirade on about using the harmonic as if it is wrong or unnecessary is ignorant. i wouldn't be so strident about this, but i can't help but react this way when someone presents themselves in this manner.
     
  17. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    the 2nd harmonic is the 12th fret, the 3rd harmonic would be the 7th fret, or the perfect 5th of the open string. for "western tuning" a bass using the 2nd and 3rd harmonic in conjunction with the 12th fret and 7th fret will provide a very accurate picture of the intonation of the instrument. the 3rd harmonic on your instrument better be immeasureably "in" or your instrument is not going to intonate properly at all - there would be severe flaws in the in the fret placement if the 3rd harmonic was not in, at least good enough for any tuner.

    btw, the 24th fret is the 4th harmonic. just incase anyone was wondering.

    if i were a betting man, i would wager that an instrument intonated with just using a tuner, 12th fret and open string (and therefore not using any ear comparison between the 12th fret and the 2nd harmonic) would be able to be better intonated with the ear comparison to the 12th fret harmonic.

    if i were a betting man :)


    i really wonder why this aggravates some people so much - it's going to be more precise, it's also going to get one more _in touch_ with their instrument, aware of what's going on with it and where the short comings are, so that they can be compensated for.

    if you only want to use the 12th fret and a tuner, and not touch the harmonic, fine. go for it. but don't think that the harmonic is superfluous, because it isn't. it's very beneficial, especially for folks who can hear the difference. :) i would never intonate any of my instruments with a tuner alone.
     
  18. thumbtrap

    thumbtrap

    Jun 26, 2003
    Not to mention tuners almost always track harmonics much faster and more accurately (being a relatively pure single overtone) than a note as played with the fundamental and harmonic series intact.
     
  19. thumbtrap

    thumbtrap

    Jun 26, 2003
    Forgive me. I wasn't aware that I was disseminating patently false misguided and misleading information that deviates from the straight and narrow.

    So how does one intonate a fretless bass though?

    Add Sabine to the list of tuners not suitable for setting intonation then.
     
  20. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    well, _my_ correct answer is to compare the 12th fret and the 12th harmonic, for reasons already given.

    what does lying it flat have to do with anything? you lost me there.

    saying it has "no place" implies that it is wrong. it is not. it is a more accurate method, with more information feedback to the player. a compromise between the 2nd and 3rd harmonics will yield a very well intonated instrument that will perform very well the length of the neck. as i've said earlier, i've used tuners before that did not quickly catch the subtle "outness" that was obvious to my ear, even a korg dtr1 set on strobe. tuners also respond slowly to lower notes, and especially when they are open strings lower than the low e string.

    i stick by what i said. plucking a harmonic is a fundamental skill that every player picking up their instrument should be able to do fairly early in their career. imo so is intonating an instrument, and they should be able to rely on their ear for the bulk of their information, not a tuner - there's not going to be a tuner around when they are playing.

    i can respect the wish to keep things simple for beginners, and yeah, this is a slightly more complicated method, but it's a better method, one that will yield the best results. saying it has no place to me is like saying notation has no place, just learn something via tab.
     



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