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Intonation problem

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by bmb73, Jun 30, 2012.


  1. bmb73

    bmb73

    Aug 7, 2010
    San Diego
    Tried setting the intonation on my E string. For some reason the open E is in tune. The 12 fret is showing C. Likewise for the G string, open G is fine. 12 fret is showing D.

    The A and D string are fine. This just happened. I have had no issues with the strings(TI's). I shimmed the neck a week ago but had no issues then with intonation.
     
  2. Are you saying that on the problem strings, you have adjusted your saddles to their full extent and they will not come into tune?
     
  3. Shardik

    Shardik

    May 24, 2011
    Halden, Norway
    Battery on tuner going flat?
    Are you muting the other strings properly?
    I have never experienced any guitar or bass being 3 half tones off at 12 th fret.
     
  4. PlungerModerno

    PlungerModerno

    Apr 12, 2012
    Ireland
    It could be a few things, my suggestions are as follows:

    1. tuners can be off, sometimes different strings will not work as well with a certain tuner, esp. if they are low output. If you give the type of tuner here, we might be able to advise.
    Check if you have sharps or flats enabled (some tuners have this), and the calibration, which should be A @ 440 Hz for standard concert pitch (what most musicians use).

    2. Ear check... check the fretted 12 th, and the harmonic on the 12th... they should be close, if not... you'll need adjustments. This isn't all that easy to do on flats (new rounds have a huge harmonic, even acoustically, where flats tend to be a lot more subtle).
    Try boosting highs on the bass / amp eq gently till you can hear the harmonic as a clear note. If your fretted note matches (at the 12th fret obviously) your tuner is in error.

    3. Overall check... is the neck stable (you mentioned shimming), are the bridge saddles in a rough straight line (not maxed either way), are the pickups generating a good signal, is the preamp working + is the battery ok (for active instruments).
    Oh and the quick tests: the harmonics on 5th and 7th frets match. you can look up relative tuning for a full description (there are types using harmonics and types that don't, I use both to check intonation quickly). Also by ear you should be able to check for buzzing or odd noises that might throw the tuner off.

    Sorry if any of the above were patronizing or too much, but you should have a few ways to check the instrument is in tune, intonated and keeping that setting. Setup guides abound, here's an example if you care to gander: http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f18/all-basic-setup-questions-answered-here-125382/

    Good luck getting the bass working right!
     
  5. bmb73

    bmb73

    Aug 7, 2010
    San Diego
    Not patronizing at all. This is all new to me, so I appreciate the feedback. Knowing all the variables definetly helps.

    I am using my Korg Pandora mini to tune. After my first post I went back and started from scratch. Did a complete setup following the Fender guide, and now everything is in working order.

    Totally unrelated, but my relief matches up to the Fender guide(.012). Sighting down from the headstock there seems to be a very slight bow in the neck. Is this a bad thing? I read on another thread, another website that you actually want slight forward relief.

    Does this sound legit?
     
  6. PlungerModerno

    PlungerModerno

    Apr 12, 2012
    Ireland
    Legit. It's great you got it working... when I figured out how to do setups it was a pretty eureka moment.

    Bow is very important. If your nut slots are the right depth then you'll need a slight bow for buzz free playing. If you raise the action very high you can even play with a back bow.

    Here are some pics I found:

    bass_neck_relief.

    images?q=tbn:ANd9GcS3ZSyWsabQIGnvhlSQmEaruS_PbNldgSfbtQAhD_SPZWOsAXnYCAxTJ8gL.

    You should be able to play easily on the first 12 - 15 frets... and the rest if you use them... I like a tiny bit of relief, some like none.
    If the playability seems nice... leave it as is. If you adjust the truss rod and find straightening the neck raises the action too much, you can lower it again using the saddle height adjusters. Keeping the radius of course. If it works for you that's great. I found that a totally straight neck leads to overwhelming buzzing when I play hard - when I add a slight front bow (relief) it keeps the option of buzz . . . but only when I ask for it nicely (hee hee).
     
  7. bmb73

    bmb73

    Aug 7, 2010
    San Diego
    very cool, thanks
     
  8. PlungerModerno

    PlungerModerno

    Apr 12, 2012
    Ireland
    You're welcome... You should be aware I'm no expert, but talkbass has enough info for anyone to go far with bass. The internet larger has 'bassically':bag: all you could wish for.
     
  9. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    Are the strings new?

    BTW, you can't use harmonics to check intonation as the other guy said. Harmonics are a function of the open string only. Period. Yoican compare 12th harm with 12th fret, but comparing the 5 and 7 harm? No.
     
  10. PlungerModerno

    PlungerModerno

    Apr 12, 2012
    Ireland
    Hmmm. I've been wrong before.... I know you can use the 5th fretted for comparison to the [DEL]sting[/DEL] string above it to check intonation...



    explains the process better than I can. It's the quickest way to check tuning & intonation without watching a tuner... If the bass isn't set up right the harmonics will be harder to get right (you'll be behind or ahead of the fret...)

    It's a neat trick but I don't know enough about the theory to explain exactly how it works.
    EDIT: now that I think about it this isn't all that useful for intonation. I have the habit of doing the harmonic check every time I pick up the bass... If I want to check intonation It's 12th fret every time... But the 5th/7th method is not going to tell you clearly if the string is not intonated properly.
     
  11. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    Well, back to the op, sounds to me like his strings need to be witnessed. Then "ballpark" the saddles: measure 34" nut to saddle on G. Set E at 34 1/4" and D, G angled in there and continue to set the intonation from there.

    Reading your post again, yes that works, kinda. The way you explained it, It confused ME and I've been doing it since 1976. A new player will be too. Too much info.

    Look, keep it simple:
    -Open and/or 12th harmonic -compared to 12th fretted = intonated.
    Period. Period.

    A thread like this came up the other day; newbie was intonating by open and 12th harm: both are just the open string pitch. No wonder his bass was out, he insisted intonation was good yet when he played up the neck he was out! I suspect he had read an overly complex explanation and got it wrong.

    Once I've set intonation with a new set of strings, I have never had to adjust it again until another string change.. So if you don't have a tuner, you tune by ear. Your intonation will be ok unless you have the sloppiest saddles on earth. Even if its out a tiny bit, it is not going to be that bad.

    Pianos are not perfectly intonated, if they were, they would sound bad. They are actually tuned a bit sharp the higher you go. Read up on even tempered scale for more info.
     
  12. PlungerModerno

    PlungerModerno

    Apr 12, 2012
    Ireland
    Aye, I've heard about the temperament issue, but not in detail. I apologize for the confusion.... That's the problem with beginners teaching beginners... I have a bunch of things confused. Hopefully I don't confuse others too much.
    If you want to understand a tuning / setup method you need to see it done in person, or watch a good video IMO. It's hard to describe it clearly in a foolproof way (at least for moi):ninja:
     
  13. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    Yeah just watch out who's doing the vids you watch. If it ain't a credible source, forget it. I have seen some pretty shaky you tube stuff. Read the stickies at the top.

    Heh, I had to learn from a book on guitars in the library way back then. ;D
     
  14. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    To set intonation you have to compare the open string (and harmonics are indeed partials of the open string) to a fretted note. Comparing harmonics to harmonics tells you nothing about the intonation setting of the bridge (although it can tell you some things about the physics of a a vibrating string and how good your strings are...)

    Whether it's the 5th, 7th, 12th fret harmonic changes some details (and I'd never use the 7th fret harmonic because that one isn't the same pitch as a tempered 5th) isn't the point. You have to compare the open string to a fretted note.

    John
     
  15. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    ^ 'Tis the only way to do it, JTE!
     
  16. mech

    mech Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2008
    Meridian, MS, USA
    While we're stacking gnat hairs...Although I always use the 12th fret chime (octave) compared to the 12th fretted for convenience to set intonation, you are correct. The 12 fret chime is not always exactly over the witness point of the 12th fret due to manufacturing tolerances but on a decent neck is close enough for real world. With a well set up instrument differences in finger pressure while playing makes more difference in intonation than the exact method used to set intonation. I also agree that the 5th/7th fret chimes should never be used for tuning except fast touchups when you don't have time for anything else.

    mech
     
  17. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    To clarify- harmonics, especially the 5th and 12th fret harmonics ARE exact octaves of the open string and as valid as open strings for comparing intonation. If your octave harmonics are not exact octaves of your open string, you have a bad strings (worn, poorly made, dirty, etc.) and setting the intonation is probably futile at that point.

    John
     

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