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Intonation Question

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by amosjones, Jun 2, 2014.

  1. I hope this is in the right place.
    It has been a good long while since I setup a bass from scratch and I am having an issue with intonation. This may be something common, not sure.

    Currently the tone is spot on at the 12th fret on the E string but at the 3rd fret it is about 4 cents high and at the 17th fret it is about 4 cents low. The more I lengthen the string at the bride the further these go out. What am I doing wrong? I'm sure it is something simple I just don't know what it is.
  2. Trus3683


    Feb 14, 2013
    Connecticut, USA
    It could very well have to do with the initial placement of the frets on the bass. When I intonate, I match the 12 fret harmonic and the 12 fret to the open string and call it a day. I make sure that the open string is always spot on while doing this, which may require slight retuning between adjustments. Guitars are flawed and there are always going to be flaws, in my opinion. You'll never get /Perfect/ intonation.
  3. Thanks! Open, Fretted on the 12th, and Harmonic at the 12th are spot on. I left it there with the others being as close as I could get them. Wanted some opinions because I would drive myself mad trying to get it perfect if I thought i had to.
  4. BigRedX


    May 1, 2006
    Unless you have an instrument with true temperament frets the placement of them is always going to be a compromise going from one string to the next. This is why you shouldn't use 5th and 7th fret harmonics for tuning as the fretted notes won't be quite in tune with the corresponding open strings. As others have said, just check the intonation at the 12th fret and once that and the corresponding harmonic are the same that's the best you are going to get.
  5. fhm555

    fhm555 So FOS my eyes are brown Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2011

    I make sure open and 12 match and call it good. Doing this I have yet to have a bass I can hear any sour notes in other locations on the neck.
  6. bass12

    bass12 Say "Ahhh"... Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    The first few positions are always going to be a little sharp on a regular bass (the Buzz Feiten system, for example, tries to remedy this). I always check the tuning in several positions (not just at the 12th fret) when setting intonation. You'll find that sometimes you can move your saddle and not affect the intonation noticeably in one position while improving it in another. but no, you'll never have a bass that is perfectly in tune.
  7. Also old or worn strings can cause weird intonation problems.
  8. tangentmusic

    tangentmusic A figment of our exaggeration

    Aug 17, 2007
    I agree with the above. Perfection is nice but four cents sharp/flat is pretty good. I think you've got it as good as you can.
  9. JLS


    Sep 12, 2008
    Emeryville, Ca
    I setup & repair guitars & basses
    Can you hear this?
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2014
  10. You only need to match the 12th fret harmonic with the 12th note fretted, and the 12th fretted may show a bit sharp due to the fact you're slighting stretching the string by pressing down. The open, and 12th fret harmonic will always match up.
  11. ChrisHooker


    Jul 29, 2012
    Maryville, TN
    Sounds like you're not retuning after adjusting the intonation. If you bring the saddle back (away from the headstock) with the string still taught, it will usually tighten the string, resulting in what you are experiencing. You need to retune after every adjustment in the setup process.

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