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Intonation question

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by DLM, Oct 13, 2005.


  1. DLM

    DLM

    May 25, 2004
    California
    In checking the intonation of my bass, I plucked all open strings and they were at pitch; then I fretted those same strings at the 12th fret and again they, also, were at correct pitch. However, when I fret these same strings at the 24th fret, all notes are sharp.

    Is this easily fixable or is my bass messed up?

    Thanks for your help.
     
  2. How sharp?

    Perhaps your 24th fret isn't in the correct position.

    Have your tried the 17th fret? How's the notes there?

    Have you tried the 22nd fret? Again, how's the notes there?

    Finally, why isn't this post in the Setup/Repair section?
     
  3. DLM

    DLM

    May 25, 2004
    California
    ...because it says, "Ask a Pro..."

    Anyway, I'm looking for some answers, not more questions. Thanks anyway...
     
  4. Its impossible for anyone to provide answers unless you respond to the questions.
     
  5. Even with the bass properly intonated it still will not play absolutely in tune across the entire fretboard. It depends how sharp it is as to whether you actually have a problem or whether you've ran up against the limitations of this system.
     
  6. DLM

    DLM

    May 25, 2004
    California
    Thanks for the helpful response. Although I'm just using a Sabine rackmount tuner as the indicator, I don't exactly know how sharp the notes are; all I can say is that it is audible.

    When you say "ran up against the limitations of this system," why can't one just space those upper frets closer to create more length from fret to bridge?
     
  7. The problem is that this would have to be done for the specific geometry of the setup of each individual bass. For instance, if one person likes higher action then the frets will have to be closer to the nut that someone who likes low action. In theory one could do it for a very specific setup of an instrument, but then it becomes tangible benefits versus cost of developing a system that only works if the player keeps their bass setup in the exact same way. I believe that Buzz Feiten system works in such a way as I seem to recall that the nut is moved forward, reducing the distance of all the frets from the nut.
     
  8. I'm not trying to be rude...anyone that knows me on here knows that I ask questions to gain information...I'm always willing to help someone...that's also why I asked why it wasn't in the setup section...forums are segregated for a reason...so that you can get the best answers and have the information organised so that others can find it more easily.

    information about the condition of your tuning at the 17th and 22nd frets, IMO, is INVALUABLE at determining what is going on with your instrument.

    I suspect your problem revolves around "tempering" your tuning...that is, adjusting your tuning to be the best it can be given that it could never be exact in all positions...

    but, anyway...I hope you sort your problem out.
     
  9. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY

    I agree. By it's nature the fretting on guitars and basses is not perfect. I like mine to play their best between 1-12, as I don't spend much time above 12 except for a few quick excursions.

    I also do this live...I tune a fraction sharp so that when I start playing and heating up the metal of the strings they fall into pitch for the set.

    If you want fun, try setting the intonation on an ol' 3 barrel telecaster bridge. I've had several and it's all about averaging the 'outs' of the sets of strings.
     
  10. DLM

    DLM

    May 25, 2004
    California
     
  11.  
  12. DLM

    DLM

    May 25, 2004
    California
    O.K. I finally checked my 17th and 22nd frets. The 17th ones are pretty much on, but frets 21 and on tend to go progressively sharper.

    Any suggestions for a remedy? I shouldn't have to expect this for a custom-made bass, right?

    Thanks for your help.
     
  13. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY
    Well...unfortunately on a custom...yes.

    The problem isn't the build quality, rather the fact that the traditional layout for frets isn't quite as precise as maybe we'd like. The best you can do is take an average between say, the 12th and the 17th, or some such of upper range harmonic location. Supposedly the buzz f. tuning system helps this, but even that's not quite right from what I hear.
     
  14. The problem is that changes in the geometry of the neck, nut and bridge in relation to the strings changes where the frets need to be ideally to get every note in tune. If someone did devise a scheme to get the frets in the perfect position the neck would have to have exactly x relief, y nut height, etc. and if you changed any of those the frets would no longer be in the "right" places.

    The Buzz Feiten is a way of attempting to get a better setup. Moving the nut forward makes sense, but from what I gather even what the strings are tuned to is adjusted to get the bass to play more in tune across the fretboard.
     
  15. DLM

    DLM

    May 25, 2004
    California
    For those frets that are sharp, would filing them down be a remedy? I'm thinking that by filing them down, you would create more length between the fret and bridge and the result would be flatter intonation from where you began.
     
  16. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    Don't forget "z" set of strings.
     
  17. Moo

    Moo Banned

    Dec 14, 2002
    Oakland, CA
    Simple answer, intonate the 24th fret. Go back and see how close the 12th is, I'll bet it's close enough.

    The 12th fret is the magic intonating fret because back in the days of dinosaurs, 20 fret necks and tuning by ear the 12th fret and 12th fret harmonic were the same pitch (they still are actually) so it was chosen as a decent place to hear the difference with your ears and set intonation. Now with these new fangled electrical tuners and 24 fret necks change to intonating at the end of your neck instead of in the middle. Always worked for me.

    If you notice notes getting sharper as you go up the neck your bass isn't intonated ;)
     
  18. I didn't want to open that can, because it would be different for every string... unless you had some ideal set of strings.
     
  19. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    When you find one of those, let me know. I'll buy a few sets.
     
  20. nateo

    nateo Schubie Fan #1

    Mar 2, 2003
    Ottawa, Ontario
    If only the world of approximations that physicists love so much could be made real. Personally I'd grab myself a handful of point sources and maybe a frictionless surface, just for kicks.

    -Nate