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intonation questions

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by vic_6, Apr 11, 2006.


  1. vic_6

    vic_6

    Dec 19, 2004
    Manila, Philippines
    i was talking to a luthier yesterday about intonation and setting up basses and guitars. he said that intonating to a tuner is incorrect.

    he said you intonate by measuring the exact distance between each note with the scale. so within a 34" scale, you measure the distance between, let's say, the A on the 5th fret, E string and the high A on the 17th fret and so on. i understand this. BUT he said that he also measures the sound waves. i don't get that. can anyone confirm this?

    he also said that he can tell if a bass or guitar is intonated well or not just by looking at it. is this possible? i assume that you can see the pattern of the saddles on the strings...but isnt that kind of rash? is there a given format for seeing whether a guitar is intonated or not?

    what do you all think?


    vic
     
  2. I would assume that measuring soundwaves would be the same as measuring the frequency, which would correspond to a note, which you could use a tuner to find. I do know their are different ways to intonate, like the Buzz Feiten method, which intonates and tunes slightly different than "normal" intonating - so he may not intonate with just a standard tuner. But, to just do it by sight seems a little odd to me.
     
  3. vic_6

    vic_6

    Dec 19, 2004
    Manila, Philippines
    i know, right? i dont know if he was just screwing with me so i'd bring my basses to him to be set up "properly".

    he didn;t wanna elaborate since it's supposedly like a secret passed on to him from a master luthier from over here.
     
  4. rumblinbass

    rumblinbass

    Aug 22, 2003
    Wimberley, TX
    Sounds pretty fishy to me.

    Intonation is pretty fickle, and can take days to get it right. Everything from changing strings to temperature and humidity changes messes up intonation.

    Being able to tell if a bass or guitar is intonated by sight is far fetched...I would say he's full of it.

    There are several ways to intonate your bass...the cheapest is with a tuner, but it can take a while. I have done a better job of intonating my bass than most techs I've taken it to (which is why I do my own setups).
     
  5. It sounds like mystical mojo mumble jumbo to me. He may have overindulged in the 60's and 70's, if you know what I mean.
     
  6. vic_6

    vic_6

    Dec 19, 2004
    Manila, Philippines
    several ways? really? what are the other ways? with a tuner is the only way i know...
     
  7. He may be referring to where (on the neck) you start. For example, I compare fretted notes with the harmonics at the 12th and 19th frets.
     
  8. vic_6

    vic_6

    Dec 19, 2004
    Manila, Philippines
    ah yeah. i never thought of that... although when i do intonate, i use a tuner to check if EVERY note on the board is in proper tune.
     
  9. You, sir, must be an exceedingly patient man!
     
  10. vic_6

    vic_6

    Dec 19, 2004
    Manila, Philippines
    hahaha! well i only really check the intonation and do a general set up whenever i change strings, which is about every 4-6 months. :)
     
  11. rumblinbass

    rumblinbass

    Aug 22, 2003
    Wimberley, TX
    I have heard of techs using strobe tuners...but they are very expensive. Going that route you could also use a spectrum analyser or o-scope...also expensive.

    I use a tuner. Adjust to the height I want and tune open string and then the harmonic at the 12th fret. Adjust the saddle and repeat until it's intonated.

    There are other harmonics and octive positions to check.

    If you really want to get into the nitty gritty you could use the gauge of the string and run through some calculations to get the exact string length...check out a Physics book.

    ...you asked.
     
  12. vic_6

    vic_6

    Dec 19, 2004
    Manila, Philippines
    spectrum analyzer? o scope? hmmm..never heard of those. i'll look into that. just out of curiosity though. im fine using a tuner. hehe~!
     
  13. steveb98

    steveb98 [acct disabled - multiple aliases]

    Mar 15, 2006
    Venice, CA
    I would say he blowing smoke and probably walks away fires up a strobe tuner and intonates a bass. I would say the key is most inexpensive tuners aren't accurate enough to intonate with. That you only get a "good enough" job done. To do a really accurate job you need a strobe tuner.
     
  14. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    It's impossible to get every note in proper tune. If you have a 24-fret bass and get the 24th fret playing perfectly in tune, the first few frets will be slightly off, depending on the bass.

    I have never seen a bass that every fretable note on the bass played perfectly in tune.

    It is the very nature of tempered tuning.
     
  15. vic_6

    vic_6

    Dec 19, 2004
    Manila, Philippines
    yeah it is impossible to get everything in proper tune. i do get pretty close though. like a 1-2 cents off according to my tuner but that's relatively high on the board already though. i cant tell any difference with a few cents, although i dont have a real good ear like some people who are just really born with it.
     
  16. rumblinbass

    rumblinbass

    Aug 22, 2003
    Wimberley, TX
    I'm an electrical engineer and those are tools you can use to "see" the signal...you could use those to tune, but would be extremely difficult. Easier to use a tuner.

    The only electric bass that I have seen that possibly every note would be in tune would be a Dingwall...those fanned frets do have a purpose.
     
  17. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    Yes, but as I understand it, that purpose is to better match the "scale" or string length to the mass and tension of the individual strings. That is, a G string sounds better on a short scale bass. A B sounds better on an extra long scale bass. So, the Dingwall creates a unique scale for each string.

    It doesn't really do anything to offset the physics of tempered tuning.
     
  18. rumblinbass

    rumblinbass

    Aug 22, 2003
    Wimberley, TX
    My point being that a bigger gauge requires more length.

    The fanned frets that Dingwall basses have do just that - the G-string is shorter than the D-string is shorter than the...you get the point. Each fret employs the same concept, so that each note is "truer".
     
  19. MattMPG

    MattMPG Matt Pulcinella Guitars

    Apr 6, 2006
    Tune open and then tune at the 12th with a good tuner. Thats about as good as you're going to get. Some times when you play, you press down harder, pluck harder, move your hand a little... it all changes the pitch slightly.
    When I hear a great bass player, I don't think about sound waves.

    Matt

    mpguitars.com
     
  20. WillBuckingham

    WillBuckingham

    Mar 30, 2005
    I wouldn't take my bass, or anything else for that matter, to someone who uses "secret" methods that they can't explain to their customers.
     

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