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Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by codydang, Dec 13, 2012.

  1. codydang


    Feb 5, 2012
    San Jose
    I am trying and trying to set the string length
    and no matter how much I lengthen or shorten the string
    the intonation hardly changes
    in fact I don't think it's even changing at all
    what on earth is going on here?
  2. JLS


    Sep 12, 2008
    Emeryville, Ca
    I setup & repair guitars & basses
    Explain what you're doing, and how you're doing it.
  3. BawanaRik


    Mar 6, 2012
    New Jersey
    Make sure the length actually changes. just turning the screw won't do that.
  4. codydang


    Feb 5, 2012
    San Jose
    I'm using a screwdriver and I can visually see the string length changing as I turn it.
    And virtually nothing happens to the intonation. I check the open e string and it is still somehow in tune, and the 12th fret version is still sharp.
  5. That should be physically impossible, so *something* is funny. Can you see the saddle moving slightly, so you know the string length really *is* changing? Maybe the screw's stripped.

    Edit: Oops, I hadn't refreshed the thread to see that you answered this. Well, if the string length is changing, the location of the 12th fret harmonic should be changing slightly too---although on an E string there's enough slop that it might not be obvious.

    Well, if the string is getting longer, and the fretted note is remaining sharp, the string must be increasing in tension, right? That's science. Is it somehow stuck at the saddle, so that it's basically acting as a little fine tuner rather than slipping along the string? That's all I can think of, physically, that would do it.

  6. abemo


    Feb 27, 2012
    Arvada, co
    Are you loosening the strings befor adjusting the saddle? Is the 12th fret harmonic moving?
  7. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    After moving the saddle, reseat the string by simultaneously pressing the string down on both sides of the saddle. That will probably help by resetting the witness point.
  8. magic
  9. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    Move saddle all the way toward the neck. It will be sharp. Always lengthen the string to set intonation winding it closer to the tail. This helps pre-tension the saddle so it won't move later due to the break angle pushing it toward the neck. Think about it and you'll see what I mean from a mechanical standpoint.

    Similar to always loosening the tuner flat of pitch and tuning UP to pitch; never down.

    And set your witness points.
  10. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    I don't recommend doing it this way. If you set the witness point then lengthen the string you will have a kink in the string where you don't want it - in the speaking length. Better to start with the saddle too far back, set the witness point and test. Adjust it forward as needed, resetting the witness point. That way any kinks will be behind the saddle where they will do no harm.
  11. megafiddle


    May 25, 2011
    Exactly what are you doing, step, by step?
    Is this a bass that was ok at one point and now isn't?
    Or was it built from parts?

    If it was built, the bridge might be positioned to close to the neck.

    Measure from nut to 12th fret on the G string. Then measure from 12th fret to center of
    saddle. Should be the same. The other saddles should be progressively further back from
    neck, D string a little longer, E string the longest.
    That would be center of saddle if it's a barrel type; it's from wherever the "takeoff point"
    for the string is.

    Or if it was ok once, all the strings might just be bad (unlikely but possible).

    It is possible for the pitch of the open string to remain somewhat constant over a certain
    range of saddle movement. It depends on the heght and position of the saddle. Moving
    the saddle back not only lengthens the string (which by itself flattens the pitch), but it
    also increases the tension. The extra tension could just happen to compensate for the
    longer length.

    The string should still be retuned after every saddle adjustment.
  12. Coolhandjjl


    Oct 13, 2010
    If your action is too high, it will be impossible to intonate.
  13. JTE


    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    So, you play the open E string and compare that note to the same string fretted at the 12th fret. The fretted note is sharp of being the exact octave, right?

    Then you move the saddle to make the string longer (tighten the screw and move the saddle further from the nut) and nothing changes at all? Are you doing this by ear or with a GOOD tuner? Are the strings new and in good condition? Is the nut cut correctly (and don't assume that the factory nut work is ever done correctly- it's the most common thing mass produced instruments suffer)? Did the bass previously set up correctly but now it won't, or is this the first time you've attempted to set the intonation?

    Simply put, moving the saddle should have a noticeable effect that changes how far off the 12th fret fretted note is from the open string (or 12th fret harmonic- IF your strings are good, then that harmonic IS an exact octave of the open string by definition). If you're not noticing a change, then I would suspect whatever it is you're using to measure the change. Some tuners are just not precise enough to be useful for setting intonation because their error range is too large. While I've been able to get by with a Boss TU-2 in the past (and have used Qwik-Tunes, Sabine, and one Korg) I much prefer the virtual strobe tuners (like Peterson makes ) for setting intonation. My TU-2s work fine for getting in tune on stage and playing in tune with the band. But they show "in tune" over a much wider range than is really practical for setting intonation.

    One other bit of advice- hold the bass in playing position when setting intonation. On a long-scale electric bass, the weight of the headstock can be enough to put your intonation out enough to be problematic when tuning up and playing.


  14. Total shot in the dark guess here, what kind of tuner are you using? You need one that is precise and stable.
  15. Coolhandjjl


    Oct 13, 2010
    Words of Wisdom. The tuner that came with the Fender/Squier/Affinity Start to Play J Bass package I bought for for my son's X-Mas present years back came with a tuner that couldn't tune the harmonic, nor the open string at all.
  16. codydang


    Feb 5, 2012
    San Jose
    Sorry about this being real late, but I figured it out!
    The strings were holding down the saddles when they wanted to move forward!
    I found out when I loosened a string and its saddle sprang forward to its natural position. This was what was causing intonation problems.
    Thanks for the replies!
  17. bass12

    bass12 And Grace, too Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    This does happen though. I've found that, with some strings, even when I've moved the saddle quite a bit the intonation doesn't seem to change much (and this is with a very accurate strobe tuner). It can be very frustrating!
  18. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    excellent! (and +1 to starting "long" and shortening up to true, so as to put any kinks behind the saddle instead of in the vibrating part of the string.)

    the last guess for a string that wouldn't "line up" no matter where you set the saddle would be that the string itself was bad.
  19. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Glad things worked out. When "loosening" the bridge saddle (moves toward the neck), I always jam my thumbs behind the saddle and shove forwards...the spring is all-too-frequently inneffective.

    When doing a fresh or unknown set-up (new bass, new strings, whatever), I always start with the bridge saddle in its full-back position and then advance towards the neck in small increments. This allows each witness / contact point to fall behind the saddle and out of the vibrating string path.

  20. Doley50


    Sep 4, 2005
    I am glad I am not going nuts, I recently purchase a used bass and have the same problem when adjusting the A string, it is the only one that is off about a 5 cents flat. I have loosened the string quite a bit, made a 90 degree turn to make the string shorter and nothing, I had two tuners, a Korg that was plugged in and a Snark that is clipped to the head stock, the Korg showed it flat and the Snark showed it in tune. Now I am thinking that first the truss rod needs adjusting, ( the strings and practically laying on the frets)and
    I need new strings. Because the bass is new to me, i am going to leave it and have a professional set up done. I hope the neck is good! I did buy it from a reputable dealer, so I will have the option of returning it. just through I would share, Thank You for the post and all the great responses.