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Need help with intonation

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Aerolithe, Mar 21, 2005.


  1. Aerolithe

    Aerolithe

    Jan 23, 2005
    Columbia, MO
    For Chirstmas, my dad got me an Ibanez Stagestar p-bass. It's been working nicely so far, but I can't set the intonation on it. Turning the screws either way on the back of the bridge don't move the saddles at all. I'm including some pictures of a similar bridge to give you an idea of what its like, but this isn't actually my bass. Sorry about the quality, but I don't have a working digital camera and this is the best I could find online. Is my bridge just screwed up, or am I doing this wrong? I'd like to avoid paying to have it set up if I can.
     

    Attached Files:

  2. Need to loosen the strings before turning so you do not strip them. You can typically move the saddle toward the neck with no problem but loosen the string a bit before moving toward the bridge. After moving it, then tune back up and check it.
    The screws may be stripped. If so, take it back and get another.
     
  3. Are you trying to adjust the bridge with the strings tuned to pitch? If so, it may be that the downward pressure of the strings is higher than the resistance of the springs, so that the saddles are staying put and the screws are actually moving in and out of the holes in the bridge plate. Try loosening each string as you adjust its saddle, then re-tuning until you zero in. Beyond that, I can't imagine anything other than stripped screws or saddles-- these are pretty simple, straightforward machines we're talking about.

    You might consider looking for a shop where they'll let you watch while they set it up. That way, you pay for a good setup once, and have the knowledge to tweak it yourself from then on. Just a thought. Good luck.
     
  4. Aerolithe

    Aerolithe

    Jan 23, 2005
    Columbia, MO
    Yes, I am leaving the strings tensioned when I do this, and yes the screws just move in and out. I'll try your suggestions, but am I just supposed to guess about where it should go? Everything I've been told about intonation involved adjusting it and then checking tuning, I understood it to mean make fine adjustments like the screw is a tuner for the 12th fret. On a better bass/bridge would I have the same problem?
     
  5. xyllion

    xyllion Commercial User

    Jan 14, 2003
    San Jose, CA, USA
    Owner, Looperlative Audio Products
    You are supposed to loosen, make a small change, retune, check intonation, and repeat the process if necessary. Yes, I know it is a tedious process, but that is the correct way to do it.
     
  6. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    It's not a random thing. Make a note of where you start and how sharp or flat the intonation is. Loosen the string and adjust the intonation screw. Turn it enough to make an appreciable difference in the position of the saddle and remember how many turns that took. Bring the string up to pitch and check the intonation again.

    How much progress have you made (are you even going in the right direction)? Use that to make a guess as to how much you need to adjust things before loosening the string and adjusting the screw again.

    Using this methodical approach, you should be able to zero in to the right position fairly swiftly.

    Wulf
     
  7. Aerolithe

    Aerolithe

    Jan 23, 2005
    Columbia, MO
    Thanks for the fast advice everyone, I'll set it up tonight.
     
  8. Aerolithe

    Aerolithe

    Jan 23, 2005
    Columbia, MO
    Alright, I just started messing with the intonation and there are a few issues. First of all, while better, the intonation still isn't right and I won't be able to go much further with the spring still in. I know other factors affect intonation, just not which ones, but it sounds like a trussrod adjustment may be in order. This may or may not matter, but my strings (which are what came on my bass, so at least a few months old - with the price of bass strings I never had the cash to replace them) are bent where the bridge used to be. Do I need new strings? Any other suggestions? I can't afford a setup right now, so I'd like to do this myself. Thanks for all the help so far.
     
  9. Look at the thread near the bottom of this page called "today, my guitar tech told me..." The thread is pretty much about intonation.
     
  10. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    If you start playing with the truss rod to set intonation, you could be heading towards even bigger trouble. The truss rod is a device to help control the 'relief' in the neck - how much it bows in the middle (you normally need a little bit of relief to avoid string buzzing).

    Wulf
     
  11. Aerolithe

    Aerolithe

    Jan 23, 2005
    Columbia, MO
    I was thinking more along the lines of the neck's bow was causing intonation problems, I'm not sure how close the relief is to what it should be, but I wouldn't mess with it if it was right. I just suspect that it could use an adjustment anyway considering its a cheaper bass that went through shipping and I never had it properly set up.
     
  12. MichaelScott

    MichaelScott

    Jul 27, 2004
    Moorpark CA
    How old are the strings? any string 6+ months old will not have correct inntonation.

    Truss rod adjustment dosen't do much for inntonation- it just helps you set the playability of the bass.

    It might be worth yoour energy to take it to a set up guy/gal for $45.
     
  13. Aerolithe

    Aerolithe

    Jan 23, 2005
    Columbia, MO
    Its not the energy keeping it out of a shop - I don't have a job (looking so I can afford a new bass, though), which is why I didn't replace the strings a long time ago. Plus, I know whats involved in set ups, I just haven't got any experience and I'm not sure what to aim for in something like a trussrod adjustment, I just need practice. It's something I really want to be able to do myself though, and since my dad seems to have some idea of what he is doing I don't think it will be an issue. I need to check the relief anyway, because I know bowing is necessary but I think mine may be overbowed, and I was wondering if fixing this would help intonation too.
     
  14. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    It will make some difference. The general rule is to get the neck relief right first (adjusting the trussrod - if it's a long way out, you may need to do this over several days, giving the wood a gentle way of adjusting to its new shape), then set the action (raising / lowering the saddles) and finally deal with the intonation (moving them forward or back).

    However, Michael's point about strings is also important. I'm not sure how accurate "6+ months" is but I've definitely observed that older strings become harder to intonate. I had a set on my electro-acoustic bass (non-adjustable bridge!) where the intonation might be sharp at one fret and flat at the next... a new set of strings and it was much better behaved.

    Wulf
     
  15. xyllion

    xyllion Commercial User

    Jan 14, 2003
    San Jose, CA, USA
    Owner, Looperlative Audio Products
    Yep, as strings age, they don't do it evenly. They will stretch at some places more than at other places. When they get old enough that they won't intonate correctly, you either have to decide just to live with it or buy new strings.

    With old strings, you may want to try intonating at frets other than the 12th fret. Try 3 or 4 different frets and intonate to the point which gives the best average performance.