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Pro Setup - Poor Intonation

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Drake Kennedy, Feb 28, 2006.

  1. Hey all,

    A few weeks ago I had my Ibby set up to eliminate the fretbuzz and truss rod problems that had developed once the bass had...acclimated? Not sure if that's the word or not...but once I 'broke it in' shall we say. Ok, so I got the bass setup, and it plays beautifully. Only problem - Very poor intonation above the 12th fret.
    Ordinarily I wouldn't think twice about this, but I got this bass setup by Jim Rubio from the Atlanta Bass Gallery, and I don't think this is something he would let by him. I just started noticing it, so maybe it's gotten worse since I've had it home. I'm a little bit cautious to mess with the Mono-Rail IV bridge saddles, but this intonation (or lack of) is really starting to bother me. The open strings are perfectly in tune, as are the 2nd harmonics (12 fret), but fretted notes are just off. I have to bend the string to get an in tune octave above about fret 11. :meh:
    From what I read, this is a bridge problem, not a truss rod one (it plays like a dream). I think it's something like 'if the 12th fret is sharper than the harmonic, move the saddle back. Flat, move it forward.' I may have it backwards. I'm worried to mess with the bridge though, because I don't want to mess up the great action. Any thoughts? Should I fix it myself? If so, could I get some help here?
  2. Razor


    Sep 22, 2002
    Excellent question...one i've been wondering about myself.

    I've heard that what you've written above is how to fix the problem but I would like confirmation from some of the more "seasoned" people here.

    I've also heard (rumor) that the best way to intonate also is to do it while the bass is hanging on a strap like it does when you're playing instead of laying it down on a bench. Maybe we can get some comments on that as well.

    Again..excellent question.
  3. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    It's really not that big of a deal. You probably won't move it enough to effect the action.

    If it is playing flat, as your descripton suggests, move the saddle forward until both the open string and the fretted 12th fret note play in tune. Just make sure that you retune the open string before every test with the tuner. Moving the saddle will initially mess up the open tune pitch.

    So, to review:

    1. Tune open string to pitch.
    2. Play 12th fret FRETTED note.
    3. If flat, move the saddle forward by adjusting the screw.
    4. Retune open string.
    5. Repeat.

    That being said. Take it back. It shoud have been right if you paid money for the setup.
  4. I didn't really notice it when I got it back from Jim. Maybe it's because of the different temperatures/humidities of Jim's shop and my basement. I don't really know. I'd like to hear some other opinions before actually fiddling with the screws.
  5. 62bass


    Apr 3, 2005
    If you go to the sticky thread above "all truss rod and action---" and then click on the Mr. Gearhead site you'll find the info you need.
  6. Yeah, I have both of those set-up sites bookmarked ;)
    I was just looking to get some personal response, but now I've got it!

  7. Wow. I am mentally challenged :mad: I have my screwdriver out, the setup pages up, I look to adjust the C string's intonation (the worst of them) and the SCREW IS MISSING! I know it's not gone, 'cause I've seen it around my room a few times, but I never put 2 and 2 together. >.<
  8. ‡??‹‡??›¶§?¶?§¢£§?¢™£¶$#@^%$#@&^%$R*(&^T(*&%*&%#$^%#$@&^%$R(&*^T
    :mad: :mad: :mad:

    Ok, while fixing the intonation, I have discovered that the metal on my screwdriver is harder than that of the bridge screw. I'm not sure, but I think I've stripped the metal at the head. :mad:
    Anyone know where one can buy a MonoRail IV replacement screw? I might have to buy another saddle and salvage it. :MAD:
  9. THAT is why I don't set up my own basses. Not because I can't, but because I can't without swearing a lot...
  10. mariner


    Feb 18, 2005
    Front Royal, VA
    So, here's something that I've been fiddling with last night...

    I have a MIJ Jazz and am playing with intonation. While the open tone and the harmonic are dead on, I can never seem to get the E string fretted tone to that point, it's always sharp and I've had the saddle darn near to the back of the bridge.

    Am I looking at some other serious issues that aren't too obvious?
  11. rumblethump

    rumblethump Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2000
    Pioneer CA. 95666
    Are they NEW strings? Old or dead strings alot of the time won't intonate. I've even bought strings that were dead within a week. If you just bought the strings I would consider returning them for another set.
  12. After you play the 12th fret harmonic and then fret the note finding it sharp or flat, LOOSEN that string before making any saddle adjustment! There is way too much tension and somethings gotta give, usually the scewhead.

    Drake, loosen that string (or remove it) and you should be able to back that screw out. Take it to a hardware store & they should be able to fix you up.
  13. Hookus


    Oct 2, 2005
    Austin, TX
    ...I don't think there is really all that much tension on the screw, just ask any mechanic if they think a string puts too much tension for a screwdriver, even better, I'll measure it with a torque wrench sometime, but I can assure you it is not much. The culprit, my friend, is cheap screws, an old screwdriver, or a case of the old noodle-arm not pressing hard enough.;)

    However, you just described the exact reason I will NEVER get someone else to set up a guitar for me. Why would you pay someone who is not you, to set up a guitar the way you like it? Learn to do it, and set it up yourself. Fender's website has all the instruction you could ever need.
  14. Razor is correct about having the bass in playing position when making adjustments like this. If you've ever tried to tune a bass while it's flat on the ground, you know what I mean. Most times the pickups pull on the strings, causing them to play sharp while open. The easiest way to do it (in my experience) is to adjust it while it's laying flat, and then check it in playing position.

    Also, when making adjustments with the truss rod or especially the intonation, you must always have a fresh set of strings on the bass. I find it odd that the setup technician didn't set the intonation properly. Even if it's a shoddy job, it shouldn't start sounding out of tune until well after the 12th fret.

    Not necessarily true. Although I'm not familiar with this type of bridge and saddle, often time the string tension on the saddle forces the adjustment screws to bite down into the bridge itself, making it almost impossible to adjust without loosening the string.

    One of the most important things to remember if you're a novice working on your own bass is to not force anything. If it's hard to turn, screw or adjust, take a step back and re-assess the situation before applying any more elbow grease.

    Many brave truss rods have lost their lives to the 'force it' technique.:crying:
  15. Another quick question: How do I get the saddle to move up when loosening the screw? I loosen the screw, but the bridge doesn't move up as far as it should, I'm guessing because it's moving against the pressure. I'll try loosening the string up a bit.

    Also, I've nailed most of the 12th frets in tune (except for the C string >.< stupid screw), but some of the higher frets are still sharp (or flat, depending on the string). How do I correct this?

    I've seen Fender's website for set ups, but I don't have all of those tools. About the only things I have are a bass, a screwdriver, and some allen wrenches. :meh:

  16. I guess I should mention that I got new strings put on as a part of the set-up.
    I'm not sure what type or guage they are, but they're DR's of some sort. They seem smoother than High Beams, so I'm gonna guess they're the Marcus Millers (they feel like 'em), that I requested, but was told were out of stock.