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Setting Intonation

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

  1. RHFusillo

    RHFusillo Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2000
    Phoenix, AZ
    Before I ask my question, let me say that I have looked at the threads in this forum, and I have read the Gary Willis website, and I own Dan Erlewine's book. I cannot find the answer to this question.

    I have recently purchased a Peterson Strobostomp tuner, which is an excellent gadget. I have been setting my intonation in the same way for the last 30 years: by making sure the 12th fret is in tune with the 12th fret harmonic. But when I do this, I notice on the strobe tuner that the lower frets are significantly out of tune.

    Short of installing the Buzz Feiten Tuning System, does anybody have any recommendations for compensating for this? Do you try for a compromise between, say, the intonation at the 12th fret and the intonation at the 5th fret?
  2. I'm going to make an assumption that you are comparing the fretted notes on frets 1-12 measured by the strobe tuner - right? And if I'm thinking correctly, as you go up the neck, the notes get progressively more "in tune" with the tuner reference? I'm just making sure of the basics here but I probably don't need to if you are the Fusillo that I think you are. ;)

    The way I compensate for this is just as you described - hit a happy medium between the two harmonic nodes. Most of my playing (hell, all of it if I'm behaving) is done below the 12th fret so I'm not as sensitive to upper register disonances as other more accomplished and versatile players. But I think there are 2 other outside factors that can affect this condition - string selection and action. I believe that the more flexible the string is, the less it is stretched when it's fretted. Tension is going to be raised automatically simply because of the shortening the string but a stiff string needs even more pressure to achieve the fretting and I think this can raise the strings pitch just enough to create a tuning problem. Likewise, an extra high action could do the same thing - by requiring the string to be stretched to reach the fret. If you've got stiff strings AND a high action it could be compounded. I'm not saying this is your case at all, just a couple of the variables that could come into play.
  3. Minger


    Mar 15, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    I'm one of the people who do the 12th fret harmonic - it still sounds in tune for me so I'm good with it.

    I don't go above the 12th fret though
  4. RHFusillo

    RHFusillo Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2000
    Phoenix, AZ
    Thanks, Hambone, your assumptions are correct.

    As for string tension and action, I don't think these are aggravating factors. The strings I am using are TI Jazz Rounds and TI Jazz Flats, which are low tension. I like my action in the neighborhood of the Fender recommended height, whichever brand of bass I'm playing.

    --Bob Fusillo
  5. I didn't think those last two had much to do with it but sometimes, and especially for lurking readers, it might.

    There is one other thing that bears on this and that's the difference between natural harmonics and the tempered natural harmonic tuning system. And that's just what the Buzz Feiten system recompensates for.

    I think the real problem here is too good a tuner! :D