Very basic intonation question

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by REDLAWMAN, Apr 17, 2012.

  1. When adjusting intonation at the 12th fret, do you depress the string actually directly on top of the metal fret (as suggested in the Fender manual/guide), or do you actually fret the note at the 12th fret as you would when you're playing it (ie. on the board between the 11th and 12th fret and up against the 12th fret?

    I'm not talking about the 12th fret harmonic; I appreciate that this is directly over the actual metal fret.
  2. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Bring Back Edit/Delete

    Nov 30, 2011
    Bay Area, CA
    Personally neither. I fret the note with a normal finger position but do so very lightly. My normal grip pressure would sharpen the note a little more.
  3. OK.

    I really don't want to dilute my original question by what I'm going to say now, but isn't the point to get the fretted/played note on the 12th bang in tune just like the open string and if you've got that, then you're sorted?
  4. tangentmusic

    tangentmusic A figment of our exaggeration

    Aug 17, 2007
    This is the goal. Also, notes should ring true as possible all along the neck.
    The 12th fret is the gold standard. A couple cents sharp/flat here or there is acceptable.
  5. I fret normally. And usually it is off a few cents but I don't really care about a tiny bit off. Unless you have perfect pitch you won't notice the difference.
  6. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    but that's the problem!

    you'd carefully "intonate" your bass, and then play it sharp all night.

    check it the same way you play it, both the fretting hand and the plucking hand.

    that way you can later rock out while being close to where you should be.
  7. You want the intonation to be as accurate as possible as your playing style normally produces. Therefore push the string down exactly as you would if you were playing that note.
  8. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Bring Back Edit/Delete

    Nov 30, 2011
    Bay Area, CA
    Not exactly. The effect of being slightly sharp (under extreme pressure) at the 12th fret is not proportionally represented further down the fretboard. Fretting lightly versus using a death grip or fretting on the metal is a compromise between the two extremes.

    I recommend experimenting rather than being theoretical about this. Figure out exactly what the delta is for your action and playing style, then find out what that means across the (fret) board. I'm more concerned about the tuning around the 5th to 7th fret even though the measurement is taken at the 12th.
  9. 5StringFool


    Jun 10, 2011
    Greenup, KY
    I actually use the 12th harmonic and the fretted note... maybe I'm doing it wrong, but it has worked well for me for years. :meh:
  10. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Bring Back Edit/Delete

    Nov 30, 2011
    Bay Area, CA
    Lots of different methods seem to work well. Even the advice in Fender's guide (see sticky) that starts with using a tape measure is really useful.

    The only thing I think in question is whether to intentionally sharp the notes with firm pressure or to use a light touch. We're splitting hairs really.
  11. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    well, squeezing the string in a death grip is a bad habit anyway.

    the idea is to intonate as you normally play, so normal playing is intonated.

    that means skipping harmonics and delicate hand placement, and just play the thing like you play it.

    also, there's no real magic about the 12th fret; with a good tuner, you can fret several notes (like from 9 to 15), see if most of them are sharp or flat, then adjust until they average out to being in tune.
  12. Thanks very much everyone.
  13. I do it almost right over the fret as you stated - the idea is to not stretch the string anymore than possible.
  14. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Bring Back Edit/Delete

    Nov 30, 2011
    Bay Area, CA
    Btw - just got a Peterson rack strobe tuner today. Holy cow! What a huge difference it makes when setting intonation. I had my doubts that I was losing my mind buying an expensive toy. I'm spoiled now. Highly recommended.
  15. We had one of those in our touring band in the 90s - amazing tool, kept all the guitars and basses in tune with precision.
  16. The nature of a fretted instrument means it's all a compromise. You can get it bang on at the 12th fret but it may be out at the 5th fret or the 17th fret. If you're primarily a bottom dweller then ensuring it's bang on in the lower positions is more important. If you play all over the board, you may have to compromise by having it minutely off at the 12th in order to get it close all over.
    Frets are positioned according to mathematical formulae, and do not take into account things like varying mass of different strings, age of strings, height of strings above frets, how much finger oil and grease is in the strings etc, etc. Hence, the imperfect nature of intonation and the need for compromise.
  17. JohnMCA72


    Feb 4, 2009
    That's what I do. I check all strings on all frets, but I give greater weight to the strings/frets that I know I use most often. There are compromises & "executive decisions" to be made. I fret the strings as close as possible to how I normally play, but if I know that some string/fret is a little flat I'll bend it while I'm playing. Knowing that, I generally intonate so that nothing is sharp, because I can't "fix" that on the fly.