Why Can't I Get My G&L ASAT to be in Tune on Every Fret?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by dtripoli, Jul 20, 2018.

  1. dtripoli


    Aug 15, 2010
    It's an '89 ASAT Leo Fender signature bass, Slab body and wonderful neck
    It's been played regularly for the last 10 years and sporadicly before that.
    I'm assuming it's never had a fret dressing.
    Intonation at open and 12th fret will be spot on, but around 3rd to 5th frets it'll be sharp or flat.
    I've gotten to the point where I get my bass tuned perfect at the 5th fret and let the open E, A & D strings be a little flat or sharp depending.
    I'm using those frets around the 5th more than the open strings anyway.
    The frets themselves feel smooth for the most part but obviously a little shinier under each string.
    Using a Kliq tuner
    I've always done my own bass work and repairs. Swallow my pride and take it to a qualified luthier?
    IMG_0839.JPG IMG_0833.JPG IMG_0836.JPG IMG_0837.JPG IMG_0835.JPG
  2. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    Intonation on fretted instruments is a compromise at best. The strings stretch as you fret them and different gauges stretch different amounts, you setup also impacts that, the higher the action the more deviation you will have. The only way to get the strings in perfect pitch is to go fretless or pay way too much for a bent fret bass. A couple cents is inaudible, don't worry about it.
  3. dtripoli


    Aug 15, 2010
    Agree and I highly doubt anybody except our perfect pitch hearing guitarist will notice.
    Question remains, sooner or later fret wear happens and does effect the pitch of the note.
    How often do most bassists fret dress their basses or do they do it at all?
    TomB likes this.
  4. Reedt2000

    Reedt2000 Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2017
    Central New Jersey
    This, compromises are made so things work as a whole. You can be mindful of how hard you're fretting. If you've got jumbo frets you will pull notes sharp, the string only needs to be just below fret height. If you hear a tuning problem you could look into a refret with shorter frets but if you only see the issue on the tuner there is no need to worry about it.
  5. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    I've been playing since '73 only one bass until ~10 years ago and never needed a dressing on it. It's only a hobby for me. My brother played for 50 years with two different basses; he had his frets leveled at least twice that I know of, both before I graduated high school, but that was his career.
  6. Old Blastard

    Old Blastard

    Aug 18, 2013
    I had the same problem and my tech said to change the strings. I did. It's been fine for a few years. Another bass developed a similar problem so I changed strings. worked again.

    Now I know when to change strings.
    bolophonic likes this.
  7. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    What's your procedure for setting intonation?

  8. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    The first thought I had was that the strings might be hosed.
    Old Blastard likes this.
  9. Old Blastard

    Old Blastard

    Aug 18, 2013
    I'm not very technical, but it's worked on a 34 scale Fender and a 32 scale semi hollowbody.
  10. dtripoli


    Aug 15, 2010
    Thanks folks for the replies. I am aware its impossible to have every string on every fret in perfect pitch.
    I think what I'm experiencing is; as I mature and getting better as a player, my ear becomes more sensitive to slight pitch variations. When I stated out playing bass, we didn't have tuners just a pitch pipe or you tuned to the keyboard.
    Then did the rest by ear....yes I'm that old. I'm sure there'd be gigs where I played slightly out of tune all night and never notice it.

    Pitch pipe.jpg Pitch pipe2.jpg Pitch pipe 3.jpg
  11. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician
    Even the squirrely frets in the picture won't really help. No fretted string instrument can play in tune. None. At least not to the natural harmonic scale. Here's why (take a deep breath).

    The naturally occurring notes in any scale are a function of the partials or harmonics from the base note of the scale. This is what will naturally sound in tune. The problem is that some of the notes are at different frequencies depending on what key you are playing in. So a D may be at 586.67 Hz or at 572.91 Hz depending on whether you are playing in the key of A or Bflat. In other words, if you had a string tuned to A and found the natural harmonic on that string that produced the note D, the frequency of that note would be 586.67 cycles per second. If you took the same string and tuned it up 1/2 step, you would find that the natural harmonic that produced the note D would be at 572.9 cps. That's a difference of over 2 cents on your tuner. So where should you place the 5th fret on your bass? Should it be where it will produce 586.67 cps, or where it will produce 572.91 cps? And the answer is - a compromise, somewhere in the middle of those two. So D will be about 1 cent off in both the keys of A and Bb, one slightly sharp, one slightly flat.

    That's only one example - there are many more. Which also calls into question your tuner's settings. Is your tuner set to compromise a D tuning? If so, for what key? D has different natural frequencies - it can be 580, 586.67 or 594 depending on the key.

    But don't get too much into a lather about it. This problem has be analyzed to death for centuries by musicians and scientists. Through the ages there have been different solutions to the problem. The current system of compromises is pretty well universally accepted in western music. But, and this is the important thing for those of us who own highly accurate digital tuners, don't start trying to measure the in-tuneness of fretted notes on your instrument. Your tuner may be optimized to provide the best tuning for open strings, but it cannot determine if the fretted D you are checking is in going to be played in the key of A or Bflat or whatever. And assuming that your super tuner understands all the compromises in the just intonated scale, your frets can't accommodate it. They would have to move depending on the key you are playing in. And what about that song that starts in A and moves up to Bflat part way through?
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2018
  12. JLS

    JLS Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2008
    Albuquerque, NM
    I setup & repair guitars & basses
    Can you hear intonation issues when you are playing with other musicians? If the answer is no, there is noproblem.
  13. daveman50

    daveman50 Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2007
    Albany NY
    Like the OP, I check my tuning at various points on the neck and split the difference so it's more or less in tune everywhere - that's the closest you can get. I tend also to tune around the notes I want to be most in tune, so if I'm playing a rock gig with a lot of songs in the keys of E and A, I'll focus on the 7th fret on the A string and the 9th fret on the G string.
  14. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Intonate it at the 12th fret on each string and move on.
    br1qbat likes this.
  15. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Gold Supporting Member

    god love 'em.....frets.
  16. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY
    Id try a new set of strings