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Yet another intonation thread...

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by HereIGoAgain, Dec 3, 2012.

  1. HereIGoAgain


    Oct 16, 2011
    (I realize I'm asking for opinions, and as far as mine, my mind is made up regarding "good enough." I just want a feel for the general consensus as to how guys have resolved what I'm about to describe..)

    When it comes to setup and tuning, for those who take their guitars or basses to a tech, would say something like "I need this set up and I want it strobe tuned" to the tech?

    I have a guitar that just isn't cooperating. (I know this is a bass forum, but many of the same principles apply.) I've tried 12th fret harmonic to 12th fret note, I've tried open to 12th fret, and I've thought about setting specific frets in tune to their appropriate notes. All I can hear with my chording is "wawawawawawawawawawawawawawawa" from the beat frequencies. I tried new strings of a different brand today. Sure enough, my intonation points where I last set it are off.

    I called my local shop today. They don't own a strobe tuner. My best tuner is a Seiko ST777 which has +/-1 cent.

    For as picky as I am, and as much as I don't want people telling me I don't know how to tune, "Good enough" just plain isn't. I want my guitar right: Nut to last fret I want it right. I know "Just tune to a chord" and my response is that that one chord will be right, but not every other chord.

    My local guitar store tech did say that he could put Buzz Feiten on it.

    For you guys, is "good enough" good enough? Would you instead start calling around if your local guy can't strobe tune? Would you go for your own strobe tuner?

    Thanks guys.
  2. Violen

    Violen Instructor in the Vance/Rabbath Method Banned

    Apr 19, 2004
    Kansas City Metro Area
    Endorsing Artist: Conklin Guitars (Basses)
    Try the Buzz Feiten method.
  3. What type is the guitar in question?
  4. VinKreepo


    Nov 13, 2009
    Just think... $90,000 pianos are often tuned equal temperament. It's just one of those things. There are manufacturers out there who make basses and guitars with wavy frets that are supposed to be perfectly tuned... but it is still only for one key. Any chords NOT in that key will sound wretched.
  5. JTE


    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Invest in a Peterson virtual strobe tuner, use the "guitar tempered" setting, hold the bass in playing position while you adjust the intonation, make sure the nut and frets are in good shape, and set the intonation so it sounds right in the section of the neck you play in most often.

    There's simply no way to get a fretted instrument to play perfectly in tune everywhere so you have to compromise. But you can come close enough that very slight teaming if fretted notes by bending will sound right to you. As I said, thus assumes the nut is precise ( and almost no factory nut by any major manufacturer is cut well enough), the frets are in good shape, the action is low enough that string stretch isn't a critical factor, and you use good strings with a solid witness point at the saddles.

  6. boynamedsuse

    boynamedsuse Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    As already stated, you will not get anything that sounds perfect up and down the neck in every key. The Buzz Feiten system will get you as close as any though. I have regular and BF tuning on different guitars and much prefer those that use BF tuning.
  7. cbyrd2200


    Aug 31, 2009
    The real question is how worn are the frets? If you wore a groove into one of the frets, that means you have to push the string farther to make contact with the fret and will have sharp intonation. If the poor intonation you're hearing tends to be sharp, then you may be due for fret leveling.
  8. Handyman

    Handyman Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2007
    Austin, TX
    I'd question a shop that doesn't have a proper strobe tuner for doing intonation, especially given how cheap the modern fully electronic strobes are.

    Normal tuners just don't have enough accuracy to do a good intonation job. If you've got a Windows PC that you can plug your bass into, you can download this freebee virtual strobe tuner. This'll be way more accurate and fast than your Seiko.

  9. Hapa


    Apr 21, 2011
    Tustin, CA

    I happen to be level 2 BF certified...I have had to say that it does work, if you have the ears for it. But, for context to a bass instrument its a waste of technology. Your fretting technique is a lot more the issue, not the bass. However Jumbo frets and a heavy fretting hand can make things harder than they need to be. There should be very little mojo behind intonation, it is an adjustment.

    Just curious, what kind of bass? Have you measured the bridge placement? have you used a straight edge to see if the neck taper is straight/ loose pocket or poorly routed neck pocket for improper alignment. The FB could have been glued on at a slight angle off the center line. using calipers measure the distance from the 1st fret to the nut cut on both treble and bass sides of the neck.
  10. megafiddle


    May 25, 2011
    Check the notes at the first frets compared to open strings. Often problems like that are
    caused by nut slots that are too high. Or the nut could even be mislocated.

    If the problem is at the nut, the low frets will not only be out of tune with the open strings,
    but the low frets will be out of tune with the higher frets (when intonated open to 12th fret).

    Also, if it is the nut, the Buzz Feiten system should correct things, but then a proper adjustment
    of the sdandard nut would do that also.
  11. HereIGoAgain


    Oct 16, 2011
    My bass is a Fender Jazz. Ironically, it snapped right into line in terms of intonation. I did that one open string to 12th fret note. I can play in a group in any fretboard position and have confidence I'm in tune. I do watch my fretting technique and I make sure I don't slightly bend the strings. I like D'Addario strings on it, and it's a joy to play.

    The guitar is an Epi Les Paul Joe Bonamassa model. (I went with it because it came with a hard case and it has Gibson USA Burstbuckers.) I replaced the stock bridge with a Gotoh bridge. I actually measured the scale length, and from nut to center of bridge it's 24 3/4." I love the look and feel of the guitar, but it's been a pain the euphemism in terms of tuning. I'm hoping it was that I got a bad run of strings. "Eyeballing" it indicates a straight neck. The frets are all new.
  12. megafiddle


    May 25, 2011
    Your Seiko ST777 should good enough.

    If your open string and 12th fret are in tune with each other, compare the 1st fret to the 13th fret. If they are noticeably out with each other, the problem is the nut.
  13. HereIGoAgain


    Oct 16, 2011
    Why the playing position when most guitar techs have a bench?
  14. HereIGoAgain


    Oct 16, 2011
    The LCD needle on my tuner keeps dancing around. I think I am going to have to give up and get a strobe tuner. I'm tired of that guitar sounding like a complete piece of _____ no matter what I do.

    Yes, I did notice the first fret sharp compared to the 13th fret, but most other les pauls I've seen have the same nut height.
  15. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    That tuner can hear better than you can - it's more accurate than human hearing. By definition, if you are tuned accurately by that tuner, IT IS GOOD ENOUGH...because it's better than your hearing - or anyone else's hearing.

    There is no need to tune more accurately than that tuner.
  16. megafiddle


    May 25, 2011
    The neck will bend under it's own weight when you set the bass or guitar on it's back.
    The tuning will change when it is then moved to the playing position. It depends on the
    neck. Effect is less with heavier or shorter necks.
    But I've never seen intonation change enough to matter.
    Anyway, that is why it is recommended.

    You still can not rule out a problem at the nut. It's position also matters. If the slots were cut
    at the wrong angle, the string could be sitting on the rear edge of the slot (headstock side)
    instead of the front edge (fretboard side). If this takeoff point for the string is at the back of
    the nut, it is equivalent to the nut being too far back. The slots need to angle downward
    towards the headstock so that the takeoff point is at the front edge. Or again, the nut could
    simply be misplaced.

    First though, make sure the strings are good. The tuner reading should not bounce around.
    The reading may start out out sharp and then stabilze at some lower reading. That would be

    Make sure the pickups are not too close to the strings. The magnetic pull can do all kinds
    of weird things. Lower them and see if it helps.

    If you can currently intonate the12th fret to the open string, then a new tuner is not going to
    help. Also, intonation adjustments (open to 12th) have very little effect on the lowest frets.
    You're 1st fret is still going to be sharp. Which, if everything else is good, indicates a
    problem is at the nut.

    How does the 12th fret harmonic compare to the open string? Often, bad strings or high
    pickups will cause the harmonic to be off tune.
  17. klaus486


    Jun 27, 2009
    portland or
    sales geek Portland Music co.
    Wondering if maybe a pickup is too close to the strings thus causing a magnetic warble? Try lowering the pickups. You can always put them back where they were.