(4 of 5) How to Set the Intonation on Your Electric Guitar

Setting Your Intonation

Tools
Electronic Tuner
Philips Head Screwdriver

Your guitar should be feeling pretty good to play at this point in the setup, but you may still be experiencing some intonation problems. In this section we’re going to add the icing to the cake by helping you get that clean and clear sound all serious guitarists strive for. Warning – you may be amazed by how much better your playing sounds after you carry out this step correctly.

Setting the intonation on an instrument is something a lot of guitarists do without carrying out the first three steps of the five step setup. Using our house analogy; that’s like trying to build a beautiful house out of sheet rock, windows and shingles – (good luck). You need a foundation, walls and a roof first!

Straightening your neck and setting the action at the nut and at the bridge were the foundation, walls and roof of your setup. They all set the stage for the warm, clean and bright intonation that you’ll learn how to set in this tutorial. If you’ve taken the time to walk through the first three steps of the five step electric guitar setup, then you’re in a great position to get started on this fourth step.

Assessment

1. Play the harmonic of the low E string (E6).
2. Make sure the string is perfectly set to pitch using your electronic tuner.
3. Now play an E at the 12th fret of the E6 string and check its intonation. The tone of the the E played at the 12th fret of the E string should be dead on. If the note comes up as sharp or flat on your tuner then you’ll want to adjust the intonation of the string at the bridge.

intonation_electric

What to Do

“If the note is higher, stretch that tire. If the note is lower, bring her forward.”

The quote above is from the one and only Al Markasky. It’s a good way to remember what to do once you’ve made a diagnosis of a given string’s intonation. If the fretted note is sharp, then you’ll want to increase the length of the string. If the fretted note is flat then you’ll want to bring your saddle forward and decrease the length of the string.

Adjustment 1 (Naturalizing a Sharp Note)

If the note at the twelfth fret is sharp, then you’ll want to increase the length of the string by bringing the saddle of that string back (stretch the tire).

1. Using a screwdriver, bring the saddle back, by tightening the screw at it’s base just an 1/8th of a turn or so.

saddleadjust_electric

2. Tune the string back to pitch.

3. Check the intonation of the string using the assessment method above.

4. Repeat steps 1 – 3 until the harmonic played at the 12th fret and the fretted note at the 12th fret are set to the correct pitch.

Adjustment (Naturalizing a Flat Note)

If the note at the twelfth fret is sharp, then you’ll want to increase the length of the string by bringing the saddle of that string forward.

1. Using a screwdriver, bring the saddle forward, by loosening the screw at it’s base just an 1/8th of a turn or so.

2. Tune the string back to pitch.

3. Check the intonation of the string using the assessment method above.

4. Repeat steps 1 – 3 until the harmonic played at the 12th fret and the fretted note at the 12th fret are set to the correct pitch.

Play a few chords and notes at different point on the neck to check the intonation. Chances are you’ll be amazed by just how much better you guitar feels and sounds. Now it’s time for the last step: setting the pickup height.

Next Step –>


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