How to Adjust the Intonation on Your Guitar

Have you ever heard other guitarists talking about guitar intonation? What is intonation and how does it affect your guitar? Most of the time people only talk about intonation when the guitar needs to be repaired, but how do you know when your guitar’s intonation is out? In this article, I will explain what guitar intonation is, how it affects your guitar, and how to adjust it.

Before we start repairing your guitar, let’s talk a little about what intonation is. Have you ever played a guitar that sounds in tune when you play open chords but sounds horrible when you play up high on the neck? If so, this guitar was in need of a serious intonation guitar repair.guitar saddle

Put simply, guitar intonation is the relative tuning of each note, as it is played higher on the fretboard. The concept of intonation is a fundamental part of the tempered tuning system and different scale lengths. Have you ever wondered why the lower frets are spaced out farther than the higher frets? Varied fret spacing is a necessity in the tempered tuning system. Ideally, the 12th fret will be a perfect octave or 8th above the open string, but this is not always the case. Intonation is set by the guitar nut, bridge, and frets. If any of these are out of alignment, your frets will not make perfect pitches.

I know; this sounds like a complicated guitar repair, but it really isn’t. A basic guitar repair for intonation is nothing more than just moving the bridge saddles a bit. Obviously, on acoustic guitar the saddles aren’t readily movable, but electric guitars’ saddles are.

Before you do any repairs, check the intonation of your guitar with a tuner. The open string and the 12th fret should be the same note – not sharp nor flat. If they are the same note, you don’t have to adjust that string. If the notes are different, you will have to detune the strings and loosen the saddle with either a screwdriver or Allen wrench. All you have to do is slide the saddle back a little, tight it back up, and tune your guitar to adjust the intonation.

Guitar repairs for intonation can kind of be a pain because it might take a few adjustments in order to get the intonation correct. Just keep checking your guitar with the tuner until each string is perfect.

That’s all there is to it. Your guitar should be in perfect tune and you are ready to rock.



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