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Guitar Maintenance: Adjusting the intonation

A guitar's intonation means whether the sound is sharp, flat or in tune when a note is played at different locations along the neck. Improper intonation may mean a guitar still sounds in tune when played towards the head, but will sound out of tune the further down the body you play.

How can I tell if I need to adjust my guitar intonation?

  1. Play the lowest string (E) open (i.e. no frets held) and assure it is in tune. Use an accurate tuner for this.
  2. Repeat this with the rest of the strings.
  3. At the twelfth fret, hold the low E string in place. Using the tuner, check that this string is also showing as an in tune E, the same as it was in step 1.
  4. If this does not show as in tune, intonation must be adjusted.
  5. Repeat for all strings.

Adjusting the intonation

  1. Locate the bridge of the guitar. Look for the adjustment screws. In general these face away from the neck and pickups, although this may not always be the case.
  2. Locate a string that needs adjustment, checking again the string is in tune.
  3. Play the string at the twelfth fret to check if it is flat or sharp.
  4. If Flat: Using a flathead screwdriver, turn the adjustment screw a little to the left. This should move the saddle the string is resting on forwards. This shortens the string and makes the tone sharper.

If Sharp: Using a flathead screwdriver, turn the adjustment screw a little to the right. This should move the saddle the string is resting on backwards. This lengthens the string and makes the tone flatter. 5. Check if the open string is in tune, as in the above steps. Repeat this for the twelfth fret of the same string. If the string is still out of tune at the twelfth fret, make another small turn on the adjustment screw in the appropriate direction. 6. Repeat these steps for all out of tune strings.

Dislcaimer: These are instructional articles only and should be carried out only by someone with a superb knowledge of their instrument. Gear4music is not responsible for any damage inflicted by following these guidelines.

Posted on 20 Mar 2009 09:00 to category : Tips and advice

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