How to Intonate Your Electric Guitar

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Any bought guitar, either brand new or second hand, needs to be intonated.  First, what is intonation?  Simply put, intonation is setting your guitar or any musical intrument’s tone to accurate pitch.  When do we intonate a guitar? We check a guitar’s intonation when:

1.  The guitar hasn’t been used for a long time.  Wood seems to flex or bend in time when not in use.  This can cause your intonation to be off by a little due to time.

2.  You replaced or upgraded your bridge set.  Guitar bridges with movable saddles bought from a store or second hand is not adjusted to your guitar’s intonation.  Once you’ve replaced your bridge you need to check it’s intonation.

3.  You replaced your guitar strings with a different gauge.  Guitar gauges differ in tension.  A light gauge has less tone but is easier to play.  A high gauge string has more tone and volume bubt is a little difficult to play due to it’s higher tension.  Once your guitar had a change in string tension, you definitely have to check your intonation.

4.  You guitar’s neck has been adjusted or replaced.  A guitar’s neck seem to flex overtime and this should be easily adjusted in it’s truss rod.  I don’t recommend anyone who doesn’t have any experience in adjusting a truss rod to this kind of adjustment by themselves.  One hard turn could snap your neck and your guitar could be ruined forever.  It is best advised to have an experienced luthier to this.  If your neck has been adjusted or replaced, it’s length would be changed thus the string tension is also altered.  This would require an intonation check.

How do we intonate a guitar?  If your not confident enough to do this yourself, you can take your guitar to a luthier to do the intonation for you, but with a little practice you’ll find that it’s easy enough to do.  This intonation is for electric guitars with adjustable bridges.  First, install a new set of strings with your preferred gauge to your guitar.  If you recently have new strings on your guitar, be sure that it is not older than two weeks.  Using any electric tuner, tune your string to pitch.  Then, fret the string on the 12th fret and check if it’s in tune.  If it’s flat or lower than the actual pitch, adjust that string’s saddle a little forward to the neck or fretboard, thus shortening it’s length.  Turn the saddle screws for it half a quarter each turn.  Tune your string again to pitch, then check again the 12th fret if it’s in the right pitch. If your 12th fret pitch is sharp or higher than the correct pitch, adjust your saddle backwards, or away from the neck.  If you’re open string and your 12th fret are tuned on the same correct pitch then you have intonated this string.  Repeat this process on the other strings and once you’re finished, you can now hear how beautiful your guitar could really sing.


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