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Intonation on a Telecaster

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by Larmo63, Feb 9, 2018.

  1. Larmo63

    Larmo63 Tele-Holic

    640
    Feb 1, 2018
    San Clemente, Ca
    My guitar needs intonation help, and I have never done it. It is sharp on the bass E string at the 12th fret, I think the saddle needs to be moved closer to the neck?

    Help? (Its a steel threaded three saddle type classic tele bridge)

    Should I just take it to a shop? Damn, I build old classic cars, this doesn't look like brain surgery....
     

  2. AAT65

    AAT65 Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    53
    May 29, 2016
    Edinburgh, Scotland
    If it is sharp when fretted then move the saddle away from the neck (make the string longer = flatter).
     
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  3. SPUDCASTER

    SPUDCASTER Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

    Look up the "Jerry Donohue" method on the Seymour Duncan site for some good tips.
     
    steveieg likes this.

  4. HappyHwy1owner

    HappyHwy1owner Tele-Meister

    Age:
    49
    321
    Feb 7, 2011
    Independence, Mo
    Like @AAT65 said, but you have to find a balance between the E and A strings.
     
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  5. milocj

    milocj Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Aug 21, 2005
    Michigan
    Loosen the strings a little bit on that saddle before moving it backward.
     
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  6. Ira7

    Ira7 Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    61
    Jan 8, 2008
    Coral Springs, FL
    It's sometimes impossible to get them all perfect, which is why you'll see saddles where the main screw is bent.

    This puts one of the strings sharing that saddle further away from the neck than the other, making that string slightly longer, and lowering the pitch.

    So with your current threaded saddle, moving it further away from the neck will fix your E, but now your A which was perfect might be flat at the 12th.

    It's a compromise, and you just want to get in the middle.
     

  7. Tele-phone man

    Tele-phone man Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 11, 2006
    Asheville, NC
    Start by moving the saddle back towards the bridge, as others have suggested, but move it further back than you need. The next step is important: PUT ON A NEW STRING! You are unlikely to ever get that old string to intonate correctly now that it has that tiny kink where it was breaking over the saddle before. With your new string, you should be intonating flat. Good. Now move the saddle forward a tiny bit at a time, retune, check intonation, repeat until it is correct.

    If this is a dual-string saddle, you need to replace both strings and check each of them as you move the saddle forward. As others have said, you may need to compromise between the two.
     

  8. Dacious

    Dacious Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 16, 2003
    Godzone
    Adjust your relief and action - you do have the nut cut right? Fret at third fret, should barely clear first fret. No more than a business card, or you're pulling it sharp. Check below.

    IMG_20180123_205023.jpg
    Adjust intonation for high E, G and A strings to right .You should find your low-E, D and B string slightly sharp.

    If you raise these strings on the height adjuster by 1/4-1/2 a turn, 1/8 turn at a time, you should find the three thicker strings on each saddle will go in. If they're a few cents flat it's better.

    I've used this method for years, three Teles with three barrel bridges, never had an issue getting them intimated.
     
    aerhed likes this.

  9. Obsessed

    Obsessed Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Nov 21, 2012
    Montana
    Good advice above. Main thing to remember, is take your time. Once you get it, you will only need to make slight tweaks in the future, unless you start changing components.
     

  10. Larmo63

    Larmo63 Tele-Holic

    640
    Feb 1, 2018
    San Clemente, Ca
    Thank you guys for the suggestions, I have two guitars to do. I'll report back.
     

  11. Ira7

    Ira7 Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    61
    Jan 8, 2008
    Coral Springs, FL
    I don't believe in intimation before marriage.

    Actually, I don't believe in marriage either, but that's a personal problem of mine based on experience.
     
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  12. Ira7

    Ira7 Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    61
    Jan 8, 2008
    Coral Springs, FL
    Okay. Let me understand.

    You're raising the height of the B, D and low E sides of the saddles? I thought that makes them sharper.
     

  13. Dacious

    Dacious Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 16, 2003
    Godzone
    No. You're lengthening the string overall. It momentarily raises the pitch (so you need to retune) but increases the distance from the twelfth fret. Only incrementally. But - enough. And because the height increase is so small, it doesn't noticeably affect playing.

    The key to both it and low-effort action I've found is action at the nut. Get it right, along with neck relief and you're home and hosed. Intonation becomes a snap.

    You might have to minorly readjust the G B hi-E strings but you can get it within a few cents.

    Get G-B- hiE in, your loE-A-D will be marginally sharp.

    So raise them slightly, they will go in. I always adjust strings a few cents low at 12 fret. That way if you squeeze hard fretting, less noticeable.

    This process, raising or lowering one end of the saddle could be used to bring intonated saddles in when they're not right, too.

    I didn't tune before because I was demo'ing the speaker. Old strings.

     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2018

  14. Ira7

    Ira7 Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    61
    Jan 8, 2008
    Coral Springs, FL
    When I get the hex screwhead screws for the 3-saddle on my Bigsby partscaster, I'll try this.

    Granted, it's that Bigsby minefield anyway, but I'll give it a shot.
     

  15. steveieg

    steveieg TDPRI Member

    60
    Apr 17, 2010
    Heidelberg, Germany
    I've got to think, if it's good enough for Jerry Donahue then it's got to be good enough.
    Listen to some of his playing if you still have doubts !

    Ach man, I just googled to check the spelling, and I see he had a stoke in late 2016, and may never play again.

    Best wishes to him and his family.
     
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  16. boris bubbanov

    boris bubbanov Telefied Ad Free Member

    My Dad is recovering really nicely from his stroke - I know everybody here is hoping for the best for Mr. Donahue, as well.

    And I think Jerry's intonation technique is great and it wouldn't hurt too many people to go back regularly and revisit this approach, and it sure won't hurt anyone.

    BUT. Part of the reason a master like Jerry Donahue sounds so incredible, so few notes off kilter, is he also knows the sneaky things we all eventually learn to do (sometimes without even noticing) where we re-arrange a passage to get rid of those sour sounding notes and we go harder on one note and lighter on another to achieve the correct pitch. And you're doing this on the fly and you may have overlooked that you're even doing it.

    This goes back to the old expression that a master like Jerry could sound great on a broken axe handle. It is for those of us who are not so masterful, that we in fact need more "help" than the best of the best would need.

    So, with all due respect, I'm cordially rejecting your truism! :^)
     

  17. steveieg

    steveieg TDPRI Member

    60
    Apr 17, 2010
    Heidelberg, Germany
    Actuall

    Actually as I usually sound as if I'm playing an old broom handle I need all the help I can get !
    (Cough) some of my Teles have compensated saddles...and it makes me happy to think I'm not so far off the note as I could be.
     

  18. Sinistra

    Sinistra NEW MEMBER!

    Age:
    62
    1
    Jul 9, 2018
    Sydney Australia
    Forgive me, I'm a newbie to guitar forums, but by reading lots of them on this topic I've finally solved my Tele intonation problems (sharp at the 12th fret on low E and A). Mine has the modern bridge with 6 saddles. I wish I'd known this years ago because I've had the same problem with other guitars...

    I did all the right things like lowering action at bridge and nut, replaced the nut with a Graphtech TUSQ XL one, tweaking the truss rod to get the neck pretty straight, adjusting the saddles back, and with the low E I had to take the tension spring off completely from the saddle to get it back far enough away from the nut. That doesn't seem to matter anyway...All this helped but didn't completely cure it. Still a tad sharp at the 12 fret, so for a while I just tuned my low E and A a little flat, and put up with it.

    Then I read about adjusting the pickups a little lower on the bass side, and bingo! The thing which REALLY cured it was LOWERING THE BRIDGE PICKUP on the bass side! Only needed about 1 mm lower and suddenly the damn thing intonates perfectly, all the way up the neck, and sounds more even across the strings too.

    Doesn't make me a better player, but it sure as hell makes the Tele nicer to play because I'm not distracted by hearing some notes and chords go just slightly off as I fret them.
     

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