Can restringing an acoustic mess up intonation (beyond the stretchy new string factor)?

Discussion in 'Acoustic Heaven' started by RoscoeElegante, Jun 7, 2019.

  1. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    Hey, all. Ark-a-rific here in the sogged East.

    So I finally cleaned and restrung my beater acoustic., a Sigma DM 18. (Good grief, the fretboard gunk looked like demonic tar.) Mended a crack, etc. It now looks like Neil Young didn't try to hug it.

    Put on new strings in the same gauge of the prior ones (medium)--and now it seems disagreeable, intonation-wise. For those moments when the new strings which I've been diligent stretching, actually are in tune, it actually isn't. The A and B strings just do not want to agree with each other, no matter what and where, even when the A and B agree with all other strings. Before restringing it, it intonated perfectly.

    So my question is did I damage the neck somehow, or might the truss rod need adjustment, due to just changing strings? Or is this apparently now-innate problem just a temporary thing that will likely resolve once the new strings get more evenly stretched out?

    Thanks for your advice here.
     
  2. drf64

    drf64 Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    you are certain it was properly intonated prior to the string change?
     
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  3. Texicaster

    Texicaster Tele-Meister

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    Certain new strings always sound weird on acoustics.. That's why I use the coated ones that sound a little broken in.

    Best practice is to string up to pitch and let it sit over night.

    If the neck moved enough to change intonation I think the action would be your biggest complaint.

    Is the action the same? Higher or lower?
     
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  4. Obsessed

    Obsessed Telefied Ad Free Member

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    You did mention mending a crack. Where was it located?
     
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  5. Stubee

    Stubee Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

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    I once or twice had a bad A or D string IIRC, it at least was a wound string, and it would not intonate right at all. I’m not talking minor problems but real bad. I changed it out and all was fine. I can’t imagine it happening on an unwound string but yeah, it’s a possibility and easy to check with a single string change.
     
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  6. Milspec

    Milspec Friend of Leo's

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    There are some brands that seem to create problems. I used to use the DR Blues on electrics, but it required re-intonation with every single string change so I stopped after the 4th set. On accoustics, I have only used D'Addario and Martin strings and have never had a problem with the intonation getting thrown off.

    My bet is the either we are just talking about the normal break-in stage where the strings need to settle before tuning becomes stable or else there are issues with where the ball is seated beneath the bridge pins. Do you bend the ball ends prior to inserting them into the saddle? Are you certain the ball ends are fully seated and did you put the bridge pins all the way down? I would double check the bridge pins and string seats, I think that will be the source of trouble.
     
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  7. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    Thanks for the feedback, gents. To reply to your questions/points:

    The intonation was excellent before I changed strings. But I have noticed a bit of A string/B string disagreement over the past 6 months. (It's about 17 years old and never had a neck adjustment.)

    The action seems exactly the same before and after restringing.

    The crack is the infamously common dry-out + stress one running perpendicularly from the base of the bridge toward the bottom strap peg end. It definitely narrowed once the more-humid weather arrived. I was prepared to reinforce it up under the top with a glued-in thin pine strip right beneath the crack, but found out, again, just how much the guitar is cross-braced like a battleship. There was no need, and little room, to add any structural support. No trace of the crack is palpable or angled-mirror visible from within the guitar/on the bottom of the spruce top. So it is a pretty superficial crack. I ran a little bead of wood glue along it, on top, just to seal it, especially since humidity has almost entirely closed it up.

    These are strings I don't usually use--Ernie Ball Mediums (12-54); I usually just go Martin Mediums--but they seem fine. I gave a friend a set I'd bought at the same time. He usually uses Martin Mediums or D'Addarios, and reported no problems with the Ernie Balls. I've never had an intonation problem when I've changed strings on this guitar before.

    I actually did forget to bend the ball ends, but I did carefully seat the bridge pins, which are in there very securely. If I continue to have troubles, I'll bend the ball ends properly and re-check.

    Hope this helps the diagnostic picture. Thanks again.
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2019
  8. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    Gig-looming bump....

    Any further observations/suggestions here?
     
  9. Milspec

    Milspec Friend of Leo's

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    You might have to bite the bullet and replace the strings again, then strum hard for awhile to get them broke in prior to the gig. Sometimes you can get a defective string set although it is getting rare. D'addario are not the best sounding, but always consistent and worth installing so you don't walk into a gig with a bad sound.
     
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  10. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    I had the strings pretty slack, just to go slow with stretching them to stability. I just tuned them up another step, to the step down where I'll be keeping it. (One song I'm using it for is in F, but has to be played with the cowboy G chords. For the other songs, I'll just capo it as need be.) And it does sound less intonation-troubled. The strings continue to stretch out pretty wildly. I don't recall my usual Martin Mediums being as stretchy as the Ernie Ball Mediums, but I'll keep working at it to stabilize the strings as much as possible to see if the neck is the issue. Even so, as the neck bent a bit as I tightened up the strings further, it did seem to lessen the intonation issue.

    So might that be it--that when the neck was slackened by low-tuned strings, it went off kilter, but as it was tightened up, it straightened? Are necks that torque-y?
     
  11. toomuchfun

    toomuchfun Tele-Holic

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    I think it's just using a different string that most likely has different tension than the ones you are used to.

    Having all the strings off for a while to examine the crack and clean the fretboard may be a factor too. Now that you have it up to your normal pitch it should fall back in line, but give it some time. When I change strings on a non adjustable neck I try not to loosen more than 2 at a time if I can get away with it.
     
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  12. Obsessed

    Obsessed Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Can we assume that you are in standard tuning?
     
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  13. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    Yes, but a step down. The guitar was down this step for about a month before I cleaned and restrung it. But, FWIW, for about 75% of its 17 years, it's been in open D.
     
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  14. Cheap guitar guy

    Cheap guitar guy Tele-Meister

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    You probably know this stuff so don't be insulted by me asking. Are the winds around the posts going under each other down towards the head stock and tight together. Are the strings locked in tight at the bridge. Did you check the neck relief. Just stretch each string with your fingers from the bridge up, bring it up to tune and stretch it again until it holds tune. I see no reason to tune up and wait to see what happens. Stretch them all until they keep tune then check the intonation again. And double check where the strings are sitting on the saddle.
     
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  15. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    Hi, Cheap guitar guy. ​

    You probably know this stuff so don't be insulted by me asking.

    None taken! Thanks for weighing in.​

    Are the winds around the posts going under each other down towards the head stock and tight together.

    Yes.​

    Are the strings locked in tight at the bridge.

    Yes--though I did forget to bend the strings a bit at the ball end first.​

    Did you check the neck relief.

    Yes. Just as it was before the restringing.​

    Just stretch each string with your fingers from the bridge up, bring it up to tune and stretch it again until it holds tune. I see no reason to tune up and wait to see what happens. Stretch them all until they keep tune then check the intonation again. And double check where the strings are sitting on the saddle.

    Done that, several times, but the strings are still stretching out quite a bit. I'll check it again after work, but it was improving with more tension on it as I tightened the strings to a step down (where I need them to be on this particular guitar, and where I usually keep it).​
     
  16. Cheap guitar guy

    Cheap guitar guy Tele-Meister

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    Cool. Thanks for taking my advice with a grain of salt. Just an FYI. I put some D'Addario strings on my acoustic like a month ago and I had to stretch those damn strings like 10 times until they held tune. And don't forget to check where the strings are sitting on the saddle..
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2019
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  17. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    Thanks. Will do!
     
  18. rocking rooster

    rocking rooster Tele-Meister

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    When you changed the strings were they all off the guitar at the same time? If so could the bridge saddle have tipped forward or backward without any string tension to hold it firmly? I always change one string at a time to make sure this doesn't happen.
     
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  19. rangercaster

    rangercaster Friend of Leo's

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    Lube your nut ... New strings need time to settle in also ...
     
  20. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    Thanks for your advice, everyone.

    Saddle hadn't moved.

    Nut was indeed sticky with the new strings. A little graphite helped.

    Once I got the strings up to full tension at standard tuning, the intonation problem lessened over a couple days until it's almost back to the spot-on it was before the cleaning and string change.

    Just tuned it to an open F (FACFCF), and it's good there, as well.

    These Ernie Ball Mediums seem a bit more lively than the Martin Mediums I've been using for decades. Take longer to settle in. Nice definition, though

    Not sure why intonation was off for those several days, but the workhorse is happily back in the saddle now.

    Thanks again.
     
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