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Intonation Eludes Me

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by maj34, Apr 16, 2021.

  1. maj34

    maj34 Tele-Holic

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    I've never owned a proper strobe tuner, but I've used "TB Strobe Tuner" on my laptop (via USB on a THR 10 amp) and Strobe Tuner 1.4 on my android phone via the microphone.

    Both of these are pretty old pieces of software now, but are as good as they were 10-15 years ago and there are many forum tales on the internet of people using these programs to get results as good as anything.

    When I set intonation it is a 1-2 hour process usually. I obsess over getting strobe pattern to match (open string to 12th fret, I gave up on harmonics). I don't have a nut problem.

    I just setup a guitar like this and thought I had nailed it. I played some open chords in G, recording into a looper, and then did played in the 12-15th fret G pentatonic zone... and it sounds terrible! If you were jamming in a band you'd stop and have to retune.

    Do I need an expensive Peterson tuner? Or do I just get close with the tuner and then go by ear?
     

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  2. JL_LI

    JL_LI Friend of Leo's

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    I've never had a problem tuning a guitar except at GC where there are half a dozen other instruments being played simultaneously. I use a Snark or a D'Addario mini tuner on my guitars. Intonation on a guitar is an approximation at best. In fact, it's the very small deviations from the perfect frequency that gives a guitar it's richness. The other thing to consider is that a guitar is a fretted instrument so the frequency of the fretted note sounded will never be perfect, even when the open string is perfectly in tune. Then there's fretting pressure. Push harder on a string and fretted notes will go sharp. The same thing will happen if you push on a string. That's why classical players are so careful about fretting notes with the long finger tip as perfectly perpendicular to the fretboard as possible. In my experience, it probably has more to do with technique than tuning the string and setting an individually adjustable saddle. I have a Gretsch with a floating roller bridge where the only intonation adjustments available at the bridge are shifting the entire bridge. Classical guitars have a fixed non-compensated saddle. Telecasters originally came with three saddles, not six. All can be played so they sound in tune by being as meticulous about technique as you seem to want to be about using a tuner. Like many things, no one listening to you will notice anything wrong if you're playing well. They'll notice every little thing if you're not.
     
  3. SRHmusic

    SRHmusic Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    That's a long time. I would hope it would only take a a couple minutes for one cycle of checking tuning, loosening strings, adjusting either action or intonation, retune. Then iterate (check, loosen, etc.). Perhaps 10 to 15 min? I use a Boss TU-12H chromatic tuner.

    Perhaps there are some other problems. Are the notes around frets 10 to 15 all in tune? (You can check tuning at any note with a chromatic tuner.)

    The guitar is never perfect or even that stable over temperature changes, so it's not worth investing a lot of time in it. Also, note that a 'perfectly tuned' guitar is still a compromise for a tempered tuning. The 3rds in particular (e.g. B relative to G) are noticeably off.
    [Edit - noticably off from the harmonics of the fundamental, or compared to 'just intonation.']
    (I nearly always adjust the tuning a little for the song if playing solo acoustic.) (Also, for manual tuning, I only tune by tuning all strings fretted at their lowest "A" note to the A string 12th and 5th fret harmonics (octaves), as the other harmonics are not correct for the tempered tuning.)
     
  4. stormsedge

    stormsedge Friend of Leo's

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    I did the intonation on one of my new guitars the night before last using a Peterson clip-on. I did open and 12th...anything beyond that is too complicated for this guy. Took about 45 minutes because I hadn't done it in so long and my eye kept telling me the saddles weren't where they should be despite the tuner (and my ears') insistence I was going the right way. All said, it was close enough before I started that I could have left it alone, and I had been playing it that way for nearly a month...my technique (or lack thereof) throws enough stuff in the game that perfect intonation is not gonna make a big difference;).
     
  5. maj34

    maj34 Tele-Holic

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    Thanks everyone. On the guitar I setup last the intonation is so far off. I'm not talking about the types of imperfections that one must accept playing a fretted instrument -- those types of conversations and that type of hearing is well beyond my ears' capability.

    It does seem to carry on (i.e. get worse) higher up the neck, and conversely, it's just fine up until the 7 or 8th fret.

    Frankly I've always assumed I didn't have a good enough ear to set the intonation by ear and always relied on the strobe.

    One mistake I think I'm making is fretting lightly when setting intonation. I know I should fret how I play. Alternatively I've considered tuning flat a bit -- within the range of what moderate finger pressure affects things, or even "erring on the flat side". Anyone else set intonation this way? Seems to make sense to me, but a quick google it seems like it's not a common approach.
     
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  6. alex1fly

    alex1fly Tele-Meister

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    Some guitars intonate better than others. It shouldn't take 1-2 hours. There may be other issues going on. Best move IMO is to take it to a professional to get their hands and measurements on. You've already admittedly spent many, many hours fighting this instrument and by now you deserve to know if you have an intonatable instrument or not. If yes, you can learn what you're doing wrong to intonate. If no, you can decide whether to keep the instrument.

    I say this from my own experience of struggling to intonate my instruments. The few I have that intonate the best were set up by professionals. The others that I've done myself are close, but not nearly as spot-on.

    A hardware tuner is good to have. Doesn't have to be expensive. The clip-on ones are pretty good.
     
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  7. billy logan

    billy logan Tele-Meister

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    My 2 cents-

    I like my TC Electronics clip-on tuner better than my Snark. Idk why.

    I don't have a Peterson tuner; Peterson tuners do cost more, but there are software app versions for iOS and Android, if I'm reading this link correctly, for $9.99 ... shop ... btw The piano tuner who came by- he used idk some kind of app in his smartphone and successfully tuned my spinet piano.
     
  8. blackguts

    blackguts Tele-Meister

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    If the strings are shot they will not intonate very well
     
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  9. johnnylaw

    johnnylaw Tele-Afflicted

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    There is the concept of “tempering” your guitar by actually de-tuning it a bit.
    Somebody probably has a youtube video on the topic by now.
    I hear a distant brain cell blaring something about moving the B string flat a whisker.
     
  10. LutherBurger

    LutherBurger Poster Extraordinaire

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    I have an Android phone, too, and I don't trust its microphone to do anything well.

    If you own an actual tuner of any kind, try that.
     
  11. Cosmic Cowboy

    Cosmic Cowboy Tele-Meister

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    Sounds like a somethings wacky. I just use the strobe tuner on my Line 6 processor.

    Playing a tele, i only hope to get it 'as close as possible'. Even the stuff I would like to tweak, is not universally possible. Keep dialing each side in till everything is as balanced as possible.
     
  12. JRapp

    JRapp Tele-Holic

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    Setting the intonation for the 12 fret octave is a start. On some guitars, you can sweeten it by slight adjustments to get better intonation on the 15th-17th-19th frets as well.
     
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  13. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Tele-Afflicted

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    Is it a Tele?

    Shared saddle bridge? That can take some patience.
     
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  14. 41144

    41144 Tele-Afflicted

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    Here say but... Ditch the strobe:eek: {edit ... that should say Heresy :lol: }

    I'm all for having equipment in tune and do use clip-on and pedal tuners but... In a band situation if you aren't all tuning to the same thing, be it tuner, piano, whatever... Things can still go awry.
    Regarding an individual (solo) instrument... You need to trust your own ear when tuning.
    Get a string in tune, then tune the rest using harmonics, then play a few chords/runs .
    No problem using a tuner as well... But trust your ear to know when that instrument is in tune.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2021
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  15. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Doctor of Teleocity

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    New strings are absolutely necessary.

    I just tune the open strings, then tune at the 12th fret using the intonation adjustment. Then repeat as needed until all are in tune, open and 12th.

    If you have a three saddle Tele, the shared saddles introduce some unavoidable error. Just split the error between the two strings, best you can do.
     
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  16. billy logan

    billy logan Tele-Meister

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    This is a slightly different topic than setting up your intonation, but,

    as to "tempering" as johnnylaw mentions in post #9 - I think bluegrass guitarists FLATTEN the B string a little, possibly because so many tunes are in G? and B is the MAJOR 3rd in a G scale, the "well-tempered"* concept.

    {*EDIT: my bad- NOT the "well-tempered" concept. The opposite: tuning specifically for one key only, in this case, G}

    I just read at The Gear Page that Cindy Cashdollar "sweetens" her C6 tuning by SHARPENING the 5th's (G naturals) of the scale 2 cents sharp, FLATTENING the 3rds and the 6ths (E naturals and A naturals) 2 or 3 cents flat, and leaving the root notes (all the C naturals) the heck alone :)

    Cindy Cashdollar's concept, flattening the E's in a C6 tuning, goes along with the bluegrass people flattening the B string for key of G.

    I'm 'bout to try that sharpening my 4th string G on my CEGACE tuning.

    btw James Taylor's EADGBE tuning, but tempered or sweetened is at the top of this page from The Gear Page ... index.php ... Cindy Cashdollar's C6 tuning tweaks are in the middle of the linked TGP page if you don't believe me!
    btw commenters there bring up some logical questions/objections.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2021
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  17. northernguitar

    northernguitar Friend of Leo's

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    Intonate with the old strings. New strings still need to stretch and might not be completely on the plane of the fretboard.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2021
  18. Nickfl

    Nickfl Friend of Leo's

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    Are you sure you don't have a nut problem? I had similar problems with a guitar where it was out of tune with itself after setting intonation and I eventually realized that the nut was too high and that made it impossible to get the intonation right at the open chord position and further up the neck at the same time.
     
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  19. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    Audiologists tell us that most people can tell the difference of +/- 5 cents between two note. In measuring intonation you will often see +/- 3 cents as "well intonated". If I am compensating a guitar for someone other than myself I will ask her to fret the strings - her pressure and the amount she stretches may be very different from me. When I'm working on a guitar on my bench I just automatically use a Peterson StroboFlip, I've used it for so long now its just automatic. And don't forget whatever you use as an indicator it probably has a "calibrate" button, I set mine against an A440 tuning fork.

    IMG_2095.JPG

    (Obviously the archtop intonation will be a compromise, but I can get pretty darn close)
     
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  20. brown2bob

    brown2bob TDPRI Member

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