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Intonation tricks

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by loopfinding, Oct 22, 2020.

  1. loopfinding

    loopfinding Tele-Holic

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    so we're all familiar with the problems of tuning our instrument, how the nature of intonation on fretted instruments is pretty rough, how pianos use stretch tuning, etc.

    so instead of setting intonation by the book for each string, and then using a tuner, and then adjusting by ear; or using a special tuner style to compensate like james taylor...what are some of your favorite methods to compensate for your own playing/grip at the saddle (e.g. intonating slightly flat or sharp) before you hit that tuner?
     
  2. sjtalon

    sjtalon Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I think a meter (needle, lights, whatever) and eyes make a person want to, or try to get EXACTLY right, and too much time is spent.

    I'm fine with getting PRETTY close on each string, and if my ears can't really hear any diff...................done. In other words, I don't get too concerned with having to be EXACALLY RIGHT ON with every string.

    Another thing about it is if you don't play way up on the neck at all, it (intonation at the 12th) doesn't really matter.

    Or maybe you're the only one that is going to hear it .............bedroom musician.

    Sometimes intonation is over rated.


    PLAY THE DANG THING !
     
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  3. darkwaters

    darkwaters Friend of Leo's

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    My unorthodox method is to tune each string to the 12th fret harmonic and then adjust the intonation for that string to the corresponding note of an Am7 chord voiced at the 5th fret (rather than the normal method of intonating to the note at the 12th fret). It sweetens chords played up the neck, but especially the cowboy chords, which always sound "off" to me when using the normal method.

    "Why Am7 at the 5th fret?", you ask. Cause it's halfway up the neck, I seem to spend a lot of time in that area between the 5th and 7th frets (rather than the 12th as sjtalon just pointed out), it covers all 6 strings, and I like Am7!
     
  4. kbold

    kbold Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    I usually set by the book, then repeat intonation with capo on the 1st fret.
    Any inconsistencies, I check/adjust action.
     
  5. SixStringSlinger

    SixStringSlinger Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    On guitars with individually adjustable saddles, barring some kind of mechanical problem, we can get it close enough to perfect that it doesn't matter. We can certainly get it better than we can hear.

    Something like a classic Tele bridge is a bit more of a compromise, but with compensated saddles, I can get it good enough for my Snark tuner. Not exactly the industry standard, but again, better than I can hear.

    With plain straight classic Tele saddles, even more of a compromise. But how many recordings from a time when that's all that was around do you listen to and think, "Yeesh, that intonation!"?

    I think that the sound of a guitar is so ingrained in our popular culture (and certainly among us here) that its inherent out-of-tuneness is just part of how it sounds. That kind of wrong sounds right, and any more right would be wrong. Or at least a whole different kind of guitaring.
     
  6. ruger9

    ruger9 Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    The only "trick" I had had to use to get intonation right (and I set it "by the book", I guess, using the 12th fret harmonic vs the 12th fret fretted note), is the G string (unwound) saddle never has enough room to move back to get it right, so I cut the saddle spring in half.

    The real "trick" isn't so much in the intonation, it's in the tuning- I have started tuning by 4th and 5ths, instead of using a tuner, and the guitar is overall (all over the neck) in better tune than when I use a tuner.

    I am wondering tho- if FRETWORK plays a very large role in this: I have a '89 Charvel with a Floyd Rose that I played the hell out of back in the day, and it's STILL got better intonation and tuning than my other guitars... a little surprising. Seems to me you need PERFECT fret crowns to accomplish that? IDK, I'm moving a little out of my pay grade now....
     
  7. That Cal Webway

    That Cal Webway Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Getting rid of my three barrel saddle intonated-compensated and etc bridge

    And ordering a six saddle Gotoh!!
     
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  8. Weazel

    Weazel Tele-Holic

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    I tend to use my ears to get in the ballpark for newly assembled guitars (I have pretty good ears), after an initial truss rod adjustment along with a fairly good cut nut.
    Then I'll leave it for a few days before checking with a tuner. (I prefer the "analog" needle type).
    Usually I have to adjust the spun strings a bit, but I'm often spot on with the plain strings.

    This applies to every kind of bridge I use.
     
  9. lammie200

    lammie200 Friend of Leo's

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    Compensated nuts like the ones from Earvana or shims like the ones from Hosco. Neither involve modifications to a guitar in any way. I have one or the other on all my guitars.
     
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  10. loopfinding

    loopfinding Tele-Holic

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    yeah me too! am7 with the 9th on top, both the 3rd and 5th together, and the 3rd and 9th together always sounds wrong to me with a number of methods.

    i guess my initial post was around the fact that i always have so much trouble wrangling in the G&B in the middle of the neck, and compromising with the cowboy positions. i tried the "saddle up your telecaster" advice on duncan's website (priortizing the D). i think i prioritized the A and B for the other two saddles, i can't remember at the moment, but it seems to be OK for now. i think i can pretty much follow my polytune and all i have to do is detune the G slightly. i guess messing with one string is better than having to mess with two while tuning.

    some people with archtop bridges are of the mind you should adjust the bridge with regards to the A and B instead of your E's, and this has worked for me with some string sets. i guess it's not as bad on those types of guitars since i'm either all cowboy (folk, country) or all middle (jazz) on them. but I was wondering if there were any good methods for the tele.
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2020
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  11. darkwaters

    darkwaters Friend of Leo's

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    Another Am7 guy! Well howdy!

    Yep, I use this method on all my electrics, including my Tele.

    Intonation always seems to be a game of compromises, but this is the best method that I've been able to come up with.
     
  12. Allan Allan

    Allan Allan Tele-Holic

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    I tune the G a hair flat, and I'll sometimes have to adjust the B string. Then things sound good enough.

    I can't help but look at an acoustic guitar and think all this saddle intonation business is a little overblown.
     
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  13. Telenator

    Telenator Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    I do a fair number of nut compensations. On some guitars, it's the only way I've been able to get perfect tuning on open position chords.

    Most of my guitars will play a perfectly tuned Bb at the first fret.

    I manage this with two methods.

    1) I cut my nut slots lower than most people. I find my guitars play much easier and play in tune much better with lower nut slots. Of course, this means I need to change the nut, or shim it a bit more frequently than usual, but you'll never hear anyone complaining about my tuning. It's well worth the trouble to sound great!

    2) Go ahead and tune your guitar. Then press the bass note for a G chord on the 3rd fret. 95% of the time, this note is going to be sharp. Especially on Gibson scales.
    On some of my guitars I've had to add a little chip to the fret side of the nut to effectively make the space from the nut to the first fret shorter. It's called compensating the nut, and it works the treat!
    Add a piece of bone or whatever, that is about 1/8" wide right at the nut slot. Then file the slot through. String the guitar and check the intonation of that string at the 12th fret, and then at the 3rd fret. Keep shaving back the new nut piece, while double checking and adjusting the intonation until the 3rd fret tunes perfectly. Makes a guitar infinitely more fun to play when your open position chords ring true!

    nut photos 010.jpg
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2020
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  14. charlie chitlin

    charlie chitlin Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    I tune all strings open.
    Get used to how the intervals should sound.
    If I'm going to be playing cowboy chords, I tune all strings to the low E.
    11th fret to tune the D, 3rd fret to tune the G (your brain/ear naturally hears the octave)...etc.
    Naturally, at a gig this all goes out the window and it's the tuner pedal.
    Best ever gear invention.
     
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  15. loopfinding

    loopfinding Tele-Holic

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    i can usually forgive it on an acoustic or a nylon, since on those i usually tune to an open tuning, or i tune so that chords in the piece of the key sound best. i find it gets squirrelier when you have an electric and you're jumping around keys and positions more.
     
  16. jhundt

    jhundt Doctor of Teleocity

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    I just don't pay any attention to intonation anymore. I check it once in a while - last time for most of my guitars was probably 5 years ago. I guess if I had a really important recording session coming up, I might check it again. But that ain't happening, so I don't.
     
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  17. Gardo

    Gardo Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    One time the piano tech was here and mentioned that he doesn’t necessarily tune every string to 440 pitch . It seems each piano has it’s own specs so it only makes sense that not every guitar should tune the exact same way. I like to play pairs of open strings and listen for that special sound with the exception of B which I fret to C when playing to a lower string
     
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  18. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    I learned a good trick that I always use on acoustics. Tune low E, high E and E at D string second fret so they sound in unison when played with normal strumming force. Then match B string’s third fret D to open D string. Then match B at 5th string’s second fret to open B string. Finally, match G string’s second fret A to open A string. Try it!
     
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  19. Telenator

    Telenator Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    There's really no reason why a guitar shouldn't be set up properly so it will tune correctly. (Unless the guitar is just defective.)

    I want to plug my guitar into a tuner, bing bing bing, tune it and start the next song. If I were a solo player it might not matter so much.

    It makes me cringe when a band mate is out of tune. It was so bad once, I attempted to fix his guitar, but discovered that some of the frets were actually in the wrong place. I bought the guy a used guitar and I said, "You don't have to pay me for it, but you do have to play it." I can't play with people who can't tune. Not any more.
     
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  20. ruger9

    ruger9 Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    The other guitarist in my band is like that- he's frequently out of tune. He doesn't have a bad ear, I think he's just used to being the only guitar player, in which case it wouldn't matter nearly as much as it now does, playing with another guitarist. I know it's not ME, because on the occasions when he's not at rehearsal, everything sounds great. And occasionally I'll sit out a tune at rehearsal, simply because I haven't learned it yet, and he's out of tune... he also uses a volume pedal to control his volume, and he frequently doesn't get it back to the exact same place, so he's frequently too loud... but that's another story.
     
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