Low E string intonation

dekelogic

TDPRI Member
Joined
Sep 2, 2016
Posts
23
Age
61
Location
Baltimore
My wonderful Nashville Tele has always had an issue with low E string intonation. Open E great, Open E and E at 12th fret, great. Play a G at the third fret and it is way off. Bridge adjustments can't solve this. Different strings, thicker gauge, not the solution. Every other string is great. I have read this is often a nut problem. Would swapping a nut, like a new Tusq or something, be a good move? I'd like to try a few things before giving it over to a tech.
 

Winky

Tele-Holic
Joined
Nov 6, 2011
Posts
747
Location
Canada
My wonderful Nashville Tele has always had an issue with low E string intonation. Open E great, Open E and E at 12th fret, great. Play a G at the third fret and it is way off. Bridge adjustments can't solve this. Different strings, thicker gauge, not the solution. Every other string is great. I have read this is often a nut problem. Would swapping a nut, like a new Tusq or something, be a good move? I'd like to try a few things before giving it over to a tech.
It's an issue with every guitar I own. Things to do:

1) Ensure the nut is cut as low as possible to reduce the vertical distance to the fret when fretting so reducing the amount of "string stretch" required. This will decrease the issue, but not solve it.

2) Using the lightest possible touch when fretting the G is also helpful.

3) Tune the open E a touch flat, so the F, F# and G are closer. It's a compromise.

4) Have a good guitar tech crown the lowest 3 frets on the E and A string slightly towards the nut.

It's just horrible to walk a nice bass-line down to finish an a G that is obviously sharp (particularly as part of a chord where it is more noticeable to my ears).

The Buzz Feiten tuning system and Earvana nut addresses this issue basically by moving the nut very slightly towards the bridge. I actually think all guitars should be set up like that from the start. All tuning systems are a compromise but the "mathematically correct" distance from the 1st fret to the nut doesn't actually work very well at all because of the increase in string tension when fretting at those low frets.
 
Last edited:

Freeman Keller

Doctor of Teleocity
Joined
Aug 22, 2018
Posts
10,437
Age
77
Location
Washington
....Open E great, Open E and E at 12th fret, great. Play a G at the third fret and it is way off.....
Exactly what does that mean?

First, is the guitar in "nashville tuning" (octave above concert for the bottom four strings) or concert tuning?
I assume that the fretted 12th fret (E3) is exactly the harmonic (164.1 hz).
Is the fretted G sharp or flat? How many cents? Are other notes on the sixth string sharp or flat?

Compensated nuts can help with some intonation issues. Most of the time then involve moving the first couple of frets but there are different systems

IMG_7044.JPG
 

schmee

Telefied
Ad Free Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2003
Posts
22,696
Location
northwest
My wonderful Nashville Tele has always had an issue with low E string intonation. Open E great, Open E and E at 12th fret, great. Play a G at the third fret and it is way off. Bridge adjustments can't solve this. Different strings, thicker gauge, not the solution. Every other string is great. I have read this is often a nut problem. Would swapping a nut, like a new Tusq or something, be a good move? I'd like to try a few things before giving it over to a tech.
Fret or capo the E at the third fret. Check the gap under the string to fret 1 while you are doing this. It should be very minimal, I like ~.010 (one to two printer paper thicknesses) or less. I adjust the nut grooves to have that and down to .005 at the high E.

I will say though, on 24.75 scale length guitars, the 2nd and third fret on the low E always sounds off to me. 25.5 seem fine.
 

dekelogic

TDPRI Member
Joined
Sep 2, 2016
Posts
23
Age
61
Location
Baltimore
Thanks everyone. I'll try some of the tips. Capo trick sounds smart!
People on a Tele forum don't know what a Nashville tele is? Come on guys! It's a tele with a center strat pickup.
 
Last edited:

dekelogic

TDPRI Member
Joined
Sep 2, 2016
Posts
23
Age
61
Location
Baltimore
Fret or capo the E at the third fret. Check the gap under the string to fret 1 while you are doing this. It should be very minimal, I like ~.010 (one to two printer paper thicknesses) or less. I adjust the nut grooves to have that and down to .005 at the high E.

I will say though, on 24.75 scale length guitars, the 2nd and third fret on the low E always sounds off to me. 25.5 seem fine.
Thanks, I will try this. It is really bad. FYI my strat is not a problem at all. I have nut files and not much to lose.
 

Freeman Keller

Doctor of Teleocity
Joined
Aug 22, 2018
Posts
10,437
Age
77
Location
Washington
Thanks everyone. I'll try some of the tips. Capo trick sounds smart!
People on a Tele forum don't know what a Nashville tele is? Come on guys! It's a tele with a center strat pickup.
There is also something called Nashville tuning which basically is putting the octave strings from a twelve string on the four lower string to get a jangly sort of sound. Nashville tuning is a bit funky to intonate with a long scale so I was just checking to make sure that was NOT what you had.

Speaking of three pickups, you do know that if they are too high you will have intonation and tuning issues. Not uncommon on strats.
 

dekelogic

TDPRI Member
Joined
Sep 2, 2016
Posts
23
Age
61
Location
Baltimore
There is also something called Nashville tuning which basically is putting the octave strings from a twelve string on the four lower string to get a jangly sort of sound. Nashville tuning is a bit funky to intonate with a long scale so I was just checking to make sure that was NOT what you had.

Speaking of three pickups, you do know that if they are too high you will have intonation and tuning issues. Not uncommon on strats.
I know what a Nashville tuning is. Used to have an acoustic set up with it. I just thought a bunch of Tele fanatics would known that various Nashville sessions players would mod their tele with an added center strat pickup to make it even more versatile and that Fender copped on to this has been selling a Nashville Tele for some time. What are they teaching in school these days? Gees :)
 

JSMac

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
Jan 16, 2018
Posts
1,543
Age
70
Location
Front Range Colorado
I'm dealing with the exact same low E string issue today on my Squier Standard Tele. Just fine at the 12th fret and several before that. But, it's off when fretting the G and A.

I changed string gages from 10s to 9s. The string height at the nut is just right. I noticed that the neck pickup is adjusted pretty high, especially on the low E side. I wonder if that is interfering with the intonation. I was going to pull the pickguard and adjust it down a bit but I'd need to actually remove the neck because it overlaps the guard.
 

Freeman Keller

Doctor of Teleocity
Joined
Aug 22, 2018
Posts
10,437
Age
77
Location
Washington
Its funny but there is a thread at another subforum right now where the poster is complaining that no one is building custom Nashville teles. I
 

dekelogic

TDPRI Member
Joined
Sep 2, 2016
Posts
23
Age
61
Location
Baltimore
I'm dealing with the exact same low E string issue today on my Squier Standard Tele. Just fine at the 12th fret and several before that. But, it's off when fretting the G and A.

I changed string gages from 10s to 9s. The string height at the nut is just right. I noticed that the neck pickup is adjusted pretty high, especially on the low E side. I wonder if that is interfering with the intonation. I was going to pull the pickguard and adjust it down a bit but I'd need to actually remove the neck because it overlaps the guard.
I'm going to check my pickups too. I hope to fix this. Otherwise, I will have to avoid songs with a G chord on this guitar :)
 

Boreas

Doctor of Teleocity
Joined
Nov 3, 2019
Posts
10,779
Age
67
Location
Adirondack Coast, NY
I know what a Nashville tuning is. Used to have an acoustic set up with it. I just thought a bunch of Tele fanatics would known that various Nashville sessions players would mod their tele with an added center strat pickup to make it even more versatile and that Fender copped on to this has been selling a Nashville Tele for some time. What are they teaching in school these days? Gees :)

We aren't all fanatics. The people who have responded are only trying to help. The place to start is to avoid any confusion - hence the questions asking for clarification on whether it was a guitar model or the way you have it strung. It is not as easy as it seems to troubleshoot with words and not having the instrument in-hand. What you are describing is not a typical Tele problem.

Best if you can quantify how sharp/flat the intonation is. Sometimes barrel saddles can get installed backwards which will cause intonation problems. Or the bridge may have been installed incorrectly. Many possibilities. So we need to ask questions. Pix always help.
 

Dostradamas

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
Apr 23, 2021
Posts
1,430
Location
Not here
I adjust my low E intonation so the open E and 3rd fret G are as dead on as possible and let the 12th fret E be a bit off.

I will play that 3rd fret G 100's of times before I play the 12th fret E once.

Many here seem resistant to the idea of setting your intonation where you like it.

The 12th fret octave is not the only reference point.

I would try moving the saddle so your open E & 3rd fret G sound how you like it and don't worry if your 12th fret octave is sharp or flat a bit.

See what you think
 

Winky

Tele-Holic
Joined
Nov 6, 2011
Posts
747
Location
Canada
I adjust my low E intonation so the open E and 3rd fret G are as dead on as possible and let the 12th fret E be a bit off.

I will play that 3rd fret G 100's of times before I play the 12th fret E once.

Many here seem resistant to the idea of setting your intonation where you like it.

The 12th fret octave is not the only reference point.

I would try moving the saddle so your open E & 3rd fret G sound how you like it and don't worry if your 12th fret octave is sharp or flat a bit.

See what you think
That's a good suggestion. I'm going to try it.
 

TimTam

Tele-Holic
Joined
Jun 4, 2010
Posts
889
Location
Melbourne
There is a residual error after setting intonation at the 12th-fretted note (which is where most people do it), which increases the further you get from the 12th fret - see chart below. On its own it is probably not generally heard, nor easily measured with most tuners. But by definition it's at its worst by the time you reach the lower frets, the furthest away.

And there it can be exacerbated by any note sharpening that also occurs with getting the string down onto the fret near the nut, due to the string's bending stiffness. How much the string bends/sharpens when fretting on those low frets is affected by the action there.

What is your 1st fret action ? (ideally measured with a feeler gauges, because it should be very small).

bGEkPlP.jpeg

French, M. (2012). Technology of the Guitar. Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-1921-1
 
Last edited:




Top