What to upgrade for better intonation

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by OwenHu99, Dec 20, 2018.

  1. OwenHu99

    OwenHu99 TDPRI Member

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    I have a stock 2016 or 2015 mim tele that has very poor intonation. I've had proper set up done to it but I still can't stand the intonation (compared to my Larrivee OM02 acoustic that has perfect action and intonation). What components should I upgrade to get a better intonation? Thanks!

    P.S. I use quite a heavy gauge (11s or 12s)
     
  2. lammie200

    lammie200 Friend of Leo's

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    Compensated nut like an Earvana nut and Philadelphia Luthier Supply Tele saddles. I am not affiliated in any way.
     
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  3. luckett

    luckett Banned

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    Get a neck with true temperament frets.
     
  4. TeleTucson

    TeleTucson Tele-Afflicted

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    You haven't given enough information for anyone to know the best answer.

    The first place to start is checking whether the "proper setup done" was as proper as you seem to think (relief, action, intonation). Often the nut is too high, and then fretting near the headstock (or playing "cowboy chords") sounds off because of the level of depression required to fret the note pulls you sharp. Another obvious place to start is asking what kind of saddles you have - 3 two-string barrels uncompensated, 3 two-string barrels compensated, or 6 individually adjustable saddles. If intonation is everything to you, you should go for individually adjustable saddles.
     
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  5. Ira7

    Ira7 Doctor of Teleocity

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    Yep. It’s gotta be a nut problem.
     
  6. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    It could be a lot of things. If the intonation reads as correct with the open string and 12th fret harmonic, the first culprit is player touch. It's a lot easier to push down hard when fretting strings on an electric, than on an acoustic. Especially if the electric has bigger/taller frets.
     
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  7. OwenHu99

    OwenHu99 TDPRI Member

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    I'm sorry I assumed saying stock mim tele would be enough. It has 6 individually adjustable saddles. I've tried setting up the intonation with the saddles but it was very difficult to get a good enough intonation everywhere. I suspect it very well could be the nut, as the intonation is particularly bad on the g string and the nut has a crack on the g string. Would nut would you recommend that is the most cost effective? Thanks!!
     
  8. OwenHu99

    OwenHu99 TDPRI Member

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    I have very light touch so I doubt it's me pressing too hard down.
     
  9. tfarny

    tfarny Friend of Leo's

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    Have you tried using a wound G on your tele, since that's the string that bugs you the most and an acoustic always has a wound G?
    I have taken to tuning the G a few cents flat so that it intonates better up to around the 5th fret. There are more complex tunings that might help more, but that's the most important and simplest change to make to tuning.

    You may need a new nut, but most likely you just need it file it down a bit and to adjust your tuning practices or strings.
     
  10. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Try impossible. It's a guitar. Read up about equal temperament.

    And then, my opinion, go play your guitar. Every guitar you've ever heard, with perhaps a few very rare exceptions, are just as 'poorly' intonated. It is what it is.

    Finally, when you say difficult to get good intonation, what is 'good'? Is it something that sounds correct to your ear, when played in certain configurations (as in certain chords, in certain places on the neck)? Or are you defining 'good' as the tuner reading within a few cents.

    Read up on sweetened tunings. As part of living with imperfect intonation - because we don't all want to play squiggly, compensated frets - we may tune purposely 'out of tune', because it sounds best for the type of playing we do.

    When you intonate the open string to the twelfth fret, press down about as hard as you will when you actually play that twelfth fret. If done well, you can expect those two locations on your neck to be properly intonated. That's it. All the other frets will, by definition, be 'out' to some extent. If you don't like the sound when you play, then try intonating between a different octave, such as the third and fifteenth frets.
     
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  11. TimTam

    TimTam Tele-Holic

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    What is the first fret action ?
     
  12. Chunkocaster

    Chunkocaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    I upgraded a tele of mine with a six brass barrel saddle bridge from china that cost $10 bucks delivered. Its the next best thing to a 3 brass saddle vintage bridge and gives a little more tuning range. Another tele of mine has the Wilkinson compensated 3 brass saddles which perform about the same as a standard 3 saddle bridge. I don't buy into the brand name hype or exotic materials. I don't like the modern bridge equivalents on teles.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2018
  13. OwenHu99

    OwenHu99 TDPRI Member

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    As compared to a Larrivee OM02 acoustic guitar, my tele sounds very bad in terms of intonation.

    I played the acoustic guitar almost exclusively since I moved to a new country. And I never had any intonation/tuning problem to my ears (and rightfully so since it costed 3 times more than the tele). So now that I got my tele back, I cant bear playing it because so many notes sound out of tune.
     
  14. OwenHu99

    OwenHu99 TDPRI Member

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    I did have a wound 3rd at some point but I can't remember if it was better. I'll try that next! Thanks
     
  15. aerhed

    aerhed Friend of Leo's

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    Your nut has a crack. It was just professionally setup? Start right now by researching nut height and proper slots.
     
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  16. Geo

    Geo Friend of Leo's

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    Make sure the pickups are not to close to the strings and the strings are in straight alignment from nut to bridge.
     
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  17. schmee

    schmee Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    Well, if it doesn't intonate up the neck then it has nothing to do with the nut right? Is the action too high causing string stretch when fretted?
     
  18. Musekatcher

    Musekatcher Friend of Leo's

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    If the intonation is bad, you don't have a proper setup. I hope you didn't pay someone to just move the saddles, and call that a setup.
     
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  19. DoubleBass92

    DoubleBass92 TDPRI Member Platinum Supporter

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    Sounds like you've already tried setting the intonation and action yourself and you can't get the guitar to intonate correctly? If so, it's most likely an issue with the nut as others have stated, or (heaven forbid) a sloppy fret job.

    Someone mentioned that guitars just don't play perfectly in tune, which technically is true. But they can be a lot closer to it than many guitar makers (especially of electrics) would lead you to believe--your Larrivee is living proof of that, even without a compensated nut. Making a guitar that truly plays in tune throughout all registers requires very tight tolerances and high QC standards, which increase manufacturing costs.

    I would recommend you try some sort of compensated nut. There are a lot of different options out there--Buzz Feiten, Earvana, as well as several luthiers who custom make compensated nuts. Of these, I would recommend you give the Earvana nut a try. You can find them inexpensively, and they don't require any modification to your guitar. The Buzz Feiten system is more expensive, and it doesn't actually compensate each string individually, which is kind of stupid. A custom compensated nut is going to cost you more than it's worth.

    The earvana nut isn't perfect--they didn't design the compensation for the low E, A, and D strings quite right, which annoys me. But it DOES improve intonation somewhat, especially on the G string, which is often the one that is most notably out of tune.

    https://www.shop.earvana.com/Fender-Style-Shelf-Nuts-FDRNUT.htm

    Just make sure you have a good luthier do the install/setup. ;)
     
  20. JL_LI

    JL_LI Friend of Leo's

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    I'd go back to setup. Just today, I took out my Strat and wasn't pleased with intonation. The neck had bowed a little in the month and change since I used it last. I was also using the tremolo arm which I hadn't been using last time. I tightened the truss rod adjustment to flatten the neck, raised the saddles of any string that buzzed just enough, and retuned the guitar. I checked my octaves and harmonics, noodled a little bending notes on all strings and tuned the guitar again. Then I started playing for real. This took me about 15 minutes. Too many people think setup is something that gets done when the guitar is new but I find that setup is dynamic. With temperature and humidity changes, the truss rod and saddles may need adjustment. My guitars almost always need a little attention after string changes. Check that screws are tight, at least periodically. Don't overtighten them or you'll cause a host of new problems, but screws can work loose over time. The only thing that can be left alone if it was done right is nut filing. Only consider replacing things if after all that, you still aren't playing in tune.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2018
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