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Electric Guitar Intonation Adjustment


Guitar intonation adjustment is one of the last steps in the electric guitar setup process. Guitar intonation is set last because so many other settings affect it. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines intonation as the ability to play or sing

in tune. You cannot make your electric guitar sing and play in tune if you don’t check and correctly adjust intonation. The bottom line is that

Frequency Wavelength Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day

a guitar is not completely tuned until the intonation is set. Static tuning (open string tuning) is only the reference point from which the intonation settings are determined.


Adjusting electric guitar intonation is not difficult, but requires a bit of patience. Intonation adjustment allows us to mechanically alter each guitar string length to compensate for picking, fretting, changes in string gauges or brands, specialized tunings, action settings, and other variables that effect overall tuning. Guitar intonation should be checked on a regular schedule, every time changes are

made to the instrument adjustments or when the guitar strings are replaced.

Frequency Wavelength And Guitar Scale Length

In order to understand electric guitar intonation, we first need to examine guitar scale lengths and frequency wavelengths. When the guitar intonation adjustment is correct, the instrument will consistently produce accurate notes at every calibrated location on the fret board. To accomplish this, the note produced at the 12th fret must be exactly one octave higher than the static tuning, which is the note produced

when the string is played open. In order to raise the open note a full octave, the frequency wave of the open note must be multiplied by two, or doubled. To accomplish this, we need to divide the electric guitar string

Guitar Scale Length

length in half. This is where the scale length of the electric guitar comes into play. The scale is the distance from the back of the nut to the center of the bridge. The scale length not only determines the neck size, it also determines guitar string length. The distance from the trailing edge of the guitar nut to the center of the 12th fret should be exactly the same measurement as the distance from the center of the 12th fret to the center of the bridge. Therefore, the center line of the 12th fret is the center of the guitar scale length. To double the frequency wave, we need to cut the string length in half. We can cut the guitar string in half by pushing the string down at the 12th fret. When the notes played at the 12th fret are exactly one octave higher than the notes played on the open strings, the electric guitar intonation is correctly set.

Adjusting Electric Guitar Intonation

Adjusting the electric guitar intonation is not difficult, but it requires a few tools. A good electric guitar tuner and a small screw driver

continue the intonation adjustments. It should be noted that after every string adjustment, the instrument should be checked and retuned if necessary. It is mandatory that the electric guitar be kept in tune during the intonation adjustment process. When the 12th fret note is exactly (not sharp or flat) one octave higher than the open note on every string the guitar intonation adjustment is complete and your electric guitar is in tune.



It is now time to move to the next section in Electric Guitar Setup .com; Electric Guitar Pickup Height Adjustment.



Adjust the bridge saddles or blocks until the 12th fretted note is the same as the open note (only an octave higher). Then hold the guitar in a playing position and check the tuning of the open string and on the 12th fret. Because the bridge saddles or blocks were adjusted with the electric guitar lying flat, the tuning will probably be different when held in a playing position. If this is the case, make note of the variance and

guitar bridge saddle

Lay the electric guitar on a clean padded flat surface and place it on a neck stand. Loosen the string tension to take the pressure off of the guitar saddle block. If the fretted note is flat, the bridge saddle or block must be moved toward the guitar nut to shorten the string length. If the fretted note is sharp, increase the string length by moving the bridge saddles or blocks away from the guitar nut.


Intonation Adjustment guitar adjustment

or allen wrench set is required. To adjust the intonation, hold the electric guitar in a playing position. Tune the guitar and lightly fret it at the 12th fret. Because of vibrational transference and stresses on the neck when the guitar is laid on a flat surface, tuning should be done holding the guitar in a playing position. Using the tuner, determine if the fretted note is flat or sharp as compared with the 12th fret harmonic note (open string note).