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  • And you thought you knew how to intonate your guitar...

    I just found the below.

    Reason I was looking was because I was busy practicing something and just happened to be looking at my tuner while mucking about around the 24th fret and noticed that it was flat. Couldn't understand because I know I spent a lot of time on setting the intonation on the particular guitar I was playing and I believed it to be as near as dammit to "intonation heaven" (not to mention that I very rarely look at my tuner while I'm playing but happened to be doing this today because I was gauging the accuracy of my string bends for fun). So there goes that ("intonation heaven" I mean)!!! LOL!!! A link to the original post (and thread) is below.

    I have to say that this is first time I've ever seen anything like this. I also have to say that I have to agree 100% with the concepts discussed. Intonating the way indicated reduces the effect of a host of other oddities and anomalies such as those introduced by a floating tremelo as but one example i.e. the intonation errors (he refers to them at tolerances) are basically averaged out over the entire fretboard. As I say: makes perfect sense to me.

    My esteemed colleague Andy has dealt with a lot of the issues that could be wrong with your guitar, however lets assume for a moment that it isn't riddled with serious faults and concentrate on the issues that are common to al guitars, good or bad, and which we can do something about by the application of skill.

    The initial issue you have highlighted - the intonation drift above the 12th fret - is one that is common to all modern guitars by virtue of their construction. It's not a difficult problem to solve, but it's hard to explain.

    When we depress a string to the fret we stretch it and the increased tension causes a slight increase in pitch. We compensate for this by moving the saddle away from the fret to lengthen the string's sounding length, dropping the pitch by an amount which compensates for the slight increase in applied strain. So far, so good, I'm sure everyone's still with me at this point.

    If you have a dead straight neck the string breaks from the fingerboard at something around half a degree. the gap between the string and the fret increases constantly and the applied strain rises continuously. The rate of increase is not exactly linear, but neither is the rate at which the compensation increases, which is logarithmic, in line with the fret placement. At the kind of displacements we are dealing with in stringed instruments there is more or less parity between the pitch increase from the applied strain and the compensation achieved by moving the saddle.

    A dead straight neck however results in an action that is very high in the higher register of the fingerboard. To accommodate the needs of modern guitarists we harness the technology of the adjustable truss rod which allows us to introduce a controlled curve in the neck. What this allows us to do is curve the fret plane around the arc of space occupied by the vibrating string, allowing the action to be lowered at the bridge by creating space in the first quarter to one-third of the fingerboard. The effect of this is to cause the aspect angle of the fret plane relative to the string to level out with the fret progression from nut to fretboard's end, so that from the 12th fret onwards the fret plane is more or less parallel to the string and the gap between string and fret doesn't change very much. Because the applied strain is approximately proportional to the gap between the string and fret, then neither does the applied strain change very much, however the fixed lengthening of the vibrating string still represents an increasing percentage lengthening of the vibrating length.

    If you read any book on guitar maintenance they will tell you that the intonation is set by measuring the fretted note at the 12th fret against the the harmonic at that point. If you do this however, because of the condition I have described above, the notes sounded at the higher frets become progressively flatter as they are now being overcompensated.

    The trick is to reduce the compensation slightly for the higher frets and average out the error between the 12th fret and the higher ones. A skilled technician can do this by using the harmonic at the fifth fret as a reference for the fretted note at the 19th fret on the next string up. The intonation is correct when each pair of strings satisfies the following set of conditions

    1) the harmonic at the 12th fret is the same as the note at the 7th fret on the next higher string

    2 the harmonic at the 5th fret is the same as the fretted note at the 19th fret on the next higher string

    3) the harmonic at the 12th fret on the higher string is the same as the fretted note at the 17th fret on the next lower string.

    Basically all notes of any given pitch value should sound the same as all other notes of the same pitch value at all points on the fingerboard, or an octave apart, within an acceptable margin of error. It is usually possible to achieve this to well within the human difference limen (the smallest difference in a stimulus that we are normally able to perceive).

    It's important that you do not use a digital tuner to set or measure the intonation of a guitar. The reason for this is that the human brain doesn't assess pitch in the same way as a digital tuner; we do not meter the frequency of a note any more than ours eyes measure the frequencies associated with red, green and blue light. Just as our brains assess colour using a highly subjective, relative colourmetric process, so do we assess pitch and tone using a pattern recognition process which informs itself using all the information in the string's harmonic spectrum. Vibrating strings are affected by a phenomenon called inharmonicity. This is the progressive sharpening of the higher harmonics as a result of the increasing stiffness of the strings as they become shorter and (relatively) fatter. This deceives our perception of pitch so that even if a string is sounding at the correct pitch for a given note, if the string's voicing contains a significant level of inharmonicity in the audible harmonic range we will assess its pitch as sounding flat, or occasionally sharp. This is a long-winded way of saying trust your ears, not your meter.
    Link to original thread on Sound On Sound: https://www.soundonsound.com/forum/v...187746#p187713

  • #2
    Re: And you thought you knew how to intonate your guitar...

    I can see setting intonation by fretting strings between the 12th and 24th (or 22th if that's all you got) and averaging it out, assuming you have an electronic tuner.

    I don't understand why he is using 2 strings to set intonation unless he is doing it by ear. Using 2 strings would have to assume that both are perfectly in tune, then check the pitches to each other, make adjustments, get both strings back to pitch (using a tuning fork? again if you have an electronic tuner, why use 2 strings?). With a floating trem this could be quite time consuming. I'm not saying that you shouldn't have all the strings in tune when setting intonation, they should be, but I don't worry if the g string is a few cents off when I'm working on the e string.

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    • #3
      Re: And you thought you knew how to intonate your guitar...

      Last point first:

      This dude apparently has issues with electronic tuners anyway so yes: he is doing it by ear. Apparently there's something called "inharmonicity" (whatever the fu*k that is!!! LOL!!!) which a tuner cannot pick up or our ears or brain can (something like that anyway).

      As to the first point:

      Cannot help but wonder if there's a shortcut to this i.e. ensure that the fretted note on the 24th fret is in tune with the open string (with a tuner) and then adjust the neck relief and action to compensate in the middle. What do you think??? Worth a try???

      Put another way: this is my black Jackson that we're talking about (which has had a lot of mucking about done as you know). My other two guitars are not as "out" as this guitar and I do know that this guitar has a bit more neck relief than the other two (I got one of them StewMac Neck Relief gauges so I know for sure it's got more relief than the other two i.e. the other two are practically flat) (and this was done because of the 10's I put on this guitar and had some annoying buzz i.e. I know with 9's, which are now back on, I can flatten the neck somewhat on this guitar and will then have to raise the FR which will result in the sharpening of the notes at the high end because the angle and therefore, fractionally, the length from the last fret to the FR will increase). But I guess that's why I say maybe this is the way to do it because it caters for all of this nonsense if you think about it. As to how long this would take to do: I know myself well enough to know that I'm not going to be able to rest until I've tried this so in other words: I'll let you know as soon as I'm done!!! LOL!!!.

      Suppose on the other hand: I really up until now don't spend that much time trying to play stuff (melodic stuff anyway) at or around the 24th fret!!! LOL!!! But there's this Solo Contest you know and, well, was doing something up there earlier and it just sounded good. So there's that of course!!! LOL!!!
      dpaterson
      Toneologist
      Last edited by dpaterson; 02-08-2019, 11:45 AM.

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      • #4
        Re: And you thought you knew how to intonate your guitar...

        i typically check intonation with open, 12, and 12 harmonic then ill play around and see how intune things are and adjust from there. usually just a little on each string to get things closer. its all flawed so i dont get too nuts with it and dont check it all that often

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: And you thought you knew how to intonate your guitar...

          Originally posted by jeremy View Post
          i typically check intonation with open, 12, and 12 harmonic...
          Me too. Until now!!! LOL!!!

          Suppose I'm more curious than anything else at this point. Still does make a lot of sense though.

          Put it this way also though:

          Before posting I did indeed do that three point check/method of his and I can tell you that in spite of the guitar being properly intonated as per the usual method as you describe: the notes were audibly out (real easy to hear with distortion). And that was only on the 17th and 19th frets let alone at the 24th fret. And this although only slightly out on the tuner at the 17th and 19th frets i.e. as is quite correctly stated it goes progressively out the higher up you move (at least according to the tuner anyway).
          dpaterson
          Toneologist
          Last edited by dpaterson; 02-08-2019, 11:58 AM.

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          • #6
            Re: And you thought you knew how to intonate your guitar...

            I trust my electronic tuner more than my ears. I also have floating bridges on most of my guitars, I don't have that kind of time.

            Also, playing/fretting technique is probably introducing more intonation issues that the setup. Want to check? Get everything in tune, while hooked up to your tuner, play a run/riff/lick without looking at the tuner, then look at the tuner on the last note. It is most likely sharp from 1) fingering too heavy on jumbo frets, 2) bending the string slightly, or 3) both. If it is flat the actual intonation is probably very flat.

            Intonation is kind of a personal thing, you have to set it for your normal "pressure", assuming good technique, if you are really heavy handed with really big frets, you're going to have issues until you fix your technique. (FTR, when I use "you" it's in a generic sense, I'm not saying anyone specific, just clarifying because this has gotten me in trouble in the past with certain members of the "fairer" gender who took everything as about them).

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            • #7
              Re: And you thought you knew how to intonate your guitar...

              I second you on the tuner vs. my ears thing. If I did this: I'd probably use the tuner anyway (in spite of his advice to not do so).

              But nah: this I tested. I cannot even fret the 24th fret hard enough to take it up from flat so it's not pressure.

              But this is another point as to why this is probably a good idea:

              With our standard intonation technique you really only have 1 point of reference and that is the fretted note on the 12th fret. I personally have never experienced the 12th fret harmonic being out of tune with the open string (some say it's not even possible but who knows). And I know for me that when I'm setting intonation I'm always wondering if I'm applying the same amount of pressure at the 12th fret as I go along. And when you've slackened off strings and moved saddles enough times etc. there is a (subconscious???) tendency to "agree" the fretted note on the 12th fret with the tuner!!! LOL!!! Using the method described averages out things using at least three different reference points so (hopefully) small errors or inconsistencies are offset against each other.

              Oh and no worries about the "you" thing. You certainly don't have to make that clear to me. You and I go back some way anyway don't we (or have you forgotten about the "Viv. tone saga"!!! LOL!!!).

              P.S.

              Correction. Using this method there's actually FIVE points of reference.
              dpaterson
              Toneologist
              Last edited by dpaterson; 02-08-2019, 12:55 PM.

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              • #8
                Re: And you thought you knew how to intonate your guitar...

                I'll have to check the 24th fret thing when I get home, ~40 years, and I can't say I've paid that much attention to those frets.

                I don't disagree that his method is probably much better, and his ears are probably better too, mine seem to be getting worse, but I'm sure I earned it in my younger, stack playing/concert going days.

                See Dale, the you thing wasn't directed at you ;-) (sorry, couldn't help myself! but yes, I'm paranoid after dating someone years ago that thought everything was directed at them coupled with a raging temper, I'm still scarred)

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: And you thought you knew how to intonate your guitar...

                  I use the 12 harmonic to set the tuning. My understanding is the harmonic is a truer signal to the tuner.

                  Then I match the fretted 12th. I double check by matching the fretted 5th and 17th.

                  I know have the guitar in tune at the 5th, 12th, and 17th.

                  The whole point, of course, is to try and get the two octaves as close as you can.
                  -Chris

                  Originally posted by John Suhr
                  “Practice cures most tone issues”

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                  • #10
                    Re: And you thought you knew how to intonate your guitar...

                    Must admit I also use the 12th fret harmonic as the first step when tuning.

                    I also heard to tune by picking the open string at the 12th fret with the neck pickup. Cannot say I’ve noticed a discernible difference but probably has to do with the same thing or idea.

                    One thing I’ve noticed with electronic tuners (with mine anyway): when something is in “absolute perfect” tune the indicator jumps immediately to “tuned” the moment you strike the string. If it is ever so slightly out then the indicator sort of climbs or drops to “tuned” (albeit that this happens almost instantaneously). Not that I bother too much with this little quirk i.e. attempting to get your tuning THAT “perfect” will drive you nuts with a Floyd!!! LOL!!! And if you really want a tuning challenge that can send you over the edge or running screaming into traffic then switch to the stroboscopic mode and try make sure every single LED lights up and nothing moves!!! LOL!!!
                    dpaterson
                    Toneologist
                    Last edited by dpaterson; 02-08-2019, 02:59 PM.

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                    • #11
                      Re: And you thought you knew how to intonate your guitar...

                      If Iím playing that high up the neck itís individual notes and usually bent, so I havenít run into an issue. Iíll follow along to see if you can adjust with relief to get where you want to be.

                      I didnít dig into the method enough to fully understand, but any harmonic other than an octave will not be in tune with the fretted note. (the harmonic is just intonation, the frets are equal temperament. Although at the 5th scale degree itís only two cents different)
                      Oh no.....


                      Oh Yeah!

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                      • #12
                        Re: And you thought you knew how to intonate your guitar...

                        As I said: I’m usually nowhere near there myself. But while I was working out a SCALE run for something (he says tongue in cheek) I ended up on the high E at the 24th fret and noticed the tuning while sustaining the note. Lovely note!!! LOL!!! Good way to shred your fingers too i.e. bend a few steps from there too with vibrato and really lift the FR out of its cavity!!! LOL!!!

                        P.S.

                        Sorry. Just re-read your post. Yeh. Gonna give it a bash i.e. move the saddle so that open string and fretted note at the 24th fret are in tune and then adjust relief to compensate for the fretted note at the 12th fret being out of tune while adjusting action so that it remains constant (try saying that fast five times) (and yes: I use a gauge to set action too which should come as no surprise to anyone!!! LOL!!!). Why not give it a bash. Only have to do it with one string to see what happens let’s face it.
                        dpaterson
                        Toneologist
                        Last edited by dpaterson; 02-08-2019, 02:56 PM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: And you thought you knew how to intonate your guitar...

                          Something that is worth pointing out is that intonation and tuning are two separate things.

                          I often hear people say that you must set intonation in the playing position. While that certainly applies to tuning, it does not in setting intonation.

                          Intonation is about matching the octaves as close as you can. If the guitar is a few cents flat, but matches say at the 5th and 17th, it is out of tune but still intonated.

                          Once I get the octaves as close as I can, I tend to set the actual tuning just a cent or two flat. I believe it sets the fretted note closer to pitch versus being in tune open and then a cent sharp fretted.
                          -Chris

                          Originally posted by John Suhr
                          “Practice cures most tone issues”

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                          • #14
                            Re: And you thought you knew how to intonate your guitar...

                            How far up is that 17th fret? You must get paid a lot of money to play up there....lol

                            Interesting I'll have to try this method and see how they flesh out
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                            • #15
                              Re: And you thought you knew how to intonate your guitar...

                              Originally posted by Wattage View Post
                              How far up is that 17th fret? You must get paid a lot of money to play up there....lol

                              Interesting I'll have to try this method and see how they flesh out
                              People pay me to not play. I am like the Sid Vicious of the guitar.
                              -Chris

                              Originally posted by John Suhr
                              “Practice cures most tone issues”

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