How to Intonate Your Guitar.




Does your guitar feel out of tune when you get to the higher frets? A re occurring problem most guitar players face is the intonation of their guitar. Fixing the intonation means making sure the guitar is in tune with itself, and making sure each fret is on the right note. Getting the intonation fixed usually mean bringing it to the local music shop and dishing out 15-20$. The intonation is a relatively easy thing to fix and anyone can do it. fixing it is pretty much the same on every fretted instrument [guitars, basses, banjos, mandolins, etc]

Step 1: Materials.

Things you will need:

1) stringed instrument, preferably with frets.

2) guitar cable

3) guitar tuner

4) A screwdriver or allen key fit to the size on your saddles. Most bridges fit a screw driver, while some may fit an allen key.

5) A quiet room

Step 2: Before You Begin....

before you being to intonate your guitar, fix any problems you have with string action, neck adjustment, etc. I won't explain how to adjust the action or truss rod adjustment in this Instructable, but if you don't know how to do either, recommend you don't try to.

Adjusting string height or neck curvature post intonation can put you back to square one, so i recommend you do so before you begin.

If possible, put on a fresh pair of strings on beforehand.

pic unrelated.

Step 3: Tuning to the Harmonic

Plug your guitar into your tuner. Make sure the guitar cable is plugged in on the 'input' side of your tuner [if you don't have an output jack don't worry]. very important - make sure the tuner is set to 440 Hz. Any other number will screw with your tuning.

okay. To being intonation, you can start on any string, I recommend however either the high E or low E. which ever string you start on, play this strings harmonic on the twelfth fret*, and tune the harmonic appropriately on your tuner to the original strings tuning. If I'm starting on the low E string, I'd tune the string to E.

*note* to play a harmonic, lightly hold your finger over the twelfth fret and play the string. what you should hear is a some-what higher pitched note in the same tuning as the normally fretted note. To put it more simply, harmonic on the twelfth fret of your A string will play the same note when held down, but with a different sound to it.

Harmonics is a fairly easy thing to get the hang of and won't take much practice.

Step 4: Is It Intonated?

after tuning to the 12th harmonic, play the12th fretted note normally [held down]. If both the harmonic and the 12th note are in tune, congrats! that string is already in tune with itself and does not need adjustment.

however, in most cases you won't be so lucky.

to adjust the saddle, simply turn the little

If the normal 12th note is sharp, adjust the saddle back. [toward the bridge]

If the normal 12th note is flat, adjust saddle forward [toward the neck]

keep adjusting the saddle till the 12th note is in tune.

Repeat the steps 3 and 4 to each string, until each string is perfectly in tune.

Step 5: A Couple Things to Remember...

A few things you should make sure of while fooling around with your bridge-

- make slow and small increments on your saddles

- left turning brings the saddle back, right brings it forward

- DO NOT strip the screws/bolts in the bridge piece and make sure your screwdriver/allen key is snug. This needs no explaining why this would be bad.

Also: If you run out of room on your saddle to make adjustment and your string is still not perfectly in tune, chances are your strings are very, very, very dead and you are in need of a fresh pair.

Step 6: Play Your Guitar!

play your guitar! return to your studies of pentatonics and sweeps solos and bask in your perfect intonation.

you have earned yourself two gold stars. no three.

have a cookie!



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    16 Discussions


    1 year ago

    I had a slice of chocolate cake instead of a cookie. Did I ruin my guitar?


    5 years ago on Step 6

    I would add to the "before you start" area to be sure your strings are new and not worn. Old worn strings will only be a waste of time to try to fix with intonation adjusting.


    6 years ago

    Have the exact same guitar..even same color... Should make this easy c:
    Amazing guitar, right?


    7 years ago on Step 6

    All I wanted was a cookie. That was a lot of work for a cookie. Now I have to go out and find more guitars to intonate, dang it. I want another cookie.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    the same way, only instead of doing the natural harmonic on the 12th fret, you do it on the halfway point between the nut and the bridge (which is, on a guitar, the 12th fret)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    nice instructable. I find its easier with new strings as well also remember to push down on the string normal if you push too hard it will affect your intonation


    9 years ago on Step 6

    Great instructable. Give yourself a cookie for that one!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I found an old Charvel and bought it just for that reason, but it turned out to be my favorite guitar to play!!

    The Jamalam

    9 years ago on Introduction

    Brilliant instructions, thanks for the help! 5 stars, faved, and subbed. This is destined to be featured! Good luck with instructables in the future!

    1 reply

    9 years ago on Introduction

    Very good. I'm going out to buy a set of flat wound strings for my bass guitar later today. The timing on this In'ible is perfect!!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for this, I had to switch out a lost saddle on my electric.. and now it's all out of whack.. Opps. : ( Hopefully I can use this to get it back in tune correctly.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    thanks for the comment. truss rod adjustment is fairly easy to do, but i didnt wanna stray away from the original project. i might do an instructable on it later.