One of the last steps of an electric guitar setup is making a guitar intonation adjustment. Before setting guitar intonation, make sure you have new strings on your guitar. Check out my changing electric guitar strings video guitar lesson for how to do that. And make sure you have made a guitar truss rod adjustment if necessary. In the video guitar lesson below you will learn how to do a guitar intonation setup.
Setting Guitar Intonation
(Video Guitar Lesson)
Why Adjust Guitar Intonation
So what is the intonation on your guitar? The note at the 12th fret on your guitar should sound exactly an octave higher than when you play the open string. If it isn’t then each fret on your guitar will not be exactly a half step away from the fret either above or below it.
So you might tune your open strings with an electronic tuner, but still find that as you play the guitar it sounds out of tune. Adjusting intonation on a guitar will fix this.
You will often have do a guitar intonation setup when you change gauges, or even brands of strings.
Checking Intonation on a Guitar
In order to check for guitar intonation problems you are going to need an electronic guitar tuner.
Step #1 – Tune your guitar up to pitch|
Step #2 – Play the guitar string open that you want to check
Step #3 – Play the 12th fret of that same string
If the open string is in tune, and the 12th fret of that string is out of tune, its time for an electric guitar intonation adjustment.
How to Fix Intonation on Electric Guitar
Because there are not individual string saddles on an acoustic, setting intonation on guitar is only possible for electrics. Fixing guitar intonation is easy once you understand the basics below.
Setting Up Guitar Intonation – 12th Fret Too High
So if after checking your guitar’s intonation you find the note on the 12th fret is too high, it means the length of the string is too short. So you need to lengthen the string by moving string saddle back further…away from the pickups.
How you do this depends on the type of bridge you have on your electric guitar. On the one I’m using in the video guitar lesson, there is a Phillips screw at the end of the bridge that is used to move the bridge saddle forward or backward.
Once you have moved the bridge saddle back a little, tune the string up and check the intonation again. Keep repeating this process until both the open string and the 12th fret note are in tune.
Setting Up Guitar Intonation – 12th Fret Too Low
If you find after checking guitar intonation that your 12th fret is too low, then you need to shorten the length of the string. So you need to move the bridge saddle towards the pickups.
Do-It-Yourself Guitar Intonation Setup
That’s how to fix guitar intonation in a nutshell. Adjusting intonation on electric guitar can take a little time depending on how far it is off. You can always take your guitar to a local guitar repair shop for a guitar intonation setup, but you now know how to adjust intonation on a guitar yourself.