Setting Your Intonation On Guitar

Learn How To Set The Intonation On Your Guitar!

Have you ever tuned your guitar and then played some notes high up on the neck just to find that they did not sound like they were in tune. This is probably because the intonation on your guitar was a little bit off. In this lesson, you are going to learn how to set the intonation on your guitar. Setting the intonation on your guitar is something that is really nice to know how to do for yourself. If you don’t want to bother with learning this, it will probably cost you around $30 dollars to have a pro do it for you. Setting the intonation on a guitar basically involves moving the saddles forward or backwards until all of the notes all of the way up the fret board play as in tune as possible.

There are only a few tools that you will need in order to set the intonation on your guitar. A good tuner and a screwdriver are generally all that you need. If you have a Floyd Rose tremolo, you might need some allen wrenches. Before we start learning how to set the intonation make sure that the guitar is in tune and there is no pressure in the guitar neck.

There are a lot of different kinds of guitars out there with different types of bridges. Many of these bridges have different ways of adjusting the intonation, but the basic principle is still the same. If your guitar looks different from the one in this video, don’t let that throw you off. Just inspect your guitar to see how to adjust the bridge saddles forward and backwards. Watch the lesson on the basic parts of the guitar if you are unsure about the names of these parts.

Let’s start out with the high E string. Make sure that the string is in tune. Once it is in tune, fret the 12th fret on the high E string and see if that note is tune. If it is, great! That means that your intonation for the high E string is good. If the note on the 12th fret is flat, that would mean that the saddle for that string needs to be moved forward toward the headstock. If the note on the 12th fret is sharp, that would mean that the saddle for that string needs to be moved back away from the headstock. Watch this lesson to learn about the strings of the guitar.

After you adjust the saddle accordingly, tune the string back up. Now check the tuning at the 12th fret again. Keep adjusting the saddle until both the open string and the note on the 12th fret of that string are both in tune.

Usually small adjustments go a long way when you are setting your intonation. Take your time when you are setting your intonation and make sure that you get it as spot on as possible. If your guitar plays in tune all the way up the fretboard, your audience will appreciate it and you will sound more like a professional guitar player.

This Lesson Has 10 Comments

  • CJohn364 says:

    Took some time and did this. Never even thought this would be a part of tuning. It was a bit painstaking, but I got it.

  • Hemanth says:

    hey nate, ive got a very serious question to ask>……………..

    How do u set intonation 4 a spanish/acoustic guitar… dat too with a stoptail which holds the strings…………..

  • Aaron says:

    so why do you have to do this? can’t you just tune the guitar with a tuner to be accurate still?

    • Christian says:

      Not exactly. If you were to use a tuner on the sixth fret of any string to get that in tune you would find that the open string is out of tune again. I’m not exactly sure how it works but adjusting the intonation has a much larger effect on frets than it does on open strings.

    • Christian says:

      Sorry not exactly a larger effect. Just a different effect

    • jed says:

      The answer to your question is very in depth and interesting. But at the same time it is not too difficult for most people to understand. It goes all the way back to the time of the ancient Greek philosophers, namely Pythagoras. Probably most known for his Pythagorean Theorem which deals with right triangles, he also is known for his Pythagorean Tuning. This is based off the idea that musical intervals were determined by ratios. Basically if you took a stringed instrument and plucked an open string you would get a note. Cut that strings length in half by fretting it in the middle and you get and octave higher than the original note. So the ration 2:1 correlates to and octave. Look what happens when you fret the 12th fret of your guitar or bass. First of all it divides the length of your string in half (*or should at least*). Second of all it gives you an octave higher of the original note. So here is a watered down version of why we need intonation… When you adjust your intonation you move your saddle back or forth, which adjust the length of your string. As you do this you keep checking the 12th fret to make sure its and octave higher than the note of the open string. Basically you are adjusting the length of the string so that when you hit the 12th fret, the length of the string is cut in half. Then all the other “ratios” for the other frets naturally fall in place. I say “ratios” because all the other frets are determined by factors that are actually irrational numbers instead of being ratios. In Pythagoras’s time, the idea of irrational numbers had not been realized yet. Today we tune using the 12th root of 2 which is an irrational number. I don’t want to get too in depth cause I can go on for days. But look up equal temperament tuning, Pythagorean tuning, Ratios and musical intervals, connection between music and math. Google these sorts of things and you will be led in a direction that will help you understand what i’m talking about. This type of stuff is especially interesting if you are a math person and a musician, and will only help in your understanding of music.

  • Daniel says:

    I got a question. So im adjusting the intonation on my les paul. My G string is way out and i adjusted that saddle all the way back but its still enough to get it where it needs to be. Is there anything more i can do adjust the intonation? I know changing string gauges could help, but i want to keep my thick gauge strings.

    • johan says:

      Your string action also plays a role in setting your intonation, if the strings are too high of the neck, the further you have to press it down and that will also stretch the string out of tune.. so also check your action..

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  • Jon Doe says:

    Another option is to try and use intonation setup apps, like this one


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