How to Setup intonate your Guitar - Strat Style

by telecrater (Nov 23, 2011)

This lesson is more about tweaking the hardware on your guitar rather than your chops. By knowing how to do this it will save you form having to stop by the music shop and being guitar less while the work is being done. Additionally you will probably be saving $30 bucks or more. Heck if you get the hang of it maybe you can charge your buddies for setting up their axe. This is aimed at the standard Strat style guitar.

This Lesson will show you how properly intonate your guitar. Intonation basically sets your guitar so that each note on each fret is in tune. There are some limitations because the frets are embedded in the guitar. What we are going to do to do a "Best Effort" to put your guitar in proper intonation. I would recommend doing this once a year or so and also if you drastically change string gages such as from 9's to 11's.

To start things off lets take a look at the hardware were going to be working with. First off the Strat type of guitar has a floating bridge tremolo system. What that means is that part of the bridge is screwed into the body but behind the body are strings holding the bridge in place. This allows you to push the tremolo arm down to lower the pitch and pull it up to raise the pitch.

A lot of other players have had problems with this kind of system. The flaws in this Tremolo system gave birth to the locking Tremolo such as the infamous Floyd Rose(r). The problem with the floating tremolo is that the guitar has trouble staying in tune. If all the strings are stretched properly and you wail on that bar, the guitar is out of tune. If the Tremolo is balanced correctly, all you should need to do is hit the bar once and the guitar should be in tune. If you cannot configure your guitar tremolo, you can add another tension spring. If you still cannot configure it correctly you can just tighten in the claw screws on the back to pull the bridge flush with the body. You can still use the tremolo to lower the pitch but it will not raise the pitch.

The best way to check this is with a tuner on the octaves. For example play an open E on the 6th string, with a tuner make sure it's in tune, then move down to the 12th fret and play the E note still with the tuner. Is that E is tune or is it sharp or flat?

If it's flat you will want to alter the the screw on the bridge for the string you need to adjust. I highly recommend, loosing the string first, then make a 1/4 turn and tune back up and check the intonation. Repeat until all your strings are intonation.

Another aspect that is often over looked is action and height from the strings to the fretboard. By adjusting the saddle using an Allen wrench it will raise and lower the height of the saddle. An easy mistake is to lower the bridge too much and then you have a lot of feat buzzing. I recommend having the action high enough that there are no buzzing. You may have some areas that are problematic and the frets may need to be filed to remove the buzzing but this is left for professionals.

As always your feed back is always appreciated and feel free to post a comment or PM me any questions.