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What Is Guitar Intonation And Why Is It Important?

What Is Guitar Intonation And Why Is It Important?

image Your Guitars intonation setup at Haywire Custom Guitars

Your Guitars intonation setup at Haywire Custom Guitars

 Your Guitars Intonation?  Is It Important?

Is Your Guitars Intonation Worth talking about?  Absolutely!

Guitar intonation is the accuracy in which an electric guitar or bass can produce a fretted note and the most important issue with any instrument.  Setting the intonation on a guitar is the act of adjusting the length of the strings (by moving the bridge saddles) to compensate for the thickness of the string and the stretching of a string due to pushing it down to the fret board to produce a note. For our purposes here I will focus only on electric instruments for now.

Play a guitar string OPEN or not fretted,  then play the same note on the 12th fret which is exactly halfway through a string.  Compare the pitch of the open note with the note fretted at the 12th fret. They should be identical in pitch. If they are different then you have a guitar intonation problem.

Your Guitars intonation is the accuracy of the note

To adjust your guitar or bass guitars intonation, you move the bridge saddles toward or away from the fret board until the 12th fret note and its harmonic are equal in pitch to the same open-string note, which are exactly one octave apart. Accurate intonation is critical to pitch quality. The best way to accomplish all of this is by plugging into an electronic tuner so you know the results will be very accurate. Pitch quality is essential to  “in tune”  playing.  Just ask the other people you’re playing with. They can tell you if you are in or out of tun with their instruments. If pitch wasn’t important tuners wouldn’t be sold and therefore, no one would ask for them.

If pitch wasn’t important tuners wouldn’t be sold

Poor pitch quality = “out of tune” notes which in turn = poor musical presentation.  Wouldn’t you want to present your musical talents in the best way possible?  Of course, you do.

Standard tuning for a 6 string guitar beginning with the smallest to largest strings is as follows:


“offset”  tuning method

You may be able to compensate for a guitars natural offset by tuning slightly flat with a very accurate tuner. Keep you in tune while you play anywhere on the fret board is very cool and very necessary. Here is an example if you want to try it.

High E = 3 cents flat below the true note.
B = 6 cents flat
G = 4 cents flat
D = 8 cents flat
A = 10 cents flat
Low E = 12 cents flat

This “offset” tuning method keeps the guitar in balance.

Now, it is not necessary for a guitar player to know this at all but it really helps. You’ll feel empowered if you can make adjustments to your own guitar intonation and not have to run to the music store or to the guitar tech every day.  It is essential however that the guitar possess the quality of staying in tune and maintain as close to perfect intonation as possible.  Buying a guitar on looks alone can be very disappointing.  If however, you like a guitar for the looks but realize that you will need to have it worked on to get it playable then that is fine.

you like a guitar for the looks…..

It’s best to speak to a Luthier/tech or guitar builder previous to any purchase for an opinion.  It’s like to asking a mechanic which car he would recommend before you walk into the show room to select one. You can benefit from his first hand knowledge and experience and not have to go it alone.  After all the mechanic knows which cars  breakdown much better than the sales guys.

Ordering From Haywire Custom Guitars

If you would like to order this or any other custom guitar, please contact us and we will be happy to discuss your guitar needs.

About the Author:

Mr. Rick Mariner Owner and Founder and CEO of Haywire Custom Guitars Inc. He is a member of The Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans (A.S.I.A.) as well as a guitar player. Rick holds a bachelors degree from University of Md. and a Masters degree from George Washington University. Rick developed his exclusive 8 – Point “Gig- Ready” guitar process that allows for Custom Guitars that are “GIG-READY”. With Rick’s many years of development and guitar set-up experience, Haywire Guitar shop “Builds satisfied players… one Haywire guitar at a time”.

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