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In Touch with Intonation
Christopher Mowatt
Luthier & Owner
Guitar-Tech Guitar Repair Services

Intonation is one of those key characteristics of a fretted (or even fretless) instrument that can make a really good guitar sound pretty darn bad. When its not right, the fix can easily cross the line from being a simple adjustment to a full blown guitar repair operation. I draw his distinction because adjustments are routine and commonly performed with common tools (as long as we include hex wrenches in that category) and skills, while guitar repairs typically require specialized tools and skills to do the job correctly and consistently.

Intonation is what makes our fretted instruments play a note at the correct pitch. Though we use open notes, first fret notes and 12th fret notes to help us determine if the instrument is properly adjusted or Ďintonatedí, accurate intonation is important at every fret. The reason we donít check every fret is because correcting slight variation on intonation at every fret is typically not practical. Weíll go into this a bit later.

Intonation is affected by several factors and settings, of which I have put in order of most commonly addressed to those things rarely addressed. They are: Saddle position at a given string height String height Amount of neck relief String slot wear in the nut Fret crown profile String gauge String material Fret position

Letís take a closer look at each one.

Intonation Part 2

Authorís biography: Chris Mowatt is a bass player who has been repairing fretted instruments for approximately 10 years with 6 more years experience building basses as Simpson- James Guitars. He holds a BS in Engineering and has over 20 years of process and manufacturing engineering experience in precision electro-mechanical systems.

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