Luthiers.. Opinions on intonation around the third in stead of at the twelve fret..

bosnialove

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After I have done intonation at the 12 fret and check the intonation at the first few frets, everything is just by a hair off.

Chrods or power chords after the twelfe fret I pretty much do not play at all, only single notes.

Isn't it then better to intonate around the third fret? Seems more logical. If not, I'm curious to why not..
 

valvetoneman

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Make sure your nut Isn't too high, this will throw intonation off, I just fret the first frets on each string with a strobe tuner, then I normally fret around the 5 fret like an A chord to check it's all ok

No point doing this before you've got the correct relief, I usually have my neck as flat as possible to start
 

MooCheng

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intonation problems at the first few frets is usually indicative of the nut cut too high and the strings sitting too high off the frets. The extra deflection to fret pulls the string sharp and can really mess up A, E, D chords or any chord that has both fretted and open strings mixed together

Most guitars seem to come with nut slots cut way too high
 

Ripthorn

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intonation problems at the first few frets is usually indicative of the nut cut too high and the strings sitting too high off the frets. The extra deflection to fret pulls the string sharp and can really mess up A, E, D chords or any chord that has both fretted and open strings mixed together

Most guitars seem to come with nut slots cut way too high
I think they purposely leave them too high because it's easier to just take it in to a tech to file the nut down as part of a setup as opposed to a buzzy guitar out of the box that then gets returned or requires a new nut from a tech, which is more expensive. I had one guitar where I shimmed the nut up and it was annoying.
 

cmjohnson

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Welcome to the real world of equal temperament tuning.

WHY would you think it's better to set intonation at the third fret, close to the nut, rather than at the 12th, where this averages out for best intonation across the whole playable range?

Believe me, we've been seeking better tuning systems for hundreds of years. Intonating at the 12th fret is what we do
because it's the best solution, tried and proven billions of times now.

Something tells me you're very new to this music thing. You should take the time to explore our equal temperament tuning system and why we use it.
 

Wuuthrad

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Welcome to the real world of equal temperament tuning.

WHY would you think it's better to set intonation at the third fret, close to the nut, rather than at the 12th, where this averages out for best intonation across the whole playable range?

Believe me, we've been seeking better tuning systems for hundreds of years. Intonating at the 12th fret is what we do
because it's the best solution, tried and proven billions of times now.

Something tells me you're very new to this music thing. You should take the time to explore our equal temperament tuning system and why we use it.

Spot on.

Guitars are never actually intonated properly, but we get as close we can at the 12th fret. There is always a compromise somewhere on the fretboard.

Interesting related question:

If your guitar is perfectly in tune and you play a G chord, which chord will be out of tune?
 

Barnaby

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Something tells me you're very new to this music thing. You should take the time to explore our equal temperament tuning system and why we use it.

The OP has actually asked a very interesting question and possibly offered a worthwhile approach. After reading this post, firing up the ol' Peterson 490 and intonating with a capo at the third or fourth fret is something I might try the next time I make a new nut. Then, going back and re-doing the nut slots. It could offer a new way of dealing with common issues, although I wouldn't know for sure unless I tried.

Certainly worthy of an experiment...I think it's a good idea from the OP, and even if it doesn't work so well, it's definitely praiseworthy as an original thought.

Of course, maybe I only think so because I'm "new to this music thing" too.*









*I've only been a professional musician for 38 years, studied in Vienna, have Masters and PhD degrees in music, worked as a baroque specialist dealing with numerous alternate tuning systems and released CDs internationally, as well as having spent a decade on guitar making. What would I know?

Honestly, if "cmjohnson" actually knew anything about the history of tuning and temperament, then he/she would know that it's been a constant series of questions, new approaches and innovations, with a lot of dead ends, but some surprising advances as well. There are no dumb questions, but there always seems to be an endless supply of patronizing jerks who are stuck in their ways.
 
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cmjohnson

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If there was a better compromise than equal temperament tuning, by now we'd have found it. I'm going to go with the current solution developed after about 400 years of experimentation and trial and error. If that makes me a "patronizing jerk" then so be it. Yeah, I'm stuck in my ways, because equal temperament tuning is still the best overall compromise that has been discovered in the 12 tone Western music system if you intend to play across a range of several octaves.
 

DoneOne

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After I have done intonation at the 12 fret and check the intonation at the first few frets, everything is just by a hair off.

have you heard of nut compensation? ... the reasoning behind it.


of course, a compensated nut needs to be customized for a specific gauge and perhaps brand of strings... not adjustable.
 
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Wuuthrad

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The OP has actually asked a very interesting question and possibly offered a worthwhile approach. After reading this post, firing up the ol' Peterson 490 and intonating with a capo at the third or fourth fret is something I might try the next time I make a new nut. Then, going back and re-doing the nut slots. It could offer a new way of dealing with common issues, although I wouldn't know for sure unless I tried.

Certainly worthy of an experiment...I think it's a good idea from the OP, and even if it doesn't work so well, it's definitely praiseworthy as an original thought.

Of course, maybe I only think so because I'm "new to this music thing" too.*









*I've only been a professional musician for 38 years, studied in Vienna, have Masters and PhD degrees in music, worked as a baroque specialist dealing with numerous alternate tuning systems and released CDs internationally, as well as having spent a decade on guitar making. What would I know?

Honestly, if "cmjohnson" actually knew anything about the history of tuning and temperament, then he/she would know that it's been a constant series of questions, new approaches and innovations, with a lot of dead ends, but some surprising advances as well. There are no dumb questions, but there always seems to be an endless supply of patronizing jerks who are stuck in their ways.

:applause:

Interesting response regarding novel interprétions of intonation and their relationship to alternate tunings, indeed. And even more curiously humorous observations of personal intent and character!

I wonder, if you might, ever so graciously inform us how your premium Musical education has afforded you such insight into others?

Cheers!

(It is fun to use alternate tunings isn’t it! Im learning new ones with the help of a G-Force tuner, which makes it an absolute doddle to tune up in 18 different ways at a moments notice. Truly remarkable!)

:acoustic: :hippie:
 

Barnaby

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If there was a better compromise than equal temperament tuning, by now we'd have found it. I'm going to go with the current solution developed after about 400 years of experimentation and trial and error. If that makes me a "patronizing jerk" then so be it. Yeah, I'm stuck in my ways, because equal temperament tuning is still the best overall compromise that has been discovered in the 12 tone Western music system if you intend to play across a range of several octaves.

You're not a patronizing jerk because you want to use equal temperament. You're a patronizing jerk because of the rude way in which you responded to the OP.
 

Wuuthrad

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You're not a patronizing jerk because you want to use equal temperament. You're a patronizing jerk because of the rude way in which you responded to the OP.

fwiw I thought he was being kind. I guess the name calling is maybe a bit inapproriate. Not that it matters to me all that much, this isn’t my forum after all, but the mods have been advising against this recently.
 

Barnaby

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:applause:

Interesting response regarding novel interprétions of intonation and their relationship to alternate tunings, indeed. And even more curiously humorous observations of personal intent and character!

I wonder, if you might, ever so graciously inform us how your premium Musical education has afforded you such insight into others?

Cheers!

(It is fun to use alternate tunings isn’t it! Im learning new ones with the help of a G-Force tuner, which makes it an absolute doddle to tune up in 18 different ways at a moments notice. Truly remarkable!)

:acoustic: :hippie:

I've worked with a lot of strange temperaments over the years. I tend to settle on "standards" like Young/Vallotti or Kirnberger III for baroque music, but am a lot more interested in variant meantones for 16th-century music and earlier.

On the guitar, I use equal temperament too...or as close as one can get on the instrument. That being said, I'm interested in trying out some True Temperament instruments.

My issue with cmjohnson's post has nothing to do with temperaments. He or she was just rude to the OP, who asked a perfectly valid question. I think that type of behaviour needs to be called out. Saying that the OP is "new to this music thing" is surely not kind, but patronizing. The rest of his/her response is fine.

That being said, I think you're right to question my response too. Maybe it's a step too far.
 
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Wuuthrad

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None of you tuning expert guys can answer my question?

Play a G chord in tune and what chord is out of tune?

(don’t google thé answer)
 

Wuuthrad

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That being said, I think you're right to question my response too. Maybe it's a step too far.

Im trying extra hard to see the bright side of things lately, considering everything. A bit out of my comfort zone...
 

ARandall

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Tuning where you have to depress (stretch) the string an uneven amount to fret different notes will always suffer from issues with individual notes sounding perhaps a bit out no matter how you compensate.
And thats before you factor in irregularities in the wear/crowning of frets making some notes out of tune 'within the sequence'.

For me, the 12th fret is a like a 'worst of both worlds' when it comes to intonating the typical fretted guitar. It makes the error small at either end of the fretboard, centred on accuracy at approximately the middle of the fretted notes you would use. However the biggest error area is the nut, where the most strings are likely to be desired to be played in tune together, and multiplied by being at the sharpest angle of deflection from a fulcrum.

Personally I have taken to tweaking intonation so that chords in the first few frets play in tune (or way more than they would do with the typical 12th fret method).
You can indeed make it better by cutting the nut lower.....but if you prefer higher action then its not an ideal scenario to have the nut cut to the lowest point in the 'usable range' that is typically recommended by more reliable technical sources (like Stewmac for example).Certainly my playing style makes for low fret buzz if the nut is down at the minimum clearance.
So my intonation method has 1 drawback.....everything plays flatter as you go higher up on the fretboard. This is luckily countered by my tendency to accidentally sand in a fall away to the upper fret region of the fretboard. I thought it was a mistake....but seemingly it is a 'feature'.
The fallaway means you depress further than you otherwise would up high.....sharpening the note back toward in tune.
 

Barnaby

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Excellent response, and I agree based on my experiences building. In fact, I usually make 'shelf nuts' for my Fender-style builds to address some of these issues (although never completely solve them), and file in a kind of compensation. You can't see it once the strings are on, but it's there.

I really am going to give the "capo the third fret and set things from there" idea a try and see what happens the next time I have to set intonation. I'll also try capoing other positions and see what happens.As I have a good strobe tuner, I should get some interesting data, if nothing else!
 

Barnaby

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None of you tuning expert guys can answer my question?

Play a G chord in tune and what chord is out of tune?

(don’t google thé answer)

Interesting question. Without Googling (or claiming to be an expert...I've worked with a lot of different tuning systems, but genuine experts are on a very different level from a pleb like me), a number of things occur to me.

First of all, action at the nut and the bridge would affect this. Second, fret height and finger pressure would also affect it. Third, String gauge (and possibly composition) would affect it. Fourth, fret spacings are not all the same, so which one is being used? Fifth, any compensation in the nut or at the bridge would affect the answer too. Then, with all that considered, one has to ask two questions:

1) When you say "in tune", do you mean "equal" or "just" intonation...or something else? Guitars are not really equal-tempered instruments, as much as we may think of them as such or wish them to be.

2) How are you playing the chord? Open strings (and, if so, which version)? Barre? At the third fret? Somewhere else?

It's a cool question to consider.

If one assumes an "ideal" guitar (i.e. one in which the frets correspond exactly to the pitches they are supposed to yield), then the further away one moves from the ideal equal temperament standard version of an open G chord (3-0-0-0-2-3 reading down in tab), then E major would be out of tune because of the G# and the E, although the Bs would be perfect. E minor would be better, but would sound weird because of the problems with a narrower interval for a minor third. This would theoretically create difference tones which might or might not be audible. One could discuss any other chord in similar terms.

In short, my (non-expert) answer is that there's no simple reply, but that digging into the question and its multitude of variables would be fascinating and would make a good topic for anyone wanting to write a Master's-level thesis on modern temperament issues and stringed instruments.

Someone may well have done so already, of course. As I didn't Google, I haven't checked!
 
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