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The importance of your Guitar being intonated correctly

The importance of your Guitar being intonated correctly

Posted By Admin | December 5, 2023

Have you ever tuned your guitar perfectly on all open strings and then when you play higher up on the fretboard, it still sounds out of tune or the notes sound sharper? Also, some chords just sound not in tune. A good example is the D chord on the second fret where the F# note sounds a bit off.

This is a sign your guitar needs to be intonated and is a common problem that occurs on most guitars.

So, what is Guitar Intonation? Intonation refers to the accuracy of pitch on each note across the fretboard. While your guitar may be in tune when you play your open string, it may be too sharp or flat at your 1stfret, 12th fret, 15th, 19th or other frets.

A basic intonation involves adjustments such as:
– Saddle compensation adjustments and lowering the string height at the nut
– Increasing or lowering action

However, whilst this will only partially improve the problem, it will not solve the problem. The Saddle compensation mainly takes care of the intonation values from the 12th fret onwards, but what about those intonation values from the nut to the 12th fret. One can’t just lower the nut action so low that the open chords create a string buzz at the 1st to 3rd positions. Then to reduce string buzzing, more neck relief/ forward bow is provided creating other sets of issues of string buzz at the higher positions due to too much neck relief.

A complete intonation involves the following adjustments:

– Fret levelling, re-crowning & polishing. Further, additional jobs may also be needed such as fretboard levelling and installation of new frets.

– installing new compensated nut and saddle (sometimes using a cantilevered nut and saddle to adjust to compensation values).

– Then, calibrating each string’s intonation value at the fretted notes on the  1st, 7th, 12th and 19th frets by making tailored compensation values at the nut and the saddle so that every note on each fret is perfectly in tune. Here’s are some photos of compensations done at the nut and saddle.

Example images of compensated Nuts with each sting values calibrated 

Examples images of compensated Saddles with each string values calibrated

This is a complicated process and skill that takes a very long time for a luthier or guitar tech to perfect.

Contact Leroy at Intune Instruments, UAE for Guitar Repairs and Intonation work on +971 50 3950482 or email us at