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Old Joad

Third Fret Intonation

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Someone was telling me that it's better to do intonation on the 3rd fret because the open notes ( E,F,G,A,C,D) will sound more in tune.

Has anyone heard of this before? I looked on YOUTUBE but I can't find anything .

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It shouldn't make that great of a difference if the guitar intonation and nut are set properly. However, wear on the nut, string height, and finger pressure will all play into how accurate intonation on the open string is to fretted ones. I have one guitar that has a locking nut that was not installed properly, and although I moved it, I tune that guitar via a G chord (3rd fret, 2 fret, open, open, open (or third), 3rd). The reasoning is that the G chord is the most common 6-string chord I use.

*IF* (and more important than which fret to tune on) the node at the nut is dead-on, and intonation at the bridge is set properly, matching harmonics on the 5th fret to the 7th fret on the next higher string (except for the A->C jump) will give the most accuracy. The higher the frequency, the easier it is to match beat frequency. Doing this will *not* take into account string height/finger pressure... it is easy to bend a note out of tune with finger pressure on the fret alone. You can easily find open strings to be perfect, but how much they need to be bent to fret them will cause them to drift.

I am sorry this isn't a "yes/no" answer, but the setup of a guitar will play a lot into intonation... if setup accurately, where/how it is tuned will not be as noticeable. Playing with a tuner at various locations can reveal a lot... even a perfectly set up guitar will have some level of frequency variation across the fret board.

 

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Posted (edited)

Theoretically, when you depress an open string to a fret, you are also increasing the tension on the string as you do when turning the tuning pegs, and you should expect some minor pitch variation as a result. The more force it takes to depress the string, the more the resulting tension increase, so a higher action, or heavier string gauge, or even a higher fret height might  have an effect on pitch.  Some compensation for this can be accomplished by angling (or staggering) the bridge (less often the frets) to make up for the higher tension required to depress the heavier (or higher action) strings. Because so many factors can affect the intonation to a minimal degree, it is really not possible to design or set up a guitar that will play in absolutely perfect pitch for every technique or string choice at every fret. Tuning to a fretted note, should theoretically  be less variable than to an open, but not if the luthier has already made a compensation in the fret placement or elsewhere, and in any event unless you are having a noticeable problem it is probably moot. Technique will make more difference than tuning method for most of us. You can always use a sensitive digital tuning meter on your own personal setup, and see if one or another method gives you a better result across the frets where you do the most playing. 

Edited by slartabartfast

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I don't worry about tuning.  I play Rock! headbang_smiley.gif

(I'm kidding!  I'm kidding!  Don't throw that... *Ow!!!*)

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7 minutes ago, craigb said:

Don't throw that... *Ow!!!*)

I want to go an record that it wasn't me😀

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Posted (edited)

I want to go on record because I've been noodling with music for 45 years..... and I've never been on vinyl - and chicks think its cool , unfortunately I'm too old to be cool ( according to ACTUAL cool people ).

 

Intonation  ( in my mind - is about setting the 12th fret to center of the open string between nut and bridge, in incorporates scale length,  string tension, string gauge and  can be greatly affected by pick-up magnetic attraction. I 'm unclear how to set intonation from the third fret ? If you can explain - I'd like to learn something new. Tuning from the third fret can offer the typical offset of the change in tension from fretting - that makes sense to me. no harm no foul if the intonation is correct.

Edited by RBH

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5 hours ago, MUDGEL said:

It was another boy sir!

Always protecting the girls MIke😃

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18 hours ago, RBH said:

I want to go on record because I've been noodling with music for 45 years..... and I've never been on vinyl - and chicks think its cool , unfortunately I'm too old to be cool ( according to ACTUAL cool people ).

 

Intonation  ( in my mind - is about setting the 12th fret to center of the open string between nut and bridge, in incorporates scale length,  string tension, string gauge and  can be greatly affected by pick-up magnetic attraction. I 'm unclear how to set intonation from the third fret ? If you can explain - I'd like to learn something new. Tuning from the third fret can offer the typical offset of the change in tension from fretting - that makes sense to me. no harm no foul if the intonation is correct.

I've got an old fake strat" just put new strings on it, give "em" a few days to settle in and i'm gonna give it a shot:D

can't find anything on youtube but in the comments part someone did mention it..

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When setting intonation on my guitars, I always double-check at various fret positions (helps when making smallest adjustments sharp/flat).

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If the guitar is new to you, you may want to consider having a professional set it up initially. Proper truss rod tension, nut height, and saddle height (should be done first) can play a lot into intonation that string length alone will not cure. If changing string gauge, these should be rechecked afterwards.

Also be mindful of comments on the internet (even mine)... intonation boils down to checking harmonic string length vs. fretted string length, and the harmonic near the third fret isn't actually on the fret (is roughly 2.9) nor does it come close to matching the note when the third fret is fretted... this is why the 12th fret is used, since the harmonic and fretted positions there should match perfectly to each other.

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I use an electronic tuner.

You could tune the guitar by ear, but you end up with 'just intonation' and if you do it perfectly, the two E strings will not be in tune.

You can tune with an electronic tuner and all the strings will be slightly out of tune, like piano notes.

Then when you play the guitar, your finger on a fret will put it out of tune anyway. You are going to stretch the string when you press it down, and if it goes down slightly bent, you will stretch it even more.

Guitars, like so many other instruments, are not perfectly in tune with themselves. But no matter which way you tune your guitar, if you do it well, it will be close enough.

Insights and incites by Notes

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