Intonation issues are normally fairly easy to address. If your neck and body have matching scale
lengths, finding the correct intonation is simply a matter of moving the bridge
saddle toward or away from the nut at the end of the neck, until the 12
fret pitch is equal to your open string.
But what if your open string and 12
th fret pitches are equal,
but the pitch somewhere in the middle is off?
For instance, say you’ve tuned up. Checked intonation. All good. Then you play a D chord and there is a
glaring, cringe-worthy dissonance. One
of the strings is out of tune. So,
assuming that some strange phenomena has occurred between tuning and hitting
that D chord, you consult your trusty Boss TU-2 and re-tune. Lo and Behold, you find that all of the
strings are still perfectly in tune.
They have never been so in tune.
Puzzled, you re-check intonation and check the pitch of every string at
th fret. Perfectly
What the heck? You
play the D chord again. You hit it
really hard… The chord is loud (as a D
chord should be) but the ugliness remains. With the chord still fretted, you
pluck each individual string to find the culprit. Just to be safe, you start with the A
string. Sounds good. Then the open D. Lovely.
You hesitantly swipe your plectrum against the G-String. It is immediately clear, to your incredibly
developed ear, that the G-string fretted at the second fret is completely out
of whack. What should be an A sounds
more like an A#. You quadruple check
your intonation. Open string and 12
fret are in tune. Now you are completely
perplexed. And vexed. You are totally and utterly vexed and
perplexed. You then move down the fret
board. Open D is good. 1
st fret, slightly sharp. 2nd fret = ugly. 3rd fret, still ugly. 4th fret is slightly better. 5th fret sounds acceptable, but
not perfection. At the 6
fret everything is as it should be, and the rest of the fret board sounds
Now you are probably thinking “There is something wrong with
my guitar neck. They made it wrong!” You visualize tearing all of the frets off of
your neck, filling the empty slots with super glue, and angrily filing new
slots to fit the frets into, placed of course, for more accurate tuning. Your outrage is justifiable, but incorrect. There is something else going on here, and
the solution doesn’t require re-fretting your entire neck. Most likely, the problem is in the nut.
You can verify that the issue is the nut with a simple
test. Place a capo at the first
fret. Still having issues? If not, the nut is indeed the villain
here. The point where your string breaks
over the nut is a critical spot, and if the nut is cut wrong or has been
modified incorrectly, wacky tuning problems can be the result. You can take your guitar to a tech, and have
them attempt to modify the nut.
Luckily, nuts are very affordable, and typically replacing a nut can be
a fairly low risk job. If you are not
confident in your skills, a tech will replace the nut for you. Whether you choose to have the nut modified
or replaced, odds are your tuning issues will be resolved.