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Mexican made Strat intonation

Discussion in 'Tech-Talk' started by paranoidsam, Jul 22, 2012.

  1. paranoidsam

    paranoidsam Strat-Talk Member

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    Hi everyone, I'm new to this forum but I posted a question about this on the Strat page of TDPRI a few months ago.

    Basically, my MIM standard's intonation is terrible. The high E and B strings are audibly sharp when fretted at the 12th fret. The G is flat ath the 12th.

    Generally I know how to set intonation, but the saddles are at the very end of their travel. The E and B are right on the very end of the adjustment screw, and still sound flat, meanwhile the G string saddle needs to move back a bit, but the spring is now fully compressed, and the saddle won't budge.

    My dad mentioned a while ago that you could "reset" the intonation by, slackening the strings and moving the saddle to give enough play for adjustment. But to me this seems a bit counter intuitive, as for example if i move the saddle back a bit on the E string to give enough room to sharpen the note at the 12th fret, won't that just flatten the note futher???
    :confused:

    I have the guitar setup like Clapton's, with five springs in the back, and the bridge flush to the body.

    I use regular strings (10-46).

    Any help is very much welcome.
     
  2. wiregrass

    wiregrass Strat-O-Master

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    My 6th string has no spring behind the saddle and is cranked all the way back. Another string has half a spring. I didn't have any that had to come too far forward. Mine is a 99 MIM, and the action is medium, not low.
     
  3. oldwolf

    oldwolf Strat-O-Master

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    Something is bad wrong somewhere!

    It is not uncommon to have to cut springs, or even remove a spring in some cases, to set correct intonation, but to run out of bolt length, to move the saddle to the proper position, rarely ever occurs.

    The only possible things I can think of, are bolts that are the wrong length (did someone replace them), or bad strings, or a basic set-up parameters that are all wrong.

    If all else fails find a good tech to set it up for you. It doesn't cost that much.
    Gene Warner
    repairman
     
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  5. MIJ STRAT

    MIJ STRAT Strat-Talker

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    yes as you stated, moving the saddle will flatten the note more at the 12th. First what type of tuner are you using to check intonation, have you checked other frets against their octave above, like the 1st and the 13th etc to see if they intonate, rather the open against the 12th.

    What shape are the frets in? they can cause issues if they are heavily worn, same goes for worn out strings, only set the intonation with a fresh set, I have seen MIM with issues. It could be that the bridge is drilled to far back, is there a large gap between the edge of the bridge and the pickguard. If you ever watch any vids on youtube theirs a guys channel davey something, and he was working on gold 50th anniv that had similar issues of being to flat.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2012
  6. paranoidsam

    paranoidsam Strat-Talk Member

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    The guitar is 100% stock, I've never removed anything other than the tremolo arm.

    I've heard some say that for good intonation the bridge needs to be floating, but I've had issues for a long time, and I went "hard tail" partly because of the trouble I've had.
     
  7. paranoidsam

    paranoidsam Strat-Talk Member

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    Generally I check intonation by comparing the fretted note at the 12th, with the 12th fret harmonic.

    I use a Korg CA-1, which is a basic, but good quality tuner. But often I find my ears are more accurate.

    I did consider that fret wear might be causing the issue, but I have MIM Tele, which despite being a year younger, has seen four times as much wear yet remains relatively problem free, apart from a couple of buzzes here and there.

    It seems with the Strat, that anything I do to it makes it worse.

    The Tele plays and sounds brilliant, and is my main guitar. But the Strat was my first really "decent" guitar, when I got it new in 2006 it played brilliantly. I'm not planning on using it for gigging, or as a main instrument, but I'd love to be able to pick it up and just enjoy playing it, cos right now it's a joyless experience.:cry:
     
  8. MIJ STRAT

    MIJ STRAT Strat-Talker

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    alright cool cool, so it's a no to fret wear. Yeah that tuners fine for the job, usually super budget ones can give odd reading. I sometimes feel my ears are telling me my intonation is correct when setting it, then a tuner says otherwise, and when you play about its correct. Other things are check the intonation with your neck pickup selected, I've never thought of this until I've seen luthiers recommend it, make sure the pickup height is not too high as that will have an effect.

    But is there a gap between the bridge edge and the side of the pickguard?
     
  9. GaryCorby

    GaryCorby Strat-O-Master

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    I've a few blind guesses:

    I'd be interested to know the measured length from the nut to the saddle on the high E. The part of the string that vibrates should be 25.5 inches. If it is, then is the 12th fret exactly halfway along? If both those things are right, then as a matter of pure physics, the intonation should be spot on for the high E.

    If the scale length is right and the 12th fret's correctly positioned at the halfway point, yet the intonation is off, then that suggests to me that there's something wrong with how the string is anchored at one end or the other.

    Is the nut firmly set? Are the saddles wobbling, perhaps? Are the strings tightly anchored in the hard tail? Is there any give where the neck attaches to the body?
     
  10. paranoidsam

    paranoidsam Strat-Talk Member

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    Okay, there's a very thin gap, I think I could just about get my pick into it.

    Something I did today was to lower the pickups quite a way, for the reasons you mentioned. I always tune up with the neck pickup, although Fender's site recommends using the middle pickup...?

    A couple of weeks ago I decided to try and get the guitar back to it's "factory setup", following both Fender's online guide and the Haynes Stratocaster manual. I was surprised at how high Fender say you should have your pickups... 5/64 on the bass side, and 4/64 on the treble... I'm no expert, but that seems awful close to me...
     
  11. Phat-O-Caster

    Phat-O-Caster Strat-O-Master

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    Are you setting intonation acousticly or with the guitar plugged in? if your having problems with it plugged in it could be a pick up height interference issue-try it unplugged and just use your ears.
     
  12. paranoidsam

    paranoidsam Strat-Talk Member

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    Right, it's exactly 25.5 inches and the 12th fret is exactly in the middle.

    I've always had my suspicions about the nut, but if the slots weren't deep enough I'd imagine I would of noticed the problem the first time I picked it up. But it had two or three years of daily use before this issue cropped up.

    I should have mentioned earlier that this all started about 3 years ago after I experimented with a set of Ernie Ball Top Heavies. I think they were 09-50 gauge. I tried them after hearing that Pete Townshend used them, heavy on the top for rhythm, light on the bottom for lead. Is it possible that these could have had an effect?
     
  13. MIJ STRAT

    MIJ STRAT Strat-Talker

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    nah that seems fine, no unusual gap. Personally I set the guitar to what feels right.
    I'm stumped, maybe it's the nut, you could capo off the first fret and try checking the intonation maybe? retune then try this would act like the first fret being a zero fret so check the open against the 13th and the 2nd fret (capod) with the 14th.
     
  14. SennaF1

    SennaF1 Senior Stratmaster

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    This is where you use a paperclip on a fishing line :twisted:
     
  15. paranoidsam

    paranoidsam Strat-Talk Member

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    Eh? :confused:
     
  16. swanseajack

    swanseajack Strat-O-Master

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    Here is a long shot. I've read on this site about the trick were you loosen the neck bolts a little to allow the (tuned to pitch) strings to pull the neck tight into the neck pocket.. right? Well, seeing as the OP's 1st and 2nd strings need more shortening, what about trying this? Then retune and re intonate?
    another point. Are you freting the e and b really hard at the 12th fret? If you are, you could be bending the strings (inwards towards the neck) sharp! You should fret the strings with normal playing pressure...
    Just my 2p

    ps old strings often won't intonate very well!
     
  17. NEStrataholic

    NEStrataholic Senior Stratmaster

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    On my 1990s MIM, I cannot exhaust the intonation screw before the saddle hits the bridge mounting screw. Are you at that point? I am fairly close on the high E (3 mms or so before hitting the bridge mounting screw) at intonation (and I am floating my bridge at Fender specs).

    Also, how far is the front of your bridge plate to the inside (fretboard side) of the nut? Mine is 25 and 1/8 inches (638 mms).

    How high is your action? What is distance of bottom of high E string to top of 17th fret?

    Is your 12th fret grooved? Is the crown even and uniform across it?

    How far down in the nut groove are the high E and B strings? Are the tops of the strings right at the top of the nut (so that the whole string, but just, is in the nut slot)? Or is it deep in the nut slot?

    I don't know if you can tell with strings on, but is the high E coming off of the nut at the inside edge? Or has that edge worn down and now the high E is coming of the nut from farther back? (That would do it, and if you used thinner strings for a while, they may have grooved your nut and caused this to happen.)

    If your high E string length (inside of nut to the exact point where the string leaves the saddle) is exactly twice the distance from the inside of the nut to the top middle of the 12th fret, all the other things are good, AND the intonation is still saying "flat", I bet you have string issues.

    If you had a micrometer, you could check the diameter of the strings at issue and you may find the diameter inconsistent along its length. This is a well known issue these days and affects many string manufacturers.

    Have you replaced the block? If not, the stock pot metal blocks sometimes give out and the ball of the string slips in further, and further, and further over time. If it continuously moves (ever so slightly) this may make it sound flat, but it should intonate properly if it is stable (at the right distances).

    Also, the ball end could be slowly unraveling. Same conclusion as above, though - if relatively stable, you should be able to intonate. If it is slowly unraveling, it may keep sounding flat as you stretch the string to fret the note.

    Some good resources:

    Guitar Repair - How to adjust the intonation on an Electric Guitar

    And the link on what causes poor intonation:

    Guitar Repair - How to adjust the intonation on an Electric Guitar

    Intonation steps (see post #2):

    Intonation - String Length and Gauge Thickness

    Thread on inconsistent string diameters and the effect on intonation:

    Inconsistent string thickness = intonation problems? - SG Guitar Forum
     
  18. NEStrataholic

    NEStrataholic Senior Stratmaster

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    +1

    I would definitely do the neck-to-body tightening trick.
     
  19. paranoidsam

    paranoidsam Strat-Talk Member

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    I've heard similar ideas where if you have a set neck, you can tune the first two strings slightly flat, and apply pressure to the body with your arm to bring them into pitch when playing near the nut end, and relax the pressure when you play higher up...

    Listening closely to the fretted notes from about the 9th fret up to the 14th, I'm noticing double notes, which I think is throwing me and my tuner off. I've always had problems with a high fret, possibly the 16th or 17th that tends to choke bends at the 14th. Could this be the cause?

    Incidentally, I do have "lead fingers", and I tend to unintentionally press quite hard, I know this can have an effect, especially close to the nut. And that fret ware, and nut problems can exaggerate it too...
     
  20. swanseajack

    swanseajack Strat-O-Master

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    yep, I can fret notes at the octave hard enough to make the noticably higher...
     
  21. Dewey

    Dewey Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

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    I'll take a shot at the risk of embarrassment.

    -Find your pup's sweet spot to eliminate magnetic interference.
    -Restring the guitar.
    -Dial in your truss rod.
    -Do a visual alignment of the saddles at an approximate mid point in the range.
    (edit... I'm assuming your saddle height is set approximately to your preference)
    -Then try intonating the guitar again.
    -Never attempt to turn your saddle screws without first detuning the guitar.
    -After the adjustment tune back up and gently stretch the strings for stability.

    See picture...

    I've had several guitars that have been problematic just like you described yours.
    When I did what I'm suggesting I was able to work through the problem.
    Best wishes.
     

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