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Stuck in intonation hell...

Discussion in 'DIY Strat Forum' started by velvet_man, May 18, 2017.

  1. velvet_man

    velvet_man Strat-Talker

    126
    Sep 7, 2016
    Vancouver
    A while back I took my Strat into the local shop to get it set up properly, re-level/crown the frets, the whole 9. It played perfectly, so of course I screwed it up. I decided to try a different string gauge since I had only ever played 10-46s. I tried 10-52s first and then 11-48s, which are what's on there now.

    I noticed with the 10-52s that the intonation was no longer right on the low strings. I didn't want to take it back into the shop, so I looked up some YouTube videos on how to do it yourself. I got it sounding good, though I felt like that was at least partly a fluke as I never felt confident in what I was doing.

    Now, with the 11s, it sounds a little off again. So I tried to fix it again, checking the pitch and moving the saddle to compensate then checking again. Until I noticed that my low E saddle was now closer to the neck than all of the others, which I understand is not where it should be. The tuner told me it was OK, but it sounded off to my ear.

    So I did a search for intonation tips on Strat-talk and found a lot of people saying to ignore the tuners and just use your ear, so I tried that. I moved the saddle back and started again. But then I noticed the fretted note at the 12th fret warbles. I have no effects on, and fretting anywhere else produces a nice, clear, even note. But fretting on the 12th or 13th fret (most noticeable on the 12th) produces a warbling note. It does this on all strings except the B and high E. It's also most prominent on the neck pickup (single-sized rail humbucker), still quite noticeable on the middle pickup (vintage staggered single coil), and barely noticeable on the bridge pickup (single-sized rail humbucker).

    I thought it may be Stratitis, so I decked all of the pickups, but that didn't change anything.

    Finally, I found this tutorial on how to do a full setup on your guitar: http://www.wikihow.com/Adjust-Intonation-on-a-Strat

    In there, it says to set a capo on top of the first fret, fret the string at the last fret (21st in my case), and measure the distance between the bottom of the string and top of the fret at the 7-9th frets (it just said one of those three would have the most distance between). I couldn't measure this distance though. I could barely see it! So I tried measuring with standard 8.5x11 paper from my printer. I could slide one sheet in there OK, but two sheets rubbed against the string and fret. So I'm thinking that must be too low, though I'm not sure.

    Would increasing the relief fix the warbling note problem? And if I do have to touch the truss rod (something I've never done and always been too afraid to touch), what's the best way to go about it? I have truss rod access at the bottom of the neck, so I'd have to take the guitar apart to adjust it...
     
  2. johnnymg

    johnnymg Senior Stratmaster Strat-Talk Supporter

    Sep 5, 2015
    Central Coast Ca
    Sounds like you need a better tuner. DON'T go messing with anything until you get a working tuner.
     
  3. ashtray

    ashtray Strat-Talker

    Age:
    45
    373
    Mar 15, 2017
    LA
    Use a high quality tuner. Test 12th fret harmonic against open (should always be the same) against 12th fret fretted. If fretted note is sharp, tighten screw at bridge to lengthen string. Retune and check again.

    Also try at the 10th fret and 5th fret, etc. Its possible your 12th fret is slightly off but you want to get your other notes intonated as well - so multiple samplings on a string is a good approach.
     
    Stratoskater likes this.
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  5. Dick Blackmore

    Dick Blackmore Strat-Talker

    Age:
    48
    138
    Jan 10, 2017
    San Diego
    The saddles should look something like this, it wont be a perfect cascade but it should be something like this.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2017
  6. Groovey

    Groovey Senior Stratmaster

    Nov 17, 2016
    NC. USA
    I would agree on the "get a decent tuner." I wouldn't mess with the truss rod just yet. The intonation was fine not too long ago, correct?

    I don't think string size will affect intonation.

    Start over with the saddles as in the picture.
    Start with the neck pickup about the distance of two nickels from the low e string when fretted at the last fret.

    Give your best effort at the intonation procedure. be patient. If it seems like it's not working group just walk away for a while.

    Let's see what happens.
     
  7. heltershelton

    heltershelton ROCKIN FOREVER Strat-Talk Supporter

    Jun 5, 2013
    Not Florida
    cool....i saw this pic and wondered if mine were close, so i grabbed my mim strat and snapped a pic.....pretty close...
    IMG_20170518_201331.jpg
     
    Dick Blackmore likes this.
  8. Ebidis

    Ebidis Most Honored Senior Member

    Age:
    50
    Nov 14, 2013
    Alabama
    Oh contraire, string gauge is one of the major factors affecting intonation. Sometimes even changing to a different brand of the same gauge will throw it off, because they may use different core sizes on the wound strings.
     
  9. Groovey

    Groovey Senior Stratmaster

    Nov 17, 2016
    NC. USA
    In light of this new info, I wish to change my opinion on string guage and intonation.
     
    Mansonienne, Stratoskater and Ebidis like this.
  10. velvet_man

    velvet_man Strat-Talker

    126
    Sep 7, 2016
    Vancouver
    Thanks for all the replies. I'll try to respond to all of the points raised.

    The tuner I was using is the one built into the Blackstar Insider software. It looks like this http://nuansamusik.com/media/ckuploads/2014/05/05/tuner insider.jpg

    The problem is, when I play the open string and get that clear, even note, the tuner clearly lets me know I'm in tune. But when I play the note fretted at the 12th fret, it warbles. Perhaps this isn't clear as it seems like no one's responded to this. You know when you play the 5th fret on the E and the open A to tune, and when it's just slightly out of tune, the two notes don't line up right so they kind of making a jarring, warbling sound? That's the sound I'm getting from a single note on the 12th fret. This is why my tuner jumps from in tune to -10 to +10, and why I can't tune it by ear from the harmonic, because the note is warbling all over the place and not ringing clear.

    As for the picture of the what the saddles should look like, that is what it looks like now, after resetting the low E last night. That's what it looked like before, but the problem I ran into was that I ended up with the low E saddle closer to the neck than any of the others by the time I got a clear "in tune" reading from the tuner, but I think this warbling issue was throwing the tuner off.

    And yes, this whole thing started when I switched string gauges. It was all perfect when I was using 10-46 strings. But I think I prefer the 11-48s I have on there now.

    TLDR, I think I need to get this warbling note issue sorted before I'll be able to properly set intonation. Unless of course, the intonation being off is what's causing the warbling notes?
     
  11. Ebidis

    Ebidis Most Honored Senior Member

    Age:
    50
    Nov 14, 2013
    Alabama
    It could be the trem springs resonating sympathetically, and causing a slight warble. Try stuffing some foam or a paper towel in the trem cavity.
     
    Groovey likes this.
  12. wildhawk

    wildhawk Senior Stratmaster

    Feb 12, 2014
    Midwest
    Tune it. Play it.

    Acoustics and wrap around bridges get string gauge changes all the time.

    Nobody walked out on a band due to intonation that was off.
     
    Stratoskater and Groovey like this.
  13. velvet_man

    velvet_man Strat-Talker

    126
    Sep 7, 2016
    Vancouver
    Thanks, I'll try that!
     
  14. Ebidis

    Ebidis Most Honored Senior Member

    Age:
    50
    Nov 14, 2013
    Alabama
    Another thing, this sounds crazy, but it's true. If you have a fan running, the frequency of the oscillation of the fan blades can cause certain notes to oscillate out of tune. I had this issue, and it drove me insane until I figured out what was causing it.
     
    simoncroft, Dave Harmon and Groovey like this.
  15. fezz parka

    fezz parka Wiggler of Sticks Strat-Talk Supporter

    Your neck pickup is too high.
     
  16. jvin248

    jvin248 Strat-O-Master

    744
    Jan 10, 2014
    Michigan
    .

    The 11s might push the lowE saddle back too far, you may need to cut the saddle spring or remove it. I had a strat-like-object that wouldn't intonate with 10s because it ran out of bridge room so I went back to 9s and got it intonated.

    .
     
    Groovey likes this.
  17. Ebidis

    Ebidis Most Honored Senior Member

    Age:
    50
    Nov 14, 2013
    Alabama
    He said that he tried decking the pickups and still had the warble. I think he's getting some funky sympathetic resonance from something.
     
  18. fezz parka

    fezz parka Wiggler of Sticks Strat-Talk Supporter

    I still say it's magnetic pull on the strings. Especially since he said it's most prominent on the neck pickup. If you have a set of highly charged pickups (Texas Specials for example along with many single rail bucker types like he's using) and a very low setup, you'll still get Stratitis even with the pickups decked. Been there, done that. A consistent oscillating warble is magnetic pull on the strings. :D
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2017 at 3:40 AM
    JamesM, simoncroft and Dick Blackmore like this.
  19. Dadocaster

    Dadocaster Most Honored Senior Member

    My warble very seldom oscillates, thankfully.

    D
     
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  20. fezz parka

    fezz parka Wiggler of Sticks Strat-Talk Supporter

    The strings with the smallest core that are the least susceptible to magnetic pull.

    The fact that it's at the middle node of the string length is exacerbating the problem with the tuner. The core (pun intended) of the problem is magnetic pull.

    How low is your string height (action)?

    Can you actually hear the oscillation through an amp? Or is it only messing with the tuner?
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2017 at 4:04 AM
    simoncroft likes this.
  21. Mr. Lumbergh

    Mr. Lumbergh needs you to go ahead and come in on Sunday, too. Strat-Talk Supporter

    Jan 10, 2014
    Initech, Inc.
    What type of tuner are you using and how old is it? I recently had to replace the tuner I used for setups because it started to drift, then hunt around for the note. Also, don't try to set intonation using a tuner pedal or clip-on; they're just not accurate enough for this task.
    Try to see if you can borrow or acquire a good chromatic tuner, such as a Seiko, and give it another try.