Sometimes when you tune your guitar and your open strings are in tune, you may play a fretted note and it will sound out of tune. For example you may play a solo and find some of the notes are either flat or sharp the further you move up the fret board. This is probably because your intonation is not correctly set-up, I’ve written this guide to help you set-up your intonation yourself. But before you start to intonate your guitar strings you may find that your strings are old and tired, this may cause your guitar to go out of tune so change your strings. Check this previous post about choosing your strings.
You can intonate your own guitar
Every guitar tech should be able to intonate your guitar for you, but really it’s a simple job that will save you time and money. Again only adjust your intonation after you have changed your strings especially if you have changed the gauge, if you continue to use the same gauge strings it is unlikely that you will have to adjust your intonation unless your saddle has moved. The tools you need are a digital tuner and screwdriver or allen key, this depends on your saddle type.
How to Intonate your Guitar
Each guitar is different but the concept is generally the same and it pretty easy once you know how. To intonate your guitar you need to adjust the string length, this is done by moving the saddle.guitar tremolo Your saddle is either attached to the bridge or just forward of it.
First tune your guitar, then gently press on the 12th fret on the low E and strike the string, check with the tuner if it is tune. If your E on the 12th fret is sharp then you need to move the saddle further away from the neck of your guitar making the string longer and if it is flat then you need to move the saddle closer to the neck to make it shorter.
To move the saddle you use either a screw driver or an allen key, to move the saddle for each string back and forth. With a floating bridge like a Gretsch 5120 you can gently move the saddle which ever way you need to. You will need to check again and again until this is correct, this can take some time to get right but its worth it. This is a basic guitar set-up skill that all guitarists should learn, your guitar will sound so much better for it. If you find it impossible to intonate your guitar then it may be that your truss rod is not set-up correctly or your guitar nut needs adjusting.
Finally if you want to learn more about this go to Guitar set-up with Dirty Roger.