Notes On Intonation
Getting the fat strings to come in to proper intonation can be problematic.
isn't a manufacturer-specific problem. It's an electric bass problem that has
its roots in how the strings "flow" (for lack of a better description)
over the saddles. New strings do not "break" properly over the
saddles, which leaves you with strings that vary their tension due to a
curve near the saddles.
Before I dive into this, a little posterior covering is in order: YMMV. The procedure
below assumes that the bass in question is well built and properly
assembled. It also assumes strings that are new or in good condition.
on a fresh set of strings and tune them to pitch. Don't do anything
else - just tune them to normal pitch. Now look at the
bridge edge-on from the fat string side. What you'll probably see are
the strings curving over the saddles in a nice & pretty arc. The
come up from the back of the bridge, or from the bridge plate, make a
kind of lazy change of direction over the saddles, and head off up the
neck. The curve over the saddle actually continues for an inch or so on
the neck side. The curve may be slight or marked, depending on your
strings (flats seem to do this more than rounds), and will be more
noticeable on the fat string. Setting a straightedge on the fat
string will make this
readily apparent. That pretty curve will make stable tuning difficult.
It may also make intonation nearly impossible to set with any accuracy
and stability, or
without some extreme settings on the intonation screws. This isn't what
we want, so let's try to fix it.
- Because the skinny string will likely have very little
curve compared to the others and will be bent into a mostly angled break over its saddle, we can
figure that it's very close to what we're after. So let's adjust its
intonation using the usual method; open & 12th.
- Now adjust the
intonation screws on the remaining saddles so that the saddles are set in
an angled line with the fat string's saddle about 1/4" to 3/8"
closer to the butt end of the bass than the skinny string's saddle. As
you look down on the body from the butt end of the bass, the fat
string's saddle would be a little closer to you. This should give
you a rough intonation setting once you complete the steps below. Don't adjust saddle height - only intonation.
- Re-tune all strings to
- For each string, even the skinny one, place your thumb on the
string just to the neck side of the saddle and press straight down toward the body fairly hard.
Look at the bridge edge-on again and you should see that the pretty
curve is now a sharp break over the saddle. That's what we want! If any
of that curve remains on any strings (different strings may need more of a
push than others), press on them again.
- Check tuning and you'll probably find
that all the strings will be flat in varying amounts. Re-tune to
check your intonation on all strings. You should find that, even with
eyeball adjusted intomation, the strings aren't too far off. Adjust as
needed to bring them into proper intonation then press on each string
one more time. Re-check tuning
and intonation, re-adjust if necessary, and you
should be good to go. If you have a saddle lock screw, don't forget to tighten it.
BTW - our friend Chef gave this
procedure a term. It's called "Reinforcing the witness point". I
like that. Makes it sound scientific.
Copyright 2009 Ken Baker and bassesbyleo.com