Does your guitar look great but sound terrible? Does your guitar look terrible and sound terrible? Either way, one of the biggest issues that can prevent a guitar from sounding great is the quality of it’s intonation, which is your guitar’s pitch accuracy across the fretboard.

Today, we are going to do a quick little lesson on How to Intonate Your Guitar!

Why Should I Intonate My Guitar?

The quick answer is: So you don’t sound like poop.

Intonation is referring to the accuracy in which all of the notes on the fretboard are represented. For instance, if you are tuned to E Standard, your open note on the lowest string is an E. One would assume that the 12th fret (or one full octave up) is also an E, right? That’s correct, but if the guitar is intonated poorly, that note (and any other ones) may be flatter or sharper than the notes lower on the fretboard.

(If you have no idea what I just said, maybe start with Wired Theory!)

Guitars aren’t perfect. The goal here is to get them as close to perfect as possible so that when you’re playing, all of the notes are actually in tune!

What Do I Need?

This is a simple guide for beginners to learn. A simple guide requires simple tools!

All you need is:

  • Guitar (obviously)
  • Accurate tuner
  • Guitar cable
  • Tool to adjust your bridge saddles (in most cases, a Phillips screwdriver or flat-head screwdriver).

How to Intonate!

  1. Play a 12th-fret harmonic on the lowest string and make sure it’s in tune!
  2. Gently play a fretted note on the 12th fret of that same string.
  3. Using the tuner, compare the differences in pitch between the notes. Is the fretted note sharper, flatter, or the same as the harmonic? (If it’s the same then it’s already intonated! You did it!)
  4. If the fretted note is sharper than the harmonic, then this means the saddle needs to be moved away from the headstock. If it’s flatter than the harmonic, it needs to go towards the headstock.
  5. Loosen the string enough so you can work on the saddle freely. (Sometimes it’s even easier to just lift the string off of the saddle entirely!)
  6. Use the screwdriver to turn the saddle screw so that the saddle moves in the direction you’re trying to go. (If you already forgot, see step 4!)
  7. Get the string back on the saddle properly and tighten it back up to the correct pitch. Repeat steps 1-3 again and note the changes! You’re probably going to have to do this a few times until you get them to match!
  8. Repeat all of this on every string until you get your guitar intonated as accurately as possible!

Note: Sometimes, when tuning super low, it can be hard to intonate properly because your saddle can only move so far. This is where extended scale and multiscale (fanned fret) guitars come in handy!

That’s it!

If you’ve never had your guitar intonated, then you’ll be surprised at how much better your guitar sounds! Chords will resonate more cleanly, and your lead playing will cut through the mix much better now that the notes are actually in tune! 

We hope you enjoyed this article! If you did, make sure to check out more, because we upload new reviews, technical articles, lessons, and more daily!

Also, we are a dealer for many beloved brands such as PRS, Ibanez, Mayones, Schecter, ESP, and more! Feel free to stop by our shop and we can help you find the right guitar for you at the best price possible.

This article was written by Zac Buras, our editor located in Louisiana.

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