I have a fender mexican strat, with 10s. I have never changed string gauge, I only tuned all the strings down half a step to Eb from E.

The issue I am running into is that the low Eb, Ab, Db, and Gb strings are all sharp. I tested the intonation by playing the string open and then checking the 12th fret. These 4 strings seem to be in tune when played open but all of them are sharp when played at the 12th fret. The low Eb is the worst and the rest of them are just slightly sharp. I tested this using consistent attacks on both open and 12th fret.

I tried to fix the issue by adjusting the saddles. I made the saddle adjustments in increments by moving the saddle towards the bridge after loosening the string and it seemed to only make the Eb more sharp. I also got the point where I can't physically turn the screw further as it is very tight and I don't want to strip the screw.

I'm not sure what to do now. I have very little experience with guitar set ups so I wanted to see if I can get any advice on how to proceed without damaging something.



Start by re-setting the neck - with lower pitch comes lower tension, so the strings may be affected by the action. A high action will necessitate the strings having to be pressed harder, sending them sharp. Using the 12th fret harmonic is a time-honoured way to check against the fretted 12 pitch.

That's of course after putting on a new set of strings, as old strings can be difficult to intonate.

Next comes setting the string height, by saddle adjustment, to at least get it playing properly again.

Because the string tension is less, you may want to also adjust the spring tension on the vib.

Then test intonation. It's possible to remove the little springs that are behind the saddle, although I've only ever had to do that on low E.

Changing the string gauge, or string tension shouldn't give problems like this.

Failing all that, search for some shorter saddles that will fit and effectively make the strings longer.

  • Hey TIm, thanks for the answer I appreciate it. So I put on a new set of strings and let it sit for a couple of hours. I tuned the strings to Eb tuning and I'm still running into issues with the low Eb, Ab, and Db intonation - all of them are sharp. The high Eb is also slightly sharp. At this point - do you recommend trying to lower the action on the lower strings and seeing if that helps? I like the way it plays currently but I can give that a shot. Also do you mind clarifying the part about adjusting the spring tension? I'm not sure I understand. Thank you! – regalix_ Sep 27 '20 at 18:00
  • How are you checking it? Using the 12th fret harmonic, pressing at 12th fret, using a tuner..? Is your action quite high? – Tim Sep 27 '20 at 18:06
  • So I'm unable to reliably hit the harmonic so I'm using a headstock tuner. I'm playing the open string and then fretting the octave at the 12th fret. Im using a soft attack for both the open and the octave. I checked the action at the low Eb and the high Eb. According to an action ruler I have, the action at the low Eb is kinda high (suggested range is 1.5-2.0 mm and mine is about 2.25 mm) and the action at the high Eb is fine (suggested range is 1.0-1.5 mm and mine is around 1.25mm). I – regalix_ Sep 27 '20 at 19:10
  • Harmonics are fun but tuners are better, so keep using that. – Dave Jacoby Sep 27 '20 at 21:18
  • Lowering the low E might help the intonation a little. You should have plenty of room to pull the high E back some. – Dave Jacoby Sep 28 '20 at 1:28

I'm more experienced with Telecasters than Stratocasters, but I see this problem with gauges much higher, such as .013s trying to get into standard-neck baritone territory. I took off the low-Es spring to gain some space, but it seems impossible to have blues-rock post-1982 if you can't intonate a Strat in Eb.

Taking it to a luthier for a setup is a reasonable course, but at this point, depending on the age of the instrument, maybe changing the strings might be an idea. Not necessarily string guages — stick with 10s if you're happy with them — but the current set might be played out, hindering your attempts at intonation.

ETA: An answer to a previous question explaining what a setup entails.

  • Hey thanks for the answer Dave. I did change the strings a couple of hours ago and the lower strings still seem to be sharp. What do you recommend at this point, if you have any suggestions? I have access to a luthier but the one I am looking at would set me back around a $100 for a full set up and he is booked for about 2 weeks (he has to hold onto the instrument). I'd prefer to try to fix it myself if it is in my control at all – regalix_ Sep 27 '20 at 18:07
  • There's a lot to this that would be easier if I could pick up the instrument and see you with it. New players often fret too hard, so you might be pulling sharp with just your hands, so practice fretting barely hard enough to get the note out would be good in general and helpful here. – Dave Jacoby Sep 27 '20 at 18:49

Yeah you need to get a high resolution tuner, one that shows 1 cent up or down increments so you can dial in your intonation a lot more precisely. I think your intonation is off.


You should send guitar to a professional luthier whenever you want to change tune and/or string gauge, even if it is just half step down or a simple Drop D. Strings have tension, and the truss rod is not the only thing that keeps the strings in tune.

  • 3
    I don't know; being able to maintain your own guitar is a valuable skill that can be learned. – Dave Jacoby Sep 27 '20 at 6:02
  • 2
    Disagree. A set-up is expensive - may not necessarily be to your liking, and means you have to take the guitar, lose it, then go and get it back. Non of the things involved in simple set-ups are dangerous - excepting doing stupid things with trussrods - and can be learned just by doing - which is what most of us did before the thousands of 'experts' showed us how on the 'net. Learn a new skill ! – Tim Sep 27 '20 at 14:45

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