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I have a traditional 3 saddle telecaster bridge. With two strings on each saddle my intonation is always a slight compromise. This is OK on the first four strings, but the bass strings are noticeably off. Other than replacing the saddle, are there any specific techniques I can use to reduce the problem?

  • This method worked best for me. – luke May 7 '11 at 11:37
  • 1
    My soution: throw the damn thing away and get a six saddle bridge!! They're available in 'vintage' style with six separate brass 'barrels'. Just do a Google search. As for the purists and all their ballyhoo about "true vintage tone", I say, Baloney! Such is a myth! Purely subjective. Me, I play an MIM strat or tele thru a solid state bass amp and manage to get a few calls every month to play or sit-in someplace so maybe I'm not totally full of hot air! – user8787 Dec 16 '13 at 22:25
  • bought a three piece compensated brass bridge in the end. Intonates perfectly and the brass sounds awesome! – gingerbreadboy Nov 21 '18 at 15:13
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With traditional, barrel-style, Telecaster saddles the answer is: you can't. It's not possible and living with that imperfection is part of the Telecaster's ancient allure and charm. It's a grizzled old plank that barely stays in tune and you like to beat on to make beautiful music.

If it's really driving you nuts you can buy compensated saddles for Telecasters that do a pretty good job of overcoming the intonation imperfections in the 3-saddle design while staying really close to the original implementation of the saddles. I like the Intone Saddles from Glendale. Well priced, retrofit to any 3-saddle, ash-tray type Tele bridge and they're available in a variety of materials (brass, aluminium, steel, etc.) and you can even mix and match materials within a set to tune the tone to your liking. They'll let you intonate much more accurately without ruining the look or the sound of your Telecaster.

  • Also consider Callaham's stuff (callahamguitars.com/partstel.htm). I have a vintage saddle from him that took care of most of the intonation issues with my Tele--but as Ian states it's impossible to fix unless you go to a modern bridge. – Jduv Jan 16 '11 at 15:49
  • This thing makes me cry... This is the triumph of marketing over common sense: How can a so expensive instrument so imperfect? Plus: Some guitarist use Tele to play jazz, where chords at higher frets and DGBE strings are almost irritating false. One must use a modification if want a usable instrument. – g.pickardou Aug 22 '15 at 13:32
  • So, five years after the question was answered I bit the bullet and installed some Callaham compensated brass saddles. Problem solved, best £30 I ever spent. – gingerbreadboy Sep 26 '16 at 13:34
4

You can also split the difference, set it up so that the E string is a little flat and the A string is a little sharp.

3

on mine the problem was between top E and B ,I solved it by filing the saddle so that the B sounded from about 1mm longer than the E .

  • I think this solution is an excellent one, why haven't I heard of it before? – skinny peacock May 12 '18 at 1:52
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Techniques in the face of compromised intonation on the two bass strings:

  • avoid playing high notes on the two bass strings as much as possible, in favor of playing the same notes lower down on the neck on the higher strings.

  • Peel the bridge saddle back so that the intonation is a little flat for both strings, and then bend the notes into tune.

  • If you do play notes past the 12th fret on the bass strings, then do it in such a way that the intonation is less noticeable:

    • Vibrato and bending will conceal bad pitch, as every lounge crooner instinctively knows.
    • Short notes have a less definite pitch than long ones, so avoid long, sustained notes at the bad intonation. You can play fast notes at the bad intonation, but when a note is held at the end of a phrase, bend it to the right pitch. Presto: hardly anyone will know.
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intonation on the tele.this is my CURE,take a pair of pliers and grip the stem of the middle saddle and bend it to the RIGHT trial and error will get the 4th and 3rd strings to the correct intonation.(bend towards the high E)

  • Could cause kinks in the string at the bridge end with what would then be angled string slots. – user6164 Jun 6 '13 at 21:30
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unscrew the mini screws on the affected saddle until they are not touching the plate and give it a slight twist in the direction you need before tightening the screws to lift it again. Then make the saddle slightly higher in sharp note and slightly lower on the flat note. Or you can just go back in time and buy a Stratocaster or commit the ultimate sin and buy a six saddle bridge.

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