So since I got it at a discount price, I noticed this Yamaha I have won't tune properly. Specifically if I tune the strings to a perfect EADGBE (using a good digital tuner), then I cross check the strings with each other (5th fret -> open), some of the notes don't match up very well.

The biggest problem is when I play the 4th fret on the G string, the B produced there on that G string is too high, its still a B but its at the high end of the B range on the digital tuner.

You have 4 options:

  • Play with each string tuned so they are correct when open (digital tuner)
  • Open tune, then adjust so "cross tune" matches (this seems to sound the best, but some chords are off)
  • Fix it somehow? (Is this possible?)
  • Throw the guitar out

4 Answers 4


Whenever I come across a problem like this, I check the intonation. Tune up the guitar to perfect pitch (according to the tuner) and then, on each string, hit the 12th fret harmonic, listen, then play the 12th fret note. If there is any difference in the two, then your intonation is out, which will affect the ability to tune the guitar correctly, and mean the guitar will not be in tune with itself.

The G and B strings are usually the worst culprits when it comes to intonation, particularly in my experience.

Because you got the guitar cheaply, the factory setup is probably extremely poor/ non-existent. My suggestion would be to take it to a guitar luthier who will set the instrument up for you. He will fix any problems on the action, nut, neck, truss rod, and bridge piece that will be affecting how the instrument sounds/tunes. Full setups can be expensive, but nearly always a very good quality job is done, and is worth it.

If you do not want to do this, or have to wait a while and still want to play, my suggestion would be to tune the low E string according to the tuner so it is dead on, and then 'cross tune' up to the top E string.

Hope this helps.

  • 1
    +1 Good info: Hi dude, this is almost an answer for; music.stackexchange.com/questions/1519/… as well
    – Bella
    Commented Jan 15, 2011 at 16:23
  • Thank you. I will update the answer specifically for electric guitars and post it there. Thanks for pointing this out to me :)
    – Ali
    Commented Jan 15, 2011 at 16:25
  • Awesome - No probs
    – Bella
    Commented Jan 15, 2011 at 16:26
  • 2
    Surely the position of the 12th fret should compensate for the tension, such that it plays a perfect octave. Hence to get a harmonic you'd play very slightly higher up than the 12th fret.
    – slim
    Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 9:54
  • 1
    @Matthew, that effect is what you are compensating for. You end up placing the bridge so that the 12th-fret string is a touch more than 1/2 the full length, cancelling the effect of stretching so the note is thus twice the open note. Other frets more or less follow. When setting intonation, it's important to have clean strings - ideally a new set decently broken in - and tinker with the bridge height first, if that needs doing. Changing to a different type of strings may require touching up the intonation too (esp. if you switch wound/unwound 3rd).
    – greggo
    Commented Dec 15, 2013 at 2:45

I often find bad tuning problems come from bad strings. These can throw up issues in weird places—so even if the open strings are ok, they can affect the fretted notes. Try changing the strings and giving it another go.

  • Yes, if you are going to try to set up intonation or diagnose tuning issues, you need a fresh set of strings that have been just played in, no more. A big problem with old strings is that the density of the string (weight per inch) may not be uniform, due to oxidation or matter buildup from the left land. Even in a perfectly set up guitar, a non-uniform string won't play true - shortening it by a specific ratio doesn't have the proper effect on pitch. And it may even be that the various harmonics of the open string are not in the proper relation to each other.
    – greggo
    Commented Mar 23, 2013 at 17:10

Actually the answer to this particular question was, I was jamming the frets too hard. It was an electric and I was used to acoustic.

The guitar was actually in tune, its just when you mash the frets really hard it sounds higher pitched, very noticeable on electrics.

  • 1
    You could overcome this with heavier gauge strings.
    – slim
    Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 17:01
  • 1
    This could be because the neck has too much relief, requiring the strings to be bent too far, pulling it out of tune. Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 4:52

The intonation (i.e. string length) and/or neck isn't set up correctly. It's EXTREMELY common for guitars (even really expensive ones) to come poorly setup from the factory. I have a Limited Edition ESP Bass that cost nearly $3000 and it came terribly setup, and wouldn't tune just as you describe. Take it to a luthier, they'll sort it out for you.

  • he asked this question 11 years ago, although I do agree that a pro setup is worthwhile and that factory setup is often woeful, at every price point Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 14:46
  • @bigbadmouse: Unless a factory knows what kinds of strings a buyer is going to want to use, there would be no practical for it to optimally set up a guitar at any price point. Indeed, one could argue that having a guitar come from the factory with nut slots so narrow that most strings would ride on the top would be better than requiring that some players replace the nut before using their preferred string gauges.
    – supercat
    Commented Apr 1 at 16:40
  • No, because plenty of people never get their guitars set up and so end up working much harder to learn than they need to. I’m sure plenty of those people give up as a result Commented Apr 3 at 15:21

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