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I have a Segovia backpacker guitar (Segovia is a Korean company; the guitar was made in China). The problem is that it doesn't play in tune very well--especially if I play up the neck.

The strings seem to be unusually sensitive to pressure; varying finger pressure makes a huge difference in the string's pitch, especially in the bass range. And using a capo makes the guitar sound really bad.

For clarity, if I push just hard enough to avoid string buzz while fingerpicking softly, the guitar sounds OK. But if I push hard enough to avoid buzz while strumming vigorously, the strings I'm fretting go considerably out of tune.

How can I fix this problem?

  • This may sound obvious, but... is the guitar in tune? The strings may be in tune with each other, but if the guitar itself is below standard tuning (ie. the E-string is playing closer to a D), it screws up the intonation, especially on the bass strings. – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Apr 22 '11 at 22:40
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It sounds like you must have either a high action or high frets, or possibly very low tension in the strings, for that amount of detuning to happen just from pressing the string. You should expect a note to go a little sharp as you push harder, but nothing significant.

If you have a very high action, you can try to lower it - I don't know the Segovia so some of the following may be irrelevant - by lowering the nut or the bridge, or by adjusting the truss rod.

But it sounds more like maybe you have overlarge frets - I would avise taking it along to a luthier to check and get first person advice.

  • After comparing it with my dreadnought, it appears that I have high frets. I'll have to look around and see if I can find an English-speaking luthier around here. Or is there anything I can do myself? – Anonymous Apr 17 '11 at 6:40

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