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I've been playing guitar for 7 years already. Throughout the years my ear developed and I started to notice intonation issues. I've been trying to fix it, but I never could.

I adjusted the truss rod, set saddle height, adjusted string length, but my intonation always is sharp (saddles can't go back more any more, even removed springs, but it didn't help).

Last month I accidentally dropped my guitar(ouch), the nut broke apart and I bought a replacement. Put it in hoping that maybe my nut was problematic and it would fix intonation, but to no avail.

A week ago I put my capo on the first fret and tuned my guitar to F(Because of intonation problem, even though I had it tuned to E standard before putting capo on, it was tuned to F+10-30 cents) and checked intonation that way. It was spot on. I thought that maybe nut was too high, I have a spare one so I didn't mind messing with this one and lowered it, but there was no change.

Has anybody had same experience? Do you know if this problem is fixable? If yes, how?

I've been at it for a long time already and I can't seem to fix it. My Guitar is 17-20 years old already (I Don't know the exact date of release). It's a Fender Squier Stagemaster HSS. So might it just be an age problem and should I keep it for just sentimental value(it is my first electric guitar) and buy a new one?

EDIT - I Got It Working

Sorry for not updating for two weeks already. I've been at it, trying to fix the issue. All of the answers here were helpful, but none of them worked.

Just now, I thought that maybe something was wrong with the neck angle and it needed a shim. I unbolted the neck and found a really thin, pressed piece of paper. I've bought this guitar used, so I guess someone thought that a piece of paper was a good enough shim. I replaced it, even added a little bit more angle and can say that somehow, after adjusting action, my intonation is correct now. Although I had to remove all of the saddle springs to tighten bolts to max, it works.

So this is it. If somebody has the same issue, research neck shims.

  • What are you using to tune the open strings? And what specifically do you mean by going sharp ? Is it that the fretted positions go sharper and sharper up the neck (so fingered pitches don't match the harmonics)? And so on. – Carl Witthoft Jan 21 at 13:16
  • I'm using a tuner vst on logic pro and to check some other tuning vst's. I don't have a tuning pedal or headstock clip tuner unfortunately. 12th harmonic does not match 12th fretted and other frets are out of tune too. For example - If I press the 3rd fret on 6th string(tuned to E), tuner reads G 10-20 cents sharp. – Brsgamer Jan 21 at 13:20
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Intonation is checked initially by comparing the 12th fret harmonic to the 12th fretted note. If the action is high, the string (whichever one) will play sharp due to it being stretched.

Intonation can be checked for each fret if you like - press 1st fret, harmonic at 13 should be the same pitch as pressing string at fret 13.This can be done with or without a capo.

The saddles are usually adjustable to compensate for quite a variance in string gauge. If all saddles are as far back as possible, there's a faint possibility that the bridge needs to be moved, something I've never encountered on a solid electric.

It sounds as if the nut may be slightly out in that the strings are working from the head end of it, if that makes sense. Try taking the nut off, and placing something hard and thin that the strings can go over. There's a few mm of movement, so moving it one way or the other will establish exactly where the node of the strings needs to be.

  • Will try that as soon as I get home. I'll update you. Thanks for the answer – Brsgamer Jan 21 at 13:32
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Did you file the nut slots and set the string height at fret 1, as well as fret 12? I think your strings may be high at fret 1, which will cause intonation issues because you'll be stretching the string to hit the fret.

Maybe worth the money taking it to a guitar tech for a full set up; that way, you'll know that you'll have a good baseline to work from (and he'll tell you if you've been doing anything else wrong). Well worth the money on any guitar that is played regularly.

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It could be the strings.

Long ago I had a guitar that I played from time to time, but just like you, I could not tune properly because the proper setting would have been beyond the range of the bridge saddles.

And so, although I liked it a lot, after a long time struggling with this issue, I decided to sell it, and for that I put new strings on it. (Usually I kind of like the sound of old strings, and don't change them often). And as soon as I put the new strings, the octaves again tuned perfectly -- the problem had been the strings all along...

  • I don't think it's strings in my case. I change them regularly and even sometiems experiment with different gauges to see if that fixes intonation – Brsgamer Jan 21 at 21:34
  • I see. In any case, a partial workaround that you can apply is this: when you tune the guitar, don't tune it using the open strings, but tune it using the notes, for example, at the 5th fret. E.g. using an electronic tuner, tune the notes of each string at the 5th fret, or maybe even at the 7th fret. This will ensure that most of the notes you play (presumably around the middle of the fretboard) will be fairly in tune. The open strings themselves will be comparatively out of tune, but unless you play a lot of open chords, it will not matter, as everything else will sound OK. – MMazzon Jan 21 at 21:54
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I found when adjusting the intonation it was easy to go wrong. Is it just me?

When the 12th fret is sharp and you increase the string length then the harmonic pitch lowers. You also stretch the string increasing the pitch.

You could check along the string around the 12th fret for the strongest level of the harmonic. If it is past the 12th fret then the string is too long.

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