I recently got an American Standard Stratocaster and I've been working on setting it up.

I have tightened the intonation adjustment screw for the low E string to its limit and now the tension spring is fully compressed.

Despite this, the intonation is just barely correct. (The intonation for this string had been way off, that's why I kept on tightening the intonation adjustment screw.)

The other strings don't really seem to be suffering from the same problem.

Why is this happening? Is it an indication of a bigger problem?

strat saddle

  • I haven't personally done a lot of this, but I've recently watched a lot of YouTube about setups. Your two points of attack appear to be: modify/replace the saddle piece so it pulls farther back, or possibly resetting the neck pocket with a shim to add length to all the strings. – luser droog Feb 16 '19 at 1:48
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    How high does the bridge sit? We could do with a pic from the side too. If it's got plenty of room you could tighten the springs around the back, or add another spring [they tend to have room for 5 but only come with 3.] Sometimes people angle the outer 2 to give a bit more tension. – Tetsujin Feb 16 '19 at 7:13
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    This is either the result of a low quality build or some other setup metric is out of normal parameters. Before setting the intonation, make sure the neck relief (set via the truss rod adjustment), neck angle, and saddle height are not too unusual. Also make sure the gauge for that string is a normal gauge. And also make sure you're actually checking the intonation correctly. Also as Tetsujin mentioned, an unusual bridge height could be a problem. – Todd Wilcox Feb 16 '19 at 8:12
  • Ocassionally one can get a bad string, so it could be just that. . – PeterJ Feb 16 '19 at 10:30
  • @Tetsujin in terms of the bridge, the saddles are set as low as possible because I like a low action. I set the floating tremolo to Fender specs (1/8" float). And, the action is still higher than I'd like. – Sharp Feb 16 '19 at 15:22

Assuming your A and D strings are intonated correctly, the length of that E looks about right, maybe even a little too far back.

As in the comments, check the neck relief and the action, and get those about right before checking the intonation. Intonation needs strings to be pressed down - I use 12th 19th and 24th fret (if there!) to check. Harmonics will always work, but the strings need to be fretted to check, and if they're high, they stretch out of tune, so intonation is well nigh impossible.

That E looks very low in comparison to the A and D, can't understand why, even with a cambered fingerboard. Check all string heights first.

Since one part of the set-up will affect another, keep checking: neck relief; action/string height; intonation; neck relief; action/string height;, etc. And in between all this, there's the springs on the vibrato to consider...

If you do find that E saddle needs to go back further, and I'm a little sceptical, remove either the spring or some meat off the end of the saddle. Another slight problem may be unusual strings. Heavy gauge will need longer speaking length, but adjustment is available to a good .048"+. I guess before the set up you put new strings on? If not, it's the next move!

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  • I'm not a pro but I think I did a decent job with the setup. Still, we all know Strats are indeed finicky and one adjustment tends to affect all the others (nut height, string height, neck tension, intonation, and above all the tremolo spring tension). There does seem to be some issue with the action which is still a little high (probably) even after all my efforts to keep it low. They are new strings, yes (light gauge). And it could be a bad string, or it could be because during the setup I replaced the (broken) nut and the strings were repeatedly tensioned to tune and then slackened. Thx! – Sharp Feb 16 '19 at 15:30

This is a common problem. I run into this issue probably 10 to 15 percent of the time. The solution is to shorten (cut) the spring and sometimes also replace the screw with a shorter one (Don't want it hitting the string!)

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I've had that happen on a lot of guitars but just lived with it since it's not that consequential in that I don't play the low E string that much. But what comes to mind is that the only way you could possibly affect it is to change your relief by adjusting the truss rod. If you adjust the truss rod to get less relief it would help out with the problem.

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