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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

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  • 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. Feb 16, 2019 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, 2019 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. Feb 16, 2019 at 8:12
  • Ocassionally one can get a bad string, so it could be just that. .
    – PeterJ
    Feb 16, 2019 at 10:30
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    @Sharp questions I have are "new strings?" and "string gauge!" You have to put it back father the bigger the string, which shouldn't be too much of an issue with 9s or 10s, but might get worse with beefier. Old, worn and gunky strings don't behave right. Also, shimming the neck might get your action in a more adjustable range. Apr 30, 2021 at 22:18

8 Answers 8

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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, 2019 at 15:30
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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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If nothing works that is easy, you can always shim the neck to creat more length. Based on the photo, you’re running flat on 12 and you can’t back it up anymore. If the truss rod solution doesn’t work nor the cutting the spring, then the scale might be off by what may be as small as a few mm. StuMac has neck shims that you can insert between the neck heel and the body to lengthen the scale if it’s too short. Your other saddles will need to be adjusted accordingly.

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There might be many reasons. Some things to consider:

  1. The thicker (higher gauge) the string is, the more compensation on bridge is needed.

  2. Could it be that the low E string arcs over the nut, rather than break clean and straight? Seems unlikely to me with a standard tuning guitar... but maybe it is the case, especially with strings through body. This would explain both problems with intonation, and high action. You can easily bend the string to correct shape with your fingers. See this video:

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I know this is an old post but this is a typical issue with all 25-1/2" scale, 22 fret, electric guitars. I've owned a bunch and even the high end ones, with excellent setups, need the Low E string to be stretched way out. A couple of them are maxed out and still ring out a tiny bit sharp, on the 12th fret, while they are perfectly in tune (open). I've seen videos where professional guitar players will mention this same issue. Some going as far as taking that spring completely out, and playing without it, which I don't recommend.

The guitar I currently use the most is the exact same way and its setup is otherwise perfect. The neck is dead straight, it has great action, and a high end Gotoh bridge and Gotoh locking tuners. (It also has a bone nut.) So it's definitely not a quality issue. It's a 2022 model, which I got new, so it's never been tampered with or modded. Just set-up. I also use D’Addario NYXL 09-42 strings, and know when to change them, so there is no issue there.

It's not strings, it's not truss, it's not action, and it's not a hardware issue.

The Number 1 fix is to replace the spring with a shorter one (which is very simple). My guitar still had 3/16" of a gap when the original spring was fully compressed. The saddle only needed another 1/4 turn of the screw to hit intonation, as well, so the saddle still has plenty of room to keep going with the shorter spring in place (not that it needs to).

Also, you shouldn't need to replace the intonation screw since you should have more than enough space to extend the saddle further without the string being near the end of the screw.

The reason this issue happens to many guitars is because they get manufactured in different areas of the world which have different climates and different gravitational pulls (which apparently affect intonation in some way). (Yes, gravity differs, to some degree, depending on where in the world you are.) So, a guitar might have perfect intonation in one area of the world while in a different area will need further adjustment. And with this scale, and this number of frets, the Low E string will already be pretty far extended even if it is keeping intonation.

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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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Remove saddle, cut the spring in half, reassemble and re intonate.

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  • Would be worth explaining how this might resolve the problem...
    – Tom
    Jan 8, 2022 at 16:56
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neck is to strait,more relief will fix it.

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  • I'm confident that this is not it. A high action (often confused with too much relief) could push the intonation sharp. OP has intonation that is too sharp, so more relief would, in the best case, not help. If OP does not also adjust action at the same time, it would make the problem worse.
    – Edward
    Mar 12, 2023 at 15:43

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