I play a hardtail stratocaster with the following set of strings: 13, 17, W26, W36, W44, W56 (W means wound) and tuned to C standard: C F Bb Eb G C.

Since all the time now I have intonation issues. All saddles are as far to the back as possible and the strings are all still a bit sharp. I measured the distance from nut to saddle and for example on the low C it is 652 mm (or 25.67 inches) which is longer than the usual 647 mm or 25.5 inches you would expect for a stratocaster. I was already thinking about putting the bridge even further to the back. Now the 12th fret is 2 cents off (I think, I use a Korg Pitchblack floor tuner and the C on the 12th fret is two lines away from the center). Is this because of the heavier strings or because of the low tuning? thank youuuuu : )

  • Did this guitar ever play in tune? Did it start having issues after you changed something? If so were the heavy strings or alt tuning something you changed when you started to notice the issue?
    – b3ko
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 4:40
  • Probably the heavier strings are the problem, but the best way to be sure is to try a set of 10s on it and see if you can set the intonation. Another option is to get a professional setup. Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 7:08
  • 1
    @ToddWilcox - I imagine the problem is showing up most on the lowest string. Maybe no need to change a set to check - only the lowest string.
    – Tim
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 7:15

3 Answers 3


Is this because of the heavier strings or because of the low tuning?

It's because of the heavier strings.

Heavier strings are stiffer. They take a bit more pressure to bend down to the fret wire, and that pressure increases the tension on the string - which then raises the pitch produced.

In order to be in tune, that means we must make the fret location flat (relative to an ideal string). Moving the bridge saddle back does that: it moves the frets closer to the nut compared to the length of the whole string. When you add the pressure required to fret the string, that extra tension brings it up to pitch.

You could try using lighter strings, but if it were me I'd just get a baritone guitar. They're designed to be tuned to B standard, just a half step from where you want to be. With a baritone you can either tune up or play with a capo on the first fret.


You can't really have low tuning without heavier strings. use standard, and they're too floppy. Notice that as the strings on a normal guitar get thicker, the saddles need to go further from the nut for the strings to be intonated accurately. With even thicker strings, the saddles need to move even further back.

Strats were developed some 60 yrs ago, when strings were available in one gauge - take it or leave it. Had they been made for your ideal, the scale length would have been, as you say, slightly longer. It looks like the strings are about right for tension, so there shouldn't be a neck relief problem - approximately the same overall tension on the neck as a standard set up.

I guess the action will be higher than standard (what's that?!) with thicker strings, so fretting them will stretch them slightly, making them sound sharp. That said, a couple of cents really is not worth worrying about, The tuner may notice, but listeners probably won't.

I always check intonation at the 12th fret and 19th fret, harmonic against fretted note. Assuming the guitar was fine with say, .010s, then yes, it's both factors contributing. The bridge could be moved back, allowing the saddles to be at the other end of their adjustment, as it's fixed - but fill all old holes well before re-fitting, as the new screw holes will be very close to the old ones.


Check that the neck pickup isn't too high, as the magnetic pull from the polepieces can cause unusual harmonic overtones and perceived tuning issues. This is an issue common enough to have earned the name 'Stratitus' in various circles. Floppy C-standard strings are probably going to fall foul of this issue.

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