What is Guitar Intonation, and Why Is It Important?

Guitar intonation allows the instrument to produce a fretted note accurately. Players tune the guitar using an electronic guitar tuner to achieve pitch accuracy. If your guitar doesn’t have the correct intonation, it will sound out-of-tune.

A guitar with good intonation stays in tune throughout the fretboard. However, poor intonation will cause your guitar to go out-of-tune in some parts of the fretboard, even if you’ve tuned the strings perfectly.

Importance of Guitar Intonation

Even the best guitar in the world will sound bad if its intonation is unstable. However, the right intonation will ensure your instrument always stays in tune, no matter where you play on the fretboard. Since your guitar’s intonation is likely to change over time, you must check it regularly.

Checking Guitar Intonation

A guitar’s intonation is done by first tuning its strings accurately. The next step is to play a natural harmonic at the twelfth fret to compare the pitch of the fretted twelfth fret note. You can lightly touch the guitar string above the twelfth fret on the low E string. Using a guitar tuner will help you determine how in-tune the note is.

If the fretted twelfth fret sounds unusually flat or sharp, your intonation is out. However, if the fretted twelfth fret is in-tune, this means that the string’s intonation is correct. So you must repeat this process for every string.

Adjusting the Guitar’s Intonation

Adjusting your guitar’s intonation is based on the type of guitar. It’s generally done by increasing or decreasing the length of the guitar string. You can easily do this by changing the position of the bridge. However, this is impossible to do on guitars like acoustic guitars.

If the fretted twelfth fret note is sharper, increase the length of the guitar string to lower the pitch of the fretted note. Steadily increase the length until the pitch of the fretted note is the same as the pitch of the twelfth fret harmonics. Make sure to move your bridge saddle further away from the fretboard for a longer string.

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