Intonation?

I’m curious about the intonation of my bass. My vague understanding of it is that the saddles are at different distances from the bottom of the bridge and that adjusting that affects the intonation. What I don’t know is if I need to mess with it. I think everything sounds fine since I’ve played with action just enough to prevent fret buzz, that is, it’s low enough to tap the strings and pluck them without negative feedback. Could I be missing out on making the bass sound even better?

3 Likes

Check Roger Sadowsky’s video on setup, and especially on intontation (from just before the 11 minute mark):

9 Likes

There is a TON to intonation, but it comes down to 2 ways it affects the player.

  1. comfort of playing. If you like a high or low action (for those who are new to bass this is how far the strings are from the fretboard, high is farther away, low is closer to) there is a correct way to set that action without getting certain unwanted sounds (I like a low action, but fret buzz is a risk)

  2. The notes ACTUALLY BEING the notes they are supposed to be up and down the fretboard. They will never be EXACT but a poorly intonated bass will have a different note on the 12th fret than the same open string.

For these reasons, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND taking it to a professional to have it intonated. They will do it right (and check for bad electronics, clean it up, oil the fretboard etc) and have your bass looking, sounding and feeling the best it can.

3 Likes

Yeah because I left it at the way it came out of the box. I play the bassline to Feel Good Inc. from time to time and there’s a part where the 12th fret is played. From what I’ve heard it sounds very different from the open E string, but I could be misunderstanding what you mean lol

2 Likes

Yeah, if it is how it was out of the box, it probably isn’t properly intonated, which would be why the note sounds different. That is what intonation actually means, that the bass plays (as close as possible) the right notes on each fret.

3 Likes

If I wanted to adjust this with a tuning app (so I don’t have to buy anything) how would I go about it? Normally I tune the open strings to where the app confirms it’s in tune. Standard four string tuning is what it gives me (and that could be wrong since it doesn’t specify what kind of four string bass I have).

2 Likes

That is why intonation is important. You tune the open strings to the app or tuner. So you hit the open E string, and stop when the tuner says it is E. The problem is if it isn’t properly intonated then the 12th fret on that same string you just tuned won’t be an E. If it is correctly intonated it will be, (or much closer)

3 Likes

That makes sense because if I did it with something more accurate it would tell me that 12th fret isn’t what it should be. This app guitar tuna doesn’t get that specific, in fact I’ve tried to see how accurate it is by hitting a note on the same string and it’d just say something like “-7 too low!” So I think it’s limited to just open strings. Sometimes it even wiggles between sounding in tune and being “-2 too low” or “+2 too high” while the string is still ringing haha

3 Likes

Yeah, I recommend everyone get a pedal tuner as they are the most accurate by a mile. I got one called a tiny tune which was under $30 and doesn’t take up much space on the pedalboard.

3 Likes

If you don’t have a clip-on tuner or pedal then you can also use GarageBand for example (and I assume other DAWs have tuner functionality as well)

3 Likes

I mean for now I just have the amp and an instrument cable. How close do those 20 dollar fender clip on ones get?

1 Like

They will do an ok job, but really I’d just spend the extra $10 to get the pedal tuner. The other option is getting something like a Zoom B3n pedal, also has a tuner built in, but has effects, a drum machine and a looper built into it. For $150 or so it can be the only pedal you will need for YEARS. I even used it in live shows and in the studio.

4 Likes

To get a feel for the Peterson Strobe Tuner, you can buy their app (maybe 5-8 dollars; I don’t quite remember) and just use it as is without buying any of the in-app stuff. That gives you a strobe tuner on your iPhone.

The app is called iStroboSoft

3 Likes

And what about Android? :pensive:

Sorry, wouldn’t know… could be… can you search for it on the Android app store?? :man_shrugging: :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

1 Like

I’ll try to find manual ways to do it first.

1 Like

Not sure I completely understand “manual” here, but the app is here:

Peterson iStroboSoft Tuner - Apps on Google Play

This guy adjusted his intonation by having the 12th fret being the halfway point of the string… not too sure how accurate that is but it definitely simplifies the process

I’ve had loads of ‘fun’ with this recently. My bass is a cheaper, older thing, and as I hadn’t tried any adjustments before, I was keen to have a go.

I would suggest having a good look at the bridge and saddles before you touch anything. I took pictures. Having never really looked at it before, I was really surprised how high the A string saddle was.

Did the full set-up, went really well, even the intonation, except I had to increase the height of the A string saddle to stop fret buzzing, which wasn’t there before I intonated the D and G strings!?!?!

But I will find a luthier to give it a full set up as soon as I can…a good learning opportunity😀

1 Like

Yes, that’s physics :grin:

But, he still needs a tuner to get the job done!!

1 Like