Part 4: Guitar Intonation

 If you have made it this far, you are doing really well. Intonation is the last part of the full guitar setup. If there are any adjustments you need to make concerning the first 4 steps, do them now. Intonation must be the final part of your custom setup. Trust me when I tell you, you do not want to have to do this twice, especially on a floyd rose style bridge.

How to Adjust Guitar Intonation 2
Guitar Intonation
G and L ASAT Classic Bridge
Adjusting Guitar Intonation
  • What is Guitar Intonation?

        Intonation is the uniform distribution of notes along the fretboard. Each fret corresponds to a note. We set intonation to ensure that each fret's note is as close to in tune as possible. It can be hard to grasp at first, but stick with me here.

  • How do you adjust guitar intonation?

       You adjust intonation by changing the the length of the guitars strings. This is done via a set screw at the end of each string saddle. 

  • How do you adjust intonation on a Floyd Rose bridge?

    Adjusting intonation on a floyd rose style bridge is tedious. Since the saddles are locked in place with machine screws, you must detune the string, move saddle, retune, and then check the intonation. You have to repeat this until the intonation is correct on every string. Or you can use a tool like this.

  • Is there an Intonation Tool for Floyd Rose Bridges?

    Yes there is a tool specifically for Floyd Rose Style Bridges. It will save you a ton of time. Otherwise you will have to check a string's intonation, detune, adjust saddle, retune, and check intonation again. You will have to do this multiple times for each string. You can find the tool here.

Making sure your intonation is correct is so important to your overall setup. If you don’t do this correctly, you will notice that your notes are out of tune all over the fretboard.

For all the time you’ve invested in learning guitar and mastering your parts, its worth the time to do this properly. I’ve definitely noticed when band members’ intruments were out of intonation. Its not cool at all.

Tele Intonation Diagram_edited_edited

Time Needed:

  • 1 Hour

Estimated Cost:

  • $20 USD

(Guitar Strings, Oil)

Tools You'll Need:

1. Phillips head screwdriver (Small)


2. Flat head screwdriver (Small)

3. String Winder (it helps)


  1. 3 in 1 Oil for rusty hardware.
  2. New Guitar Strings, if you haven’t already changed them.

General Intonation Rules:

Shorter = Sharper                Longer = Flatter

Guitar Intonation Diagram

Guitar Intonation: Tips Before You Start

If at any point you aren’t confident that you are doing it correctly, just check the pattern. I sometimes do that when adjusting intonation on a Floyd Rose style bridge.

Pro Tip:

 (Pro Tip: A properly intonated guitar will always follow this same pattern. Use this as a guideline to achieve perfect intonation.)

Pro Tip 2:

 (Pro Tip 2: If your guitar has 24 frets, you can also intonate using the 24th fret harmonic. By using the 12th fret and 24th fret you will achieve an even greater degree of intonation. )

Blackjack Intonation Diagram edited edited
Gretsch Intonation Diagram 2 edited edited

Pro Tip 3:

(Pro Tip 3: If you notice your 12th fret notes are “wobbly” or “swaying” on your tuner’s display, try a lighter touch when both fretting and picking.)

Pro Tip 4:

(Pro Tip 4: If your 12th fret notes are constantly sharp according to your tuner, it may be due to you pressing too hard on the string. You can dramatically change the pitch of your note if you apply too much force.) 

How to Adjust Guitar Intonation 2
Tele Intonation Diagram_edited_edited

Step by Step Guitar Intonation Instructions:

Guitar Intonation Step 1

Start with your high e string. Play a 12th fret harmonic to ensure its in tune. (I often prefer to use an open string instead of a harmonic.)

Guitar String Intonation
Guitar String Intonation 1

Guitar Intonation Step 2

Now very lightly play the same note, but this time depressing the string at the 12th fret. Compare the difference between the harmonic note and the fretted note.

Guitar Intonation Instructions
Guitar Intonation Instructions 1

Guitar Intonation Step 3

If the fretted note is sharp, you must lengthen the string. Start with a half turn with your screwdriver.

Adjusting Guitar Intonation

Guitar Intonation Step 4

If the fretted note is flat, you must shorten the string. Start with a half turn with your screwdriver.

Guitar Intonation Step 5

Retune the string.

Guitar Intonation 3
Guitar Intonation 5

Guitar Intonation Step 6

Check your results, and repeat the process until the harmonic and fretted notes are exactly in tune.

Do this for all six strings.

IMG 20180807 115811068 edited edited

Ernie Ball Musician's Tool Kit

Music Nomad MN146 Premium String Changing Kit  - 5pc

MusicNomad Premium 26 PC. Guitar Tech Screwdriver & Wrench Set MN229