Need some help with tuning
It's been a while since I was here, but I need some help. I've purchased my grandson a 1/2 size electric guitar. It is a 30" guitar with a 19" scale and I have a question about tuning it. When I tune it EADGBE, it sounds fine with some chords and notes and like crap with others. I've been told I need to tune it up 2 1/2 steps, but I am not exactly sure what that means. I have an idea, but just wanted to ask here and see if anyone can help??
2-1/2 steps is a bit much. I'd go with about 1-1/2... which is tuning to G-C-F-Bb-D-G. (It'd be identically tuned to a standard guitar with a capo at the third fret). If you want to go a full 2-1/2, that's tuned to A-D-G-C-E-A, the same as standard with a capo at the fifth fret.
Short scale lengths - and a half size guitar is typically about 20-21" - are a lot more sensitive than long scale lengths. Your tuning needs to really be dead on, and a high action will probably make you sharp as you go up the fretboard, so make sure the guitar is properly set up.
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Thanks for the reply. Your eplanation is exactly what I needed to make sure I was on the right track. I'll try your suggestion.
Yep, high action can cause notes to go sharp, so set the action (string height) fairly low, but not so low you get fret buzz.
Often when some chords sound good but others sound bad your intonation is out. Basically, intonation means your strings are the correct length from the nut to the saddles on the bridge. The 12th fret is halfway.
1) Tune your open bass E string to pitch with a tuner. Get it as perfect as possible.
2) Fret the string at the 12th fret with normal playing pressure. If set properly the note will be exactly the same as the open string.
3) If the fretted note is sharp, loosen the string slightly and adjust the saddle back toward the rear of the guitar. Retune the open string to pitch, then check the fretted note again. It may take several attempts, but you should be able to get the fretted note to match the open string note perfectly.
4)If the fretted note is flat compared to the open string, then loosen the string a bit and adjust the saddle forward toward the headstock. Again, retune and compare the fretted note to the open string note. Try to get them to match as perfect as possible.
5)Perform the same procedure with the A, D, G, B, and high E strings.
When you get intonation correct, your chords will sound very good no matter where you play them on the fingerboard unless there is some other problem. It makes a huge difference in how well your guitar sounds. When your intonation is out some chords will sound great while others sound terribly out of tune. The higher you play up the fingerboard, the more out of tune they sound.
When setup properly, your saddles will almost always look staggered like this;
That's for a Strat style bridge and saddles, if you have a Gibson type bridge it will look like this;
Notice on both that the bass E string is far back, the A string a little forward, the D string even more forward. Then the G string saddle is far back like the bass E, the B string a little forward, and the high E a little more forward. There are exceptions, but 90% of the time this is what your saddles will look like when your intonation is correct.
I am a real freak about intonation, I carefully set it correctly on all my guitars. When it is correct you will think you have a new guitar the chords will sound sweet. :wink:
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Thanks. The action on the new guitar is a little higher than I like, but it is not terribly bad. I plan to work on it before I give it to him because I know how a guitar can turn him against the guitar if not properly set up. I have played off and on for years, but just take it by spells and have never been real serious about it. The grandson has been playing around with one of my Fenders and I wanted to get him one of his own that fits the size of his hands better and yeah, protect the Fender too. Thanks again, I have learned alot from this site over the years and in this case just wanted to make sure I was counting the steps correctly. It has been a while since I actually thought about it.
Sorry for jumping in on your thread! I'm a new player and just noticed something from the pictures that were provided. I have a Fender, and it has saddles like the first picture. I think they came adjusted all to the same height. (Though my girlfriend's brother messed with it a bit - breaking a string and removing the saddle before I had a chance to examine it.) He may have adjusted them that way. Should they be staggered? I'm not really noticing any problem with buzzing and it seems to stay in tune pretty well.
I replaced the strings last weekend. I think I did pretty well, except on the low E. For some reason I underestimated the amount of string I left slack and now have a sizeable wad of string on the tuning post. It looks messed up, but the guitar holds tune (like I said) so I was thinking of just leaving it that way until the next time I replace the strings.
Hey Melander, the saddles determine the length of the portion of the string that vibrates and their positions affect whether or not the frets match up to the right intervals. If you are playing up near the nut all the time, the differences won't be enough to tell, but it will make a difference down around the 12th fret and moreso the higher you go.
The way to check is to tune the open string to the correct pitch and then check the intonation of the same string at the 12th fret (the octave). (You can use a chromatic tuner or your ear (octaves are the easiest to hear), but if the saddles are out of alignment, don't try to use other strings.) If it's sharp at the 12th fret then you need to lengthen the string by drawing the saddle down away from the fretboard. If it's flat, you go the other way. After you adjust the saddle, you tune the string open again (as it will now be out of tune) and try again at the 12th fret. Repeat until everything is in tune. If this sounds intimidating, it's best to take it to a local guitar shop for "setup". They can get everything in the right place, and it generally costs less than $40.
The correct position of the saddles has everything to do with the strings you have on the guitar. Depending on the guitar you have, the manufacturer probably has some guidelines. For example, Fender has a page on the proper way to set up each of its major guitar lines, eg: http://www.fender.com/support/stratocaster.php
Brilliant! Thanks Dave, that makes perfect sense. I'll tinker around with it a bit when I get home this evening. It sounds like it's in the realm of possibility that I'd be successful :) If not, there's the local guitar shop.
update: so I got out my tuner and screwdriver and went to work last night. It probably took me an hour, but I finally got all the strings in tune at open and at the 12th fret. I had to use up just about all of the adjustment room that I had on the saddle for the low E string (and I still think it's a touch sharp at the 12th - the tuner 'flickers' a bit between in-tune and sharp) I really notice the difference, I just thought it was my ineptness that was making me sound off :D
On adjusting intonation, I find it easier to hear when it's right if I use the 12th fret harmonic to compare with the 12th fret note. Same pitch. Don't fret it too hard right behind the fret, or it'll go sharp.
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Ahh, thanks Ricochet, I'll give that a try when I get home :)