In the meantime, we thought we'd share some information on intonation, below is our reply to a customer during a conversation about intonation on his mandolin. We though we would post it here to hopefully this shed some light on this topic.
'Intonation is a funny thing, and it’s very easy to get caught up with it and get obsessed with it being perfect. Sadly the truth is it will never be 100% on basically any fretted instrument. The fretboard is basically one big compromise, taking the guitar as an example, intonation basically isn’t correct on any string fretted or even open. It’s still based on a design from 100 plus years ago where digital tuners weren’t invented. As the notes sounded ‘in tune’ at the time of the manufacture, the design was viewed as perfect to use. The whole design is essentially one big compromise.
Although technology has progressed, the design has remained the same to this day (except for the compensated fretboard). All players have grown used to the way the guitar sounds so unless the player has perfect pitch, the player normally cannot hear the minor differences in pitch on each note. The only time these issues normally arise is during recording using modern ‘plug ins’ where the computer can pick up these issues. Although the compensated fretboard does deliver each fret in theoretical perfect pitch, it sometimes cannot be useful when playing with other instruments, as they sounds slightly out if the ear can hear the differences (unless all the instruments have the same compensated board).
Also to add into the mix, intonation can hugely be affected by how hard the player pressed down on the frets and how hard they strike the strings. For example a guitar with jumbo tall frets, if a player presses down very hard when playing, the string actually gets stretched slightly over the fret, which causes it to go sharp. The string gauge and the age of the strings can also affect intonation too, along with the pitch they are tuned to. Yet again this is down to the tension of the strings. The age of the strings can also affect intonation as they decay over time.
With all this said however, any string instrument should be intonated so that it sounds in tune to the ear and basically in tune with a guitar tuner (most tuners compensate slightly for the fluctuation). If a string is reading sharp at the 12th fret (or mid point between the nut and the bridge saddle) then the string length needs to be extended slightly. If the string is flat, the string length needs to be shortened slightly. The most common way to test intonation is to play the harmonic at the 12th and it should match the fretted 12th note, ideally this should also match the open played note although this isn’t always the case with ever instrument.'
If you're concerned about the intonation on your instrument, please get in touch with us and we'll be happy to arrange booking in your instrument. Thanks for reading!