What Is Intonation?

Intonation is the accuracy of your guitars pitch all the way down the neck. It is relative to each individual fret. If your intonation is correct then when you play the lowest string on your guitar (an E) then each fret up should be perfectly in tune: E (open), F (1st fret), F sharp (2nd fret) G (3rd fret) and so on. If your intonation is right then all the other notes on your guitar will be perfectly in tune with your open string. Intonation doesn’t always go askew on all frets; it’s usually only a few here and there and gets worst if not attended to.

If you want your guitar to sound good then you need to keep your guitar properly intonated so it is in relative tune to itself. Generally you should check your intonation every week or so, just to make sure that your guitar is sounding as good as it can. To check your intonation you need a tuner and you should do one string at a time. The procedure for checking your intonation is as follows.

1. Turn on your tuner and tune the string to the right pitch.
2. Strike the 12th fret harmonic; make sure it is tune with the open string. (they should be the same note).
3. Now strike the note at the 12th fret (not the harmonic) all three of these notes should be the same note. If they are, then your intonation if probably fine if not then you could have a serious problem.

If you have a problem with your intonation then you should take your guitar to the nearest guitar store and get a professional to fix it for you.

Good luck with your practice!

Posted by Ben Edwards


  1. Ray

    Checking and setting your intonation is not hard. This article only tells how to check your intonation. Setting the intonation is usually fairly simple process. Most electric guitars have adjustable saddles. Adjusting the saddles up or down sets your ACTION… to adjust intonation the saddles are adjusted toward or away from the neck. If the fretted 12th fret notes are sharp, the string is too short and the saddle needs to be pushed back toward the base of the bridge. If the note is flat, the string is too long and the saddle needs to be pushed up toward the nut. Repeat this procedure for each string.

    When adjusting your saddles you should first loosen the string, make the adjustment, re-tune and then re-check your intonation. This really is not difficult (perhaps time-consuming) and definitely not a reason to take your guitar in to a “professional”….

  2. Rick

    Way too basic Dude! Setting the intonation isn’t all that hard…it just can be a little time consuming. Any guitarist (newbie or expert) should know how to intonate and should not have to spend hard earned dollars to have the “kid behind the counter” do it for them. I would have thought since you put so much info on “how” to check for the proper tune, you would have shown how to attain it.


    1. William T Branch

      Good Point, If you are doing an article then finish it. This one seems a little half hearted.

  3. Randy

    Be nice if you explained difference twixt 12th fret harmonic and 12th fret.

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