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J-45 Intonation Problems

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I've got this guitar i used to love. Lately (the last several years) i haven't played it much - it just never sounds good to me so i end up leaving it in the closet.

 

I sat down with it today with the idea i was going to part ways with it (cleaning it up to take some pictures). If I tune it up it sounds great with the cowboy chords but when you get up the neck it loses me. Checking it with a tuner it starts to get way off (by 15-20 cents) at just the 5th fret - inconsistently between strings too. The intonation is simply crap. This likely stems from a DIY saddle / action adjustment i did a few years ago but who knows, i bought it new but it's about 10 years old now.

 

When it's in tune it sounds great, and rings and resonates all over the place.

 

Is building a proper saddle with good intonation relatively simple or should i forget about it and leave it to someone who knows what they're doing?

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Two things: (1) it never hurts to get the intonation checked by a luthier but, and this goes for every guitarist, (2) do understand the equal-tempered scale of your instrument.

 

As Paul Guy put it on Tuning the Guitar:

 

"No matter how good the instrument, and how well tuned and adjusted, it never sounds perfectly in tune in all positions and keys. This is not the fault of the guitar. It is not designed to play perfect intervals (except for octaves and unisons) in any position, or any key. It is designed to play the equal-tempered scale...

 

"Tonal purity is sacrificed for ease of modulation. Depending on your viewpoint, equal temperament either a) makes every key equally in tune, or b) makes every key equally out of tune... The idea is to make it possible to play all intervals and chords, in all keys, with the same relative accuracy. Although every key is very slightly out of tune, every key is also useable. No key sounds worse than any other key. The same applies to all chords. Theoretically, that is. In practise certain intervals and chords can still sound dissonant. Thirds are especially troublesome, as the even-tempered minor third is 16 cents flat to the "pure" minor third and the even-tempered major third is 14 cents sharp of pure. The equal-tempered major sixth is 16 cents sharp of just, and the equal tempered major seventh is 12 cents sharp of just. The only interval which is identical in the two scales is the octave."

Edited by Leonard McCoy

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Don’t give up on your old friend like that ... If the guitar gave you joy the least you can do is take it to a good luthier and have it set up properly.

 

 

If you still don’t like the way it sounds after a setup ... I’ll understand.

 

I think Rev. Gary Davis would use his J 200’s for a certain time only until he moved on to a different one because to his ears they lost “something” when they were too broken in .It’s not a crime to fall out of love with a guitar just give it a fair fighting chance with a proper setup before you make the decision to sell it.

 

 

JC

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A compensated saddle dropped in the bridge and adjusted for height is THAT far off?

Edited by Murph

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A compensated saddle dropped in the bridge and adjusted for height is THAT far off?

 

Sounds like a "Do It Yourself Saddle and Action Adjustment".

Sitting in a closet for 10 years ... IF not reasonably humidified - would add to the problems.

 

If I were me, I'd put it in a room where you KNOW the humidity is 50% for a month.

Meanwhile, I'd order a bone saddle from Bob Colosi.

Then I'd put on a new set of medium light strings.

Then I'd tweak the truss rod 1/4 turn to lower the action.

If those relatively inexpensive remedies don't work, I'd get thee to a luthier. Or a Good Guitar Technician.

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I think Rev. Gary Davis would use his J 200’s for a certain time only until he moved on to a different one because to his ears they lost “something” when they were too broken in .It’s not a crime to fall out of love with a guitar just give it a fair fighting chance with a proper setup before you make the decision to sell it.

 

 

JC

 

Rev. Davis's first J-200 was said to have been stolen when he fell asleep playing on a street corner. While he replaced it, he later moved on because he found it easier to get a bigger sound out of a 12 string. He played a 1961-62 Gibson B45-12 and a Bozo 12 string which he played almost exclusively in later years. He used to say he needed a guitar that you could hear at the back of the church.

 

But when I was a kid, if a guitar's intonation was off or the action unreasonably high I just lived with it. I did not know you could have a guitar set up. I wish somebody had clued me in. Sure would have been a lot easier to learn and a lot less painful.

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Without seeing it and going off your description, I would look at the nut slot. If the slot does not have enough backdraft, it would be making contact away from the edge and cause this problem. An easy check is to capo it at the first fret and tune it and check it out. Then remove the capo and check it.

Good Luck

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Sounds like a "Do It Yourself Saddle and Action Adjustment".

Sitting in a closet for 10 years ... IF not reasonably humidified - would add to the problems.

 

If I were me, I'd put it in a room where you KNOW the humidity is 50% for a month.

Meanwhile, I'd order a bone saddle from Bob Colosi.

Then I'd put on a new set of medium light strings.

Then I'd tweak the truss rod 1/4 turn to lower the action.

If those relatively inexpensive remedies don't work, I'd get thee to a luthier. Or a Good Guitar Technician.

 

 

This sounds like Plan A. to me

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Thanks for the feedback guys. It's weird i probably hadn't taken the guitar out for 6-8 months (not 10 years - i've just had it that long). I don't have a ton of time to play and i've got 2 acoustics that have been giving me problems so i've just been avoiding them.

 

Last week i took them both out, broke out the tuner and tried to figure out what was going on. I put a fresh set of strings on the J-45 this past Friday and have it out in my office room where the humidity reads about 55%. I'll see if it stabilizes some over the next week and check the intonation again. I have a kyser capo i use that is definitely pulling it way too sharp, switched over to a schubb for a little bit.

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I'll just echo what's been said... don't give up on it until you've had it setup by a reputable luthier.

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Intonation issues can be solved easily as it’s just geometric mathematics...if the nut is cut properly and the bridge is in the right place (which presumably it is, as it played well originally), it’s an action and relief issue.

 

Frank Ford has plenty of interesting setup instructional info at frets.com, it’s just a matter of following the guidelines and making sure the measurements are right at the 5th and 12th.

 

My best guess is that you’ve fitted a saddle with a radius that doesn’t match the neck radius, so your bass and treble strings are pulling sharp of the D and G strings, giving you sour chords as you head up the neck.

 

If your not 100% confident re setups, I’d take it to a pro who can take care of it. It’s all sortable, that’s for sure!

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