Intonation and Bridge Saddle Adjustments

Here's a good one from our Ask The Teacher Section at http://www.rockhousemethod.com/

Q: I'm a new guitarist and love your methods and especially the website to learn from answered questions. I have a couple of questions concerning guitar adjustment.

First - My guitar is a Strat copy and works pretty well. However, where the whammy assembly attaches to the body, there are 6 bolts connected to the saddle for each string. These seem to move the saddles closer or further away from the neck. Some of these are not tightened and others are. Is this normal or should they all be aligned evenly?

Second – on each saddle there are two small Allen head screws that adjust the height of the string. Normally should these all be adjusted for the strings to be the same height or is there any reason they should be adjusted to different heights (to help playing, to control pickup to string height or any other reasons)?

Thanks for the help and keep up the good work. I'm planning on buying another Rock House Method DVD soon as I progress.

Rock Forever

A: This is a great question! Many of my students have asked this question.

These saddles are adjusted from left to right to set the string’s intonation. Setting the intonation is the process of changing the measured (fixed) scale of a guitar by adjusting the string length. This is done at the bridge of the guitar by adjusting those screws attached to each string saddle. In adjusting the string length, we're trying to get the 12th fret note (the halfway point of the string) to sound the same as the open string (the 12th fret note is 8 notes away, but the same note).

I would recommend having a professional do this adjustment but if you’re brave and want to try this yourself you would need a guitar tuner to gauge the pitch of the string open and at the 12th fret.

As for the second part of your question, the allen screws do adjust the height of each string and they should be adjusted to your desired string height but make sure not to go too low because you will get fret buzz while fretting notes. They all should be about the same height but some people like the thinner strings a bit lower to make playing lead guitar a little easier.

Yours in Music
John McCarthy

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