Frequently Asked Questions / Is there something wrong with my guitar’s intonation?

Our instruments are as perfectly tuned as possible. The frets are in exactly the right spots and the saddles are carefully intonated for best tuning. But there are a few things to check for that can cause intonation problems.

Using a capo will almost always cause tuning issues. It stretches the strings unevenly causing more sharpness in the fatter wound strings relative to the thinner treble stings. The solution is to make sure the capo is just barely tight enough to fret the string but no more. Also, install it absolutely as close to the fret as possible. This procedure will minimize the tuning problems. Some re-tuning still may be necessary but probably not.

Other important tuning issues are:

  • Make sure the saddle wasn’t installed backwards. This seems silly but someone brought me a Goodall recently like this! Our saddles are very carefully compensated for each individual string and installing them backwards will prevent correct tuning.
  • Learn to use octave tuning to the fundamental of the string instead of the 5th and 7th fret harmonics tuning! Playing the harmonics sounds cool and seems easier to hear the ‘beats’ but will mislead your ear to improper tuning of each strings fundamental note causing tuning discrepancies. Using a good quality tuner is of course the alternative but there is no substitute for training your ear to tune as well.
  • The action must not be left too high with heavier strings. This can cause intonation to be increasingly off as one plays up toward the bridge as the strings stretch to the frets. The remedy is to have the action lowered, truss rod adjusted and/or use a slightly lighter gauge of strings.
  • The next problem is very rare and should be checked by a professional if you suspect that it is the issue. The strings must be seated at the very front of the nut where they release to the fretboard or it can cause intonation issues most noticeable between the open strings and first, second or third fret (fretted) strings. This can also cause a faint Sitar like ‘zing’ when the treble E and B strings are plucked as well. This can be checked by loosening the string a bit and lifting the string out of the nut slot and looking for a tiny dark spot where the string rubs. That dark spot must be at the front of the slot where it releases toward the fretboard. If the dark spot is slightly back from the front of the slot, the nut slot should be filed slightly to cause the strings to seat where they release toward the fretboard. The idea is not to lower the slot, just relieve it a little more at an angle parallel to the peghead face. Like I say, this is probably not an issue because we are very careful to file the nut slots correctly.

You may need a repair tech to check both these last issues. Contact your local dealer for help locating a good repair technician.

Over the years, I have had two or three guitarists inquire concerning what they feel is chord dissonance on a Goodall guitar. These folks have a very sensitive and discerning ear and may be noticing chord dissonance induced by the ‘Equal tempered’ fret placement. This may be a blessing and a curse! Unfortunately, fretted instruments have a built in compromise in the placement of the frets to maximize flexibility in chord playing within any given musical key. A slight mistuning of each scale interval is induced for each string.

If we were to construct an instrument with the ‘Just scale’ placement of frets, each string would have a slightly different placement of frets than the next and the notes of the strings could not be changed. We could only tune it to play in one or two keys to obtain perfect musical intervals within a very limited number of chords.  If the guitarist adventured out of those few ‘Just tempered’ chords, the instrument would be horribly out of tune. Obviously we have no choice but to use the ‘Equaled tempered’ scale.

In addition to the ‘Equaled tempered’ fret scale compromise, our instruments have considerable overtone harmonics (probably more than most guitars). Overtone harmonics are not perfectly in tune with the fundamental of the note. This issue may also add to the perception of the guitar being slightly out of tune.

The ‘Equaled tempered’ scale is absolutely necessary for allowing the guitarist to play in any musical key and shift in and out of any key with reasonably correct tuning but not perfect. Remember, this is an issue regarding chords, not individual notes, because the individual strings and twelfth fret harmonics on each individual string are perfectly adjusted on our instruments.

Another thing I feel compelled to explain is that our instruments have such a wide harmonic range that folks are actually hearing some of the out of tune harmonics. It may take a few weeks to adjust one ears to this. Instruments with a duller tone and less harmonics definitely seems easier to tune as one doesn’t hear the need to tune as carefully. Just relax and enjoy the extended tonal and harmonic palette of your Goodall guitar!