Following on in my series of basic guitar set-ups, this one is about setting the individual string lengths to give an accurate octave of the open strings exactly at the twelfth fret.
As all the strings are of a different mass and also tuned to a different frequency it follows that the vibrational nodes of each string are going to fall in slightly different places and as the frets are fixed in one place, the way of compensating for the difference is achieved by having slightly differing string lengths. The heavier and lower in register the individual string is, the longer it needs to be to obtain a more accurate intonation over the scale of the frets. The most obvious outcome of this maladjustment is that you tune your guitar’s open strings perfectly but when you play some chords particularly higher up the fretboard, it sounds out of tune!
Different types of guitar have different methods of reaching this adjustment, this video covers a Gibson type bridge with angular saddle pieces that are adjusted by an ordinary flat blade screwdriver. Some guitars have hex wrench screws and some cross head screws but the principal remains the same.
Acoustic guitars do not generally have individual adjustment so you have to rely on the quality and accuracy of the manufacturer. This issue will be covered in a later post
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