Intonation facts and fiction


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Posted by Pat Harrington on November 20, 2000 at 01:04:50:


I just read a posting on another website by a very famous bassist
saying that "pulling the bridges back will NOT affect tuning"
This statement is not only ignorant but absolutely DEAD WRONG!!!
A bass guitar (or ANY other stringed instrument for that matter)
works on a MATHEMATICAL equation of incremental string lengths.
(This was discovered by Plato, by the way) For instance, the
Fender basses use a 34" scale. If you cut that in half, you have
17 inches, which will give you the 12th fret, the OCTAVE...
As you go further and further up the neck, the divisions get
incrementally smaller (as do the distance between frets) This
technically is a CALCULUS FUNCTION, which determines the accelerated
rate of change, (divisions of smaller and smaller divisions.
Not only do we have this mathematical function over the normal
notes (divisions of string length), but the string also has
an overtone series ("harmonics" for the layman), just like a
trumpet, guitar, whatever...SO.........If you wanna goof with
your bridge saddles, and yank them all over the place, go right
ahead, but your bass WILL NOT play in tune, NO WAY, NO HOW....
The Fender type bridge has OVER 1 1/2 inches of adjustability in
the travel of the saddle, this is nearly 5% of the total scale
length...It may not sound so bad on the first couple of frets,
but as you climb up the neck, it will get EXPONENTIALLY worse...
Many factors affect intonation, especially string guage and
the height of each saddle...If you drastically RAISE your bridges,
you will marginally go out of intonation (remember the Pythagorean
Theorem?). SO...if you want to your bass to play in tune, check
your tuning with a GOOD tuner...Tune the open string, check the
tuning at the 12th fret, and check the harmonic at the 12th fret
as well...Leo Fender was no dummy...The 34 inch scale should be
almost EXACTLY that...give or take like a 32nd or so of an inch
to adjust for the differing diameters of the strings themselves..
People can all kinds of weird OPINIONS about all kinds of crazy
shit, but MATHEMATICS DO NOT LIE!!!!... Keep 'em in tune gang....


Cheers,
Pat H







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