Fast tips for better intonation

Sterner TM

Thin strings & low action

Maybe you have noticed that your instrument intonates better with thin strings. That's because thin strings are more elastic than thick strings. Due to the string height we have to press the string down to the frets - just like the string on a bow. The tension will not increase as much in a thin string because it will stretch more than a thick string. It is more elastic.

You can easily check this out. Raise the pitch a half note by bending different strings sideways (choking). The thinner the string the more you will have to bend to get the same raise of pitch.

Also the fastening fault is reduced by thin strings with less stiffness.

Thin strings and low action is favorable for better intonation. That's why electric instruments most often intonate better than acoustic instruments.


A capo eliminates the faults in the nut. If you tune and play with capo, your instrument will intonate better. On an electric guitar you can almost achieve perfect intonation by adjusting the bridges with the capo attached. Unfortunately this will work only as long as the capo is attached. When you remove the capo the bridges must be adjusted differently.

New strings

New strings does not improve intonation, but they conceal bad intonation. New strings are maximum inharmonic and makes the tone richer (wider). When the string is aging the highest overtones are muted more and more. The tone becomes poorer, but at the same time purer. The tone becomes more narrow and approaches the basic vibration of the string. The flaws in the intonation appears clearer.

Copyright Anders Sterner