12 string electric guitar - intonation

LesterLester Posts: 1,706Member, Moderator
edited September 2016 in Guitar Chat
I have bought a 12 string electric guitar. One thing that is puzzling me is the intonation. On a 12 string the intonation challenge at the bridge is because some strings are wound while others are plain and apart from the top E and B strings (which are unisons and this identical) the others are octaves and so one string is larger and the other smaller.

Image 1 - see my next post, below.

I set the intonation as close to correct as I can. My biggest issue is the low E. The picture above shows the low E saddle set so that the octave E is correctly intonated. It is the only wound string among the octaves.

Image 2 - see my next post, below.

This photo is of the same bridge except that now the saddle for the low E is set so that the lower string is correctly intonated. Look how much further back this is the the saddle position in the 1st photo - that's 10 complete turns of the saddle adjustment screw! The 5th, 4th and 3rd strings have slight intonation discrepancies but the 6th is the one that needs sorting.

Image 3 - see my next post, below.

Just for comparison, here is my Faith acoustic 12 string's bridge. It also has only one wound string among the octaves, the low E, but the intonation on this guitar is beautifully perfect; at least as perfect as tempered tuning will allow.

I am wondering what to do. A new set of strings will be the first job. If the problem persists I wonder whether I could get someone to weld a small piece of metal in front of the octave 6th string's saddle so that the saddle assembly can be back where the low string needs to be and the piece of metal will effectively push the higher string's saddle forward. I don't really want to play an 11 string guitar. What would you suggest?


  • JockoJocko Posts: 7,107Member, Moderator

    Are you positive the two halves of each saddle don't move independently? I know there is only one adjusting screw but it looks as though the halves are joined together. 

  • JockoJocko Posts: 7,107Member, Moderator

    This bridge looks like your's but all six strings can be intonated separately.

    See here.

  • LesterLester Posts: 1,706Member, Moderator
    edited September 2016
    On the new forum pictures from the OP are not displaying so I have included them here:

    Image 1:
    Image 2:
    Image 3:

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    Thanks, Jocko. It's a pity but no, they don't move independently; That would be ideal. Here it is with the octave string removed so that you can see clearer - and I can see all the muck and dust a lot clearer!

    It looks to me like a copy of a Gotoh GTC12.

    Aha, it seems I am not alone: Premier Guitar had a similar problem on pages 3 and 4 of an article about 12 string guitars.
  • LesterLester Posts: 1,706Member, Moderator
    edited September 2016
    I didn't see your post when I replied. Thanks for searching; at least we agree which bridge it is like. And indeed you are right, the black bolt holds it in place so it is adjustable. Here is my bridge with the extra saddle now loose.

    And here are the two saddles for the 6th string and its octave both in the correct position.

    Alas, neither screwhole is in a position to be used so I have had to move the octave string saddle back to allow me to bolt it in place.

    It's a whole lot better than before but still out of tune so I'll have to see whether a new set of strings will be better.

    Thanks so much for your help, Jocko, it opened my eyes to what I couldn't see right in front of me! Ask your wife to give you a kiss from me!
  • JockoJocko Posts: 7,107Member, Moderator

    Thanks. She read your post and did. 

  • ESBlondeESBlonde Posts: 968Member

    Your suggestion of seeing if new strings would help is the telling statement. You cannot intonate a guitar with used strings, It just won't work.



  • LesterLester Posts: 1,706Member, Moderator
    edited September 2016
    Originally Posted by ESBlonde:

    You cannot intonate a guitar with used strings, It just won't work.;

    I agree.

  • onemanbandonemanband Posts: 94Member

    Aaah, perfect intonation on a 12 string; the impossible quest for the holy grail............good luck!! 

    I ONLY play 12 strings, I'm no luthier but I do set up my own instruments so I hope I can be of help.

    The bridge in your image looks very similar to the bridge/tailpiece on my Danelectro 12string. As you have discovered, the bridge saddles are individually adjustable and a careful bit of work with a needle file, elongating the adjustment slots should help get you nearer your goal.

    String gauge also contributes to intonation so go as heavy as your playing style and guitar build will allow; also of course, get the string height (action) as low as is possible. Also (very important) make sure that the saddle slots are cut so that the UNDERSIDE of the strings sit level, so that when pressed, they hit the frets in unison.

    My main instrument is a Rickenbacker 620/12; it only has a six saddle bridge but by combining all the factors above, the intonation is near on perfect.


    Final thoughts..........1)as mentioned above, intonation will be impossible with old strings, 2)a wound third will always intone better than a plain third and 3)don't worry too much about "perfect" intonation....... a tiny amount of "detune" will only add to that wonderful "12 string jangle"!! 

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