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Thread: Intonation compensated saddle question

  1. #1

    Default Intonation compensated saddle question

    Hi, All

    On both my mandolins, when bridge is placed for intonation with G and E strings in tune at 12th fret with the harmonic there, the A string is about 4-5 Hz sharp when fretted compared to the harmonic. That A string always sounds a little out when I play up the neck. Annoying. Does this mean a new saddle or is there anything else I could try?

    Thanks!
    Brian

  2. #2

    Default Re: Intonation compensated saddle question

    I am eager to hear what the experts have to say on this. It might be useful to post a close up photo of the bridge looking from above. How is the intonation on your D string?

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  4. #3
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    Default Re: Intonation compensated saddle question

    No expert here, just a lot of messing around ...

    4 or 5 Hz seems like a huge amount. 4 or 5 cents (meaning 1/100th the error) would be not-uncommon for fretted instruments. Is it possible that the A nut slots are cut way too high? The would sharp the intonation up the neck. But ONLY the As, and on "both" instruments, seems unlikely.

    Are you using wound A strings? If so, compenstion for the wound A should be longer than the D, not shorter than the D as per normal, and would need a new saddle. (Some folks seem to get by with their original saddle, which I don't quite get.)
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    Default Re: Intonation compensated saddle question

    It could be one of a few things. Was your saddle made by your mandolin maker or purchased. I would remove some wood at the front of the saddle under the A string to correct the intonation in the A string. String gauges, action both have an effect on intonation and in your case the standard compensation is not right for your A string.
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  6. #5

    Default Re: Intonation compensated saddle question

    Electronic tuners read in cents mostly. A large difference from Hertz in this range.
    High action tensions the string - so sharper. String gauge changes the net effect.
    I guess unlikely, but if the strings are not uniform mass over their length from, say, corrosion.
    Glad my ears are not that good. Have no compensated bridges.

  7. #6
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Intonation compensated saddle question

    If you like the string set and action as it is, follow pops1's advice and remove a little wood from the bridge at the front (neck direction) edge under the A strings.
    As mentioned already, if you change the action or change the string gauge, intonation will also change.

    I almost always have to adjust bridge tops for best intonation. It is very common for the "factory" compensation to be off a little. How can a bridge maker predict your action height and string gauges? It's a one-size-fits-all approach.

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    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Intonation compensated saddle question

    One quick suggestion: try flipping the bridge saddle around 180 degrees and check out everything again. I often see them installed backwards.

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    Registered User Erin M's Avatar
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    Default Re: Intonation compensated saddle question

    Following this with interest as I'm having a very similar issue.
    "Flow, river flow. Let your waters wash down, take me from this road, to some other town." - Roger McGuinn

  11. #9

    Default Re: Intonation compensated saddle question

    Quote Originally Posted by Free Rein View Post
    I am eager to hear what the experts have to say on this. It might be useful to post a close up photo of the bridge looking from above. How is the intonation on your D string?
    The D is likewise sharp when fretted, though only about 1 Hz.

  12. #10

    Default Re: Intonation compensated saddle question

    Quote Originally Posted by j. condino View Post
    One quick suggestion: try flipping the bridge saddle around 180 degrees and check out everything again. I often see them installed backwards.
    Thanks, but it’s installed correctly. Treble strings in the narrow slots, bass in the wide.

  13. #11

    Default Re: Intonation compensated saddle question

    Quote Originally Posted by EdHanrahan View Post
    No expert here, just a lot of messing around ...

    4 or 5 Hz seems like a huge amount. 4 or 5 cents (meaning 1/100th the error) would be not-uncommon for fretted instruments. Is it possible that the A nut slots are cut way too high? The would sharp the intonation up the neck. But ONLY the As, and on "both" instruments, seems unlikely.

    Are you using wound A strings? If so, compenstion for the wound A should be longer than the D, not shorter than the D as per normal, and would need a new saddle. (Some folks seem to get by with their original saddle, which I don't quite get.)
    Not wound As. And it’s definitely Hz, not cents. I’m using a Peterson strobe reading in Hz.

    The slots, from what I can tell, don’t look high, and there’s no indication that that course is at all high at the saddle...

  14. #12

    Default Re: Intonation compensated saddle question

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    It could be one of a few things. Was your saddle made by your mandolin maker or purchased. I would remove some wood at the front of the saddle under the A string to correct the intonation in the A string. String gauges, action both have an effect on intonation and in your case the standard compensation is not right for your A string.
    Pops, the idea of removing some wood at the front of that course occurred to me. My question is what is the minimum width that the saddle under the strings can be. To adjust for 5 Hz, it seems like Id have to come back quite a ways.

    The saddle appears to be original to the mandolin, which, interestingly, is an 87 Flatiron. The other mando is a 90 Gibson A-5. Bridges made (I think) in the same factory.

  15. #13

    Default Re: Intonation compensated saddle question

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard500 View Post
    Electronic tuners read in cents mostly. A large difference from Hertz in this range.
    High action tensions the string - so sharper. String gauge changes the net effect.
    I guess unlikely, but if the strings are not uniform mass over their length from, say, corrosion.
    Glad my ears are not that good. Have no compensated bridges.
    I’m using a Peterson stroboscopic tuner app with a clip on hard wired plug in to an iPad. Seems very accurate. It’s switchable to cents or Hertz, I have it in hertz for this.

  16. #14

    Default Re: Intonation compensated saddle question

    Quote Originally Posted by sunburst View Post
    If you like the string set and action as it is, follow pops1's advice and remove a little wood from the bridge at the front (neck direction) edge under the A strings.
    As mentioned already, if you change the action or change the string gauge, intonation will also change.

    I almost always have to adjust bridge tops for best intonation. It is very common for the "factory" compensation to be off a little. How can a bridge maker predict your action height and string gauges? It's a one-size-fits-all approach.
    What is the minimum width of the saddle under the strings? How to know how much is safe to remove?

  17. #15
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Intonation compensated saddle question

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian B View Post
    What is the minimum width of the saddle under the strings? How to know how much is safe to remove?
    I've cut them pretty thin before. The tops of violin bridges are 1.1mm. That's about 3/64". That much ebony should be plenty.

    I use a string lifter, lift one of the strings (A, in this case) and file away a little bit of bridge. Place the string back in it's slot and check intonation. Repeat as necessary, a little at a time until the intonation is to your liking. I then cut the same amount from in front of the other string in the course.

  18. #16

    Default Re: Intonation compensated saddle question

    Quote Originally Posted by sunburst View Post
    I've cut them pretty thin before. The tops of violin bridges are 1.1mm. That's about 3/64". That much ebony should be plenty.

    I use a string lifter, lift one of the strings (A, in this case) and file away a little bit of bridge. Place the string back in it's slot and check intonation. Repeat as necessary, a little at a time until the intonation is to your liking. I then cut the same amount from in front of the other string in the course.
    Thank you very much for this detail. I shall now proceed.

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