Help me fix my G string!
December 21, 2009 7:55 AM   Subscribe

Can I get my guitar fixed so that my G string is in tune with the other strings both when fretted or free-ballin?

I have had a Hondo Deluxe Series 750 electric guitar since 1993. I bought it for $80. It's probably an awful guitar but it is now a part of me. I've never had or wanted another electric guitar.

The problem is the G string sounds in tune with other strings when it's played open but off when fretted. If I tune it so that it's in tune when fretted, it's out of tune when open. ACK!

I've asked a good guitar store tech if he could fix it and what the problem was but he wasn't sure.

It has pretty "normal" tuner posts, little hooks for holding down the string at the head, a plastic nut, and Dimarzio bridge that pulls the strings to the back of the guitar ... action is perfect. It's like a strat.

How do I get that G string in tune? If it's too hard to tell, please direct me to some guitar maintenance websites where I might learn more.
posted by metajc to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 

I've asked a good guitar store tech if he could fix it and what the problem was but he wasn't sure.


Hi -- you may have to look around in your area for a qualified luthier or better guitar man. You should be able to have a lot of intonation issues resolved for a setup fee of around ~45. It's money well spent!

In Charleston, SC, Joe Wilson of Encore Music is highly recommended.
posted by toastchee at 7:58 AM on December 21, 2009


Sounds like the intonation is off to me. You should be able to adjust the intonation with a hex screw at the bridge. There should be one for each string. The way I've done it in the past is I've checked the 12th-fret harmonic against the fretted note - they should be exactly the same. Seeing the note on a tuner might help, if your ear's not great.
posted by deadmessenger at 8:01 AM on December 21, 2009


The length of the string is wrong. You'd have to build a custom bridge, or modify the existing one, which would be either expensive or really, really fun. You'd get a blog post out of it, for sure.

A good reference for guitar repair tools and materials.

Good luck!

Oh, and by the way, every guitar is technically "out of tune" for many chords (unless you've tuned the guitar to an open chord). That's because you can't construct a fretted temperament that preserves thirds across string lengths, IIRC. As on a piano, you just have to accept a certain averaged-out dissonance.
posted by e.e. coli at 8:04 AM on December 21, 2009


Oh and the secret of the pros using dead's technique is to use a strobe tuner... I use an iPhone version. A good tech will also make sure your neck is in exactly the right position before adjusting intonation.
posted by toastchee at 8:04 AM on December 21, 2009


I asked a similar question and it turned out to be the intonation. I had a luthier do a set-up on it and it fixed the problem.

You may be able to adjust the intonation yourself but I found it rather difficult to get it accurate enough.
posted by bondcliff at 8:06 AM on December 21, 2009


I cannot find a link to a picture, but it seems like the bridge should have individual setscrews by which you can adjust the length of the string. If it does, you will just need to fiddle (as it were) with it until you find a length that provides the right note on all frets, including open.
posted by Danf at 8:09 AM on December 21, 2009


A simple intonation set up will probably fix it to your satisfaction (unless the guitar is seriously borked).

But G and B string intonation is the stumbling point for the guitar as an instrument, and it's very difficult to ever totally fix it. Tom Scholz, for example, has extra 1-string frets at a few points along the G and B string so that his chords will be perfectly in tune.
posted by The World Famous at 9:21 AM on December 21, 2009


I'd agree with Deadmessenger on this one. In most cases there is a truss rod that runs the length of the neck and the tension can be adjusted with a hex nut. I would suggest adjusting this to see if you can reconcile the intonation issues. It is important that you do it in small increments though as each instrument is different. If you find that this doesn't alleviate the issue after some experimentation then take it to a tech. Very often guitar repairs can be done at home for a fraction of the cost or no cost at all.

I highly recommend The Guitar Handbook as a valuable reference tool. It has great information ranging from the history of guitars and the musicians that play them to basic music theory to construction and repair.
posted by Gainesvillain at 9:53 AM on December 21, 2009


IANA Luthier, but as others have said, the first thing to do would be to adjust the bridge. google "setting intonation on guitar" or something like that and you will pull up a multitude of information. I find relatively new strings intonate better, but that could just be the placebo effect. In the case of most bridges, you are just going to be turning a screw. It is difficult to do any damage to a guitar this way, so give it a try.

If that doesn't work, you can find many more resources about setups, but the basics are:
- adjust neck for proper relief using truss rod. In most cases this means a little forward bend.
- adjust string height using saddles to avoid buzz. This is more or less as simple as it sounds.
- adjust intonation by moving saddles closer to or further away from the neck.
Go to a luthier if this all makes you nervous, but it's not exactly rocket science. These instruments aren't particularly fragile and you will likely know when you are about to do something stupid. Just stop when the thought "I could really use more leverage here" pops into your head.
posted by yeoldefortran at 10:17 AM on December 21, 2009


You should be able to adjust the intonation with a hex screw at the bridge.
...
The length of the string is wrong. You'd have to build a custom bridge, or modify the existing one, which would be either expensive or really, really fun.

If you're wondering why you get such vastly different answers, it's because they're both right, depending on what kind of guitar you have. Some bridges are adjustable for each string, some are adjustable for all 6 strings at once (meaning intonation has to be a compromise between different strings) and some have no adjustments at all. If yours is a Strat-alike, chances are it has six adjustments, which makes it pretty easy to fix.

I've asked a good guitar store tech if he could fix it and what the problem was but he wasn't sure.

There's a chance that wasn't really a good guitar tech. The correct answer is "A complete set-up will cost you $40", unless your guitar is very non-standard.
posted by mmoncur at 8:09 PM on December 21, 2009


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