Intonating a guitar is a critical aspect of guitar maintenance that many players overlook. Intonation is the term used to describe the accuracy of the guitar’s notes when played at various positions along the fretboard. When the guitar is properly intonated, each note should be in tune and sound clear regardless of where it is played on the fretboard. This process may seem daunting, but it is an essential skill that every guitarist should master.

The Importance of Intonation

When a guitar is not properly intonated, it can be frustrating for both the player and anyone listening. For example, if the guitar is out of tune at the 12th fret, the player may need to adjust their fingering or move to a different position to compensate for the issue. This can be particularly frustrating when playing with other musicians, as the guitar’s sound will clash with the other instruments in the band.

Fortunately, intonating a guitar is not a difficult process, and it can be done with just a few simple tools. In this article, we will take a closer look at the steps involved in intonating a guitar.

Step 1: Tune the Guitar

Before intonating the guitar, it is essential to ensure that it is in tune. Use an electronic tuner to tune the guitar to the correct pitch. Make sure that each string is in tune before moving on to the next step.

Step 2: Check the Intonation

Once the guitar is in tune, it’s time to check the intonation. To do this, play each string at the 12th fret and compare the pitch to the open string. If the pitch is sharp or flat, the guitar’s intonation needs to be adjusted.

Step 3: Adjust the Saddle

To adjust the intonation, you will need to adjust the saddle on the bridge of the guitar. The saddle is the small piece of material that the strings rest on as they cross the bridge. To adjust the saddle, use a small screwdriver or hex wrench to turn the adjustment screws located on either side of the saddle.

If the pitch is sharp at the 12th fret, move the saddle back (away from the neck) by turning the adjustment screw counterclockwise. If the pitch is flat at the 12th fret, move the saddle forward (toward the neck) by turning the adjustment screw clockwise. Make small adjustments and retune the string before checking the intonation again.

Step 4: Repeat the Process

After adjusting the saddle, play the string again at the 12th fret and compare the pitch to the open string. If the pitch is still sharp or flat, make additional adjustments to the saddle and repeat the process until the pitch is correct.

Step 5: Check the Other Strings

Repeat the process for each of the other strings, making sure to tune each string before checking the intonation. Once you have completed the process for all of the strings, the guitar should be properly intonated.


Intonating a guitar is a simple process that can significantly improve the guitar’s sound quality. By following these steps, you can ensure that your guitar is in tune and that each note sounds clear and accurate regardless of where it is played on the fretboard. With a little practice, intonating a guitar can become a routine part of your guitar maintenance routine, and you’ll be able to enjoy playing your guitar to its fullest potential.