So, assuming we have selected the appropriate scale length for the instrument we are building, we now have to evaluate a few other elements to determine how to add compensation to the saddle and thus properly intonate the instrument (we’ll cover nut compensation separately). Once I adjust the nut height, I ensure that the strings clear the top of the 1st fret by between 1.0mm (0.040”) and 1.40mm (0.056”), depending on the type and tension of the strings that I use. Before visiting, it is important that you read this page: The same is also true for the nut. Most classical guitars live with straight bridges. Essentially, once you have settled on a scale length, the placement of the frets is pre-determined and does not need to be altered or fussed with. However, due to intonation problems, which are unfortunately inherent in classical and Spanish guitars, unless some sort of compensation is built into the design, even these guitars can be painful to play. Why? The saddle will (usually) be compensated (that is, set back) about 2mm. LMI does NOT have a storefront or offer over-the-counter sales. The last four Martins I bought came with uncompensated saddles... but they are all 12 fret slotheads. Playability So the higher action and thicker string gauge combine their effects and cause us to move the saddle back correspondingly. B)  In each step below, pluck the harmonic first. An Unofficial forum for those who love Martin instruments - Founded by Steve Stallings. Luthier Kevin Ryan says this is “inherent inharmonicity” and explains the concept concisely in this passage from his website ( “…the fundamental of a string produces a tone along with, say, the 1st partial of that string (harmonic at the 12th fret). Guitarists in particular often bend strings for pitch inflection. Headstock Slotting & Drilling Jig - Vintage Version. 4. I put a compensated bone saddle in my 00028VS when I couldn't get past the intonation problems playing up the neck (when I actually dare to venture up there), but never felt the need to do the same with my other two guitars. Play the note at the 12th fret. In the end, there is no substitute for experience. On many nylon-stringed guitars, you will often see a straight saddle as opposed to a ramped one. So the bass strings are compensated more than the trebles and a guitar made with heavier gauged strings will require greater compensation. Summary Please note that string tension, type, and manufacturer will result in more, or less, compensation required, so changing strings to higher or lower tension, or a different manufacturer, will most likely require adjustment. Similarly, the action at the nut (that is, between the nut and the first fret) will have a bearing on the compensation required at the nut. The notes on the first few frets will play sharp, and subsequently the nut position also needs to be altered. It’s important to recognize that tone begins with the string! In order to understand intonation, we need to get an idea about why frets (and by extension, the guitar’s saddle) are positioned where they are. Headstock Drilling and Slotting Jig - NEW! LMI does NOT have a storefront or offer over-the-counter sales. It’s a series of compromises and adjustments that allow the builder or repair person to intonate an instrument as well as is possible. Compensation, therefore, flattens the note. Handmade Classical, Spanish & Flamenco Guitars, Josred Handmade Why don’t they install compensated saddles from the factory? Listen to what guitarists have to say. Or, we tune up to an open G chord and the open D chord sounds off (most likely it’s the third, or F# note that will be the main offender. Tune the 12th fret harmonic of the A to the G fretted at the 2nd fret (pluck the harmonic first!) The short scaled guitar will be sweeter and warmer sounding. Depends on the model. There is one common myth about ‘scale length’ that beginners sometimes hold and that we should dispel immediately; that scale length is equal to ‘string length’,  it ain’t! Play a variety of instruments. Pluck the same 12th fret harmonic of the D then tune the B (fretted at the 3rd fret) to this harmonic. A stiff string is not only difficult to play on, it is also going to sound one-dimensional. If you are using the wide saddle approach (mentioned above) here is the technique for intonating each string individually: Nut Compensation All things being equal, a guitar with a longer scale length will sound a bit brighter, with a quicker attack and more defined bass notes. 7975 Cameron Drive, Bldg. This includes the woods, body shape, pickups (on electrics)…the list goes on. Luckily, all we need to do is get somewhere close to perfect intonation, and to balance our compromises equally, to make a nice sounding guitar.