We covered basic guitar tuning a while ago, but there’s a lot more to the topic than just that. Your guitar needs to be in tune in every position and on every fret. Tuning your guitar normally only gets it to tune in the basic position (zero fret). What about other positions? What does it mean to adjust intonation?

If your instrument is set up properly it will naturally tune in every position, but there’s a small chance of such a situation occurring just like that.

No worries, though. You can get your instrument to tune pretty easily by doing something called adjusting guitar intonation, or like others like to call it – guitar bridge tuning.

Follow these steps to get your guitar to tune in every position.

1. Tune your guitar normally

Use an electric tuner and set it up for the tuning you’re going to use. As you know, there are many alternate tunings, and if you just happen to use any of them on a regular basis then it’s best to adjust your guitar intonation to that tuning.

One hint. Remember to use a pick when tuning. You’ll get a much more accurate read, which is a very important thing when tuning your guitar’s bridge.

2. Check the notes on the 12th fret

The basic idea when you adjust intonation is to have the same notes on fret 0 and fret 12 (and fret 24 if your instrument has it).

Use an electric tuner to check if the notes have the same values. Chances are that they’re going to be a little off.

This is where you get to tune the guitar’s bridge.

First, depending on the instrument you have your bridge will have a different way of adjusting it, but the main rule remains – tuning the bridge is all about lengthening or shortening the strings by adjusting the screws on the bridge.

Here’s what a bridge on my guitar looks like:

As you can see, there are screws on the bottom. These are the screws you’ll be working with.

Now, depending on the pitch difference on the 12th fret there are two things you should do:

If the pitch is a little sharp (too high)

In this case you need to make the string longer. In order to do so you have to move the bridge slightly further away from the neck.

This is usually done by turning the saddle screw clockwise. Only be careful not to overdo it. Start by turning it just a fraction of an inch.

Now tune the string back to the desired tuning and check the 12th fret again. If the note is the same then you can move to the next string.

If the pitch is a little flat (too low)

Here you’re doing the opposite – shortening the string. You have to adjust the screw on the bridge to make it sit slightly closer to the neck. This time you’re doing it by turning the screw in a counter clockwise direction (remember, just a fraction of an inch).

Now tune the string back to the desired tuning and do the check again. Proceed to the next string.

3. Tune the whole instrument and play a bit

When you adjust intonation the whole purpose is to make your guitar sound better than before. Play some barre chords and acoustic tunes to make sure that everything is okay. Try to notice the new level of harmony your guitar can produce.

Depending on how off your intonation was, after fixing it your guitar may sound like a completely new instrument.

When to do it?

I like to check my guitar’s intonation every time I change the strings. I never remember what type of strings I had last time so chances are I get something different every time.

Things like different gauges, manufactures, materials, and such, have a big impact on intonation.

Apart from that, once you tune the bridge for a given set of strings it should remain in the proper setting until you change to a new set.

That’s it for the guide. Be honest, do you adjust intonation of your guitar whenever you buy a new set of strings?