This article was originally written for Guitar-Muse
The Be All End All in Sounding Like a Pro
Intonate Your Guitar
Nothing screams amateur more than a guitarist who’s out of tune. Unfortunately, just getting your tuner to light up green when you play each open string may not be enough to make your guitar sound in tune. Intonation matters a lot and the cheaper the instrument, the more potential there is for your intonation to be bad.
You can check your intonation very easily. First use a guitar tuner to tune all the strings. Then check the pitch of the 12th fret harmonic against the note at the 12th fret of each string. They should both be perfectly in tune. If the 12th fret is flat or sharp against the harmonic, then you have problems.
Adjusting the intonation of a guitar isn’t all that difficult but could be daunting if you’re a novice. In that case, seek the help of a professional guitar tech. If you’re adventurous, here’s a helpful how to article on wikiHow. Beware, I’ve encountered on many occasions cheap guitars that just cannot be intonated properly. Basically, their craftsmanship is so poor that no amount of saddle adjustment is enough to compensate. If you find yourself to be in this position then, unfortunately, if you want to play in tune you’ll need a better guitar.