I'm playing two ESP guitars in the crappy 50 range...ESP LTD EX-50, and ESP LTD MH-50

My problem is with my EX-50. I play Drop C# (low to high C# G# C# F# A# D#)
String gauge is 10-52
Pretty sure about intonation
I keep experimenting with my truss and and my tun-o-matic bridge height, then I go to intonate again, still spot on, try out string height, doesn't tune unless the strings are high.

I loosen the truss rod a tad, lower the string height, now the Low E gets buzz to the point where it's difficult to tune to pitch.

The entire guitar will be perfectly in tune and up to pitch, but the Low E WILL NOT play correct bar chords unless it's like 20-30 cents flat. Now, open chords in dropped tuning sound fine for ME, but when I play to a song using that Low E (C#) I sound like crap compared to it.

"Pretty sure about intonation" doesn't sound confident to me. What you are describing sounds like an intonation issue.

The first thing I'd suggest checking is that when you do your intonation, set it to the actual fretting force you're going to use. Sometimes people intonate by just lightly pressing the string down, and then if you manhandle the string when playing it pulls way sharp. So the intonation is fine on paper but in practice it's totally off.

You also need to work out the string buzz/height issues before you start worrying about intonation. It sounds like you're cranking every which way on the truss rod and bridge and then trying to tune/intonate with the strings still buzzing or out of whack. If that's the case you need to solve the basic stuff, let the guitar stabilize, then intonate. "Won't tune unless the strings are high" sounds to me like you're just not setting it up properly. Setting the string height without the string already in tune (or in anticipation for that) is pointless.
Start with neck relief. Then adjust the action to your liking. Then adjust the intonation. If you do random things in random order, it just won't work. Why neck relief first? Because with the correct neck relief you are going to get the perfect action without any buzz. Adjusting action before adjusting truss rod doesn't really help because when you adjust the truss rod, it also changes your action a bit. When you have everything else set up correctly, adjust the intonation.
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Thank you both. How do I properly measure neck relief? I see people putting a capo to the first fret and holding down the 17th fret, but what measurement should I be going by?
Check this link.


Scroll down, there's a section on adjusting the truss rod. Neck relief depends on your playing style, I like mine around .015 or so and I have little trouble even when I really bang on my guitars hard...then again I also keep my action a bit on the high side for playing slide, that makes a difference too.

I use a capo on the first fret, and something like a guitar pick to measure the relief. I'm a former machinist, so I have the micrometers and so forth, I just measure a couple and find out which one I need. Otherwise you can use automotive feeler gauges, which I use sometimes too..
Hmmm...I wonder what this button does...
Last edited by Paleo Pete at Dec 15, 2014,
--- Joe ---
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damn I wish I had ears like yours some days.

my out of the box suggestions
better tuners like grover 18:1 or a better nut like a graphtech tusq.
Sometimes small things like graphite string saddles or a tonepros bridge will help.
Set the neck first, and when you adjust the truss rod, leave it for a day or two, so that it settles. SInce it has to actually flex the wood, it takes a bit longer rot it to take effect. Then set the string height and then intonation. And to be honest, it doesnt sound like your guitar is not holding the tuning well, its just that you cant actually get it in tune in the first place. If after setting it up correctly, you still find that it goes out of tune quickly, try lubricating the nut with some graphite powder or whatever (i just hammer some pencil shavings and use that), and if that doesnt help, replace it. If it still doesnt work, change the tuners.
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