Alright, so I recently bought my first own electric guitar. It was strung up with flatwounds, which I today changed for "normal" strings. I don't know which gauge was on it before (my guitar teacher said it was probably .011), the new ones are .009.

The problem is: now, the first 5-7 frets are horribly out of tune. If the open string is in tune, then the first 5 or something frets are around 30 cents off/too high. Until the 7th fret on, it decreases to around 5 cents off. This problem didn't occur with the old strings.

I read that when changing string gauges the bridge saddles sometimes have to be readjusted. I've never had this problem with my acoustic guitar before, not even when I replaced the .012s for .010s. I've also never adjusted the intonation before, so I'm kinda at a loss now. Any help would be appreciated.

— Hashtag

The guitar is an SG copy with the usual tune-o-matic replica.
Last edited by HashtagMC at Jan 24, 2017,
Sting gauges have different amounts of tension, so you need to adjust (setup) the guitar for the new strings. Spend the time to learn how set up a guitar, pay someone to do it, or live with a guitar that isn't setup properly.
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Yup, pick a string gauge and brand that you are going to stick to, and do a complete setup including intonation. There's plenty of setup guides and videos all over.
1) that's perfectly normal on electric - you can't switch gauges on an electric without causing some issues - the larger the difference in gauge and tension, the larger the issues. Switching from 11's to 9's is a drastic difference. Acoustic guitars are completely different so don't base yourself on that.

2) Bring your guitar to a tech and pay the 50$ to have it done right. Then stick with the same gauge of strings and brand and when you change your strings in the future, change them one at a time ( this will help keep your guitar's intonation/ tension etc. in check for longer periods). If you follow my advice you won't have to setup your guitar more than once or twice per year, if that.
Okay. So, I tried it with the low E string saddle, relaxed the string, moved the saddle a bit in one direction, tuned the string again, but apparently it made no difference at all. No matter whether I have the bridge saddle all the way towards the stopbar, or towards the pickups, or somewhere in between, it doesn't seem to matter, the string is still off from the first fret - now even more so (35 cents). Any ideas as to why?

P.S: Also, the harmonic and fretted note at the 12th fret are about the same (+- 1 or 2 cents), still the first fret is about 35 cents too high. 12th fret seems to be the deciding factor for all guides I found on setting up the intonation, but if it were only that, then the guitar should be theoretically perfect.

P.P.S: Okay, the saddle of the E string is now as far away from the headstock as can be, the harmonic and fretted at 12th frret are flat, still the first frets being way too sharp is only starting to get better, even though I can't move the saddle away any further.
Last edited by HashtagMC at Jan 24, 2017,
Don't use harmonics. Only check the 12th fret not all the rest. It's perfectly normal for the rest of the notes to be off a little, that's just how it is with guitars, like you said, theoretically perfect, but not in reality.
Well, the problem is, it's almost a semitone off, everything I play, every chord I strum, sounds horrible, as opposed to the nice sounds my acoustic gives - which is only some 5 percent off per fret. As it is now, this guitar, which was perfect the past week, is unplayable for me right now.

I'm used to tuning new strings every few minutes, but this is something else entirely. I'll take it to the store I got it from tomorrow and have them set it up, I hope it gets better then.
Alright, so I had the guy at the store set it up, and guess what: it hasn't gotten any better. He set up the saddles, then he raised the bridge to eliminate some string buzz (shouldn't it be the other way around, because raising the bridge also changes the intonation?), and now the frets are off all over the fretboard - perfectly in tune at the 12th, but the 13th fret is off just as much as the first fret. Basically, I now have a guitar I can't play at all.
In order to eliminate buzz you have to raise the action, so it's not a surprise he did that. The guy at the store who did the setup up should be able to tell you if there something seriously wrong with the fret work on that guitar.
The thing is, I don't understand why it worked fine with the strings before. If it's just an intonation problem, it should have been solved with readjusting the bridge, and if it's a problem with the frets, it should have occurred with the old strings too.

I'll have my guitar teacher have a look at it, and if he doesn't know what to do, I'll perhaps take the guitar to a local luthier.

Either way thanks for your advice!
HashtagMC The likely scenario is that the guy who adjusted it at the store didn't know what he was doing and did a sloppy job. A proper setup is much more complex than just adjusting the bridge - it's a combination of the nut, bridge, frets, truss rod etc. I've screwed around a lot over the years with poor setups - and I've burned through many techs that didn't know what they were doing - find someone you can talk to who has experience and who actually cares about his work - it will save you a ton of hassle.
I wouldn't go as far as to say he's got no idea what he's doing, as far as I know the guy's been playing guitar for some decades, but I think he definitely didn't get what my problem was. I hope I'll find someone who can fix this and knows what they're doing.
Quote by dthmtl3
Don't use harmonics. Only check the 12th fret not all the rest. It's perfectly normal for the rest of the notes to be off a little, that's just how it is with guitars, like you said, theoretically perfect, but not in reality.

Nope. No to harmonics but don't limit it to the 12th fret and it is possible for the rest of the notes to be in tune. There are 2 sides you have to adjust if you want the entire fret board to be in tune with your open notes or everywhere for that matter.

1. Bridge saddle height and intonation adjustment, which everyone knows, but make sure fret 12, 14 and 15 are in tune with the open note
2. Nut slot height, your frets 1-4 or 5 will be sharp every time if your action at the nut is too high, cut the nut little by little until those fretted notes are in tune with the open note, but don't go too low your the 1st fret will buzz with open notes. It's scary but go slow and be patient and you should be ok.
3. Bonus: Truss rod adjustment to keep frets 3-7 or 8 from buzzing

Do all 3 adjustments over and over again until you get it fine tuned to play perfectly.

These two videos helped me learn most of this: &
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Last edited by Bertallica at Jan 25, 2017,
Intonation is as much to do with uniform density of the string as anything. Perhaps you just got some dodgey strings? Try a new set.
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Okay, so my guitar teacher took a closer look at it. He said the neck seems good. He twisted the bridge saddles again, got rid of some buzzing from a loose screw, so that's ok now too.

Now about the main problem, it seems that most of it comes from my fretting technique. Being used to the bridge-cable-like strings of my acoustic guitar, I've apparently been pressing down on the strings way too hard, thus bending the .009s up almost a semitone. I'll just have to learn to fret it more gently, and the next time I have to restring it, I'll take thicker strings.

So thank you all for your advice, even though it turned out the setup wasn't the actual problem!
If you have a tuner you can see what the pressure from your fingers do to a note. I have XL frets and if I squeeze the string to the fretboard it shows it's way off. I have switch string gauges on my guitars and just had to do some minor tweaks to intonation and everything else checked out fine. That's with a fixed bridge though. Floyd Rose string gauge swapping is a process.
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I love how all these guys replying all have "techs" fixing their guitar as if they were on tour or something hahaha bunch of dumbasses. You mean "your buddy" or "the guy I pay a he guitar store". They're not "Your Tech" so stop pretending.