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People who play guitar might have heard the word intonation before; mostly it is used when talking about a guitar’s setup. Setup can be defined as a way of fine-tuning relationships between the components of the guitar. This includes the nuts, the bridge, the guitar strings, and the saddle, and the eclectic guitars optimize the guitar’s sound and are almost similar to the tune-up for bicycles or cars.

The people who make guitars set them up according to their specifications, so any expert guitar technician can handle both basic setups and customized setups to match a playing technique and preference.

When thinking about music instruments, intonation is said to be the extent to which the player is forming notes that are in perfect tune, compared to being sharp or flat. Players using electronic guitar tuners tune by plucking the unfretted strings. Tension on the guitar strings increases once the strings are fretted, thus bending the pitch of notes upwards. The effects it causes are not severe but in the end, it affects intonation.it might cause sour notes and chords that are dissonant if the intonation of the guitar is not properly set. Many times intonation problems are brought about by players playing closer to the guitar’s body.

Another major factor to consider is the more the string is closer to the frets the fewer you will need to stretch it since it does not have to go so far for it to produce notes. The lower the actions on the guitar the more accurate the intonations. Depending on how a guitar is set up, you can either get dramatic or subtle intonation issues. Intonation problems are especially risky for guitarists who play live music in front of an audience because it can ruin the live performance or session.

How to adjust your intonation

When you notice your guitar is not playing in tune, especially when you play notes around the neck, it should be a sign that you need to adjust your intonation. If you want to test the intonation of your guitar, start by playing an open string, then go ahead, and play the same string on the 12th fret of your guitar. In case you realize the sound of the 12th fret is out of tune, be sure to adjust your intonation. It is set right by adjusting the string length by moving the saddle closer or further away from the bridge. Guitars with proper intonation have the best pitch accuracy.

Steps in adjusting intonation

  • Compare pitches

Start by playing an open string. Let’s say the 6th string or the E string and make sure the string is perfectly in tune. You can use any tuner to check the pitch. Then press the same string on the 12th fret and compare pitches. To get the most accurate readings, play the strings with a soft to medium attack. When there is bad intonation, the cause is mostly because the given note is  flat or sharp, correct this by simply adjusting your guitar’s saddle.

  • Make adjustments

After comparing the pitches, you will need to make some necessary adjustments to get the string completely in tune. Make sure to adjust the length of the guitar string using a flat-headed screwdriver.

Ensure to adjust the saddle if the fretted note in your guitar is flat towards the neck area. Adjust the guitar’s saddle back in case the fretted note is sharp along the bridge. It is a good idea to memorize a creative method for remembering the proper way to adjust. “sharp/back, flat/forward ” Make 1/4-turn changes until you get an understanding of how much the saddle will need to move in order to have impact on the tuner. It might take many full spins to get the accurate saddle.

  • Repeat the procedure for each string.

You should re-tune your guitar to pitch then double-check your adjustments with a tuner. If the 12th fret pitch is not the same as the open string, you should repeat the procedure. This will have to be done for every string. While this procedure can be excruciatingly time-consuming, the end effect is amazing! Your guitar will sound precisely like you want it to.

How does rust affect guitar strings?

The corrosion of compounds containing steel or iron, iron itself is referred to as rust. Steel is found in guitar strings and is the base of practically all the acoustic and electric guitar strings, it is among the common materials used to make guitar strings. But on the other hand, various components such as copper contain materials such as bronze or brass, or silver steel compositions that are utilized to wrap the wires in various guitar strings. Guitar players say that when you play new strings you get a brighter and rounder sound. That’s because the strings are new and they have no rust. When the strings get played corrosion starts to happen affecting the vibration of the string thus taking away sustain and clarity on your sound. 

Is it okay to use a rusty guitar string? 

Due to excess moisture in the atmosphere or the moisture retained on the cords from sweaty palms, the guitar strings will rust fast. Ensure your guitar gets stored in a dry, warm environment, and that you are using good-quality strings and clean your hands prior to playing.

A guitar that has actual visible rust signs has been kept improperly for a period. If it is an acoustics system, the timber is likely to be harmed, but if it is an electric system, the electrics are likely to be exploited. This can be re-strung, but it will almost certainly not be best again. There was a significant probability that the fingerboard and frets have been harmed as well.

Strings do not rust in ordinary use, although they can deteriorate. Acid from the hands corrodes the metal, dust beneath the strings will dull the guitar’s tone, a build-up of dirt and debris on the strings will shorten the lifespan, and the strings will end up losing intonation as they age.

 How to make strings last longer

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  • Once you start playing the guitar, make sure you clean your fingers! It has the greatest influence of all. Your strings will rust faster if you play with filthy hands.
  • Secondly, you can use a product like the String Sling. A product that it’s made specifically to take good care of your guitar strings making them last longer. It’s a high quality microfiber cover that you attach to your neck very easily and completely covers your guitar strings from top to bottom, protecting them from the elements that cause rust. It also turns into a very comfortable guitar strap and you can store your guitar picks, your capo and more. 
  • Thirdly, you can wipe them down with an old towel or washcloth to remove dirt and moisture.
  • Lastly, you are required to clean the fretboard on a regular basis.