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View Full Version : Is a compensated saddle necessary to get perfect intonation?



spookelele
01-24-2015, 11:57 AM
Up in talk today, in the saddle, and the kala elite threads, people are implying that without a compensated saddle, you can't get good intonation.

Is that strictly true? I didn't think it was, but then I've compensated all my saddles, mostly figuring it was because things are hard to get perfect, and none of my ukes are close to breaking the $1k price tag.

Is compensation strictly necessary, or is it wringing that last tiny bit of precision out of something that is slightly imperfect?

I mean.. all things considered, doesn't pressing the string between the frets cause more inaccuracy than a little bit of the string on the ends not vibrating (assuming that the fret distances are all correct)

BlackBearUkes
01-24-2015, 12:43 PM
"Is a compensated saddle necessary to get perfect intonation? "

Mostly, yes. Pressing the strings is a different issue.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
01-24-2015, 04:15 PM
Are you talking about compensated saddle, (slanted) or compensating the entire scale?

spookelele
01-24-2015, 07:20 PM
Are you talking about compensated saddle, (slanted) or compensating the entire scale?

I was talking about a filed saddle, vs a straight one.
Not sure about the right name, sorry.

Someone implied that the new $$$$$$$ kala must be lacking in intonation, because it does not have a compensated saddle.
I wasn't sure if that was strictly true.

I thought compensation is something you did to a particular instrument for a particular kind of string, instead of like.. you have this one filed saddle, and it's good for everything. Like.. is an aquila red low g going to need the same filing as say, a flouro carbon high G, or a wound G. The same if like.. you use a wound C. I wouldn't think so, because like.. a wound is pretty consistently flexible because it's many fibers, where as like, alot of the plastic strings get stiff after they've stopped stretching, which makes the effective node length shorter because of the ends not moving as much. That thinking on my part could be wrong.. as I don't actually measure... I just kinda file until the tuner is happy, and assume it's more precise than my ear because I don't have perfect pitch.

consitter
01-24-2015, 07:32 PM
Is there any leeway whatsoever to if it can go 'out' at all going up the neck.

My uke (sometimes) will go 2-3 cents out when up 12 frets or higher, and it doesn't have a compensated saddle. On down the neck, no problem at all.

SweetWaterBlue
01-24-2015, 09:10 PM
I was talking about a filed saddle, vs a straight one.
Not sure about the right name, sorry.

Someone implied that the new $$$$$$$ kala must be lacking in intonation, because it does not have a compensated saddle.
I wasn't sure if that was strictly true.



Spookelele - I was the one who originally opened this can of worms on the other thread. The question is not whether it somehow had bad intonation (relative to other ukes with uncompensated saddles. I am sure it doesn't. Its not even clear if they have one, or not since they don't mention it), but rather if, or how, they have achieved what their marketing literature calls the "best intonation on the planet" without a compensated saddle, if it lacks one. I wish I could afford a $1200-$3000 uke, and I love the company because they made my first ukulele, but details of how they are achieving this are unknown. In the interview they did at NAMM they said they did some "micro tuning," but little more.

Brian1
01-24-2015, 09:35 PM
Regardless of how or why the conversation got started I hope this rather interesting discussion continues. :)

consitter
01-24-2015, 09:54 PM
Regardless of how or why the conversation got started I hope this rather interesting discussion continues. :)

That's code for...

http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-basic/popcorn.gif (http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys.php)

Michael N.
01-25-2015, 12:09 AM
Pressing the string is the reason to compensate the scale or the saddle. The act of pressing (stretching) of the string results in a very slight pitch change usually compensated by moving the saddle back, effectively increasing the speaking length of the string. An uncompensated string length tends to play slighly sharp the further one progresses up the fretboard.
Unfortunately different string types (and different string gauges) usually require different amounts of compensation. On a Nylon string Guitar the saddle is normally set back by around 2 mm's with little or no differentiation between the treble and bass strings. On a steel string Guitar the saddle is slanted and offers much more compensation on the bass strings compared to the thin treble strings.
It's all a compromise though. We play on a fully chromatic instrument capable of playing in any key, making use of equal temperament. Equal temperament is a fudge in itself. So we aren't exactly off to a good start even before we install the frets or pluck a single note.
The act of moving the saddle back from it's theoretical position is a relatively easy method of getting our instruments to play 'more in tune' in all the keys. For the vast majority of people it is good enough. There are other methods, such as 'Nut compensation' and some makers claim that it results in instruments that play 'more in tune'. Nothing is perfect though. Change strings from Nylgut to Nylon or change to a different gauge and your almost perfectly compensated instrument will be back to square one.

Brian1
01-25-2015, 12:50 AM
So that is why there is often a angle lower on the left and higher on the right on a guitar saddle?

On a ukulele, the compensation is related to the math in spacing the frets ? (the thing that is sometimes called the rule of 18 even though it is really 1787... or something -I don't remember where the decimal goes or if those are the right numbers)

Or am I getting it wrong ?

consitter
01-25-2015, 01:17 AM
Just a thought---

Wouldn't you have to change the saddle when going from a high 'g' to a low 'g' string, if compensated?

SweetWaterBlue
01-25-2015, 01:52 AM
Just a thought---

Wouldn't you have to change the saddle when going from a high 'g' to a low 'g' string, if compensated?

Theoretically yes, but saddles are relatively easy to change. If they are sufficiently thick (my understanding is that some makes of high quality instruments use 1/8" thick saddles for example), they are also relatively easy to compensate. They are made thick so that they can be filed with the string's high point (crown) on the saddle more towards the front tor back. It just takes a bit of a luthier's time. People who can afford this level of instrument can also afford the modest labor charge to compensate a saddle, and the level of perfection we were discussing when it came up was the best intonation on the planet.

On my electric guitar this adjustment is accomplished with screws on the bridge that can move the strings landing point up or back. Lanikai made a low-end uke, called the TunaUke which had saddle points you could move up or back, but they didn't seem to catch on like wildfire. The improvement may have been too small to put up with any other side-effects they created. On my acoustic guitar, the maker simply set the saddle at an angle as a compromise between better intonation and practicality and cost.

spookelele
01-25-2015, 03:47 AM
So that is why there is often a angle lower on the left and higher on the right on a guitar saddle? (re compensating is because we press between frets)

Not exactly. Because open strings don't use frets. Frets are the same height whether its the treble or bass side.

A note is determined by the tension, and length of the string segment.
When you pluck/strum, your string goes from | to () in the primary node, and also the harmonic nodes.
The math for lengths is based on that, but the math assumes the string can pivot freely to form sine waves.

But an actual string doesn't work that way. If you hold a string straight out, it doesn't just flop down because it has a stiffness.
That stiffness of the string makes the effective node length shorter because part of the string isn't swinging back and forth freely.
The stiffer the string, the shorter the effective node length, because the stiffness resists going into the sine wave shape especially on the the ends, but also on the harmonics.

So, if you think about a guitar, esp a steel string. The fatter the string, the stiffer it is.
So, on the bass end, the slanted saddle makes the effective length longer because it's the stiffest strings, while the treble needs less because it's not as stiff. You'll usually see a second slant on the 2 high strings, because it changes from wound to unwound on the 2 high strings.

Nylon/flouro carbon is not nearly as stiff as steel, but it still has a stiffness.

There's a thickness issue too, because the math works from the center of the diameter of the string, but the string moves from the side of the string that's touching the nut and the saddle, so there's another kind of compensation for that, where the nut and saddle or the slots cut are not parallel with the body slanting down toward the treble side because those strings are thinner.

That's kinda why you compensate for the strings you're using, and not a "universal" compensation, but then that's microtuning. And in the real world of playing.. you introduce other issues, that I believe exceed the tolerance you compensate for. Not to say, starting more accurate isn't better, but it's never perfect in every place because it can't really be.

Like.. frets. We press the string between frets to lock the node length. But, the fret has a height. When we push the string into the valley between the frets, we change the effective tension, which throws the math off. If you hold a chord, and then reach for an additional note with your pinky, the notes held in the chord flat because you're reaching toward the saddle reducing tension on those notes, but the note you hit with your pinky sharps because your pinky pulls the string toward the other fingers holding the chord. We consciously know this happens because we make vibrato exactly in this way by wiggling the fingers holding down the string. But it happens when we play because our fingers don't work strictly up and down, because our knuckles are fixed position, and our fingers spread, so tendons naturally pull fingers spread back together.

stevepetergal
01-25-2015, 06:27 AM
Chase it all you like. Your intonation will never be perfect. Not never. The intonation of your instrument can be improved if you compensate the saddle effectively. But, the improvement may well be primarily realized in the laboratory setting.

With a high-quality instrument, intonation can often be improved a bit (the best ukuleles have pretty good intonation anyway). If you compensate a saddle on a lower-quality instrument you're probably wasting your time. If you buy a ukulele with bad intonation, the amount of adjustment you can make will be insufficient to make it very good.

Fret spacing and saddle placement (and height) are the most important factors in intonation. Compensation is used to temper the effect of differing diameters (and other properties) of the individual strings and for imperfections in the instrument. Even the very best design and execution will not give you perfect intonation. Partly because there is no such thing.

Someone earlier said compensation is done to adjust for stretch when playing. Probably a bad idea to use it for this. If stretch is an issue, it must be addressed in the design and build phases. This is what fret spacing and the saddle's position and height are all about.

Being a life-long piano tuner and rebuilder, I agonized over intonation when I first began playing ukulele. Now, I just practice and play.

Kekani
01-25-2015, 07:49 AM
Just for conversation, I'll add that a fretless intrument (which Kimo Hussey and I briefly discussed) won't need a compensated saddle v a fretted one. Mostly.

Set fret instruments are a series of compromises when it comes to intonation. Not mention again another variable in the equation - pressing strings, string height, etc.

Once I added in a 7 degree angle to the saddle (it doesn't sit at 90, its at 83), I can set intonation, then I can set action without affecting intonation as much as if the saddle were 90 degrees. Still, there is no perfect.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
01-25-2015, 08:57 AM
Chase it all you like. Your intonation will never be perfect. Not never. The intonation of your instrument can be improved if you compensate the saddle effectively. But,, the improvement may well be primarily realized in the laboratory setting.

With a high-quality instrument, intonation can often be improved a bit (the best ukuleles have pretty good intonation anyway). If you compensate a saddle on a lower-quality instrument you're probably wasting your time. If you buy a ukulele with bad intonation, the amount of adjustment you can make will be insufficient to make it very good.

Fret spacing and saddle placement (and height) are the most important factors in intonation. Compensation is used to temper the effect of differing diameters (and other properties) of the individual strings and for imperfections in the instrument. Even the very best design and execution will not give you perfect intonation. Partly because there is no such thing.

Someone earlier said compensation is done to adjust for stretch when playing. Probably a bad idea to use it for this. If stretch is an issue, it must be addressed in the design and build phases. This is what fret spacing and the saddle's position and height are all about.

Being a piano life-long tuner and rebuilder, I agonized over intonation when I first began playing ukulele. Now, I just practice and play.

Yes! This should be a sticky on Uke Talk.

Kekani
01-25-2015, 10:04 AM
Yes! This should be a sticky on Uke Talk.
Especially with mention of "buying a compensated saddle". I guess if the market wants it, someone will sell it.

Lets not even go where the .5 cents off at the 20th fret issues are brought up. . .

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
01-25-2015, 12:05 PM
Especially with mention of "buying a compensated saddle". I guess if the market wants it, someone will sell it.

Lets not even go where the .5 cents off at the 20th fret issues are brought up. . .

I don't worry about it. I buy pre-compensated strings.

stevepetergal
01-25-2015, 01:37 PM
I don't worry about it. I buy pre-compensated strings.

I now pre-compensate my expectations.

CeeJay
01-25-2015, 03:14 PM
I now pre-compensate my expectations.


Pssst ...is it it me ?...What the holy hell is a compensated saddle? ...what are we actually talking about here ?

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
01-25-2015, 04:04 PM
I don't worry about it. I buy pre-compensated strings.


I now pre-compensate my expectations.

hahahahah

To the OP
I get intonation within 5 cents at the 12th fret, (open, harmonic and fretted) with a straight saddle slot and a compensated saddle.
So....intonation is good at the 12th, and i let physics be physics everywhere else.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
01-25-2015, 04:07 PM
Once I added in a 7 degree angle to the saddle (it doesn't sit at 90, its at 83), I can set intonation, then I can set action without affecting intonation as much as if the saddle were 90 degrees. Still, there is no perfect.

Why sit it at 83 degrees???

Also, is your break angle one line (i presume in the middle) over the length of the saddle??

Brian1
01-25-2015, 04:13 PM
Pssst ...is it it me ?...What the holy hell is a compensated saddle? ...what are we actually talking about here ?

I'm in the same boat, it appears there is some debate as to if it is just a gilded lily that will make a uke cost more -or something you can do to your saddle that will make notes way up the fretboard more accurate. (it apparently is a bigger deal on other instruments than on ukes)

Kekani
01-25-2015, 07:07 PM
Why sit it at 83 degrees???

Also, is your break angle one line (i presume in the middle) over the length of the saddle??

If I recall, I think Rick came up with the actual angle of 7 1/2, but I may be drastically wrong on that one. 7 works for me. Mostly because most of my instruments have pickups, and there was an article written on it years ago, I think it was for Fishman, but I install Baggs. The angle allows very nice compression on the UST, without any tilt. That would be THE reason why I do it. As Paul Okami described a pickup installation I did when he was over - very uneventful.

However, once intonation is set on an instrument without a UST, if it ever came back for one, taking material off the bottom is all it takes. If the action needed to be lowered in the future (like if higher tension strings were installed), lowering the saddle also shortens the scale length at the same time - basically, the top of the saddle doesn't need to be touched.

Break angle remains basically consistent, but because all of mine are low G, the line is closer to the neck on the 1st, and closer to the tail on the 4th. Note: Because of the angle, the neck side of the saddle is cut much steeper than normal, and the back is cut much shallower. MGM posted an image years ago of one of my saddles, but I'm not sure where it went. Again, I didn't create this, I just copied what Rick created.

geetee
01-25-2015, 08:11 PM
Like these? Click on a picture to see more of Mike's photos of an Aaron Oya slimline.

http://i30.photobucket.com/albums/c345/musicguymic/aaron%20oya/035.jpg (http://s30.photobucket.com/user/musicguymic/media/aaron%20oya/035.jpg.html)

http://i30.photobucket.com/albums/c345/musicguymic/aaron%20oya/058.jpg (http://s30.photobucket.com/user/musicguymic/media/aaron%20oya/058.jpg.html)

Kekani
01-25-2015, 08:41 PM
Nope, not those. There's a fairly old one of a close up shot of a Myrtle Spruce, if I recall. Note: didn't want to do that one, but MGM made me do it. Really? Maple back, sides AND top? In the end, it was fun, and I got to play around a little.

Beau, I just realized one of the reasons I stayed at 7 - it's between 5 and 8 (check your messages) and I took a guess.

I just googled "Guitar Saddle Back Angle" and a few hits down I found this http://www.acousticguitarforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=95601
And I was wrong about Rick, it is 7 (as he mentions in the thread). That in and of itself makes me stay at 7.

BTW - Chuck and Steve, you guys crack me up. I was compensating fanning my frets (a la Dingwall), but can you imagine the slotting sled for that (no CNC, yet). Oops, I meant contemplating. . .

consitter
01-25-2015, 08:49 PM
Nope, not those. There's a fairly old one of a close up shot of a Myrtle Spruce, if I recall. Note: didn't want to do that one, but MGM made me do it. Really? Maple back, sides AND top? In the end, it was fun, and I got to play around a little.

Beau, I just realized one of the reasons I stayed at 7 - it's between 5 and 8. Don't ask why, but I just googled "Guitar Saddle Back Angle" and a few hits down I found this http://www.acousticguitarforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=95601

Also, check your messages.

Wow. That's your build?

The ?inlay? on the side and bottom is really cool (best word I could come up with, makes me sound like a kid, I know). And yes, I'm derailing the thread somewhat.

Sven
01-25-2015, 10:16 PM
If anyone is still confused, I may add another level of confusion. This won't news to most of you.

I compensate a soprano saddle in two ways, first by placing the entire bridge. I aim for 2 mm extra on my 350 mm scale length on the G, E and A strings. So the distance between nut and 12th fret is 175 mm, and the distance between the 12th and the break point on the saddle is 177 mm. This gets me in the ballpark.

The other way I compensate is I file the saddle so the C-string gets its break point another 1.5 mm back. And this is what I suspect the OP means with the term "compensated saddle", a saddle with some individual compensation for each string (in my case some extra on one of them).

I also angle my saddles back. This gives me a headache when placing the bridge since I have to make the saddle first to get it in the right place. But it looks kind of cool.

Picture here, on my own spruce / rosewood soprano:

75399

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
01-26-2015, 03:50 AM
If I recall, I think Rick came up with the actual angle of 7 1/2, but I may be drastically wrong on that one. 7 works for me. Mostly because most of my instruments have pickups, and there was an article written on it years ago, I think it was for Fishman, but I install Baggs. The angle allows very nice compression on the UST, without any tilt. That would be THE reason why I do it. As Paul Okami described a pickup installation I did when he was over - very uneventful.

However, once intonation is set on an instrument without a UST, if it ever came back for one, taking material off the bottom is all it takes. If the action needed to be lowered in the future (like if higher tension strings were installed), lowering the saddle also shortens the scale length at the same time - basically, the top of the saddle doesn't need to be touched.

Break angle remains basically consistent, but because all of mine are low G, the line is closer to the neck on the 1st, and closer to the tail on the 4th. Note: Because of the angle, the neck side of the saddle is cut much steeper than normal, and the back is cut much shallower. MGM posted an image years ago of one of my saddles, but I'm not sure where it went. Again, I didn't create this, I just copied what Rick created.

Oh ok, so your saddle is still at 90 to the top's centerline, but the slot itself is routed with a 7 degree back angle in it.
For some reason i thought you did a 7 degree slot on both the X and Y (or is it X and Z, or Y and Z??).
It all seems very logical and obvious now it is pointed out to me, much like the Earth revolving around the Sun. :)

strumsilly
01-26-2015, 04:52 AM
Oh ok, so your saddle is still at 90 to the top's centerline, but the slot itself is routed with a 7 degree back angle in it.
For some reason i thought you did a 7 degree slot on both the X and Y (or is it X and Z, or Y and Z??).
It all seems very logical and obvious now it is pointed out to me, much like the Earth revolving around the Sun. :)
actually, the earth revolving around the sun isn't all that obvious and wasn't "discovered " until the 16th century. AND 1 in 4 Americans still don't seem to get it!
http://news.discovery.com/space/astronomy/1-in-4-americans-dont-know-earth-orbits-the-sun-yes-really-140214.htm
interesting discussion, thanks

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
01-26-2015, 05:09 AM
actually, the earth revolving around the sun isn't all that obvious and wasn't "discovered " until the 16th century. AND 1 in 4 Americans still don't seem to get it!
http://news.discovery.com/space/astronomy/1-in-4-americans-dont-know-earth-orbits-the-sun-yes-really-140214.htm
interesting discussion, thanks

Check out this amazing video on the Earth's rotational orbit around the sun- Being about to 'see' things like this is an ability most people sadly lack.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jHsq36_NTU&list=PLrhU-AowtrRhfdIo8k1Nw86cJyDUFPWV2