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View Full Version : Intonation or Action?



WashAshore
04-25-2014, 05:17 AM
Which is more important to you? I don't play with others so for me it's the action of a stringed
instrument that's most important. I just bought a mandolin that came with a set up, the intonation
was spot on but the action was a tad high for my liking. So I dropped the bridge (adjustable) to
lower the action, which threw the intonation off a bit.
I'm finding the mandolin a bit more difficult to play and definitely tinny sounding.

moetrout
04-25-2014, 05:36 AM
Let me preface my answer by saying I am a total nube amature.

I think intonation is more important as a high action is easier to fix than a fret board with poorly placed frets causing intonation problems. Now there are probably many other things that could cause intonation problems, but I think most of them would be harder to fix than a high or low action.

Jon Moody
04-25-2014, 05:39 AM
On a ukulele, action is relatively easy to adjust whereas intonation is not.

For me, I'd rather get a uke that has really good intonation but may have unpreferable action as I can fix that. If I find a uke that plays great but the intonation is shoddy, it's not as easy a fix.

RichM
04-25-2014, 05:42 AM
Which is more important to you? I don't play with others so for me it's the action of a stringed
instrument that's most important. I just bought a mandolin that came with a set up, the intonation
was spot on but the action was a tad high for my liking. So I dropped the bridge (adjustable) to
lower the action, which threw the intonation off a bit.
I'm finding the mandolin a bit more difficult to play and definitely tinny sounding.

Your mandolin may well have a floating bridge, which is not attached to the top. If your intonation is slightly out, you may be able to fix it by moving the bridge either forwards or backwards very slightly.

I've played mandolin for years, and no good mandolin should sound tinny!

Rick Turner
04-25-2014, 06:00 AM
Unfortunately, tinny tone is more obvious in inexpensive steel stringed instruments than with nylon strings. That said, there are some interesting alternative strings available for mandolin...sets made for "classical" playing. Take a look at some of the D'Addario or GHS flat wound strings or the offerings from Thomastik-Infeld. Yes, you will choke when you see the prices...

As for the action/intonation issue, these are "interactive" adjustments for fretted instruments. You can't adjust one without having to deal with the other. That's why God put luthiers on the earth...to help with these issues.

stevepetergal
04-25-2014, 12:48 PM
I agree with One Bad Monkey 100%. If I have to choose, I cannot tolerate bad intonation.

buc mcmaster
04-25-2014, 01:01 PM
Got to be both, really. If the intonation is wrong due to bridge placement, saddle compensation (or lack thereof) or some other build issue, what does it matter how the action is? You still have a stinky sounding instrument even if the action is perfect. If the action is too high, moving up the fingerboard as the strings rise higher will certainly cause intonation issues just from having to move the string so far to fret it. So in my estimation a good instrument has both accurate intonation and at least tolerable action. Giving up one for the other is not a compromise I will accept in a ukulele or, in years gone by, a guitar.

OldePhart
04-25-2014, 01:02 PM
Intonation all the way. I can forgive ugly. I can forgive an action so high you can drive a truck under it. I can even forgive poor, thin, tone and miniscule volume and sustain. I can't stay in the same room with an instrument that has stinky sounding chords.

John

WashAshore
04-26-2014, 03:28 AM
Why do I not care about both? I play alone, I have no talent, I can't sing and can't tell if a note or chord is
a bit sharp or flat. I play to amuse myself and keep my mind and hands busy. So playability is my first
concern. Maybe if lightning strikes and I get much better I'll care about both.

OldePhart
04-26-2014, 03:55 AM
Maybe if lightning strikes and I get much better I'll care about both.

Hmmm...if the sound doesn't matter...why not just get some cheap wind chimes and a leaf blower to amuse yourself... :)

Actually, playing instruments that intonate properly pretty much eliminates the need for a lightning strike. Your "ear" will develop more quickly as it learns what a proper chord sounds like. And, obviously, if the action is good the instrument is simply easier to play.

John

Rick Turner
04-26-2014, 03:58 AM
A beginner will advance more rapidly as a player and get greater pleasure from the journey if the instrument is set up properly for both intonation and action.

Would you prefer well fitting shoes and socks or a pair of flip-flops on your next ten mile hike?

ichadwick
04-26-2014, 04:29 AM
Why are they exclusive? Both matter.

String height may be a personal preference or simply something to get used to. I like low strings, close to the fretboard, but I can play higher action is given a bit of time to adjust to it.

Bad intonation and high action are more noticeable at higher frets. For someone who seldom plays above the 7th fret, what may seem intolerable to you or I might be immeasurable to them.

Just my musings...

FrankB
04-26-2014, 05:12 AM
Hmmm...if the sound doesn't matter...why not just get some cheap wind chimes and a leaf blower to amuse yourself.... :)

John
Thanks for the first good laugh of the weekend! You're too funny.....

The answer is.... Rick Turner's answer. ;)

cantsing
04-26-2014, 07:07 AM
I play alone, I have no talent, I can't sing and can't tell if a note or chord is
a bit sharp or flat. I play to amuse myself and keep my mind and hands busy.

I would have described myself the same way when I got my first uke a little over three years ago. Over time, I began to realize that my ear was improving and I could hear some "off" notes and chords. And although I still don't have a great ear, I finally decided that I needed to upgrade my ukulele to one with better intonation.

So, although action is more important to you now, it's possible that you might begin to value intonation more at some point.

WashAshore
04-26-2014, 12:06 PM
[QUOTE=OldePhart;1514956]Hmmm...if the sound doesn't matter...why not just get some cheap wind chimes and a leaf blower to amuse yourself... :)

Guess I was wrong about this forum. I didn't expect smart ass responses.

OldePhart
04-26-2014, 12:31 PM
Hmmm...if the sound doesn't matter...why not just get some cheap wind chimes and a leaf blower to amuse yourself... :)

Guess I was wrong about this forum. I didn't expect smart ass responses.

A) Note the smiley.

B) I note that you trimmed the second paragraph, which was serious and gave you much the same advice as many others.

C) I've found that those who are looking to be offended usually will find something to be offended about. I got over worrying about it a long time ago.

Have a nice day,
John

bigphil
04-26-2014, 01:22 PM
Even if you play by yourself an instrument with poor intonation, will still not sound good. If you tune the open strings to accurate pitch, then any combination of open strings and fretted notes will cause dissonance. I can't stand it, hurts my ears!

focsle
04-26-2014, 01:25 PM
Hmmm...if the sound doesn't matter...why not just get some cheap wind chimes and a leaf blower to amuse yourself... :) John

There goes my beer, all over the shirt.....

WashAshore
04-27-2014, 06:23 AM
Oldephart

A) Putting a smiley after something doesn't make it right

B) I wasn't asking for advice

C) I wasn't looking to be offended

Bye

NOTLguy
04-27-2014, 06:37 AM
Having perfect pitch makes me cringe when I hear instruments played out of tune. I bought my Pono for that reason as my previous uke was always out of tune somewhere on the neck. Fortunately with my Pono, I now have both low action and perfect intonation.

Bill