question about tuning Stratocaster

I’ve had this Strat for ten years or so, and had to have a new neck put on it because the (pardon my lack of proper vocabulary) the screw on the steel rod that keeps the neck straight was trashed. So that’s fixed. But my main problem is being out of tune when I play close to the end of the neck–you know, where you learn your first chords. My A chord (playing E,A, and the C# at the second fret) for example, will be sharper than when I bar it up on the fifth fret. In general, all six strings are sharp relative to their theoretical counterparts further on up the neck. Is this fixable? (I have the stings as low as they can go without buzzing).

Yes, it should be able to be fixed. You need to have the “set up” of your guitar adjusted. This has to do with the intonation or individual placement of the “saddles” in the bridge structure and their location. Please make sure to have a seasoned luthier do this particular task when you have it performed. Email me for further information if needed.

Yeah, zenster is right, you need your strat set up. I am curious why the rod in the neck got thrashed, someone that obviously didn’t know what they were doing was fooling with the twist of the neck, which is adusted by this rod. The twist provides the “tempered tuning” to some degree. If you made a perfect guitar with a perfectly straight neck, it would be perfectly in tune at some frets and out of tune at others. The setup will “temper” the tuning so everything is in overall tune. This is a job for a pro.

Thank you Zenster and Chas.E. Now, how do I know if the guitar repairman I go to knows how to do the “set up”–or is that a fairly common skill among guitar repair people? Again, thanks for the advice and offer of help.

Keep in mind that the guitar is a “tempered” instrument: it will never be in perfect pitch in all keys in all positions. A really well made one will be damn close, though, and you do probably need the intonation adjusted at the bridge. Possible reasons could be a change in string gauge (eg, from extra slinky to heavy) or a change in string height. Or it’s possible that slight differences between the old and new necks are responsible.


To set the intonation on a strat isn’t really a major job. Anyone who offers repairs or styles themselves as a luthier should be able to do it for you without a problem. A general set up will usually include changing the strings, setting the action and intonation and tweaking the truss rod if required.

Has the guitar been like this since you had the neck replaced? If it has I would take it to someone else in future. To carry out a major task like changing a neck then fail to set the guitar up properly seems pretty shoddy to me.


I always set up my guitars myself. It’s not that difficult. All you need to do is adjust the little widgets (I’ll defer to Zenster calling these saddles - I never knew their name) on the bridge until the strings play the same note at the octave as when you hit a harmonic in the same place. You want to move them forward and backward, not up and down. Up and down changes the height of the strings, which as a matter of personal preference I keep fairly low, but it does not change the pitch of the notes.

By the way, the proper name for the thing in the neck is “truss rod.” Some guitars have 2 of them, which allows them to correct for certain types of warping that a single truss rod cannot correct.

Make sure the neck is adjusted straight, and is attached properly to the body, before you attempt to set it up.

As far as getting a good guitar tech to adjust your guitar the answer is pretty simple: ask other guitarists. The best guitar tech I have ever had was called ‘Creative Dave’ and he was a total nut. I wouldn’t have trusted him if he wasn’t so highly recommended.

Right now I am going through a search of my own because I really don’t want to hand my guitar over to just anyone.

<Drool> I have a 1960 Les Paul Goldtop that was hand built in the Gibson custom shop in 1960. I got it for $1100 without a scratch on it.</Drool>