New guy here, so please be kind as I ask a possibly stupid question.

Building my 2nd Cigar Box Guitar. 25.5 " scale, EBE tuning, mechanical bridge, semi constructed, pre-built neck.

Using a digital tuner, open E is in tune, 12 fret E is in tune and 12th fret harmonic is in tune.

But, as I progress up the neck, one note at a time, each note becomes a bit sharp. As I approach the 12th fret the notes stabilize and become in tune as I reach the 12th fret.

Is this normal?

Thank you in advance for your experience and suggestions.


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Hi and welcome. let me say firstly that a fretted instrument cannot be tuned perfectly across the board. A few things come into play but mainly it's fixed fret positions and variable string dimensions and tensions. Add to this the stretching of the string from open to a fret, it raises the tension and of course the pitch.

I wonder if you have a bow in the neck that decreases as you approach higher up the neck towards the 12th fret. It is always a matter of compromise. Compensation at the saddle and/or the nut is used to limit the issue.

Cheers Taff

Hi, I'm interested to know, and I'm sure there are others, if you remedied the tuning issues you described a while ago, and if you did, how?


To answer your question, I got close to solving the tuning issue, but far from perfection.

The neck was purchased an Ebay as a partially assembled kit.

The frets were pre-installed, but the rest of the neck was un-assembled and required fitting.

At the zero fret, at the 12th fret and the harmonic 12th all was in tune. But, as I slowly walked up the neck from zero, most frets were sharp until I slowly approached the 12th fret. I suspect the location of the frets themselves, not the distance between zero and 12th, is the real issue.

I have seen fancy guitars with "Angled Frets" that seem to compensate for the imperfections, but the more I learn, the more it seems that imperfection is unavoidable, and get this; probably expected on some deep mental level. We as humans are probably now accustomed to it, though we may not know it.

Am I going to give up? Hell no! But I am now willing to accept that some small variation in tone is an unavoidable consequence of human hearing.

That being said, I now believe that minor imperfections in tuning, be annoying as they be, are greatly overshadowed by the lack of rhythm. You can be slightly out of tune and no one will care, but lose the beat and everyone will notice!

I say, bang on that damn cigar box guitar and let hell be dammed. Perfection is not currently on the menu.

Or, I could be totally wrong; in which case, I stand ready to be educated by those with more experience.

Hi Patrick, thanks for the update. Yes, you are correct in saying that small tuning imperfections can be annoying, but it's not all down to human hearing, it's down to mathematics, the way the frets are laid out. Short version: fixed position frets combined with strings with many variables.

If your frets are correctly positioned and compensation set as required at either nut or saddle,    then I would think one would have to have really good hearing to spot any differences in pitch from the true note.

There will be a difference if you check the tuning on a good tuner or stroboscope.

Anyway, these tuning issues are caused when we finger the strings. Remember the strings are different sizes, with vastly different mass so they stretch at different amounts when pushed to the fret, and go sharp. Add to this the fact that during playing finger accuracy is hard to maintain with the finger pressure on the string, the distance behind the fret where the finger sits, also has the finger caused the string to slightly slide to one side, all contribute to the perfect tuning outcome.

Too much info, sorry. I'll leave you to search The Equal Tempered Scale.
Cheers Taff... Oh, it's good to see this part of the site is working, I can't see much else on here.


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