INTONATION ON A THREE-SADDLE TELECASTER
The three-saddle bridge is great. It’s a big part of that vintage Tele vibe. Don’t expect perfect intonation in every case, though.
Because each saddle intonates a pair of strings at the same time, these bridges can be a bit of a compromise.
The best approach is usually to balance out the differences.
For instance, you might end up with your 1st string slightly sharp while your 2nd string is slightly flat. Each may be out just a little but getting one perfect might actually pull the other one further out.
Setting a three-saddle bridge involves some experimentation to determine where the balance lies for each string pair. Give yourself some time to play around and get it right. It's a balancing act.
ERR BASED ON YOUR PLAYING
Depending on what you play most often, you might find the compromise above doesn’t quite suit. For instance, perhaps most of your chord work means a slightly sharp G string sounds bad for you. It might be possible that setting the G perfectly but pulling the D farther out is a good place for you.
Like I say, there’s some experimentation involved. Set things the way you think minimises any intonation issues on each string and then play it for a while. Don’t be afraid to tweak things if you need to.
INSTALL A SIX-SADDLE BRIDGE
There’s always the option of installing a more ‘modern’ six-saddle bridge. Then you can set the intonation for each string individually the same as you would for, say, a Strat.
Of course, you might not want to take from the look and vibe of your three-saddle bridge. In which case…
You can replace your regular old, straight saddles with pre-compensated saddles.
There are a number of different aftermarket saddles available that are either ‘angled’ or ‘notched’ to better match the compensation most players will need.
Your usual guitar-bits supplier should be able to help out or you can actually get a good selection from Amazon too.
Compensated saddles are still one-saddle-per-two-strings but they’ll usually give you better intonation than regular, straight saddles. They can’t be quite as accurate as a six-saddle bridge would be but, for keeping your Tele feeling Tele-ish, they’re a good solution.
TELECASTER INTONATION QUIRKS
As the saddles of three-saddle bridges move closer to the back of the bridge, the angle of the adjustment screw gets steeper. This can make it really awkward to turn the screw (because the slot’s beginning to point down towards the face of the guitar). If this happens, be careful—it’s easy to ruin the screw slots or scrape the guitar finish. If you have to, slacken off the strings to make the saddle easier to move. It’s a pain, but it’s better than damaging your guitar.