View Full Version : Ever had a guitar that wouldn't stay in tune, no matter what?
12-06-2007, 12:45 PM
I've got a Heritage 535 that I love. Sounds great (dropped some Lollar Imperials into it - amazing), plays great, feels great. But the thing will not say in tune for any significant amount of time no matter what I do.
I've had it in the shop on any number of occasions to try and sort out the problem. They've refiled the nut, used graphite on the nut, dressed frets and on and on, but there's still issues with the B and G string and sometimes the E string.
I've had the guitar since 2001 and really don't want to get rid of it ever if it all possible. I had them make it for me in the color of my choosing and I did the long wait and bonded with it, the whole 9 yards. I really want to get this thing dialed in though. I think it would really be a good guitar live, but I'd never try it with the tuning issues as is...
Has anyone else dealt with this? Any silver bullets out there I may have missed to fix this? Anyone had to ditch a guitar because you just couldn't get it sussed out? I find it hard to believe there's not some sort of a solution out there somewhere, but it's eluding me for sure.
Any thoughts greatly appreciated!
12-06-2007, 01:06 PM
Nut is usually the problem but sounds like you checked that. May be it's time to let a different luthier take a look. Not many reasons for a guitar not to hold tune, sticking in the nut or bridge saddles, tunning gears slipping (rarely the case), strings not tied on the gears correctly or not stretched out properly. And don't forget there's a difference between playing in tune (intonation) and staying in tune (stability).
12-06-2007, 01:10 PM
I suppose I'll spit out my common problems...
1. string height/tension creates difficulties with tuning the G, and B strings...
I find that the lower I get the action, the less trouble I have, but my partscaster tele still has some issues...
2. Tuning posts slipping/string slippage on tuning posts. I had a problem here too, with heavy gauges on my Ibanez... It seemed like the string tension was a bit too much, and the post would just rotate back (the guitar is almost 20 years old-- I should really buy some Sperzels and replace the tuners anyway)
My suggestion: Try Locking tuners if you can find them in the style you like. If not, stiffer tuners are better...
12-06-2007, 01:19 PM
If it isn't staying in tune, the problem can be in only one of three places (four on a bolt-on neck guitar):
The machineheads - they need to be not loose in the wood, not actually faulty (very rare in fact), strung correctly and tuned correctly. Used right, almost any machinehead, no matter how bad, will hold tuning. This may surprise most people, but it's true. The main advantage of higher quality machineheads is that they begin to reduce the need to be so picky about how you tune, or with locking ones, how you string them.
The nut - the grooves need to be cut correctly, and unfortunately some techs (no matter how well-meaning) just don't do it right. No amount of re-filing will work if they're still being cut into a V shape, at the wrong angle or without the right shaping at the headstock edge... so I'd agree with Rosewood that it might be a good idea to have someone else look at it.
The bridge - rarer, but sometimes parts can move about or be shaped wrongly so they cause excess friction and sticking.
(And obviously if the neck is loose on a bolt-on neck guitar, it won't stay in tune.)
Have you tried more than one brand of strings? What are you using? It's a long shot, but I've come across one or two brands (which I won't mention now) which seem to be harder to keep in tune than others. Many other people don't seem to have problems with them though.
12-06-2007, 03:20 PM
Seriously I'd try replacing the nut. Is it bone? Sometimes you can get just a bad piece of stock that makes strings dig in no matter how many times you refile. Also are you locking your strings when you wrap them around the tuners? If not do so. There are several techniques for doing this, all work pretty well.
12-06-2007, 08:28 PM
I think it would really be a good guitar live, but I'd never try it with the tuning issues as is...
Have you tried it at a good, sweaty rehearsal so that it gets fully warmed up?
Some guitars give me fits until they are used for a while and then seem to settle down. Then they cool off and the whole messy process restarts.
12-07-2007, 10:02 AM
Thanks so much for all of the feedback all. I'm using Daddario 11's
with a wound G I think. I'm open to other suggestions for sure.
I might check out the idea of just replacing the nut. I'm guessing it's the original nut material from Heritage. To be honest I hadn't ever really ever wondered what the nut was made out of... Might be bone, maybe not.
Re: warmed up at rehearsal - temp is a biggie for this guitar for sure. I have played it at rehearsals and bends still seem problematic for it - pitch of string goes flat post-bends.
Tuners are Grovers in good shape, so I don't think they're the culprit necessarily.
Thanks again for the feedback. Appreciated.
12-07-2007, 01:35 PM
If you have a Nasville or ABR bridge, don't overlook the bridge saddles. Sometimes they need to have the slots dressed a bit to prevent drag. This can throw you a tad flat when you bend. The two hang-up spots are usually the nut and the bridge. If you are using .011-.052 strings, you may need to have the nut slots re-filed for the larger gauge strings. Most players don't run their strings that heavy on an electric.
Rich T Fingers
12-08-2007, 07:29 AM
Ever had a guitar that wouldn't stay in tune, no matter what?
I've certainly played with guitarists who seem to have these guitars .......:rolleyes:
12-11-2007, 02:00 AM
I had an SG once with this problem. You could tune the strings but as soon as you hit a chord...any chord anywhere...it sounded like a dying walrus falling down the stairs with an accordion.
Biggest POS I've ever had the misfortune to own. :bkw
12-11-2007, 06:02 AM
A very flexible neck shaft and/or headstock area (even when the usual nut and sddle items are considered) can be tough to play in tune, esp for folks with a heavier grip or a varied climate.
Also a guitar that doesn't intonate well to itself (relief issues, fret placement etc) are hard to play in tune across the neck as well.
A common problem in intonation is when a nut is too high or too far away from teh 1st fret adn the method of intonation used is to match the open and 12th fret pitches, which doesn't account for the lower frets against thier octave pitches. An improper nut matched to the 12th fret can make the lower frets play out of tune when the strings are tuned to pitch open.
Tall frets and lighter strings are tough also for the heavy grip folks to play in tune as they fret hard and stretch teh string between the frets, pulling sharp.
Any combination of these things can add up for more tuning mystery.
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