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Guitar tuning issues

Messages
962
I have been playing guitar for over 22 years and I have never had a single guitar that stayed in tune. I've had setups done, most recently on my Fender MIM Strat, tried the Big Bends stuff in the nut slots and on the bridge saddles of a Carvin, blocked off the bridges on Strats so they won't move, had locking tuners put on, etc. Nothing gives me tuning stability. Even my Ibanez RG1570 (Edge Pro bridge) doesn't keep tuning. I was just now playing the Strat that had been set up by a shop just a couple of months ago and practicing a double stop solo and the guitar kept going out of tune.

Frankly I'm sick of this and want to know what to do. These are all great sounding and playing guitars. I use .009 to .042 strings but how can that be a problem when others use them and their tuning is fine?

Even when I play in church (I rarely solo because bending is a problem) the guitar will inexplicably be out of tune when I check it after a song, and that's just playing chords, and I don't hit the strings all that hard. What's the deal here?
 

stormin1155

Member
Messages
2,593
Well, you know the old saying.... a guitar player spends half of his time tuning his guitar and the other half playing out of tune....

Guitars are very imperfect instruments when it comes to tuning. The way they are designed, they can never be perfectly intonated. Add to that they are made of wood, which is pretty sensitive to environmental changes. People who say their guitars never go out of tune are.... well... I'm a guitar tech and work on hundreds of guitars a year, and have owned over a hundred in my lifetime, and they all go out of tune. Granted, some are much more stable than others. Having a well cut and lubricated nut is the biggest thing. How you wrap the strings around the post is another.
 

Timtam

Member
Messages
2,168
- string stretching ...
- string wrapping technique
- nut slot depth (first fret action)
- nut slot width (does it bind ... stays sharp after depressing string behind nut, stays flat after bends ?)
- intonation
 

radcliff

Member
Messages
1,994
Can you move up to 10s? I notice more reliable tuning with heavier strings. They tend to hold up to abuse a bit more.
 

Oinkus

Member
Messages
4,685
Sounds like some kind of technique issue to me , rule out everything you can and go from there. I just don't understand how this is possible , you should be able to get a guitar to stay in tune as well as they are able. Since the basic design of guitars makes them unable to be perfectly in tune you should be able to get close and stay ? Good tuners with no string wrap and I use Tri flow lube personally great stuff. Maybe go hardtail on those guitars ? +1 on the Floyd Rose my RR V stays in tune for months in the case and for an entire 5 set gig with maybe a small adjustment.
 

rawkguitarist

Member
Messages
10,927
No offense intended... that really sounds like a stringing technique and not stretching those new strings. Especially since the common denominator is you = all your guitars.

1. Are your strings going flat (I'm going to assume)?

2. Do you only put about 2.5 - 5(little more for unwrapped strings) wraps on the string posts or do you excessively wrap the posts?

3. Do you *fully* stretch your strings after putting them on?

4. Very important - do you tune up to pitch? Going about a half step below the intended pitch then tune up to that pitch maintaining tension on the tuning post. (just tuning down to pitch will leave tension bound up on the post and release it on bends/playing hard).

First address these before moving to nut binding issues. I find it difficult to believe that every one of your guitars had nut issues.

*Most* major tuning issues are the player not the instrument. No shame in that. I guarantee we can help you stay in tune better though!
 

C-4

Member
Messages
13,491
In addition to the good advice noted above, if you are overly heavy-handed in your playing technique, you are going to continue to be out of tune.

You don't have to go up to 10's as mentioned above. They do may strings in half gauge sets like 9.5's.

If you find that you are squeezing the neck in a strangle hold, you will need to relax your left hand technique.

Also, make sure your guitars are set up correctly, so that you can eliminate that possibility.

Without being there with you to witness your problems first hand, it really is almost impossible to correctly diagnose why you are having these problems.
 

Yam the BOMB

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
2,553
I have many guitars and have no tuning issues with any of them. I have to agree that the one with the Floyd Rose is the absolute best. It stays in tune forever. But they all do great.

I bet your problem is something very basic that you have always done wrong. Do you know to ALWAYS tune up, never tune down? This means when you tune always do it from a flat pitch not a sharp pitch. So when you are tuning a string start from being at least one whole tone flat and if you go to far and go sharp do NOT just back it off to pitch. Back it off a whole tone flat so you can tune up again. Repeat until you get it in tune.

This is basic stuff but your problem has to be something basic that you are completely overlooking.
 

MisterBoh

Member
Messages
179
Find a real luthier if you don't already go to one. It's probably the nut, cause that seems to be what it always is.

I've had "setups" before by a store (both chain and mom and pop). They usually charge like 80 or 90 bucks and have been less than stellar. If you go to a store, do yourself a favor and get it done by someone who can build an instrument.

You may also be pressing too hard. Is it usually sharp?
 

GreatDaneRock

Member
Messages
454
My recommendation is that you learn to do your own professional set-ups, and do them rather often. Depending on where you live, seasonal weather changes cause temperature and humidity fluctuations that can be dramatic on a stringed instrument.

Learn to do your own set ups, enjoy the process, and you'll be a much happier guitar player.

The real big plus about doing your own setups is that you'll get to know your instrument inside and out. You will understand every moving part and every idiosyncrasy of your instrument so that you can compensate or adjust for what you think needs to be compensated or adjusted for.

Go slow at first at take measurements all the way through. Eventually you'll learn your instrument's way of responding the truss rod adjustment and such were you won't even need any kind of gauges and rulers to know you've done a great setup.

GDR.
 
Messages
689
A lot of great suggestions.

When I am playing gigs, I have the Boss tuning pedal, set to mute the output while tuning. Set to chromatic (whatever note you’re closest to will register on the tuner - sharp names instead of both)
This way I can check any note anywhere on the fret board.

By the way I use .10 - .46

At home you could for example, get in tune the best you can.Then play a G barre chord on fret 3.
Turn the tuner to on, and just play the 6th string while holding the barre chord. That low G may read sharp. If it’s a tiny bit sharp probably not a problem. If it’s way sharp (and your open E is in tune) - your guitar needs adjusting, or your fretting hand is pulling the low G sharp.
I have a bit of this problem, and I’ve been playing since the 60s.
I worked on relaxing my grip, and I tend to tune the low E ever so slightly flat. So the open string and the fretted notes are equally in tune as opposed to perfect open and noticeably sharp on fretted notes (especially frets 1 thru 5)

Guitars are imperfect. Even expensive beautifully set up and intonated guitars.
The fact that the OP knows when he’s out of tune is a good thing.
Keep working at being in tune, and good luck.
 
Last edited:

rawkguitarist

Member
Messages
10,927
Find a real luthier if you don't already go to one. It's probably the nut, cause that seems to be what it always is.
Sorry, but I have to disagree. I’ve seen this repeated often. Most significant tuning problems come down to restringing technique, not stretching strings, finger pressure (since there is usually space between the fretboard and the string that can be pressed through) and then intonation.

The OP has significant tuning problems with all his guitars. That’s user induced. Playing for 30 years I’ve only encounter a handful of binding nuts.
 

gnappi

Member
Messages
297
With any luck the OP solved the problem by reading the posts here.

I will add that with very few exceptions just about EVERY used guitar I buy or play in a store has been stringed wrong.
 

Okra

Member
Messages
5,664
My guitars can sit in a case for months and will still be in tune when I return to them.
 

rawkguitarist

Member
Messages
10,927
My guitars can sit in a case for months and will still be in tune when I return to them.
IME, this points to your strings being properly stretched, no nut issues and the guitars remain at roughly the same temperature as when you last tuned them. This brings up another important issue...

Don't tune you guitar after its been sitting on a stand for a while to acclimate away from your body temp. Especially when gigging in a cool room/venue. During setup, play your guitar for a bit and get the strings/guitar up to your body temp. Before you put it on the stand to wait for the next set - tune. Then when you start the next set your guitar will be slightly sharp (in a cool room) and settle back down in the first tune. I've played in bands with other guitar players that came on stage and tuned the instrument cold right before the set... *every time* they'd be rushing to retune after the first song.
 




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