Why do some guitars go out of tune more than others?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by wrxplayer, Apr 13, 2015.

  1. wrxplayer

    wrxplayer Supporting Member

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    Obviously there are good tuners and bad tuners.

    I guess a better question is why might a guitar with quality tuners have trouble staying in tune assuming set up is good?
     
  2. stormin1155

    stormin1155 Member

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    The tuners are seldom the culprit of tuning instability. Crappy tuners make it harder to get into tune, but once there, even really crappy tuners seldom move. If you don't believe me, clamp a vice-grip in the post and see if you can turn it. The top culprits are poorly cut nuts, poorly wound (around the post) or stretched strings, trem units not functioning, or other places where the string can catch. Temperature/humidity changes can also reek havoc on tuning, like bringing your guitar from your hot, steamy car into an air-conditioned room.
     
  3. David Garner

    David Garner Member

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    This. And the vast majority of the time, it's the nut. I have guitars ranging in price from $200 to nearly $3000. Of all of them, the only one that ever had any issue staying in tune was the most expensive -- a PRS DGT. The nut slots for the B and G strings were cut poorly from the factory. A good tech fixed it for me and it's been perfect ever since.

    A good setup helps too. Get the intonation set properly and the action set the way you like it. A lot of times, "tuning" issues are really a poorly intonated guitar or an action that encourages squeezing the grip a bit too tightly, which causes some strings to go sharp.
     
  4. bigislandpaisan

    bigislandpaisan Member

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    Does anyone know if intentionally over widening nut slots is a bad thing, if I'm having tuning issues? Is there an optimal not too wide, not too narrow slot width? Or is only too narrow an issue as far as sources of tuning issues?
     
  5. David Garner

    David Garner Member

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    You can definitely over-widen them. I'm not sure what that would do to tuning, but since the string can shift side-to-side, I can't imagine it would help at all.
     
  6. bigislandpaisan

    bigislandpaisan Member

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  7. straycat113

    straycat113 Member

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    The first thing to check is your strings. If you leave your strings on too long or don't wipe them down after playing you can have tuning issues in less then a week. Otherwise everyone gave you good advice and the main culprits. If it is just one string that is the tuning issue it could very be very possible one of your tuners is slipping -so don't count that out.
     
  8. geek-mo

    geek-mo Supporting Member

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    The luthier that works on my guitars claims that the overall scale has an effect on tuning stability, with longer scale necks having better tuning stability. Not sure why or if this is accurate, so please chime in. It accords with my experience, though.

    Another design feature that causes problems is the layout of the head stock. Six-in-a-line usually gives the string straighter play across the nut than 3-on-a-side, which forces the string to join the tuning peg at an angle across the nut. That's not to say that all 3x3 guitars have tuning problems, but many of them do, even with a proper setup.

    Tuning machines are probably a factor as well, but I have to say that my MIM Fender guitars have great tuning stability with the stock machines.
     
  9. Gary_

    Gary_ Member

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    I agree with the points so far and that the nut is the usual suspect.

    I had a guitar a year or so back that no longer lives here - the problem with that thing was the neck was about as stable as nitro-glycerine on a bad day.... Consequently the tuning would be out every single time you picked it up and by the time you'd finished a couple of songs it'd be out again....

    And this was one of its better features :rotflmao
     
  10. bgmacaw

    bgmacaw Member

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    As I like to say, it's the nut, not the tuners.

    Stringing technique is another big factor.

    Other adjustments, such as the bridge saddles and neck, follow far behind. Following even further behind in the parade of tuning problems are the tuners.

    Intonation can be a bit more tricky on a shorter scale guitar but tuning stability is about the same.

    The typical problem on a short scale guitar is that they are considered a "student" guitar and often receive less factory setup and no dealer setup. I have 2 short scale guitars I bought cheap because the original owners thought the tuners or maybe the guitar itself was bad because it wouldn't stay in tune. Properly cutting the nut took care of the problem.
     
  11. guitararmy

    guitararmy Member

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    I've noticed that mahogany necks and shorter scale lengths often associated with them are more susceptible to temperature changes than maple necks...epecially if the air conditioning is blowing on them.
     
  12. wrxplayer

    wrxplayer Supporting Member

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    Thanks for everyone's replies. The guitar involved is new to me. Tonight she'll see a set of new strings. The old ones don't "feel" bad but I have no idea how old they are.
     
  13. garret

    garret Member

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    This, plain and simple.
     
  14. Boris Bubbanov

    Boris Bubbanov Member

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    Too narrow is a way bigger issue. Slot would usually have to be really wide to be an issue. Also, the "bed" or area where the string rests, and breaks towards the bridge. Get the area where the slot rests right, and the slot can be 30-40% overwidth - no issue in most cases.
     
  15. Boris Bubbanov

    Boris Bubbanov Member

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    Excellent undeveloped point on this subject.

    Do the "Walter W Chiropractic Neck Adjustment Trick" to the neck, and consider cleaning all the crud out of the pocket, clearing the holes through the body to 11/64ths inches, and upgrading the screws and neck plate to the quality Bill Callaham sells.

    People sweat too hard the fit lines between the neck and neck pocket. Those IMO should have an average of a 16th of an inch, not less. This is so the neck can deflect when the guitar falls and the body and neck hit differently. Better IMO to work on the internal soundness of the connection and not the superficial appearance.
     
  16. Boris Bubbanov

    Boris Bubbanov Member

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    Tuning stability is (for me personally) what tends to go off first, of all reasons for replacing strings. +1 that you almost have no choice but to replace the strings. Just a question of whether you wanna examine and tune up some things while you have the strings off.
     
  17. Boris Bubbanov

    Boris Bubbanov Member

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    With all due respect, I do see a lot of guitars needing a whole lot of other attention before the tuning machines. We can say in one breath that guys are not prepping the string or loading it right and that's the issue - but there's something to be said for selecting a tuning machine that can easily be optimized. If an expensive tuning machine is not user friendly, it isn't any better than a cheap or worn out one.

    Kind of like Links of Chain. If other stuff is not optimized, sure I agree with you.
     

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