Guitar Tuning Tips
No matter how much you perfect the art of guitar tuning, a cheap instrument will seriously hamper your efforts. No matter how well you play your latest lick or arpeggio, it won't sound HOT unless your in perfect Guitar Tune Nirvana either!
Conclusion: Invest in a good or even great guitar and your halfway there regarding guitar-tuning dilemmas.
"My Strat/Guitar Keeps Going Out of Tune, Help!"
To start off, here's 2 simple but BIG Guitar Tuning Tips for any type of Six-Stringer...
BIG Guitar Tuning Tip #1 - Clean Your Strings
After every sweaty, no-holds barred, gig or rehearsal, CLEAN YOUR STRINGS! It may sound painfully obvious, but this is the biggest Guitar Tuning problem and string-killer of them all!
Some people, including yours truly, can rust a set of strings overnight, by gigging with them and not cleaning the chemicals and sweat off, immediately afterwards. When this happens, tuning is almost impossible!
So cleaning your strings is step one to Guitar Tuning Nirvana! This simple precaution lengthens their lifespan, maintains Tone AND Tuning.
Use a lint-free cloth, wrap it under and around each string, one at a time, and wipe up and down, with a slight pressure, cleaning the complete surface.
- String Cleaning Tips Use Pure Alcohol ( buy a small bottle in the chemists ) on the cloth if necessary. Squeaky clean!
- Warning Be careful with this stuff it's poisonous if taken internally!
- String Tips Be careful not to run your fingers along the string too, it cuts deep and hurts like hell! I tie the cloth around the neck afterwards (they tend to mysteriously disappear for some strange reason just when needed), and make it a regular habit.
- String Tips Unless you're an experienced player, DON'T PUT NEW STRINGS ON YOUR GUITAR BEFORE A GIG! ... hi John ;-). If you must, try and allow about 30-45 Minutes to fit, stretch and warm them and yourself up ;-).
- Guitar Tuning Tips For more Tuning/Guitar resources and Info
- String Tips If you've ever played a guitar which sounds fine in the lower regions but goes out of tune as you move up the neck, the answer could well be dirty or knackered strings. If you change them and the problem goes away, then you know. If it doesn't go away, it could be the Guitar Intonation. Get a Guitar-Tech to check it for you.
BIG Guitar Tuning Tip #2 - S-t-r-e-t-c-h your Strings
When you put new strings on (if you have a Floating Bridge, do them one at a time, DON'T take all the old ones off at once), tune them up to concert pitch, then spend about 20 minutes stretching them by hand.
Left hand holds everything down at the nut, place 4 fingers of your right hand underneath one string, and slowly pull it out 'til you feel the tension and gently sort of bounce it forward and backwards, and S-T-R-E-T-C-H...and Loosen...and S-T-R...- Your Gee-tar will be Fit as a Fiddle...
Slide your hand position up the neck along the string, pull out and so on, covering the entire length from Nut to Bridge. Then retune it and do it all again. The first few times the string tuning will drop by as much as an Octave. After a few stretch/tune ups you'll notice it doesn't drop anymore.
If you let this stretching happen naturally, it can take a week or so until the guitar strings stop jumping out of tune every 2 seconds.
See if you can get your hands on the original Eric Johnson instructional video. A really super player who uses a Multi-Point Guitar Tuning system that works extremely and professionally well. It's well worth sussing out.
I've used it for years and added a few more of my own points, such as blending in the use of the open chords once I know the A String is in - Am, C Maj7, F Maj7, G, and Em. Each chord inversion targets an open string, and helps to point out offending "out-of-tuners".
HOT Guitar Tuning Tips
- Somedays you'll find that your "Musical Ear" seems a bit tired and it's difficult to tune up. This is quite normal and common, and using a Multi-Point Guitar Tuning System will help combat effectively against this.
Most Guitar-Tuning problems on a Stratocaster, arise from the old style Whammy Bar, which altho' a wonderful, fun, fantastic, and great invention, does have it's shortcomings. Newer Strat designs and Double-locking systems have mostly overcome these annoying side-effects, but they do have a very different feel to them.
But if you set an old one up properly, and keep it well lubricated (use sewing machine oil), you can reduce your Guitar-Tuning Vibrato-Bar prob's to a minimum.
It's well worth your while learning all you can about your guitar and music gear, as regards keeping it serviced and running smoothly. If you don't do it yourself, it means taking it to a repair guy or someone else, every time the slightest thing goes astray.
I have a mountain of books like this for reference and it's another interesting side of playing. Guitar Mags such as the excellent and long running Guitar Player or try Guitar One Magazine, Guitar Amps and so on. I'm sure I'm not alone there.
- Guitar Tuning Tip Don't "Cheat on the Cheese" when it comes to buying Guitar Strings. This too is a major source of Guitar Tuning problems even nightmares!
- Guitar String Tips Try a few different types out, and only buy from recognized and reputable guitar-string makers. Different players, styles and guitars have different needs.
- Guitar Tuning Tip Always go with a respected brandname such as "Ernie Ball" or "Fender". Something reliable with great tone.
I like 9's on a Strat and something heavier on an Electric Guitar with no Whammy Bar. You can experiment with gauges yourself, find one you like and stick to it, especially on a guitar with an old style hand-vibrato on it, ok whammy-bar.
- String Tips If you intend to play slide on Electric Guitars and Acoustics, use heavy gauge for the best guitar tone and tuning.
- String Tips In general the heavier the string the heavier the tone, but they are harder to play and control. Try bending a g on a heavy set and you'll see what I mean.
Strings are your Guitars lifeblood, and seriously important in our quest to find Guitar Tuning Nirvana! As mentioned elsewhere, no Lee Chang or Red Dragon 50c Specials!
Acoustic instruments don't usually come with the guitar tuning problems of an Electric, but excellent Acoustic Strings are necessary here too.
Remember Guitar Tuning is half the battle as they say, so it's seriously worth getting right at an early stage. Good or excellent guitar tuning skills, will automatically improve your musical ear and this also helps you play better.
There's nothing worse or more unprofessional than a "lazy ear" player, who flies around on the guitar no problem, but the guitar is constantly out of tune.
HOT Guitar Tuning Tip:
Use that Pencil Behind Your Ear/Stay in Guitar-Tune Nirvana!
Sometimes you might hear a pinging sound when you use the whammy. This is caused by stored tension in the Nut being released as you dip the bar, and then bam, your out of tune. If it's an emergency, ie it happens in the middle of a song during a gig, try pulling the bar up a bit and depending on how far you've slipped out of tune, this might just get you back in. At least to the end of the song. Hallelujah...
To solve this annoying and interfering nuisance, some good ol' lubrication is needed here. The best thing to lubricate the nut-end of things, is graphite. An easy way to do this, is to use an ordinary pencil, and literally write onto the nut underneath where the strings slot in (lifting it up first, loosen if necessary), and give it a coating of lead. Then the strings just glide along the grooves instead of sticking there until you "ping" and release them.
This simple little trick works wonders for guitar tuning dilemmas! Depending on your style and how often you gig, once a week of this treatment should be fine. Vaseline is also recommended but I think it's a bit messy and more suitable to nappy rash ;-).
Guitar Tuning Nirvana - Under the Bridge
Down at the other end, the Bridge, it's more or less the same problem. It's a bit more difficult to get the graphite under the string here, so loosen the strings a bit one by one, pull aside, and pencil the saddle itself, just under where the string lies. After you finish one, tune it back up and move on to the next one. Don't release the tension of all the strings at once with a floating bridge, as you can imagine this plays havoc with the tuning.
Guitar Tuning Nirvana - Bridge Saddles
Giddyup there...If you notice a lot of strings breaking across the Bridge, it's time to replace your Bridge Saddles. If your handy at doing your own servicing, this is relatively easy. If not, get them done in a good, reputable repair shop. It's not expensive, and after you've gone thru' breaking string after string every night, you'll be so relieved, not to have to worry about that anymore, that it's worth every cent! Now you can concentrate on your playing instead. Yeh!
Don't do the job yourself if your not sure how to reset the saddles, distance, action and string heights. If you set these wrong, this will play HAVOC with your Guitar Tuning! You have been politely warned...
If you use special replacement graphite saddles and a graphite nut this will improve things considerably. These are not much more expensive than the normal ones and they really do make a huge difference. When you don't have to worry about gear and equipment performance and breakdown, It's half the battle.
Under the Bridge (that sounds familiar), you'll see 6 screws lying flush along a metal plate. If you dip the bar you'll notice a little gap appearing underneath these, and you can lubricate under each one, with 3 in 1 sewing-machine oil. It's ideal for guitars and not to heavy.
Next, we're onto the Guitar-Neck itself. While this doesn't affect the tuning as such, it's the final piece in our Strat tip-top jigsaw. Once a month or so, depending on how often you gig, loosen off 2 strings at a time and pull them aside. Rub a small amount of almond oil into the neck and leave soaking for a few minutes. Wipe any excess off with a dry cloth and cover the whole board in this way.
Tune back up and don't forget to s-t-r-e-t-c-h the strings again. It won't take long if they've been done before.
This makes the neck feel nice and smooth to the touch, and also brings out the wood design. Improves general sliding notes around, and feels so professional to play!
Guitar Tuning Tip: Don't mess around with the Neck regarding Bowing or Concave problems unless you are experienced and fully confident of doing the job. Doing this wrong can not only destroy your guitar tuning, but the your precious guitar itself! Any probs in this area see a Guitar Tech.
Another huge factor to be considered in Staying-in-Guitar-Tune Land, is your Musical Lugholes! Ears! Lose these and you can forget playing anything. (unless your as good as Beethoven...fair play to 'ya if so.
"Ear Today, Gone Tomorrow". Use special Ear-Plugs at rehearsals. Make sure they are Audio ear-protectors. There is more than one type.
Oh while I think of it, get yourself a good chromatic guitar tuner that will last you.
- BEGINNERS GUITAR TUNING TIPS: For a professional vibe on stage you need an Inline-Tuner. There's nothing worse than hearing someone on stage giving it the oul "doi, doi, doi, doirrng" before your first number and all during the gig. When 2 or 3 are doing it at the same time including possibly the drummer, you have complete "amateur hour"! It doesn't exactly induce a gig-owner to book you again and it's not only amateurish but extremely annoying to the punters.
- Guitar Tuner Tip Lots of Metronomes have built in tuning capabilities.