How to keep your guitar in tune

Mark Turko

         In this article we will explore various reasons why your guitar won’t stay in tune. It is a very frustrating experience to use a guitar tuner get each string just right then go to strum a chord and not have it sound good. There can be several reasons for this. We will explore some of the many reasons why this might happen. 

guitar picture

String Changing

         The first thing and easiest solution is to change your strings. Many times just changing your guitar strings if they are old can solve your problem.

How do you know if they are old?

A simple way to determine if they are old is to look at the plain (unwound) strings. If they are no longer shiny and silver looking you could use a change of strings. Another problem that could be the culprit for not staying in tune is not having your strings wrapped around the tuner post neatly. This can be a cause for not staying in tune.

Be sure to have your string wraps neat and not crossing over each other. The photo below is an example of a bad wrap job around your post.        

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 Having fresh strings on

So your strings are fresh and the wrappings around the post are neat but you guitar still won’t stay in tune. What’s next? A common problem is that your strings are binding up in the nut. That is the where the strings cross over from the fretboard to the headstock where tour tuners are located.

What? Strings move?

The strings should move freely in the grooves. Some lubrication in each groove maybe needed. There are several products available on the market that can easily remedy this problem. One of these is Big Bens Nut Sauce that comes in a convenient syringe application that can easily apply the lubricant into those tine grooves.

guitar grooves fretboard

         If all of these suggestions so far haven’t solved your problems the need of replacing your guitar machine heads/tuners may be necessary. Before you run out and start removing parts and replacing them check with a reputable local guitar repairman first.

Do this especially if you have an electric guitar with a tremolo/whammy bar set up. Your bridge may need an adjustment and solve your problems. Bridge adjustments should be done by a qualified professional.

As you can see there are a few things you can try on your own to help remedy staying in tune. Hopefully these can help you on your way to making great sounding music.

Author notes: Mark Turko owns and operates a guitar teaching school in Connecticut USA. He has been trained and certified as an instructor for acoustic and electric guitar lessons.