Guitars go out of tune.
But they should not do so constantly.
If your guitar won’t stay in tune at all, it indicates a problem.
The good news is that it is usually an easy problem to fix.
In fact, in most cases, the hardest part is figuring out what is causing the issue.
That’s exactly what we’re going to help with today.
Keep reading for a list of possible causes to check. We will also help you fix the problem, so that your guitar will stay in tune as it should.
Table of Contents
- 1 Guitar Won’t Stay In Tune
- 2 Guitar Does Not Stay In Tune: Final Thoughts
Guitar Won’t Stay In Tune
When your guitar keeps going out of tune, the problem usually comes down to some fundamental features of your guitar. It can also be the result of external factors like temperature swings and humidity.
Let’s dive in and find out why your guitar does not stay in tune and how to fix the issue. It all begins with a better understanding of your guitar. I know, you already know your guitar, but hear me out.
Understanding Your Guitar
No matter how well you know your guitar, there’s always something new to learn. It is not just an instrument, but a cleverly designed system where all components work in perfect harmony.
However, if something is out of place or out of balance, you’ll notice things not working the way they should. And this is what can cause your guitar to have unstable tuning. The first place to look is the way you restring the guitar.
Pay Attention To How You Restring Your Guitar
Improper restringing is one of the most common issues with tuning instability. Chances are that this is what is causing you trouble with your guitar constantly going out of tune. As luck would have it, this problem is also one of the easiest to solve.
In particular, we’re mostly talking about how the strings are seated on the tuning machine cylinder. If you see a mess there, with too many wingdings all on top of each other, that’s the problem.
And if you don’t see enough windings, but just a string in there that’s barely holding on, then that is also an issue.
So what do you do?
First, when you pull the string through your tuning machine, leave the hole in the cylinder facing the direction of the neck. Then, pull the string until it’s straight.
Once you do that, you’ll want to pull it back a little. With 3+3 headstock, go back by one distance between the tuning machines.
And with a 6-in-line headstock, go back by two distances, since they tuners are closer together. You want to have enough room to wind the string, but not too much.
There are a few ways you can proceed with winding your string. In my experience, the best method is to fold the end of the string right where it’s going out of the cylinder. After folding, start wrapping this end by going underneath the string.
The next step is crucial.
As you’re holding both ends, fold the string over the cylinder of the tuning machine. This way, you “choke” the string in place. And that’s when you want to start winding.
I highly recommend using string winders. And make sure that you’re winding the string in the correct direction when restringing your guitar.
Stretch The Strings
If you’re sure that you have restrung your guitar properly, you might also want to try to stretch the strings. You should do this every time after restringing.
Get the string to the desired tuning and tension. Then go to about the 12th fret and gently pull with four of your fingers away from the fretboard.
This practice will help lock individual strings into their place on both ends. They will stretch enough to sit nicely at the tuning cylinder, as well as where the ball ends are placed, be it within the body or in the tailpiece.
Don’t pull them too hard, but just enough to feel that they’re stretching. You may have to repeat the process — a total of two or three times over a few minutes. Once you do that, tune your guitar again.
You should also check whether your strings are sitting properly in the guitar’s nut and saddles.
Proper Guitar Setup And Intonation
Of course, it’s mandatory that your guitar is set up properly. This is best left for professional techs who know how to set up guitars, depending on the string gauge you’re using and your preferred string action.
What’s more, improper intonation may make it seem that your guitar is out of tune when, in fact, it’s the uneven pitch across the neck. Drastic change in string gauge, for instance, can complicate things. But even apart from that, truss rod and hardware adjustments are necessary once in a while.
One slightly more serious problems is a faulty nut. An old, worn-out nut can cause a lot of trouble.
If you see that the nut’s slots are worn out, uneven, or just wider than they should be, it’s time to replace it. Once again, this is best left for a professional, preferably a luthier.
Old, rusty, and used-up tuning machines can also cause trouble. If you’ve actively been using the same guitar for years, tuning machines could be an issue if we’re talking about stock low-quality ones.
This doesn’t happen too often, but if you notice that tuners aren’t doing their job the way they should, consider replacing them. It’s always a good investment.
Saddles and the bridge can sometimes be an issue, too. But this is only the case old, low-quality guitars that haven’t been maintained properly.
External Factors Can Sometimes Make An Impact
Your guitar is a complex system. As such, it’s susceptible to outside factors, including significant temperature changes and humidity. This is why you should always keep your guitars in a stable environment. Ideally, it should be a guitar case.
Your guitar is mostly made out of wood, which is easily affected by humidity and can even deform over time. If you’re living in an arid region, using a humidifier is a good idea.
And if you’re in a generally humid region, there are dehumidifiers for this purpose. I also recommend using temperature and humidity sensors.
Some Headstock Designs Can Cause This Issue
Finally, some headstock designs can be a little tricky. This is especially the case with Gibson guitars that have headstocks at an angle, and strings that form additional tension at the nut due to the position of the tuners.
A product like String Butler can help. But other methods, like lubricating your nut, can be really helpful as well.
Guitar Does Not Stay In Tune: Final Thoughts
It can be extremely frustrating when your guitar won’t stay in tune. Especially if you perform publicly and can’t even get through a set without having to retune.
There are a few issues that can cause a guitar to constantly lose its tuning. Hopefully you were able to figure out what was causing the issue in your case, after reading through the article above. And hopefully, it was an easy problem to fix. Most of the time, it is.