One of the most common complaints among guitar players is that their guitar won’t stay in tune. More often than not, the solution to the problem is as simple as a littlepreventive maintenance and proper set-up and stringing of the instrument. The easiest and most logical way to approach tuning problems is simply to follow the string path from one end to the other and inspectthe operation of each component that interacts with the string.
1. Tuning Machines: If they’re hard to adjust, damaged or prone to slippage, replace them with good quality tuners. Be sure all nutsand screws are tight.
2. The Truss Rod: A truss rod that is improperly adjusted can cause a guitar to play out of tune throughout the entire neck. Truss rod adjustments are best left to theexperienced. It’s easier to spend a few bucks on a setup from a good tech than spend a few hundred on replacing a snapped truss rod.
3. The Nut: If you hear a “tink” when tuning, the nut slots aretoo narrow and the string is binding. If first position notes or chords sound out of tune, the string slots may not be low enough and the string is traveling so far to contact the fret that it’s beingpulled out of tune. Either of these conditions is easily corrected by a competent tech. Also, there are “nut lube” products available that can help prevent string binding.
4. The Frets: If thefrets are not level and properly crowned, the guitar can sound out of tune. In extreme cases, a fretted note will actually sound at an adjacent, higher fret.
5. Pickups: In some cases, apickup raised too near the strings will exert a magnetic pull on the strings, causing them to sound out of tune. This can also reduce sustain. Recommended pickup heights are a good starting point but don’tbe afraid to use your ears to dial in the best position.
6. The Bridge: A bridge that needs to be adjusted too low or too high may be an indication of a neck that needs resetting. An...