Author: Ian Bush
If you ever hear your strings creaking, it just means the string is getting caught a little in the nut.
Grab a pencil; rub the pencil graphite in the slot, notice the led begin to flake off into the nut slot. wipe away excess. If you prefer to use what professionals use try Big Bends Nut Sauce for the best results.
This process will make your guitar tune a lot easier.
How to Solve tuning problems on a Steel String Acoustic Guitar or Electric Guitar:
There are 5 main causes of tuning problems on a steel string guitar.
1. Faulty Machine heads - meaning it's not winding (faulty worm-gear).
2. Too little string has been wound on the machine head
3. Too Much string on the machine head – the ideal here is 3-4 turns, 1 layer of wind only
4. Uneven wind/Gaps on the string wind on the machine head , MAKE SURE you wind your string symmetrically, each wrap next to each other, like a Snake Coil.
5. FOR ACOUSTIC STEEL STRING:
- The ball end of the string must be bent in a 'banana' shape before inserting it into the bridge pin holes,
- once inside, then insert the pins and push down whilst pulling the string back.
- This will endure that the ball-end is sitting snuggly underneath the sound board (or top of the guitar).
6. FOR ELECTRIC GUITARS
- Make sure your ball end is sitting firmly on to the bridge slot end, so it not hanging out of the slot.
- Make sure that as you wind the string on the machine head, (if applicable to 'Strat' and 'Tele' type guitars) that your string is sitting under the string tree on the head stock
7. For Classical/Flamenco Nylon String Acoustic Guitars
- Make sure you have made a secure knot-tie once inserting the string into the machine head.
- Make sure that you have made a secure winding pattern knot tie with the string in the bridge slots.
Now, the most important part for tuning stability... Pull on your strings (Stretching Strings)
Pulling on your strings helps remove the slack at the machine head , It also helps settle the string into the top of the guitar.
Play a note - Pull the string (give it a good go , if you’re worried about breaking the string then use the low E (the fattest string as there is no way you can break this string) play the same note again. If the pitch remains the same, then your strings are fine, but if it changed pitch, a lower pitch, then you had slack in your system. This simple secret will keep you in tune for much, much longer.
***Caution: when stretching strings, do not pull too hard or you will damage your strings and shorten their life span.***
Now try another test. Gently pull your bridge pin out (but only half way or the string may come out – be careful here and protect your eyes) if you can do that without the note changing pitch then you were setup correctly - you should be able to move the bridge pin and have almost no effect on the pitch of the string.
How do I stop the bridge pin issue happening the next time I change my string’s ?
Put a bend in the end of your string 1-cm from the ball, as you push the bridge pin in the guitar pull back on the string so it’s sitting right on the sound board (as an added benefit your tone will also be much better)
General steps to string stretching
- Stretch you string near the nut and make sure you're pulling with one hand, and with your other hand pushing the string at the machine head gently. This will settle down the wind.
- Now stretch near the bridge saddle. For Acoustics you may notice the string slip from underneath the pins, that's a good sign, then re-tune.
How to set up a guitar properly:
Check out our blog post for an easy way to adjust your truss rod.
Firstly, you need to tune your guitar to a perfect tune. you will need an electronic tuner
As you can see down here, as you look down the fretboard (the wood underneath the strings that has the frets) that this guitar has a curve going away from the strings(known as a backwards curve). When it is curved away from the string you need to loosen the neck truss rod, so that neck appears straight to your eye. if the neck is curved towards the strings (known as a forwards curve), you need to tighten the neck truss rod. so that neck appears straight to your eye.
Now to adjust your neck, you will need an Allen key (which normally comes supplied with your guitar). To tighten (which will straighten the neck) you turn the key clockwise as you are looking at it. But be careful ! Don't over tighten or force it as you could damage your guitar if your not careful. A truss rod can often be turned completely off, so it feels like its doing nothing, but once it has started to adjust, a 1/4 turn is usually enough to make it straight again.
Now you need to change the action height.
Adjust String Action (height from fretboard)
Here you can see how we measure the action height of a guitar. To do this properly you need a metal ruler that ends exactly at zero, and preferably a wide one. The small rulers are OK, but a wide ruler is much easier to make sure you have it nice and straight (and if its not straight your measurement will be wrong).
Measuring at the 12th fret (as in the photo), the action height should be 2.6 mm for Steel String Acoustic guitar, 1.8 for electric, 2.0mm for bass and 3mm for a Classical.
To lower the action height on an ST, TC, Or PB, simply take the smaller Allen key supplied, and tighten or loosen the Allen key screws on the bridge ( tighten to lower, loosen to raise.)
On a LP or SG guitar, take a flat head screwdriver, and adjust the bridge screws. again, tighten to lower, loosen to heighten.