Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Factors That Affect Tuning Stability?

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by billgwx, Jan 7, 2018.

  1. billgwx

    billgwx Tele-Meister

    Nov 6, 2009
    Centereach NY
    A year ago I replaced the pickups in my 2004 MIM Tele with Zexcoil Convertibles, its Ping tuners with Schaller locking tuners, and its string tree with a modern Fender version. Ever since then I've struggled with tuning stability issues which I'm trying to resolve, mostly on the G and sometimes the B.

    Before I made those changes the guitar would hold tune for days--now I find myself having to retune almost after every song take when recording. I figure I may have screwed up something along the path from tuning post to the bridge, maybe not screwing something down hard enough? Or could it be something inside the tuners that requires lubrication?

    Could the nut also be at issue? It's is the same as when I bought the guitar used 8-1/2 years ago. I used to get buzzing at the nut on the G string, which as mentioned above is also the biggest culprit when tuning goes astray (flat), but that buzzing went away on its own.

    If it matters, my tuning technique (which also changed when stability problems began cropping up) is mostly unison tuning to the high E, though when recording I'll tune in whatever fashion works best for a particular song or passage within a song. Thanks...

  2. MahoganyStratDZ

    MahoganyStratDZ Tele-Meister

    Mar 5, 2012
    Hard to say it should hold a tuning, I would assume nut slots being the B and G are using different saddles imo the issue would be the nut unless the TMs are slipping for whatever reason.

  3. Lupo

    Lupo Tele-Holic

    May 19, 2014
    Try to lube with some graphite (i.e. a pencil) the nut slots...

  4. brookdalebill

    brookdalebill Telefied Ad Free Member

    Nov 15, 2009
    Austin, Tx
    Seek professional help.
    There are many remedies.
    Sometimes you need a couple of them.
    It might cost a little $, but it’s worth it.
    A good luthier/tech is wonderful thing!
    Quinn23 likes this.

  5. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI

    Make sure you always 'tune up' to pitch. I'm sure you do but it's worth verifying as some overshoot and try to hit the target on the way back down, then the first strum pulls out the slack in the system making the guitar out of tune.

    graphite in the nut slots, lift the strings to get the graphite under them. HB or No2 pencil like used for tests.

    I'd try the guitar without the string retainer for a while. When you have that off look for burrs, sand/file them out and graphite that too. You could look for a spacer to raise the retainer so it only pulls the strings down a little or enough to stop extra noise up there or put a rubber band on the tuner side of the nut to see if that fixes any reason for the retainer but not so much pressure the friction is increased.


  6. LowCaster

    LowCaster Tele-Holic

    Jan 24, 2011
    Paris, France
    The good thing with locking tuners is the improved tuning stability. That is only if they succeed at clamping the string, and if you tension the string properly before winding. You should be tuned with the string making less than half a turn around the post.

    You could swap the tuners (for example swap B with E if the post heigth and the string hole diameter are equal) and see what happens.

    Otherwise I'd tend to think that the nut needs some attention. The buzz disappeared, and now it's locking the string? Apply graphite, or enlarge the string slots, or a new nut has to be cut.

    I assume the string tree is on E and B? So it not the problem as it would not affect G. Lube it with graphite anyway.

  7. philosofriend

    philosofriend Tele-Holic

    Oct 28, 2015
    Inspect everything about the neck joint. A crack in the wood there can cause tuning issues. The wood in the neck has to be strong so you can tighten the screws enough.

    Nuts can wear and cause issues. Get a strong lens and look at where the string goes over the nut slot. It ought to be shiny over an amount of nut slot about equal in width to a fret. If the string is dragging itself over a lot of nut slot it can get hung up easier. The height of the string retainers can be part of this problem. Believe it or not, a nut is a guitar part that wears out. Strings are a harder metal than nuts.

  8. billgwx

    billgwx Tele-Meister

    Nov 6, 2009
    Centereach NY
    Thanks for all the responses. Lots to consider:

    I lube all string contact points with Nut Sauce--retainer, nut slots, saddles, holes where the strings enter the body.

    Am a DIY guy, and enjoy tackling basic setup/technical issues. That said, I don't mess around when it comes to the nut and frets, so if this is a nut issue or I can't solve the problem myself, then I'd call in the troops.

    Fender recommends tuning *down* to pitch with locking tuners: From <>: "That is to just ensure that the string is stable on the tuning post, when you overwind the string slightly the grooves of the string can settle onto the post eliminating any 'slippage' during first time use." Makes sense with well-stretched strings because with locking tuners, if strings are properly installed there aren't any wraps around the post, so little to no slack to get pulled out. I have a feeling the right approach then is to give it a couple of shots--stretch the strings, overshoot and tune down to pitch, play a little, then tune up to hit the target pitch the last time?

    Interesting ideas on the string retainer. It's retaining the E and B, and I'm having the biggest stability problems with the G. I prefer to keep the retainer even with staggered locking tuners, to for a better break angle over the nut and better sustain.

    The tuners on the higher strings are alo the same height, so I may swap tuners to see what changes. When I first got them the bearings in some were stuck, and I had to rap them hard before installing to loosen them. Perhaps they're still binding and need lubrication?

    Finally, I'll get out the magnifying glass and inspect the neck and the nut. Had been toying with the idea of replacing the neck with a Warmoth that matches the one on my Strat anyway, to avoid strain, cramping, etc. when playing guitars with different neck characteristics. Time for a new nut no matter what :D

    Speaking of the Strat, it has the same locking tuners and does not have tuning stability issues.

  9. LutherBurger

    LutherBurger Friend of Leo's

    Oct 29, 2013
    I've seen this advice before, but I ain't buying it. I'd focus my attention right there.
    Teleguy61 likes this.

  10. billgwx

    billgwx Tele-Meister

    Nov 6, 2009
    Centereach NY
    Strings properly installed with locking tuners should have almost no wrap around the tuning post. Again, Fender's reasoning is to ensure that the string is stable on the tuning post, that when overwinding strings slightly they can settle onto the post and help eliminate any 'slippage' during first time use. That's not a worry with non-locking tuners. At that point I'd say if playing pulls out whatever slack is left, I'd do whatever works to keep the strings in pitch. This next set of strings (installing tonight) I'm going to consistently tune down to pitch to see what happens.

    Am wondering if I'm not tightening the lock quite enough when installing some of the strings? I don't want to overtighten and break them, maybe I went too far in the other direction. Also, for my situation this might also go back to some of the tuners having stuck when I first got them, so they might require some lubrication.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2018

  11. ckroenlein

    ckroenlein Tele-Holic

    Sep 29, 2006
    St. Louis, Missourah
    90% of the time it is a nut issue.
    Quinn23 likes this.

  12. Tele-phone man

    Tele-phone man Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 11, 2006
    Asheville, NC
    I tighten the tension screws on each machine head to a higher setting than stock. It's harder to turn the tuner, but I find that I experience more stable tuning. Combine that with proper break angle over the nut, and lube for the slots, and you have a guitar that will stay in tune very well.
    billgwx likes this.

  13. billgwx

    billgwx Tele-Meister

    Nov 6, 2009
    Centereach NY
    Hmmm...tuners taken off and reinstalled in semi-random fashion (the ones with the lower holes of course remain with the higher strings), new strings installed/stretched, string contact points lubed with Nut Sauce, tension screws tightened up (helps greatly on tuning, with much less over/under-shooting the mark), neck examined and looking in good shape...better but still going slightly out of tune more than I'd like, and still more before the locking tuners were installed. I'm gonna go with the nut idea, replace it, and see what happens. No nut files here nor prior skill so tech time :D

  14. Cesspit

    Cesspit Tele-Meister

    Oct 16, 2014
    Oxfordshire England
    Some good advice here. Also make the intonation is spot on. That can confuse matters if it's not accurate.

  15. ckroenlein

    ckroenlein Tele-Holic

    Sep 29, 2006
    St. Louis, Missourah
    Even when a nut is lubed does not mean problem solved. The shape and angle of the slots have to be right so there is no binding.
    Quinn23 likes this.

  16. kennl

    kennl Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 6, 2007
    Moon Township, PA
    I have found the vintage "button" string tree can develop a notch where the string enters from the nut side that can cause binding. Opened it up with a triangle file and all is well.

  17. Thin69

    Thin69 Friend of Leo's

    Oct 28, 2009
    Galveston, TX
    When it goes out of tune are the strings going flat, sharp or both.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2018
    telemnemonics likes this.

  18. The Ballzz

    The Ballzz Tele-Afflicted

    Apr 11, 2016
    Las Vegas, NV
    If you play a lot and will continue to do so AND own/plan to own multiple guitars, the relatively small investment in a set of nut files and a few blanks and time/patience to practice will pay for themselves in one or two nut jobs! Not to mention the nuts will be how YOU want them, as opposed to how some tech may THINK you want them! I tend to run my nuts a tiny bit lower (as required) than most, and while it can make for great tuning and buttery smooth playability at the lower frets, it requires replacement more often, especially on my wiggle stick guitars. In my estimate, money and time well spent! :cool:
    Just Sayin'
    mars67 likes this.

  19. theripper

    theripper TDPRI Member

    Nov 11, 2017
    Hauntingmidsville, Illinois
    Bridge saddles can can tuning instability.

  20. luckett

    luckett Friend of Leo's

    Jun 14, 2011
    The other 60% of the time it's a tuner or bridge issue.

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