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Guitar Won't Stay In Tune


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I bought a kids guitar like the one below to play at my office ... at lunch ... of course. Not a bad paint job Problem is, it doesn't really stay in tune very well. It does have a compensating bridge, but I really can't see a trussrod in it. And no fretboard. Frets and neck are all one piece.

I'm going to put on .008's for strings, because that's the lightest I can find. Any other suggestions for trying to keep it in tune?

Is it possible to buy a neck that length with a trussrod? Is it worth it?

kidssun_main.jpg

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8s are kinda too thin, unless you're like tuning it up on octave or something.. :D

cus i'm assuming that this isn't a full-scaled guitar. what is it? like 20" scale?

kinda off topic, but i don't suggest a standard E tuning, especially on light gauges.

as for the tuning issue, the bridge shouldn't be the problem, cus by the looks of it, its a hardtail bridge.

so the other possible cause would be faulty tuners or improper/bad stringing method.

and btw, you might want to try a thicker gauge string, similar idea to the 24" jaguar/jazzmasters

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True the strings will stretch but it could be the tuners themselves moving around or they may have play in the gears which a lot of low cost tuners have.

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To answer some questions,

- it did come pre-strung

- it's a 30" guitar and mostly neck

- I bought 8's with the thought that it could be string tension bending the neck causing it to go out of tune

- Not sure about the tuners or their quality, but probably bad

- I'll string it up and I usually tug on it to get rid of loose tension

Any thoughts about no truss rod on a guitar this small?

Jef

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It may well have a truss rod, just not an adjustable one. If the neck is reasonably straight it may not be too much of a problem. I have seen similar guitars in dept stores lately, possibly a good thing to get kids into guitar and music, but they are kind of "toys". That said, it may well play fine and sound ok so don't give up on it. Most likely the strings need settling in, the quality of the strings is usually pretty bad so a new set is probably not a bad thing. A standard set tuned to a key that "feels" right with the tension of a small scale is often the best approach.

If the neck bends a bit, buy a slide and tune open, it might open up a whale world of new sounds to explore and these things can often work out great for that!

good luck...and it is cute...

pete

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yeah, i would do what pete mentioned. just use a standard gauge and transpose the tuning the guitar to nothing that's too firm or loose in terms of string tension, too firm=likely string breakage, too loose=weak tone and fret buzz

and as for the truss rod being there or not, it shouldn't really have an effect on tuning.

but maybe its more helpful if u mention an example of how it gets detuned and to what degree..

like.. bending strings alot, instantly outta tune, how much outta tune? (like half step or whole step up or down, or a few cents?)

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I like the idea of comfortably tuning. Not necessarily in tune or standard tuning, but not too loose not too tight.

As far as the amount it goes out of tune, well that's hard to say. I tuned it with a tuner. Then play a chord and the chord is out. What I've noticed is that the higher 3 strings stay in tune better and are closer. Not quite a 1/4 step off. There's always some amount of dissonance. The lower strings can go up to a 1/2 to a whole step right after tuning. It's immediate and very noticeable. Tune, play a C chord and it's out of tune. Bending the upper strings does throw it maybe closer to a 1/2 step, but it's really all over even after tuning. I think the upper strings go out because of bending.

It's hard to tell because it's never quite in tune.

I bought my daughter a pink one. She doesn't have it yet, but I know she'll enjoy it.

Jef

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A pink one!!!

I am not sure that I completely understand the problem.

Lets see...is it that the strings are actually going out of tune. That is you tune it, play a bit and the open string is not what it was before.

This will be the result of string stretching, tuners or often the case poor stringing. By the later I mean some guy or girl in a factory sticks the string in and winds the whole length around and around with something much like a drill! If this is the case, even if not restringing, reduce the turns around the tuner to a reasonable 2-3 at most and if you know how do a kind of lock so that the next wind goes over the first to lock in more securely. While strings stretch easy enough, stretch and string slip in overenthusiastic winds around a tuner can take forever to stabilize!

If it is that you tune it, but some chords are more in tune than others but the strings remain fairly stable, then it is likely to be an intonation problem...hopefully not a miscalculation of the fret positions! For intonation (not likely to have been done from the factory at all), play an open string, then the string at the 12th fret. If the 12th sounds sharp, lengthen the string slightly at the saddle by moving it back, the opposite if the two are sharp...use a tuner if necessary. (I think that is right?!)

It could also be that the nut is sticking, or too high. How is the ease of fretting on open chords. If you have to push hard or a long way, then you are bending the strings relative to the open strings.

One of the big problems of short scale instruments is that the tolerances are smaller...or so it seems.

I built this little guitar as an exercise in lateral thinking...

lowtechguitar2.jpg

A low tech "free" guitar. It was made from found bits in the shed and had a scale based on my acoustic as if a capo were on the 5th fret. The strings were old ones reversed as there is no headstock!

This short scale was incredibly hard to get to tune...it probably didn't help that the frets are coathanger wire glued on and the bridge similar material!!!!

Surprisingly though, this guitar is quite comfortable to play (sounds like a cross between a mandolin and a banjo...ie bad) and fitted under the seat of the car so I could practice scales or whatever at the lights without sticking the neck out the window!

Anyway....perhaps sit down with it and try and work out exactly which of the things mentioned above is the problem (stretch, action or intonation) and if you can identify the problems...hope it works out for you and your daughter makes some beuatiful music with it!

pete

Oh...just thought of another tip...always tune up to pitch, if go to far, go back and up, this usually addresses nut gripping the string!

Edited by psw
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im not a luither but i have delt with a few cheap guitars and here are a few things i have found along the way

1 cheap tuner will slip

2 loose bridge with move and toss it out of tune also cheap trems

3 nutt will cause too much binding on the string

4 i have had to take a bolt on neck off and clean the SCREWS!!! the maker of this fine battle ax other wise know as a epiphone sg that thing weighes a ton used wax to lub the neck screws well the thing wouldnt stay in tune and i finaly noticed that the neck was loose due to the wax build up i took the neck off and cleaned every thing good then it stayed in tune fine. it still weighs a ton.

but any way in my short time messing with guitars thats what i have found

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im not a luither but i have delt with a few cheap guitars and here are a few things i have found along the way

1 cheap tuner will slip

2 loose bridge with move and toss it out of tune also cheap trems

3 nutt will cause too much binding on the string

if you want to rule out #3 being the cause, lift the strings out of the nut and rub a little lip chap stick on the area that sits in the nut.

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I just wouldn't have much confidence in ever getting this guitar to play like a real guitar. They're just not really built for that, they're more something for a little kid to bang on for a while, get disgusted and never want to play guitar again. I mean, sure, it looks like a guitar.

If you're really looking for a guitar to practice on at work, why not do what John Mayall did to his guitar -- he took a Squier, chopped off the wings so it's basically just a small rectangular body. The neck is normal scale.

Or have a look at the Fernandes Nomads --they're quite compact, and some of them have built in amps too. A bit pricier than a kid's guitar, sure, but you can find them used for not that much. I really like the American Flag model.

There are also short-scale guitars out there -- look for a Rickenbacker 325 clone.

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I built a 17" scale guitar for my son with a steel truss rod. My friend Mike has it now and his 3 year old son loves playing with it. Mike plays it too, and it stays in tune and intonates pretty well. Because it's a small scale, I tune it to an A. The guitar you show could be that small. If it is, then you'll run into problems if you can't tune up to A and also have a very low action. On Eli's mini guitar any open chords were way off until I cut the nut slots lower. Put a capo on yours and see if chords are better that way.

But honestly, if you're having problems with it already, then I might recommend you return it and get the Squier Mini. It's $99 and is really a fun little guitar. Just make sure you play several, because it took our trying 3 before we found one with no loose screws or cracks in the finish :D

We actually now have two 22.5" scale guitars. A Daisy Rock heart shaped guitar that is my daughter's, and a Squier mini strat which in theory is my son's. But Maddy plays the strat and Eli plays the Mason & Hamlin :DB) . The Daisy Rock is better made, and has better tuners, but the heart shaped body doesn't balance well so Maddy uses the mini strat.

All the Fender really needs is better tuners! It'll go out if I bend notes. Not a big deal since Maddy doesn't do that yet, and by the time she does, I'll have her custom Maddacaster done. Still, I'm guessing that the tuners is not the only problem with your little guitar. I think it's probably a poor scale, a too high action because there's no truss rod, and iffy tuners. Might be more work or money to fix it than to just get the mini strat!

Good luck and let us know how you solve this,

Todd

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I re=strung it today. It in-tonates well on the open strings. When you play a chord it's immediately off on every string. My fear is that the frets are not exactly right. Everything else is great. How so I test the fret widths?

So I got around the whole thing and bought a 3/4 squire today. I can't return the other one so I'm going to stick with it and keep trying.

Maybe one of you can make me a neck that has correct spacing.

Jef

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Someone else mentioned it...but how high is the nut. Do the strings get bent a fair bit when a chord is pushed down? It would be hard to believe that they got all the frets wrong...no doubt a machine cut them. At worst it will make a fine lap steel!

Keep trying to work out what exactly is causing the problems. It would appear that string stretch is not the problem. Maybe keep playing with the intonation, test it with unisons on the open and fifth fret, octaves all over and open to harmonics on the 12th fret.

pete

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hey, try out this program for tuning. it pretty precise, hook up the guitar to your computer and test the pitches of each string and each fret, and see how well the pitch centers

www.aptuner.com

Sounds like he already knows it's far off pitch with just his ear.

I'd tune it with a capo on. Might take a few minutes because you'll have to keep loosening the capo to adjust pitch on each string, but if the guitar plays OK that way, you'll know you just need to lower the action at the nut. I think a zero fret would be a better design on a mini guitar.

Enjoy the sqier mini,

Todd

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FYI- The Squier mini is OK in quality. If you want really decent, look at the Ibanez Micros. They look just like a mini RG, and now the current version even has a neck pickup that is actually not a pickup but a very small built in amp. It's a trip.

If you want even BETTER quality, most people agree the ESP mini Kirk Hammett signature guitar is where it's at. You don't see them very often, but Musicians Friend has them.

Personally, I am building my own design, in mini form at 19.5" scale for my son and it is nearing completion. I'll put up a build thread on it soon. It looks like a blend of an LP, a strat and a tele, and is built to full high end guitar specs (solid one piece white limba guitar and neck, ebony FB, 24 frets, one EMG passive).

Edited by komodo
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Well, I should start giving a review of kid guitars because I'm learning a lot.

On the problem child ... no pun intended.

The nut at the top is REALLY high. I think I'll try to either get a new nut or shave this one down. It's a good 1/ 4 inch high. I would like to tune it and try a capo and see if that has an effect on it.

Remember I bought a pink mini for my kid? Well took it out and tuned it. Great guitar. It's made by an Ebay company called 2kool4skool http://cooldiscountinstruments.com/ specifically this is the kid's 1/4 scale. Nice guitar. I'm impressed. I might give it to her for her first day of kindergarten.

So after some more test on the problem child it looks like when I play bar chords it stays fairly well in tune. But any chord with open string sounds horrible.

So could it be the nut is too high?

Jef

nut.jpg

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Just as I suspected...it wasn't string stretch or tuners at all...an here you were looking for an new neck for the thing!!!

Even if you go a new nut, you would still have to shape it. I have used a blunt knife (or back of a knife blade or thin metal rule even) with layers of thin wet and dry sand paper to cut the grooves down to an appropriate height...just don't go too low. Your bridge height may also be a little high from that picture...maybe adjust that first. I assume it is a bolt on neck, it will be possible to shim under then neck also for a little tilt adjustment if the bridge is a little low already (this gives more play to play with and increases downward pressure on the saddles). Grind down the nut slots too far and you will need to look at a new neut however, so take it easy...do it with the strings on one at a time, pulling them out of the slot to the side and check frequently.

Generally all such fine adjustments will be totally ignored even in brand name cheapo guitars, but it is surprising how well you can get a guitar to play with some fiddling around...I have some hope for this thing...good to see you are perservering!

Kindergarten! You know my daughter didn't want to play guitar but one day decided (like at three) that she wanted to play violin. I new a shop locally and got a real cheap $30 violin and gave it to her thinking that when confronted with this obstacle, she would turn to the guitar....oh no! 2 years later (5 y.o.) she wants lessons and a 1/4 violin. At almost 14 she still plays violin but can also fluently read music and seemingly transcribes to other instruments. When she went to high school they didn't offer violin but she had decided that she wanted to learn flute! I was disappointed as she plays violin so well. Within three weeks she had not only learn't how to make sounds out of the thing, but finished the entire first years book and was trying to play violin pieces on the thing...for the life of me I couldn't get a sound out of it. 5 years ago I took her down to the music shop to get some strings and gas bag with the owner and she picks up a guitar and starts playing ode to joy on the thing! The guy says she is pretty good, how long has she been playing...I didn't think she even had. Turns out she worked out what the open strings were and learned her violin stuff by ear on it! She can do similar things with basic keyboard and even worked out how to use the notation/sequencing program in about 10 minutes!!!!

So...this is a real gift that you are offering your kids. My daughter was influenced by the amount of music I played when she was young. My son however has not such tendencies...if anything he might become a drummer...hmmm.

I wanted them to play guitar to justify the guitars I have and to have an excuse to get more vicariously...still, now I guess I will have to learn the violin to keep up with them!

pete

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