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Guitar Won't Stay In Tune


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I've been trying to tune my Les Paul copy to CGCFAD but it just wont stay in tune. The guitars got locking Grover tuners, Graphtech nut and saddles. I even powdered some pencil graphite and put it in the string slots but nothing makes it stay in tune. I'm using 11 gauge strings. It stays in tune better in normal tuning. Any ideas?

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Are the string slots the proper width for heavier strings?

I took it to be set up by a local shop (I don't own nut files) once I finished modding it so it should be fine, I asked him to cut the nut for 11's.

I don't understand why it refuses to stay in tune really, it's been doing my head in for a while.

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I would just double check that the slots are the correct width. Only takes a few minutes to rule it out as an option. Loosen the strings enough that you can move them back and forth in the nut slot a little. They should move easily and freely if he did his job correctly.

Also make sure the bridge slots were widened properly. They should have been widened as well for the strings and then any burrs or sharp edges cleaned up. Another area that can be overlooked for the sake of saving time or effort.

There have been plenty of cases where someone takes there axe to the local shop and asks the "Pro" to do X work, only to get it back and find it less than satisfactory or still wrong. Not saying yours did, but there are plenty of guys that figure the general player has no clue about working on guitars, or else they would be out of business, and skimps where they can to make their hourly fee go further. Those of us who know what is involved and don't have the money for specialty tools are the only ones who catch them with this kind of work.

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what i find strange is that you all talk in terms of the high string. 10's, 11's and 12's all work fine as the high string at that tuning... but you really need something heftier than a 42-46 on the low. 52-54 works well

try some beefy slinky's or any other string set with a light top and heavy bottom

also, what kind of locking mechanism do your grovers have... not all locking tuners are created equal

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Ihocky2 - I'll check the slots like you suggested and I dont think he did anything to the saddles.

Narcissism - What guitar do you use that tuning on dude? How does it feel with the 10's? 11's feels too big (soloing is hard with the bigger strings) but I put them on cause I thought that the down tuning needed chunkier strings. The string have settled down, I've been playing it in normal tuning and it behaves it's self much better, It just doesn't like down tuning.

Keegan - The strings don't return to the pitch they should be after bending strings, even a heavy vibrato can send it west.

DC Ross - Locking tuners (no wind), string cut about 1cm from post. String tension is a bit wierd, I'm used to 9's in regular tuning though. Bass string feel slightly looser and treble strings tighter.

WezV - Beefy slinky's sounds like it could be worth trying. From what I remember the Grovers had an 18:1 ratio.

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If the strings are not binding in the nut slots, I would check how well stretched the strings are and the backlash on your tuners also. Graphite or other lubricant in nut slots is useful, but if you have a Graphtech nut this is pointless. I used to tune one of my Explorers to CGCGCE, and when I popped a new set of "standard" 10s on there I could tune the low C up, pull the string off the board around three inches only to find it's dropped 1-2 semitones. +1 on the tip about less windings around the tuner posts. Another source of potential slack which drops the tuning. I wrap one over, then two under at most for wound strings. It takes 3-4 stretches and retunes to stabilise the strings. Has the change in gauge/tension affected your intonation and action?

+1 on all of the above, having just reviewed it!

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If the strings are not binding in the nut slots, I would check how well stretched the strings are and the backlash on your tuners also. Graphite or other lubricant in nut slots is useful, but if you have a Graphtech nut this is pointless. I used to tune one of my Explorers to CGCGCE, and when I popped a new set of "standard" 10s on there I could tune the low C up, pull the string off the board around three inches only to find it's dropped 1-2 semitones. +1 on the tip about less windings around the tuner posts. Another source of potential slack which drops the tuning. I wrap one over, then two under at most for wound strings. It takes 3-4 stretches and retunes to stabilise the strings. Has the change in gauge/tension affected your intonation and action?

+1 on all of the above, having just reviewed it!

The guitar tech set it up special for 11's, he's good at what he does, inotation/action is fine, he did an amazing job on my acoustic. What do you mean by 'backlash on the tuners' dude? The strings have been streched porperly.

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From what I remember the Grovers had an 18:1 ratio.

thats not what i was asking -

How do your grover locking tuners lock the string into the post?

some lock with a thumbwheel on the back

some are self locking as you tune

imho the thumbwheel is the best way as you can put the string through, lock it and have the absolute minimum of wraps. i also like some self lockers, but they dont always lock adequately by themselves. i have had some that actually loosened when diving with a trem and can imagine they might loosen easily with low tunings too.

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Backlash is the play between the worm gear's teeth and those of the tuning post:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backlash_(engineering)

Essentially, this is why we tune up to pitch to get a more stable tuning and not down. Some tuners have a surprising amount of backlash in the gearing whether they are high ratio or not. You can feel backlash as the "loose movement" you get after tuning up to pitch and then turning the tuner down. It's that small area where the tuner feels loose and out of tension before the gearing meshes back up and normal service resumes. If only it were economical for somebody to produce high precision duplex worm gears for tuners to eliminate backlash :-\

Having read the thread thoroughly now (apologies for the previous hasty post) I am inclined to suspect the nut also. If you have an old set of strings, cut a 6" piece of each roundwound string and run it back and forth through it's corresponding slot. That will physically widen them if they are still too narrow. Do take care not to deepen or remove the "drop back" in the slots however, as you don't want to compound your issues! Some people actually epoxy lengths of string to the sides of lollipop/popsicle sticks to make stopgap nut files. I find it very useful, especially as I can't justify the cost of nut slotting files either.

I hope you get to the bottom of this.

Edited by Prostheta
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Sorry Wez, I misunderstood. It's a self locking system, no wheel. you might actually be right about them loosening, I've been playing around with the guitar a bit and it seems that the tuning goes flat. The strings aren't wrapped around at all, they were locked in place and up to pitch before the strings wrapped all thr way around the post.

Prostetha - Thanks dude. There's very little backlash, they generaly feel quite tight. Thanks for the tip with the stopgap nutfile, very usefull, nice one.

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Narcissism - What guitar do you use that tuning on dude? How does it feel with the 10's? 11's feels too big (soloing is hard with the bigger strings) but I put them on cause I thought that the down tuning needed chunkier strings. The string have settled down, I've been playing it in normal tuning and it behaves it's self much better, It just doesn't like down tuning.

I was using my Ibanez RG250DX which is a 25.5" scale, and that one was tuned to an open C chord or something like that... pretty low. The main guitar was a Gibson Les Paul Studio (24.75" scale). Now that I think of it, his guitar kept on going out of tune too... Same with my guitarist from my last band who owned a Jackson RR3 (25.5" scale).

Given they didn't know anything about keeping in tune, and I did, my guitar always had the strings wrapped as many times around the peg as I could get them without overwrapping each other. I like doing that, because... well i'll be honest, I think it looks nicer lol. It takes me a while to get them stretched and all that, but my guitar stays in tune for months, even with whammy abuse. I don't recommend my method.

I'm also remembering that one time I tuned up the gibson for the guitarist just to prove that a proper setup will make playing easier and you'll sound better (OBVIOUSLY), but he thought I was being too picky and we just continued to sound bad for the rest of the time we were playing. He didn't get the concept of string stretching, and he broke strings faster than he could break them in for the initial first stretching.

There was also a B.C.Rich N.J. Beast that we used tuned to CGCFAD. That one was the odd 25" scale. We tuned it up once and never had to tune it again except when we changed strings.

My bass is a 34" scale and its tuned to CGCF. I make sure each string goes around the peg at least once (for anchor, not asthetics). I tune it up once a week depending on how much I play. I tune it every time I practice really, but it only needs to be tuned around once a week if i don't keep up on it.

So ummmmmmm, stretch your strings several times (be careful with the high E). I like 11s sometimes, and 10s after i've played on 11s for about a month. They both stay in tune for me, and naturally 11s are a little harder to play on. But both gauges stay in tune and take as much time as each other to stretch.

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It's a self locking system, no wheel...The strings aren't wrapped around at all

Agree with Narcissism, need to wrap around although I would say 3 or 4 times is enough

Btw I found my guitar was a biatch to tune but once I got it there it would stay in tune for ages after heavy bends and the sorts. After a while I realised the nut slots were too tight, but it gave me ideas about a self-locking nut......mmmmm

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If they're the the grovers with the two part shaft that turns, I've found that you have to be careful to make sure the internal lock mechanism engages and doesn't slip as you're tuning it up. I've also found that when you down-tune with those tuners, you sometimes have to have a wrap or two on the tuners - I tried just tuning down my guitar with those, and before it got that slack enough to hit C, the locking mechanism came loose.

All in all, I was never pleased with those Grovers that much. I prefer the thumbwheel style. They were just too fiddly for my taste.

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