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Not always. You can also get modified tuners that sit lower. The thing with a lot of fender type necks is that after some years of string pull, the headstock seems to curve upward a bit, making some of the strings impossible to sit down firmly in the nut slots. I've seen them where the end of the headstock is almost as high as the fret-board surface. If you go without them (assuming you can get enough pressure on the nut that way), you'll notice that the strings bend a little easier, but it takes more of a bend to get the note to go sharp than if you had the retainer on the headstock.

There's real basic ones, and also ones with little rollers.

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