If you watch as many Jimi Hendrix live videos as I do, then you know that he has to tune his Fender Stratocaster at the end of just about every song. Although, that was in the late 60’s and guitar technology has very much improved since then. At least that’s what I thought. When I bought my first Strat I thought I wouldn’t need to tune it very often. I was wrong. It was going out of tune almost as much as Jimi’s was and I was not playing like him at all. This got me wondering, why does my Fender Stratocaster keep going out of tune?
Fender Stratocasters go out of tune because of improper an improper tuning method. Tuning down causes the strings to create slack between the nut and head of the guitar. This slack results in strings going out of tune quickly. Instead, tune up and then place your non-picking fingers over the string. With the picking hand, tug the string to relieve the slack and then tune up again. Do this method with every string and the guitar will stay in tune longer.
Continue reading to learn more about the various ways your guitar keeps going out of tune and how to fix it.
Why Does My Guitar Keep Going Out of Tune
In addition to the tuning method used on your guitar, there are a multitude of other reasons that can contribute to your guitar going out of tune.
Why Your Guitar is Going Out of Tune:
- Bridge Saddles: The bridge saddles of your guitar can become loose after years of use. This will rarely happen with newer guitars but old guitars it is a possible suspect to tuning issues. To fix this, simply use a hex key and tighten the saddle. It is important to not make it too overbearingly tight as this can damage the guitar.
- New Strings: New strings are all wound up and itching to be stretched out. If you put new strings on and just started playing without stretching them beforehand, then they will stretch on their own and cause your guitar to go out of tune. To get ahead of this, stretch out your new strings as soon as you put them on your guitar. You can do this with the below tuning method.
- Restringing Mistakes: This goes along with new strings. Stringing your new strings incorrectly can easily cause issues with tuning. Because of this, it is important to do this step perfectly or have a guitar tech at a store do it for you if you are not confident doing it yourself. A common mistake is not wrapping your strings, causing them to slip and go out of tune. If you are interested in learning how to string a guitar correctly, check out this video by Fender.
- Climate: I’ve always disliked this rationale for a guitar going out of tune, BUT, it does hold up. The climate you are in can and will play a role in your guitars ability to stay in tune. This is because the tension of the strings will change with temperature. Cold weather does not greatly affect tuning. That being said, especially for acoustics, it can cause your guitar to slightly contract and lead your strings to become sharp because of the increased tension. Hot weather and humidity are your guitars enemy. Hot weather can cause your strings to loosen, resulting in flat strings. For most bedroom players, this will not be a major issue. For those that enjoy playing outside or play live, then this can become an annoying issue as hot weather can have a different affect on each string. Excessive humidity causes your guitar to expand, leading to increased tension in the strings. To summarize, climate change will make your guitar go out of tune, there you heard it here first, start the movement.
How to Keep a Fender Stratocaster in Tune
The number one way to keep your guitar in tune is to tune up and relieve the tension after doing so. Typically when you tune a guitar, we knob tune it up and down and then start playing. Now this does work but it is not a long term solution and you will find yourself having to tune it again shortly.
Instead, we are going to tune it. Then place our non-picking hand fingers lightly on the string over the fifth fret. With your other hand, give the string a little tug a few times. This will relieve the tension on the saddle and space between the nut and the head of the guitar. Try not to tune past your desired pitch, having to tune down again. Tuning down causes the same issue to happen and you will have to do this process again. Tuning up does not typically cause the loose strings in the “non-playing” area of your guitar.
One trick I learned if your string is sharp and you need to tune down. Instead of using the knob, try stretching/tugging the string into pitch. This can be done with the above method. More often then not, this will get the string in tune while also reliving the slack at the headstock.
How Long Should Guitars Stay in Tune
Most experienced guitar players tune up to 1-2 times a week. If you have new strings or a new guitar then you will find yourself tuning much more often which is normal.
Your new strings need to stretch and that stretching will cause them to go out of tune. As mentioned above, you can get ahead of it and stretch them yourself which will reduce the amount of times they need to stretch on their own.
Thank you for reading. I hope after reading this your guitar will stay in tune longer and you will spend less time staring at a tuner. Giving you more time to practice an easy song like Scuttle Buttin. (sarcasm intended)