So you bought an electric guitar, and for a moment, you were on top of the world. The possibilities spread out before you like an endless golden field. And then you plucked a note.
Experienced guitarists know the importance of proper tuning stability, but you would be surprised at the amount who believes achieving tuning stability is like hitting the lottery; even if it happens, it’s gone before you can blink.
With a few simple steps, I can teach you to maintain your tuning day in and day out.
The looser your strings, the less tuning stability you will have (sorry slinky string lovers). Properly gauges strings are as much about research as they are about comfort.
You need to find a set of strings that are comfortably pliable but possess enough tension to not sag or wiggle. A wiggling string is your guitars way of telling you that it is hungry for more tension. While there is no way of picking the perfect gauge, as all tastes are different, telltale signs of insufficient tension include:
• Floppy notes
• Fret buzz
• Constant string snapping
• String “drooping”
When stringing their instruments, the most common mistake most guitarists make is being a string hoarder. The less string you have on your post, the better your tuning will keep. Two wraps around the post is more than sufficient.
This helps prevent strings from slipping in the posts, causing the strings to loosen and subsequently un-tune themselves. Keep this in mind; a properly fed post is a happy, stable post. An overfed, glutinous post is sloppy and slippery. After your strings are properly fed into their posts, tune your guitar to your desired tuning.
Important: When stringing your guitar, be sure that all tuning pegs tighten and loosen in the same direction (clockwise or counter clockwise). This helps tuning stability tremendously, as there are no opposing forces pulling at the neck.
When you have finished stringing your guitar, the next step to keeping your guitar in proper tuning stability is stretching. This doesn’t mean bending over and touching your toes, though. Above the pickups, grab each string one by one and gently pull it about a quarter inch above the pickups.
Slowly release the string keeping a grip on it as if your life depended on it (your tuning life surely does). Repeat thirty to forty times. In full, each string should take about one minute to properly stretch. When you have finished, your strings will be horribly out of tune.
Retune the guitar and repeat the stretching, this time for only half the amount of time (about thirty seconds per string). If your strings are mostly in tune when you have finished, you are good to go. Tune back up, and get your victory flag ready, because you are now in the home stretch.
Before you sprinkle confetti all over your house in celebration, there is one last step to achieving proper tuning stability. For experienced musicians, it is an inbred ability, but for new comers, it is a deviant curse.
The most important step of keeping your tuning stable is to treat your strings like gold. High bends, even heavier accent picking are fine, but tugging relentlessly or river stomping on your bridge at your latest gig will wreak havoc on your tuning.
Pamper your strings as you would your pets, with regular cleaning and maintenance of your guitar, and in turn, they too will provide you with thousands of hours of unbridled joy.
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