what are guitar locking tuners

REVEALED: How Do Locking Tuners Work & Are They Worth It?

If there is one thing every guitarist would love to gain control over their instrument is tuning stability. Stability helps you stay in tune no matter how hard you hit the strings. Having a stable guitar also saves you the agony of tuning wires every now and then. Unfortunately, there are many elements in a guitar that cause tuning instability. Strings slipping from a peg, moving bridges, low-quality strings, and too low nut slots are all enemies of stability. Guitar locking tuners are a welcome addition that promises to save guitarists from this menace.

Guitar locking tuners are just how the name sounds.  Every guitarist knows tuners because we all use them to adjust the string pitch to the desired tune. Traditionally, strings are set by inserting them to a hole on the standard tuning peg then winding until the right tension is set. They serve the same purpose although using a different mechanism. As the name suggests, they lock guitar strings into a position to prevent slipping.

If you are planning on installing these on your guitar to reduce tuning problems, I highly recommend this right here from Amazon.  And check out our article on why do guitars go out of tune.

Also read: Our recommendations on the best locking tuners.  Or look at these best guitar tuner and best tuner pedal options.

How Do Locking Tuners Work?

How to restring an electric guitar with locking tuners

The concept behind a locking tuning peg during a restring is pretty simple – and it doesn matter if they are on an acoustic or electric. These tuners have a clamping mechanism that locks strings to the peg-hole. Different manufacturers use different mechanisms to accomplish this. The easiest mechanism utilizes a thumbwheel on the rear end of the headstock. When the thumbwheel is tightened, a pin in the middle of the peg rises to clamp the wire into position. Rotting the thumbwheel in the opposite direction unclamps the wire.

To set a new wire into position, slip it in from the bridge side and pull it through the length of the guitar neck. Rotate the locking tuner such that the hole is parallel to the wire. Insert the wire and pull until it is tight. Twist the locking tuner a bit, then tighten wire into position using the thumbwheel to engage the string lock inside the tuner post – way easier than conventional tuners and no need for multiple string wraps that can cause string slippage and tuning problems. The string is now set to the right tension, do not wind the string around the peg.  Makes changing strings a lot faster and easier.

Locking Machine Head FAQ’s

How To Use Locking Tuners On A Les Paul

Here is an excellent video showing you how to install locking tuners on a Les Paul

How To Use PRS Locking Tuners

PRS locking tuners are very easy to use.  Just insert the string into the post and pull it through.  Then all you do it tighten the screw on the top of the post to hold the string in place.  Once it is snug, you just tune the string as you normally would.

How To Use Hipshot Locking Tuners

Are Locking Tuners Worth It?  Yes!  Less String Slippage & Faster Restring!

Whether locking tuners are worth it is a question with a debate behind it. Those who are accustomed to traditional tuners argue they find a locking tuning peg to be of no significant value, while the rest praise their effectiveness. What most people fail to understand is that they are not meant to keep guitars in tune but to prevent string slippage, and this they do perfectly. As stated before, your guitar may still need constant tuning if it has badly cut bridge, nut, strings, or when using the tremolo.  Fast restring too!

Locking electric guitar tuners or even ones of a traveler guitar are commendable when it comes to preventing strings from slipping. the locking mechanism grasps the string in such a way that it cannot slip even when plucked hard. Unless you are the type who believe your guitar should serve you for 20 years without ever adjusting its settings, you will find a locking tuning peg worth it.

What they do best is saving time. All you have to do is insert the wire into the tuner hole and pull it straight and it is secured to a position. Half a wind sets the string into tune and you are to the next string. No worries about overlapping string winding to lock the string into position. With new locking tuner inventions and better alloys coming out, the efficiency of tuners is bound to increase.

Critics are also uncomfortable with the extra weight that comes with them. Headstocks with these are heavier than the traditional models but the difference should not be a problem. The additional weight hardly hinders the playability of the instrument unless in a few extremes. Some users even find the extra weight advantageous by making the guitar sound better.

String changing is more of a breeze with a lot less tuning problems too!

Differences Between Locking And Non-Locking Tuners

If you have owned a guitar for more than 10 years chances are that it has non-locking tuners. That is because they have not been much popular until in the recent past. Non-locking tuners are simple mechanisms featuring a post, a knob, and bushing at the end stock. There is a tuner and tuning post for each guitar string. The post has a hole into which you insert the wire for winding. Once inserted, the knob is turned to the desired tension to set the wire into tune. Setting a wire into tune is a hobby for most guitarists.

Unlike traditional tuners, they use a clamping mechanism to secure wires to the post-hole. Most guitar users misuse them by winding the string around them, but they are not intended to work that way. With some tuner brands, the clamping mechanism is hidden which gives the guitars a cleaner look. Locking tuners are easier to use but these advantages come at an extra cost. The negative side is that they are heavier than their counterparts. They also have more parts, meaning there are more things that can go wrong.

You can get these for both Gibson 3+3 style headstocks and Stratocaster style as well.

Do Locking Tuners Keep Guitars In Tune Better With Less Tuning Issues?

Most questions revolve around what they are and whether they keep guitars in tune better. Truth is locking tuners only keep guitars in tune better if the source of the tuning problem is the traditional tuners. We have observed that strings can get out of tune for various reasons, including a wrongly cut bridge, nut, using the tremolo, and much more. Before changing your tuners, first, establish if the loss of tune comes from your non-locking tuners. The problem will recur even with the locking tuners if the source of the fault is not identified and eliminated. One point is worth noting; they improve tune stability by eliminating winding from the peg.

Do You Need String Trees With Locking Tuners?

String trees are small and often go unnoticed. Unlike you own a Fender, chances are that you do not even know what string trees are. String trees are little widgets that sit atop the headstock of Fender-style guitars to guide wires to guide high strings to the tuners. These gadgets go by several names, including string guides or retainers to describe the kind of work they do. String trees set the proper nut angle so strings do not unseat from the nut when tuned.

Whether to use string trees or not is not a matter for debate but a design feature. String trees are found on inline-style guitars whose headstocks are flat, notably the Fenders. Most other guitar models have their headstocks tilted backward from the neck to create proper break angles for slotting strings. The use of locking tuners does not necessitate string trees as long as the distance of tuners from the nut is not affected.

Can You Change Tunings With Locking Tuners?

From the discussion, it is clear that locking tuners are just like the regular tuners but with a clamping mechanism. It is also clear that they eliminate windings of wire thus reducing the degree of tuning. A survey on various forums also shows there exists a lot of ambiguity when it comes to tuning with locking tuners. Advice from Fender, for instance, is that you should tune up past the note then come down until you get the desired pitch.

The rationale behind tuning up and down is that overtightening presses the wire grooves against the pole to eliminate the chances of slippage. While this is correct, stretching can also achieve the same results. Tuning can as well be changed by detuning then backing up. It is, therefore, possible to change tunings, the way to do it is what remains controversial. The advice of tuning past the note then tuning down is best if ignored. de-tensioning the strings introduces some slack and slope which we intend to eliminate in the first place. The solution is to just tune the lockers up until the desired pitch is achieved.

What Are The Best Locking Guitar Tuner Brands?

So, you have realized your tuners are the reason why your guitar gets out of tune? Well, replacing them with locking tuners could solve the problem permanently. The challenge now is finding the best set of tuners for your instrument. Like with the choice of your guitar, all people have their favorites. This could be a Telecaster, Jaguar, Fender, Grover, Schaller, or even Jazz Master. That notwithstanding, some models outperform others in several ways. here are some models whose features we found worth mentioning.

Schaller locking guitar tuners

Schaller is a well-known brand in the world of guitar components, it is no surprise its locking tuners appear among the best. Each Schaller locking tuner has a knurled nut that facilitates locking by use of the hand. As expected, Schaller tuners hold guitar strings (how to remember guitar string names) perfectly under all conditions. Fixing strings is also easy as you do not have to wind up a string around a peg. Schaller guitar tuners have an 18:1 gear ratio which speaks of their efficiency. The nuts are strong and well-made. Schaller tuners have a chrome finish which may not be eye-catching as some of the tuners in the market.

Hipshot locking tuners

Hipshot tuners are also high-end components that perfectly deliver as promised. Guitar enthusiasts especially love this brand for its ease of installation. Hipshot tuners are optimized for use on any guitar, meaning you do not have to call a technician for replacement. Hipshot locking tuners have a sleek appearance which adds to their attractiveness. They also have an 18:1 gear ratio. Reviews show that Hipshot tuners provide some of the best tuning stability for products in this price range. If anything, these tuners seem over-engineered.

Grover locking tuners

Grover is a household name to the guitar lovers fraternity for their expertise in making components stringed instruments. Grover tuners are perfectly engineered in every aspect, including the look, the fit, and the feel. These tuners are meant for guitars with a 3 x 3 configuration; those with three strings on either side of the headstock. Fender and Tele lovers, you will not enjoy the charm of Grover locking tuners.

Grover tuners are easy to install and come with all the necessary tools for installation. Once the tuning peg is in place, you only have to wind the wire once before locking into position with a thumbscrew. Finish options include black, chrome, and gold to cater to diverse preferences.

Sperzel locking tuners

Sperzel is an authority in the guitar world as they were the first to introduce locking tuners back in 1983. Unlike most manufacturers, Sperzel put unparalleled emphasis on custom-made locking tuners. This means you can choose the color and finish of your tuner. These tuners are in a world of their own when it comes to keeping your guitar in tune. Unfortunately, Sperzel tuners are only meant for guitars with all six strings in a line. This puts out Paul Reed Smith and Gibson enthusiasts out of the debate. Sparzel tuners are reasonably priced for the quality service they deliver.

Kluson tuners

Kluson tuners are the most common type of tuning keys and are used primarily in guitars, mandolins, ukuleles and other stringed instruments. They have been used by some musicians such as Chuck Berry, Neil Young, and David Gilmour. They consist of a screw-type blade or regular screwdriver at the top with a round peg or button that resembles an eyelet that attaches to a metal ball on one end (hence the name Kluson).


GOTOH tuners are the most precise and best-built guitar tuners in the world. A tuning machine’s accuracy has a dramatic effect on how well an instrument is in tune and performs. The superior feel of GOTOH’s Vintage design provides their unique “screwless” tuning machines unmatched reliability and durability.


Locking tuners are an important invention for stringed instruments but very few people understand their value. This is evident from the number of theories and misconceptions that exist around their use. It is not uncommon to hear a supposed guitar expert asking what exactly are guitar locking tuners or what purpose do they serve. We believe we have now cleared the air for you and can tell when or not to use locking tuners. These gadgets are effective for maintaining tuning stability especially where the regular tuners are defective. If you have been wondering how to solve your tuning challenges, consider any of the recommended locking tuners for a permanent solution.