why do guitars go out of tune

REVEALED: Why Do Guitars Go Out Of Tune?

Some instruments stay in tune for a long time. However, a guitar will generally need to be tuned on a more frequent basis.

If you have ever wondered why do guitars go out of tune, there are many answers to that one question.

Why Do Guitars Go Out Of Tune?

There are many reasons why guitars go out of tune and your guitar chords and notes don’t sound right. These are the most common reasons:

  • New guitar strings that have not been stretched properly.
  • The strings have not been properly seated in the bridge saddles.
  • The strings are not properly wrapped around the tuning pegs.
  • The nut may be pinching the string and causing it to slip while trying to tune it.
  • Your tremolo system may not be set up properly.
  • Your guitar’s intonation is not set up correctly.

There are also a lot of things that determine how long a guitar will stay in tune, such as how often it is played, the age of the strings, and proper overall maintenance can cause tuning issues. Overall, it is easy to keep a guitar in tune, if you are aware of some basic guidelines.

Read more – how do locking tuners work?

How Long Should a Guitar Stay in Tune?

There are no “one size fits all” answers to how long a guitar should be expected to stay in tune. It is normal for new guitar strings to stretch out as the guitar is played. The very act of strumming and picking the strings during normal play will stretch the strings to varying degrees. Therefore, a guitar that is played a lot will just naturally go out of tune more frequently as compared to one which is rarely played.

It is often recommended to “warm up” a guitar by playing it for ten to twenty minutes, and then tune it with a good quality guitar tuner like this one on Amazon. Or take a look at our recommendations for tuner guitar app options, best guitar tuners, clip-on tuners, or tuner pedals.  This technique gets the guitar strings (acoustic or electric) ready to dependably stay in tune throughout a playing session.

Is it Normal for a New Guitar to Go out of Tune?

A new guitar, with new strings, may not have the strings properly stretched out yet. As such, it will tend to go out of tune more frequently, until the strings naturally stretch out a bit.  Even just one string out of tune can cause issues.

Because new strings have not gone through the stretching process, you should expect a new guitar to need tuned perhaps more frequently than usual after the installation of new strings. Once the strings have stretched out optimally, playing the guitar frequently would not have as profound of an affect on the guitar remaining in tune.

Some guitar owners recommend gently stretching new guitar strings before or immediately after installing them, for the purpose of reducing the need to re-tune the guitar so frequently after installation.

The quality and size of the strings also factor into the amount of time a guitar will stay in tune. Good quality strings, like my favorite ones here on Amazon, are much more likely to stay in tune for longer periods of time. Lighter gauge strings can take longer to properly stretch. If you immediately change the original strings of a new guitar, altering the gauge of the strings by a couple of levels, the guitar may go out of tune more frequently.

Pay attention to the factory gauge string size of a new guitar before upgrading the strings. If you have an absolute need to change string gauge size on a new guitar, your best bet is to consult a guitar service professional for assistance.

It is also a good idea to do a basic visual inspection of any new guitar, looking for issues that may cause it to go out of tune more frequently. For example, if the strings are locked at the tuning peg or multiple tuning pegs, this will help to prevent excessive string movement. As a result, the guitar will stay in tune longer.

It’s also a good idea to check the bridge and the pickup height. Make sure the intonation screws are not loose, and that the pickup height is not too high. A new guitar should reasonably not have any issues with the guitar nut (what are guitar nuts made of?), but a visual inspection to make sure one is not pinching the strings is also a good idea.

Finally, overall climate changes plays a role in any guitar staying in tune, including a new guitar. Environmental temperature changes and guitar humidity factor into a guitar more frequently going out of tune or pitch.

For example, when a guitar is played or stored in a cold environment, and then moved to a warm environment, you have to expect some tuning needs and a best room humidifier for guitars as well. Ideally, abrupt and excessive temperature and humidity changes should be avoided for guitars, at least as much as possible to reduce tuning issues.

How Often Does a Guitar Go Out of Tune?

As stated above, there is no hard and fast rule for this. Warming up a guitar by playing it for ten or more minutes, and then tuning a string, is a good way to ensure a guitar string will stay in tune for a playing session.

Most guitar experts consider string stretching to be the most important factor when it comes to a guitar staying in tune or going out of tune too quickly. Experts often gently stretch strings before or immediately after installing them, in order to minimize the amount of string stretching that will take place when the new strings are first played. When stretching strings manually, it is important to be gentle as to not break or overstretch them.

First, it is a good idea to play the guitar for at least a few minutes before performing any string stretching. The key is to be gentle. When in doubt, it is best to consult a professional guitar technician.

If a guitar continually goes out of tune frequently, especially if it previously stayed in tune more dependably, it is likely that some maintenance is in order. If the strings are too old, they simply will not stay in tune. The solution is to change the strings.

If you have already checked the tuning pegs, truss rod, intonation adjustment, pickup height, the bridge, and the guitar nut slots, and have found everything to be fine, then it may be time to have an experienced electric guitar tech check it out.

There are also some additional factors to consider when a guitar seems to frequently not sound in tune. Setting guitar intonation plays a factor, and if the guitar is not properly intonated, it will simply not sound in tune.

This is especially true under certain circumstances, such as fretted notes that are higher up the guitar neck. Fixing this issue involves tweaking the metal truss rod and is probably a job for a professional.

How Do I Get My Guitar to Stay in Tune?

Properly stretching the strings is the first go-to solution. This can go a long way towards preventing strings from stretching more during a playing session, to the point where it is audibly out of tune. When you restring a guitar, making sure to lock the string at the tuning peg is also a good way to avoid excessive string move, and reduce the need to tune too frequently.

Avoiding the temptation to play a guitar with too heavy of a hand can also help. Using excessive pressure and force, especially concerning the larger frets, results in a guitar going out of tune more quickly. A lighter touch can help.

Another cause could be that the string is slipping on the machine heads.  One great way to remedy this problem completely is to install locking tuners.

In conclusion, it is normal to expect some tuning when it comes to guitars. There are so many factors that play into a guitar staying in tune and learning why do guitars go out of tune, and because of the nature of strings, many of these factors are simply natural.

It is best to get into the habit of always warming up a guitar with some play for ten or more minutes, and then tuning it. Replace strings when they become too old, and never settle for poor quality strings. Keep up on guitar maintenance, consulting with an expert technician for these tuning problems when necessary.

A quick visual check of the basic electric guitar areas before and after playing can go a long way towards noticing tuning issues early and keeping a guitar in tune more dependably.