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How to String & Tune Your Guitar

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Depending on the type of guitar you have the stringing methods can be a bit vague and sometimes quite confusing. Everybody's got their own way of doing it, usually it's some kind of method that has been passed on from father to son or from one friend to another but I'm here to tell you that 90% of what we see out there is wrong in one way or another. Double loops, knots, in through this way, around once or twice and then back through this way, under and over then fold back, wind the entire string around the post, all that is a poorly executed string job. It will leave slack in the string windings that will gradually cinch up over time causing frustration and tuning problems plus it doesn't look good. I have strung an untold number of guitars and today I use what we call a "factory wrap". I picked up on it from several manufacturers who simply put the string in the hole then wind it down the post and cut of the excess. "How perfectly simple", I thought to myself when I first saw this. This is really obvious and it looks quite elegant but more importantly it works exceptionally well. Just a couple of times around for the big wound strings. A few times around for the smaller wound strings and several windings down the post for the plain strings. Winding down the post has always been the "soup de' jour" because it allows for a greater "string break angle" behind the nut which in turn offers more downward pressure on the nut resulting in increased sustain and volume and indeed better tone as well as improved intonation.

Some manufacturers still insist upon locking the string in place. The reason they use this technique is understandable, they don't want to take any chances. However, these people string guitars - they don't spend a lot of time removing old strings from guitars and when you try to take out a string that has been locked into place it may not be so easy. You run the risk of impaling your finger with the stiff bent end of the string. But what's worse is the possibility of scratching the finish on the headstock. I've seen this thousands of times. Another big problem is all the unnecessary wear on the post holes as you force the bent string out through the small hole on the tuning post. Ever see any specs of chrome or gold on your headstock after removing locked strings? With the "factory wrap" you simply pull the string out of the post. It slides right out, no muss, no fuss. But hey, if you just don't feel secure without locking that string down then please do be careful, try pushing the string further into the post hole and bending the string back into a relatively straight shape before pulling it out through the post hole, and take your time when removing those strings on your next string change.

The Taylor Guitar Company is doing it right and they have been conscientious enough to offer these tech sheet pages with detailed photos and text to help clear up any confusion. I do not cut my strings before tuning as they suggest in step 4 but aside from that, they've done it properly.

A Few Final Words On Tuning

In conclusion the final say comes down to the general "in tuneness" that we hear when playing through some frequently used phrases, things we are quite familiar with and just sounding in tune as we play.

I prefer this method over everything else, so for myself I'll just start playing, attempting to incorporate some movable forms that include open strings sort of like pedal tones that can be used to reference the moving tones around them. I find two string intervals and three note triads most helpful. I want to hear fretted notes against open strings. Of course you need to start out simply tuning the strings to whatever pitch you prefer. I like to use a tuning fork (if I've lost pitch) @ A 440 cps, get my A string to proper pitch and tune the other stings according to their pith relative to the 5th string (A). I do not rely on harmonics nor do I concentrate on one chord.

If your guitar will not play in tune you may need an intonation adjustment, neck adjustment, or a complete set up. You're welcome to come in and watch me tune your guitar so you can get the concept. I'm more than happy to help any time.

"pic long and prosper" Lightning Joe