If you have a new or relatively new guitar that just doesn’t want to stay in tune, try a few household tricks to see if you can nip the problem in the bud before dropping more cash at the repair shop. Obviously, we’re assuming here that your axe has been initially set up. This process usually consists of intonating the instrument by adjusting the saddle or bridge, making necessary neck adjustments, setting the proper pickup height (for electric models), and checking the frets. Nearly every guitar that Sweetwater sells goes through a 55-point evaluation before it leaves our warehouse, so you know that it’s set up properly.
First, make sure your strings have been wound and tuned properly (see the February 15 and 16 Tech Tips for a refresher). This makes a big impact on your guitar’s ability to stay in tune – especially if it’s a new one. If you hear “pings” as you’re tuning, check to see if any of the nut slots are catching the strings. If this is the case, you can open and/or smooth out the slots with an emery board or fine-grit sandpaper. Lubricate the slots with a good old No. 2 pencil (the pointy end. Erasers do absolutely no good). Also, if you have an in-line (Fender-style) headstock, check the string trees to make sure there’s no binding. And don’t ignore the bridge: check for binding or alignment problems there, too.