- Published Jun 27, 2013 in Gear Garage
- Read time: about 2 minutes
New strings make everything sound better, unless they go out of tune during a gig or recording session. Here’s how to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Stretch your strings! (Insert your own yoga/Richard Simmons imagery here.)
Almost every person has their method and I’m not gonna knock your tried and true approach. What I am going tell you is that I run out of fingers and toes counting the number of times I’ve asked a guitarist if they had stretched their strings before a session. They say yes and the strings go out of tune the next pass on a track, and the pass after that. Many have said “yes, I put new string on last week and let them stretch”.
I was that guy once. I didn’t know how to best put a string on, how to best stretch it, or even how to effectively tune it. And I was no beginner player.
Here’s what works:
For almost everyone out there besides Fender Tele, Strat or nylon string players, the way to put on a new string is this: Slip the string through the bridge and through the hole of the tuning peg until the string lays flat. Then pull back on the string towards the bridge so there is slack in the string (about 3 to 6 inches of slack depending how many winds you like around the peg—more slack equals more winds).
Then take the end of the string and bring it around the top of the peg and under the string (think of it like an exit ramp that goes under the road you were on). Pull it tight against the peg and bend the end of the string straight up. If you have tuning pegs on the bottom of the headstock, the wind will be the opposite direction (under the peg, and up and under the string).
You should still have slack between the bridge and tuning peg, but the string should be tight against the peg. Now you can wind the string. As you do, each wind should go over the bend of the string so it’s actually locking the end of the string and you can wind tight without it slipping around the peg.
Back to Tele, Strat and nylon.
For nylon string players the principle is the same, but the direction may change according to how the peg is placed (usually sideways in the headstock). For Strat and Tele players you just need to cut the end of the string so when you place the end of the string down into the peg, there isn’t a bunch of slack on the string. More slack means more winds around the peg.
Time to tune.
Wind the string to pitch. With your right hand placed between the pickups, pull up on the string. With your left fingers press down on the string in a few places up and down the length of the neck. Re-tune and repeat until the string stays in pitch after this pull up/press down operation.
On semi hollow body guitars, sometimes as you tune you can pull the tuning out of the string you just tuned by tuning the next string. So tune from the middle strings out. This keeps even tension on the bridge through the tuning process.
If this doesn’t work for sure, you then you can write me a nasty post in the comment section (below). But that won’t happen, that’s how sure-fire this is!