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Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby anna-marie music » Wed Aug 05, 2020 6:40 pm

Hey everyone, I have two Taylor acoustic guitars (a GS Mini, and another model I'm not sure of at the moment), and they both have this problem where they're constantly going out of tune. Especially if I'm recording a really intense strumming pattern/chord progression... I'll record part of it, and then have to re-tune them! It gets pretty annoying after a while as you can probably imagine.

I got the GS Mini in December 2018 (as a Christmas gift), and the other guitar a few months ago. Neither guitars have had a setup before. If they're constantly going out of tune, should I get them set up at my local music store? Or simply just replace the strings?
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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby Sam Spoons » Wed Aug 05, 2020 6:49 pm

The most likely reason is due to the method you use to fit the strings. This video will help if that's the problem (forgive me if that is not the case).*

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyo2kT2UGFM

* He refers to the strings 'stretching' and the need to pre-stretch them, what he's actually doing is snugging the turns around the tuning post together and pulling an slack out of them, and pulling the ball end into a stable position under the bridge.
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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby zenguitar » Wed Aug 05, 2020 7:03 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:The most likely reason is due to the method you use to fit the strings.

+1

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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby anna-marie music » Wed Aug 05, 2020 7:05 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:The most likely reason is due to the method you use to fit the strings. This video will help if that's the problem (forgive me if that is not the case).*

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyo2kT2UGFM

* He refers to the strings 'stretching' and the need to pre-stretch them, what he's actually doing is snugging the turns around the tuning post together and pulling an slack out of them, and pulling the ball end into a stable position under the bridge.

I've never had to restring them (yet ;) ), but this is good to know for when the time comes! Considering the fact that neither of them have had a setup, I may just have to take them into my local music store and get that done!
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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby CS70 » Wed Aug 05, 2020 8:15 pm

The Taylor GS mini is a great little guitar - actually one of the few Taylors I like - and its tuners should be quite ok. If the strings are properly put on, it could be an issue with your technique, especially if it happens on different guitars.

Many people simply push the strings too much, or even bend them when fingering chords, resulting in them sounding out of tune even when the guitar is in tune. It's far more common with electric guitars due to their less thick strings, of course, but I've seen it with acoustics with say .10 strings.

The trick is to push the minimum you need to fret a position - basically if you're making any effort, you're doing it wrong. :)

If you're using a capo, it's pretty normal to have to readjust the tuning a little bit, as the guitar by design is in tune only at the zero and 12th fret, and it's in equal temperament in other positions, meaning is slightly off.

Temperature and humidity variations can also have an effect on tuning, for example if you bring the guitar out from indoors, or suddenly a hall gets filled with people (typical of small gigs).

If you have changed string gauge, you need a setup, and temperature variations can also have an effect, but in general on an acoustic guitar bad setup is more about buzzing and minor intonation problems, than strings going out of tune after a while..
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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby shufflebeat » Wed Aug 05, 2020 10:31 pm

If the ball end is well settled then the usual culprit in my experience is the way the other end is wrapped round the capstan of the machine head. If it's untidy then it will settle over time, if it starts off relatively neat (not overlapping back and forth too much) then it's more stable sooner.

I used to wrap the string round the capstan, then like it through the hole and if I'm in a hurry I still do it this way but better for me is to put the string through the hole, measure to the length approx the next machine head, pull back til that point is at the hole (there is now some slack in the string) and wind with a string winder tool while holding the string in place at the nut.

The settling process can be speeded (sped/spud) up with some gentle pulling away from the guitar from the mid point of the string like a bow and arrow but *gently*. Not appropriate for nylon strings.

I tend to be ready to go after this stage.
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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby blinddrew » Wed Aug 05, 2020 11:16 pm

The other thing that might be happening is the strings binding in the nut. Rubbing a pencil in the grooves of the nut can help there.
But a set-up might still be worthwhile.
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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby Alba » Thu Aug 06, 2020 11:17 am

You know, AM there are some pretty handy people on this forum who might be able to help out if you were to give a hint as to your general geographical location ... not your address obviously but the county/country even.
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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby Martin Walker » Thu Aug 06, 2020 11:44 am

Alba wrote:You know, AM there are some pretty handy people on this forum who might be able to help out if you were to give a hint as to your general geographical location ... not your address obviously but the county/country even.

Anna-Marie gave us a link to her Bandcamp page in her very first post:

https://anna-marie.bandcamp.com/

...and on there she says she's from regina, Saskatchewan


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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Aug 06, 2020 12:00 pm

I'm no guitarist, but I have had the pleasure of watching PW setup quite a few guitars during our Studio SOS visits and my engineering head has always found the process fascinating -- as well as entirely logical and (generally) quite simple.

In my (limited) experience, the most common causes of poor tuning stability are -- as those far more knowledgeable than me on the subject have already said -- either poor installation and winding of strings around the tuners, the strings getting stuck in the nut because the slots aren't lubricated or aren't the right size for the strings, or (in the case of some electric guitars) issues with the installation and/or alignment of the trem system.

So I'd say a proper set-up from a skilled guitar tech would be a wise investment.

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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby Alba » Thu Aug 06, 2020 2:02 pm

Martin Walker wrote:
Alba wrote:You know, AM there are some pretty handy people on this forum who might be able to help out if you were to give a hint as to your general geographical location ... not your address obviously but the county/country even.

Anna-Marie gave us a link to her Bandcamp page in her very first post:

https://anna-marie.bandcamp.com/

...and on there she says she's from regina, Saskatchewan


Martin

Ah, I hadn't looked that closely, sorry. That rules out the Brits then. Looks like a lovely part of the world though.
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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby blinddrew » Thu Aug 06, 2020 4:57 pm

Just as a general fettling point, I came across a lovely acronym for setting up guitars a while back: TRAIN.
Tune.
Relief.
Action.
Intonation.
Noodle.

Then repeat. :)
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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby merlyn » Thu Aug 06, 2020 6:12 pm

anna-marie music wrote:I got the GS Mini in December 2018

That's quite a long time to have a set of strings. It depends on how much you play -- I'm lucky if I get three months, and they really need changed then.

If the strings are sticking in the nut the tuning jumps out, accompanied by a 'ping'. I think what you're describing is a gradual drift out of tune and I have found that this is improved by stretching the strings as @shufflebeat said. If you've had the same strings since the guitars came from the factory the strings may never have been stretched.

A student of mine bought a new guitar and I spent half an hour stretching the strings for her. Using a tuner tune a string up, then stretch it by pulling it out from the body, then check the tuning, retune, then repeat until they're reasonably stable. It takes overnight I find for strings to really settle. This is why it is inadvisable to change strings immediately before a gig. :)

shufflebeat wrote:The settling process can be speeded (sped/spud) up with some gentle pulling away from the guitar from the mid point of the string like a bow and arrow but *gently*. Not appropriate for nylon strings

I've got a nylon string guitar and I stretch the strings on it. Nylon is ten times worse than steel. I need to change strings on my nylon string the night before the night before. :) What is the problem that you think will happen with stretching nylon strings?
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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu Aug 06, 2020 7:39 pm

I 'stretch' new string fairly robustly (but only broken a couple of top E's doing so in 55 years). But I do it by holding the string with a couple of fingers underneath around the sound hole and my thumb pressing down over the upper frets, that way I'm not pulling the neck forward. I doubt there would be much risk in doing so but it's just how I fell into doing the job. My guitars are usually stable immediately after I've restrung them (I don't have any nylon strung guitars though, nylon strings actually do stretch, as in get longer over time/use, steel strings don't stretch*, they do elongate under tension but return when tension is removed).

* Not quite true but it's negligible for our purposes.
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Re: Acoustic guitars constantly going out of tune

Postby shufflebeat » Thu Aug 06, 2020 9:51 pm

merlyn wrote:What is the problem that you think will happen with stretching nylon strings?

I was advised many years ago that nylon strings have a tendency to stretch disproportionately at weak points which would affect the mass at those points and distort the intonation along the neck.
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