Guitar Tuning Strategies
Keeping your guitar tuned is THE first step in sounding hot and professional. Tune-up perfectly and THEN play is the order of the day. Tuning tip number one starts right here. Get yourself a decent and well made guitar that naturally stays in tune without constant tweaking. No matter how much you perfect the art of guitar tuning, a cheap instrument will seriously hamper your efforts.
No matter how well you play your latest lick or arpeggio, it won't sound hot unless your in perfect Guitar Tune Nirvana either! Conclusion: Invest in a good or even great guitar and your halfway there regarding guitar-tuning dilemmas.
To start off, here's 2 simple but BIG tuning tips for any type of six-stringer:
BIG Guitar Tuning Tip #1 - Clean Your Strings Regularly
After every sweaty, no-holds barred, gig or rehearsal, CLEAN YOUR STRINGS! It may sound painfully obvious, but this is the biggest guitar tuning problem and string-killer of them all. Some people, including yours truly, can rust and destroy a set of strings overnight, by gigging with them and not cleaning the chemicals and sweat off, immediately afterwards. When this happens, tuning can be almost impossible.
So cleaning your strings is step one to guitar tuning nirvana. This simple precaution lengthens their lifespan, maintains tone AND tuning. Use a lint-free cloth, wrap it under and around each string, one at a time, and wipe up and down, with a slight pressure, cleaning the complete surface.
String Cleaning Tips
Use pure alcohol on the cloth if necessary, you can buy a small bottle of Isopropyl Alcohol in the chemists. Squeaky clean!
WARNING: Be careful with this stuff it's poisonous if taken internally!
Be careful not to run your fingers along the string too, it cuts deep and hurts like hell! I tie the cloth around the neck afterwards (they tend to mysteriously disappear for some strange reason just when needed), and make it a regular habit.
Unless you're an experienced player, DO NOT PUT NEW STRINGS ON YOUR GUITAR BEFORE A GIG! ... hi John ;-). If you must, try and allow about 30-45 Minutes to fit, stretch and warm them and yourself up.
If you've ever played a guitar which sounds fine in the lower regions but goes out of tune as you move up the neck, the answer could well be dirty or kaput strings. If you change them and the problem goes away, then you know. If it doesn't go away, it could be the guitar intonation. Get a good and trusted guitar-tech to check it for you.
BIG Guitar Tuning Tip #2 - S-t-r-e-t-c-h your Strings
When you put new strings on (if you have a Floating Bridge, do them one at a time, DO NOT take all the old ones off at once), tune them up to concert pitch, then spend about 20 minutes stretching them by hand. Left hand holds everything down at the nut, place 4 fingers of your right hand underneath one string, and slowly pull it out until you feel the tension and gently sort of bounce it forward and backwards, and S-T-R-E-T-C-H...and loosen...and S-T-R-E-T-C-H...and loos...
Slide your hand position up the neck along the string, pull it out at various points and so on, covering the entire length from nut to bridge. Then retune it and do it all again. The first few times the string tuning will drop by as much as an octave. After a few stretch/tune ups you'll notice it doesn't drop anymore. If you let this stretching happen naturally, it can take a week or so until the guitar strings stop jumping out of tune every 2 seconds. Your guitar will be as fit as a fiddle.
So adhering to these two simple but effective steps will improve any guitars tuning and even playability. Once you get into the habit of cleaning and stretching your guitar strings and it becomes second nature, you can turn your attention to other important playing points without having to tune up every few minutes. It's well worth the effort.
Next we look at some Strat whammy bar tips, Lee Chang specials to avoid, and how a humble home pencil can save your guitar life :).