If you play guitar, having to tune the G-string on your instrument before you begin is a common ailment.
And guitarists are always complaining about it as if it were the end of the world.
Sure, the internet seems to be full of ideas to solve the problem, but do any of them 100% work?
If your 3rd string is going out of tune and you don’t think the problem is the tuners, you have a few options to try. I suggest doing some maintenance on the nut slots, winding your D and G-strings up the tuning pegs to reduce the angle (on Gibson guitars), or trying a wound G-string before any modifications.
So I’m not going to tell you that any method is the final solution for keeping the 3rd string in tune but perhaps we can get close.
We’ll take a look at several touted fixes and maybe the right combination of preventive tricks will work for you. We’ll try to keep a positive mental attitude about it anyway…
Guitar strings are never perfectly in tune
Now before you complain that it’s hard to stay perfectly in tune, ask yourself if such a thing is even possible.
And maybe your tuner isn’t as precise as the manufacturer would have you believe.
The most accurate tuners by consensus are strobe tuners, which are expensive and not very portable.
You can see that Philip Mcknight has a Peterson-brand strobe tuner in his recent repair shop tour video if you think you may want to invest in one.
But as you play, the attack of the pick or your fingers and the slowing of the strings’ vibration will cause fluctuations in the pitch.
If you are tuning your guitar and hit the string very hard, you will probably see the note go sharp for a moment, and then as the string vibration slows and stops you will see the note go flat.
I like to think of this as the attack and decay, like on a synthesizer.
And your intonation will never really be perfect either.
But if you are a perfectionist and want to get as close as possible, your best bets are a professional setup, a strobe tuner, and high-ratio tuners (on the guitar headstock).
The “ratio” of tuners refers to how many turns of the peg equal a full spin of the tuner, so the higher the number, the finer the tuning will be.
Personally, I don’t think it matters that much since a lot of great music has been recorded without guitars being 100% in tune at every fret.
In other words, I don’t think the human ears and brain can really discern the difference beyond a certain point.
I actually own a pitch pipe tuner and I bet most of you don’t even know what that is.
I don’t always use it but I think it’s a fun little gizmo to have especially if the electricity is out.
Is it normal for the G-string of a guitar to go out of tune?
Of course, it shouldn’t be acceptable for your 3rd string to constantly be going out of tune but it has become common at least.
If you have ever played acoustic guitar, maybe you know that the 3rd string is wound, meaning a wire core with wire spiral-wrapped around it, but on electric guitars, the 3rd string is usually not wound.
So some people think that the 3rd string on electric guitars should probably be a wound string as well.
There are also infamous issues related to the long length and angle between the tuner and the nut on the guitar, especially on Gibson-style guitars.
Add to this the fact that many players like to bend the g-string a lot and you can see why tuning stability is a problem.
What could be causing the G-string to go out of tune?
So there can be several causes for your tuning woes.
Obviously, it could be the tuners themselves, especially if you have a cheaper guitar.
And something that always happens to me on Gibson-style guitars is that I accidentally bump the 3rd and 4th string tuners because of the angle of the headstock.
But the most likely problem has to do with the string getting caught in the nut slot because the nut is poorly cut, or because of the increased tension caused by the odd angle and length to the tuner, making the nut a very unwelcome fulcrum.
A lot of people even say that Gibson’s tilted headstock style is a major design flaw.
Anyway, if the string becomes lodged in the nut the correct amount of tension from the tuner will be disrupted.
And of course, using a tremolo system makes all of this even worse!
Does it go out of tune or are there intonation problems?
If your g-string is in tune when it is played open but sounds out of whack at other places on the fretboard you may have intonation issues.
You can fret the string at the 12th fret and check it with your tuner there. If it is not in tune there but still in tune when played open, some adjustments need to be made to the bridge saddle.
Since all of your strings probably need adjustments made, you should have a guitar tech set up the intonation if you can’t do it yourself.
But sometimes what seems like intonation problems can be caused by pressing the strings down too hard and creating a sharp string angle between the nut and the fretboard. I catch myself doing this with the D chord sometimes.
6 fixes for the G-string going out of tune
If you suspect your guitar has cheap tuners you may want to have them replaced with better quality, higher gear ratio, or locking tuners.
You may have to drill some small holes in the headstock though and heavier tuners can increase neck dive.
This is an upgrade that a lot of players do but think carefully since you are modding the guitar.
2. Nut Issues
One of the best things you can do for your instrument’s tuning stability is to keep the nut slots lubricated. You can use a specialized lube for this or graphite from pencil lead.
You may also have a poorly cut nut that is snagging the string.
You can “floss” it with a G-string or maybe a D-string, or have a guitar tech file your nut for you.
3. Nut Replacement
You could just have the nut replaced altogether if it is poorly cut or made of cheap material. Or you could try a locking nut that doesn’t let the strings move at all.
This seems like it would be a very effective fix but I wouldn’t do it in a million years!
Some people say that increasing the gauge of your strings (like from 9s to 10s) helps keep the G-string in tune better.
A very popular option is to get a set of strings with a wound G-string like acoustic guitar strings have. This will make it much thicker.
Here I don’t think that the idea is that the thicker strings stay in tune better but that the larger size may fit in the nut slot better and not be able to move around and thus risk getting stuck when you do bends.
5. String Tree
For a Fender-style guitar, you may be able to reduce the chance of the 3rd string getting stuck in the nut by having a string tree added at a strategic point on the headstock.
This one involves drilling a hole in your instrument though.
I guess it could plausibly be done to a Gibson guitar too but I’ve never seen it before so it would look pretty strange.
6. Reducing the Angle
For Gibson guitars with three tuners on each side of the headstock, the D and G strings are at the most extreme angle backward and outwards from the nut slots, creating a nasty fulcrum point at the nut.
And this is commonly blamed for the G-string tuning stability on Gibson guitars.
A trick I have seen in many videos is to wind the string in an upwards spiral up the tuning post when you replace the strings in order to reduce the angle by a few millimeters.
It may not sound like much but this one makes a lot of sense to me and it’s free to try.
Hello there, my name is Ramiro and I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I’m obsessed with everything gear-related and I thought it might be worth sharing it. From guitars, pedals, amps, and synths to studio gear and production tips, I hope you find what I post here useful, and I’ll try my best to keep it entertaining also.