Tuning is one of the most important things a musician takes into account when playing guitar.
After all, if the instrument is not properly tuned, then two results are bound to happen.
If you are lucky, you end up playing in a different but relatively coherent pitch.
For example, the chords sound close to Eb tuning while intended to be in standard.
If not, and this is the most likely case scenario, it will sound unpleasant, because every string will be in a different pitch.
Chords will sound atonal, and nobody enjoys that.
Now, to ensure this situation will not take place, among other things, one has to make sure the guitar is tuned properly.
And how do you do that? By tuning the strings up instead of down.
Tuning the guitar from a lower to a higher pitch prevents it from going out of tune.
Applying tension to the string, stretching it, makes it unlikely for it to slack at the nut. If done the other way, then a sudden change in tune could happen either while you are playing or after you have played.
Now that you know how to tune the guitar (and why), it is time to focus on the smaller details, since there are other ways to prevent string slack.
Keep reading to find them out!
Does it matter if you tune your guitar upwards or downwards?
Tuning either up or down matters because both lead to different results.
Tuning your guitar upwards means that you tune from a lower pitch to a higher one.
This is the best option since it avoids string slack.
What happens here is that, by increasing tension, applying force to the tuning gears you are stretching the string, forcing it to move through the nut.
Doing this helps prevent the string from getting jammed at the nut, generating slack.
On the other hand, when you go from a higher to lower pitch (or when you tune downwards), the tension and the gears of the tuner mechanism get loose, increasing the chances of the string getting stuck at the nut since it moves through it with less force.
In the end, this causes the string to go out of tune eventually.
What should you do then?
Simply drop the strings down in pitch when tuning your guitar. Then, gradually tune it up until you reach the desired tone.
That’s it! That way you are avoiding string slack.
Why is it better to always tune from a lower pitch to a higher one?
We have already discussed how tuning down could create string slack.
This is a problematic situation.
After all, it can affect your tuning even when you are playing, because it will come out of nowhere.
String slack is also the result of the strings getting stuck in the nut.
It is advisable to change your strings every once in a while in order to avoid it.
Remember, when changing the strings, always tune from a lower to a higher pitch, so you can prevent this issue.
What could go wrong if you tune your guitar down?
There is truly not a serious effect on the instrument.
However, it is possible to find problems regarding stability.
After all, the more you tune down the guitar, the more prone the instrument is to go out of tune by itself.
In other words, the guitar will detune more often.
You may notice this effect when picking up your guitar the following day and having to tune it again.
This might be a bit tiresome because you’ll need to adjust tuning all the time.
Other than that, the guitar won’t be damaged. It will sound, feel, and play the same (if it’s properly tuned, of course).
Is there any other way of preventing string slack?
A simple way to prevent string slack (other than tuning your guitar up) is to lubricate the nut.
The lubricant reduces the friction that is generated by the strings sliding in the nut.
You can lubricate it with a pencil since graphite dust works perfectly in this situation.
For this, it is not an obligation to take all the strings out.
You can easily lubricate the nut by slacking the strings off one by one.
Should you always tune up with locking tuners?
However, since the strings still move freely throughout the nut, there could be room for them to get stuck and develop slack.
The good practice of tuning from a lower pitch will also benefit you with locking tuners.
Another advantage of using locking tuners is that it uses less amount of string windings to keep the tuning stable. In the end, this makes for an easier and faster restringing.
Should you always tune up with a Floyd Rose bridge?
A Floyd Rose bridge would help you with tuning problems.
This bridge comes usually paired with a string locking system at the nut.
This way, strings do not slip, even if there is a serious change in pitch.
A Floyd Rose bridge has the perfect system for guitar players who use whammy bars a lot.
After all, it is no surprise that whammy bars detune the guitar since in regular instruments the string cannot return to its original position, in most cases because it gets stuck at the nut.
The Floyd Rose bridge works because, unlike other bridges, it is not resting on the guitar’s body. Rather, it stays slightly above.
Therefore, the whammy bar can be pulled up and down over a greater distance.
Does tuning up work both for acoustic and electric guitar?
It doesn’t matter whether your guitar is electric, acoustic, or electro-acoustic.
Every type of guitar will present the same string issues caused by tuning it down.
Therefore, tuning from a lower to a higher pitch is a must. Always.
Other tips to help you achieve a stable tuning
Making a habit of tuning the guitar up is the first thing you should do to avoid tune instability.
Other than that (and nut lubricating), here are other tips you should bear in mind if you want the same results.
Regarding strings, the thing you should do is to install them properly.
They have to be firmly seated at the ball end of the string and should use a small number of neat winds around the tuner post.
Also, try not to play with strings that are too old.
Set up is important, too.
Uneven frets lead to tuning issues.
Bridge and saddle must be correctly placed since they are in charge of the intonation.
Lastly, be aware of how your playing could also be affecting tuning.
Pulling down strings or an excessive pressing of them while holding notes results in a sharper pitch.
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.