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Setting up strings to stay in tune
From: Brian & Janice Smith
Ricks Answer to - Setting up strings to stay in tune
Sent: Thursday, June 10, 2004 11:28 PM
Please tell me how to attach the string to the machine head in order to keep
them from slipping and requiring constant re-tuning. Thank you!
From: Rick Andrews
To: Brian & Janice Smith
Sent: Friday, June 11, 2004 2:16 AM
Subject: Re: Setting up strings to stay in tune
Well, I can tell you what works best for me and other methods others do.
Some players actually put a loop almost like a knot and that works very well but it
is then harder to change the strings later. So after the hastle of getting them un-knoted
I found a very easy way that did good for me. I push the string through the hole in the
tuning post and using small pliers I bend the string about 1/4" from the end almost back
double so it almost touches itself, sort of like a hairpin.
Then I pull the string back toward the tuning post until the 1/4" section hook on the
post sort of like a fish hook but be sure it is hooked in a way that when the post
turns the hook tries to be in the opposite direction so the hoo pulls tighter.
If it were turned the other direction it would easily slip out. That hooking at the
sharp bend of the streng stays very well. Then several complete turns around the post
give a lot more grip. A good example to see this principal is if you remember in the
old western movies the cowboy rides up to the saloon and he has to park his horse.
You know they are kind of difficult to park especially when you have to double park
and back them up. Anyway the cowboy jumps off the horse and takes the leather reins
and he would wrap them around the wood rail several turns and never really tied it.
The loose end just hung there yet the leather strips would grip because if the many
turns. So it's the same principal. Of course the guitar string is slick metal and
so is the post so the back hook catches and then when the meatal tightens to the post
it's there. When you take the strings off next time the hooked end slides right
out easily by turning it to point in the opposite direction and letting it slip right
through the hole. Hmmmm gettin' interesting huh. The hook, on the end of the string works
like the barb on the fish hook when the tension pulls opposite direction of the barb if
you can picture what I'm saying here. If your barb is turned the wrong way then the
string post would just round it and un-bend it and it would slip right out of there.
Turn it the other way and it catched the post at the edge of the hole.
If the string post is turning counter clockwise to tighten the string then the 1/4"
end of the string should be bent to the right so it will catch and hold. The tighter
the bend the better it will hold. That with the several turns around the post works
great for me. One other thing I do is over tighten the strings a couple notes above
the tuning, then come back down a little below the tuning. This stretches the string
a little above and gets the molecules of the metal to get an early tension breakin
type thing. Then you tune them back down a little below the tuning. Then you tune back
up to the proper tuning. The reason to back back down below and then sneak back up on
it is because the string post when coming down will have a tiny bit of slipage in
the turning. The post is already turning the same direction as the string is pulling
tension so it can slip a little before it catches and gets all the slack out of the
gears and the gears are tight together.
If you tune back down and then go back up the gears of the post are already caught
tight on the upward turn so there is no slipage of the post. This is hard to explain
in writing and much easier if I could demonstrate. These three things will solve
most of the tuning problems. One you have the hook to catch the string at the end,
two you have already over stretched the meatal so it wont take a lot of playing to
do it, and three you are tuned in ther upward tension so the gears are meshed tight
inside the tuner and the post does not turn backwards any. These three things have
cured the main most common problems of getting out of tune. You will of course still
experience some tuning problems no matter what you do even with locking nuts, and
the best of bridges available because the strings are temperature sensitive and so
is the guitar neck in different climate levels of heat, cold, and humidity.
String wear itself soon takes its toll. I will tell you a little secret . . .
Chet Atkins used to take his strings off and wash them in soap and water, dry them
and put them puppies back on. The lively sound would come back again a great deal
since the skin oil and grime build up in the coils was gone and this allowed the
strings to become vibrant again. But still after a while the frets wear them down
and they must be replaced. New strings were always a pain to get broke in a few days
so the stretch is all out of them and they seem to neutralize at a point and settle
in, but again the extra over tightening helps to do that in the very begining and
you don't have to suffer the tuning problems nearly as much. Sometimes I actually
grab the string and pull on it a few good yanks to get good tightness at the bridge
and the tuning keys so all slack has pulled out.
Of course we don't want to over stress them to the point of too much metal fatigue and
kill the sound. Once you have done this a while you will get the feel for when they
are prestretched just right for you. Well that's about it, I didn't mean to write a
book about this but is really is a very significant problem and especially in studio
recording where time is valuable and not to be wasted and crazy strings that seem
to be whacko can really get on your nerves. By the time they get broke in good and
stop the problems then they are too dead. That just right space of playing the best,
sounding the best, and staying in tune well is really a short margin. I think that
is why Chet really washed his strings. When they became stableized then they
were going too dead. So he clened them and brightened back the vibrant sound
but the break in was at the best point. I used to wonder why would Chet be so cheap
on guitar strings. I figured a man of his talent and his income and level of
professionalism surely he can afford new guitar strings. But it hit me one day what
that sly fox was doing. The stretch and fatigue was finished, the strings would
stay in tune, and oh my was he picky on that, and he bought the sound quality back.
As for me, I just manually stretch them sveral times before they get dirty so I
have accomplished the ame thing and they are still new and clean. It's the little
things like that can make a tremendous difference. Of course by the time you read
all this you probably retired anyway. I hope this will help you with your tuning a
great deal. Nothing will stop it altogether but this will take care of 75% of it.
Happy pickin' and stay in tune.