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tuning and tuners


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As I mentioned before, I started playing the guitar again last year after not playing in 3 decades. I could have sworn, when I used to play guitar, that the guitar would get flat and tuning it meant tuning it in one direction. I have a Yamaha acoustic and an Epiphone Les Paul 100 electric. They both go out of tune sharp. This seems weird to me. Isn't it against the laws of physics? The only cause I can think of is changes in humidity in the apartment.

The acoustic has a built-in tuner that I think is pretty accurate. I have a clip-on electric tuner for the electric. It's an intellitouch PT10. I do not have faith in it. The LED display sometimes can't seem to make up its mind what the note is. It can't be the battery because I just changed it. I have wondered if I am clipping it onto the guitar wrong but I don't know if that would make a difference. It even seems to change its mind as to whether the note is sharp or flat.

Also the Epiphone seems to be very hard to tune and goes out of tune constantly. I'm embarrassed to admit I bought it over the internet. I really am thinking I should get rid of it and buy something else. I also found out it's not a real Les Paul in that it is about 3 lbs lighter than the Les Paul Standard.

I'm just not sure if I should buy a new tuner or a new electric guitar. Or both.

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If they haven't been used in a while, firstly put new strings on - old strings get corroded and sometimes stick at the nut, or jag a bit at the saddles on the bridge (for electric guitars).
Before you put the new strings get a pencil (HB or B ) and use the pencil lead to lubricate the nut - literally draw in the slots! The graphite is nice and slippy and should help stop the strings from sticking there.
When you put the new strings on get the guitar 'kind of' in tune and then give the strings a good stretch - grab one string at a time in the middle of the neck and give it a pull, quite firmly but not too hard - and then retune the guitar.

Repeat this stretching-in a couple of times (stretch then re-tune) and the guitar should stay in tune! This technique also helps you spot if a machine is slipping or a string has not locked onto the machine properly.

When tuning ALWAYS tune up to a note - not down. Again, if there's anything causing the strings to stick they won't stay in tune when you start playing. For example if your B string is sharp, tune it down to below B first and then tune it up to B (this is why it's called 'tuning up'!).

As for the going-out-of-tune sharp thing - when you're tuning make sure you hit the strings as hard as you do when you're playing. The harder you hit a string the sharper it will sound (initially at least). Changes in humidity shouldn't affect a guitar, unless it hasn't been lacquered or sealed with some sort or varnish or oil. Temperature WILL make a difference though. Don't leave your guitars in direct sunlight or next to a hot radiator - you can do horrible damage to the neck!

If the open strings are in tune, but the guitar plays sharp when you fret the notes, then the guitar will need 'setting-up' - far easier to do on the electric (with movable saddles) than the acoustic.

Electronic tuners are ridiculously sensitive things - if you hold the headstock, or the neck, or the machine when you play a note to see if it's in tune then it's possible you are flexing the neck and therefore tightening or loosening the tension (and thus the pitch) of the string. Depending on the instrument (some flex more than others) it's always a good idea to sit dead still while you're tuning.

Also you don't say HOW sharp/out of tune your guitars get. If it's less than about 15-20 cents then that's really nothing to worry about. Because of the design of a guitar and the way we have decided to organise our tonal system, tuning a guitar is always a bit of a compromise so the concept of 'exactly in tune' just doesn't exist in the real world.

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Thanks for the detailed advice!

The guitars are relatively new actually. I sold my old Yamaha acoustic in 1984. I regret this as it was a better guitar than the Yamaha acoustic I have now. They don't make 'em like they used to.

Although I keep the guitars in their cases, sometimes they are on the living room floor and it occurs to me they could be in sunlight sometimes. Oops. Also, I have occasionally knocked the heads or necks against things like lamps, when turning around. It's a small apartment. I need a house!

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Woz70 nailed it. However I would like to add the older Yamaha's were damn good guitars. I have an older Yamaha AEX 500 and that is a great guitar, best guitar for the money spent and is very flexible and reliable. Some do not like to gig with these because they come across so bright but I found that is easy to correct by using coated strings, adjusting the tone way down, and using the right amp.

Epiphones...don't like em. If you want the LP sound look in the classified or internet for used gear. I never buy new, used gear is so much better IMO, not just price but the gear is broken in...just make sure it ain't broken:-)

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