A guitar is a stringed instrument, meaning that it needs to be tuned regularly, much to the dismay of many guitarists. The strings are constantly under pressure, and over time, they can become stretched out or slipped, resulting in them needing to be tuned again. If you have to tune your guitar more than once per practice session, something is causing your guitar to go out of tune.
Here are 5 tips on how to keep your strings from slipping:
- Tighten the screws in the pegs.
- Check how you tied your guitar strings.
- Minimize excess tension on the strings.
- Reduce environmental changes.
- Replace old, worn-out strings.
The rest of this article will go over the different reasons that your guitar strings can slip and a few other reasons why your guitar may be going out of tune so frequently.
1. Tighten the Screws in the Pegs
If your actual peg is the thing that’s slipping, as opposed to the strings, then you may be looking at an issue with the screw. Every peg has a small screw that holds it to the guitar. The tighter the screw is, the more resistance there is when you’re tuning the guitar. Fortunately, this also makes it so that it’s harder for the strings to pull the pegs loose so quickly.
If you want to try tightening the peg, you’re going to need a small screwdriver and a very delicate hand. Make sure you’re using an appropriately sized screwdriver, so it doesn’t slip and strip the head of the screw while you’re tightening it. As you’re tightening the screw, continue to check the tension, you don’t want to tighten it to the point that it’s difficult to adjust to tighten or loosen your strings.
If you don’t feel confident doing this yourself, the best option is to take your guitar to a skilled luthier and have them take a look at it. Luthiers are experts in the making and maintenance of stringed instruments, including violins, cellos, and, of course, guitars. In addition to tightening your pegs, they will be able to identify any other issues in the making of your guitar that could be contributing to why it’s going out of tune so frequently.
2. Check How You Tied Your Guitar Strings
The way you tie your guitar strings is crucial when making sure that your guitar is holding its tune. Everyone has a different method for this, but the key is making sure that you have at least a few inches of string going through the hole and having the string wrapped around the peg several times. This gives it more grip, so it’s less likely to slip.
My favorite way to string a guitar is by first placing a few inches of the string through the hole, then bending the tail end up at a 90-degree angle. After that, I’ll start to wrap the string around the peg at least 3-4 times, making sure to cover the tail as I’m wrapping the peg. If you don’t leave enough excess for the tail and wrap around the peg, it won’t be as secure because there is less string to grip the peg.
This method helps keep the string secure because both the bending and the wrapping is helping to keep the tail in place, so it doesn’t slip. If you just use bending or wrapping, as some methods recommend, it’s more likely that the strings will come undone under pressure. It’s also a straightforward method as there is no fancy not tying or twisting going on. The only key step is making sure that you have enough excess wrapped around the peg.
3. Minimize Excess Tension on the Strings
In my experience, one of the most significant contributors to my guitar strings going out of tune has been the frequent use of a capo. We all love capos. They allow you to play songs in whatever key you want without constantly having to use bar chords. However, if you leave them on too long or forget to take them off once you’re done playing, it can apply excess pressure on the guitar strings. This puts greater tension on the pegs, which can cause them to slip.
The same can occur with your guitar strap. There are two ways to attach your guitar strap to your guitar. You can attach it to the button at the base of your guitar and a button at the base of the neck. You can get a different type as well where it’s attached to the bottom of your guitar with the button and looped around the knut of your guitar.
If your guitar strap is fixed around the knut area, it could place excess tension on the strings. Just like with the capo, the added stress on the strings from the strap can cause the strings to stretch out or pull on the pegs, which can cause them to slip and your guitar to go out of tune.
In both of these situations, the solution is relatively simple. If the capo is your problem, simply reduce the amount of time that you play with one and, of course, take it off once you’re done. That has always been my biggest problem with it. Forgetting to take it off then leaving your guitar sitting there with it on will surely pull your strings out of tune.
If your guitar strap is causing the strings to be pulled out of place, you have two choices. You can either adjust your guitar strap so it isn’t causing any pressure below the knut, or you can install a strap button. The strap button will be attached at the base of your guitar’s neck or on the guitar’s body. This will allow you to make sure both strap contact points are on the body, which will reduce any excess tension on the neck.
4. Reduce Environmental Changes
If you’ve already adjusted your pegs and your strings are tied correctly, or at least you think you are, then you may not have a problem with the pegs at all. Changes in your environment may be causing your problem.
If you like to take your guitar everywhere with you and play in a lot of different areas, or your home isn’t climate controlled and the seasons have been changing, then your strings could be slipping due to the changes in temperature and humidity.
When it is warm, the strings will expand, which can make your guitar sound flat. When it’s warm, the strings will contract to make the guitar sound sharp. The changes can also alter the tuning of your guitar because as they expand and contract, it can cause the strings to slip on the tuning pegs.
If your guitar is being exposed to humidity, this can also affect the tuning of your guitar. Humidity, or lack thereof, can cause the wood of your guitar to warp or crack. If the pegs or the area surrounding them warps, it will change the sound and make the guitar more difficult to keep in tune.
If you live in a particularly dry area, then you can use a humidity control tool in your instrument. Many different brands make them, but they all serve the same purpose. It is a piece of absorbent material that is dampened then placed inside the body of your instrument. It slowly releases moisture over time to help keep your instrument’s body from drying out.
5. Replace Old, Worn-Out Strings.
After some time, your guitar strings are going to wear out. In order to produce sound, the strings must be under tension. With constant tension being applied to them, it is no wonder that they will go loose after some time. At this point, it can be virtually impossible to tighten them to the point where they’ll hold a tune because they’re just going to keep stretching.
Normally steel guitar strings, the most common type, have a lifespan of about 100 playing hours. Nylon strings stretch out even more quickly, typically only lasting for around 80 hours of playing. After that, they will begin to stretch out more rapidly, and it will be difficult to get them to hold a tune throughout your playing session.
To maximize the amount of time that your guitar strings will last, the most important thing to do is to reduce the excess tension they’re carrying. Overuse of capos or a guitar strap that is attached to the neck can both cause this. So, if you can, detach the guitar strap when you put your guitar away and make sure to remove the capo.
One of the biggest reasons your guitar isn’t holding its tune is due to excess tension (here’s why drop d tuning is used so often for songs). Excess tension has the potential to pull just about everything out of order. It will stretch out your strings prematurely, cause additional wear and tear on the pegs, and challenge the structural integrity of your guitar, making it more likely to break.
If your guitar isn’t holding its tune throughout your practice session, you can try the steps that I mentioned in this article and that should keep your guitar strings from slipping (Which Guitar String Is the Most Likely To Break?).