What makes a guitar go sharp?
initialsBB
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#1
31st March 2010
Old 31st March 2010
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What makes a guitar go sharp?

When I first pick up my guitar it's always slightly sharp. What's causing that, is the trem pulling on the strings too much? Should I let out the trem claw a little? This is a strat btw.
#2
31st March 2010
Old 31st March 2010
  #2
Gear maniac
 

There are many many reasons for a guitar to go out of tune. Any kind of temperature change causes the metal and wood of the guitar to expand and contract in suttle amounts, making the guitar go out of tune. But, I would definitely say that if you have, and use a whammy bar, that it is probably the culprit. Whammy bar's simply destroy tuning.
#3
31st March 2010
Old 31st March 2010
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Each guitar is a bit different. My EJ strat goes out of tune 1x a week and it's usually time to change the strings then My hollow body - oyez! It's out of tune every time I pick it up. Any change in humidity or temperature just #$#%^s it up.

If these are new-ish strings (less than two weeks old) and you consistently have this problem daily, I'd get rid of it and buy a newer/better/different guitar. Strats became popular in part because they could take a beating onstage and not go out of tune that much.
initialsBB
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31st March 2010
Old 31st March 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sargentpilcher View Post
Any kind of temperature change causes the metal and wood of the guitar to expand and contract in suttle amounts, making the guitar go out of tune.
Yeah, but I would expect those fluctuations to be more random. Since it's always going sharp it seems more like the setup.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Whigham View Post
But, I would definitely say that if you have, and use a whammy bar, that it is probably the culprit. Whammy bar's simply destroy tuning.
There's a tremolo but I don't use it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Whigham View Post
If these are new-ish strings (less than two weeks old) and you consistently have this problem daily, I'd get rid of it and buy a newer/better/different guitar. Strats became popular in part because they could take a beating onstage and not go out of tune that much.
It doesn't really bother me and I'm certainly not going to get rid of the guitar for what's probably a minor setup tweak. It doesn't really go out of tune while I'm playing, just after sitting around for a day.

I was just curious, because it makes sense to me that the strings could lose tension, but I don't quite understand how they could gain tension. Seems counterintuitive.
#5
1st April 2010
Old 1st April 2010
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ButchP's Avatar
 

the main reason a guitar with a vibrato bridge like a Strat goes out of tune is because the string gets caught on one or both of the contact surfaces....the Nut or the Bridge.

There's no reason to jump to hasty solutions like "get another guitar" A good gtr repairman can get it to stay in fairly good tune (no guitar stays perfectly in tune all the time) and hip you to how to work it.

BP
#6
1st April 2010
Old 1st April 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by initialsBB View Post
It doesn't really bother me and I'm certainly not going to get rid of the guitar for what's probably a minor setup tweak
Fair enough - take it to a tech and get a setup. That's a given - I should've asked if you've had it professionally setup instead of assumed you had.

But I've sold/traded/given away guitars for much less reasons than it wouldn't stay in tune
initialsBB
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#7
1st April 2010
Old 1st April 2010
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by ButchP View Post
the main reason a guitar with a vibrato bridge like a Strat goes out of tune is because the string gets caught on one or both of the contact surfaces....the Nut or the Bridge.
That makes sense. I think I'll tune it up and let it sit overnight without playing it and see what it looks like tomorrow. It seems like if all of the strings are equally off that would imply something going on with the neck related to temperature and humidity, but if individual strings are off after playing, that might point to the bridge or nut. Does that sound about right?
#8
1st April 2010
Old 1st April 2010
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Victory Pete's Avatar
 

I have noticed most of my guitars go sharp over time. I only have 1 with a Floyd. I wondered if it is the strings themselves. Age seems to make them more hard and brittle which may make them go sharp. The proccess of work hardening may be at work here. Work hardening - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
VP
#9
1st April 2010
Old 1st April 2010
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FFTT's Avatar
 

Just the difference in temperature between the dressing room and the stage
can make any stringed instrument go out of tune.

Once you start playing and the lights come up, the added heat will make the instrument go flat.

Once you have your guitar professionally set up and intonated, use pencil lead
in the nut during string changes to help keep the strings from binding in the nut.

You also want to make sure that your bridge is not binding when you use
your whammy bar.

Providing everything is right with the guitar, temperature changes are
your greatest challenge.
#10
1st April 2010
Old 1st April 2010
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octatonic's Avatar
 

Changes in temperature and humidity do it.
Happens all the time.
#11
2nd April 2010
Old 2nd April 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FFTT View Post
Once you have your guitar professionally set up and intonated, use pencil lead in the nut during string changes to help keep the strings from binding in the nut.
+1. The best resource on tuning that I've seen is Johnny Smith's article, Stringing & Tuning. I saw this in GP years ago, and I guess it made it into one of their books at some point. Now online: How to play guitar: the basics ... - Google Books
#12
2nd April 2010
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If I'm just playing by myself I don't worry about the fact that a cold guitar is a few cents sharper than it'll be when it warms up. When I"m playing with others, or recording, there's just no way to avoid having to tune up again once the strings are warm. Even with my guitars with locking tuners and trems, that are rock solid in terms of relative intonation (the strings stay in tune with each other for weeks), that slight drop in pitch as the guitar warms up is real. Some of those guitars have rock solid setups, too, so it's not something that you need to blame on a bad guitar or setup, just the way life is...
#13
2nd April 2010
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I think the nut, and the tremelo, and excessively high pickups with strong alnico slug magnets, are far more likely culprits than humidity or temperature, for a solidbody electric with a maple neck. I've had guitars stay in tune for months through changing temperature and humidity. While some guitars are more prone to it than others, you'd think a big bolted on piece of solid maple and a solid ash or alder body would be among the least likely to have a problem.

I'm not much of a scholar of the strat whammy bar, but it seems to me that the basic design involves the bridge being under tension from the springs as well as the strings, and from a quick read on it, you can adjust the spring tension, which allow you to control the angle the bridge sits at when at rest. It seems plausible that too much tension in the springs would pull the strings sharp, like your initial idea.

Here's a relevant article-
Tech Tips: How to improve the performance of your Fender Stratocaster's tremolo system | Sweetwater.com
#14
2nd April 2010
Old 2nd April 2010
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ButchP's Avatar
 

a lot of good points.The main ones point to weather humidity cold or heat.)After a solid setup to work out any possible kinks..unless you put it in a controlled humidifier case it will probably continue to happen.

btw.
is it gong WAY out like ...every string ...or is it the G string pulling 5 or over cents(about when your ear can percieve tuning difference) sharp?accurate tuning is voodoo since no guitar is in perfect tune.Some days I care WAY too much ..on good days it's close enough for rock n roll.

BP
#15
2nd April 2010
Old 2nd April 2010
  #15
3 + infractions, forum membership suspended.
Quote:
Originally Posted by initialsBB View Post
When I first pick up my guitar it's always slightly sharp. What's causing that, is the trem pulling on the strings too much? Should I let out the trem claw a little? This is a strat btw.
block off the trem

slight back bow in the neck can make it go sharp , too much string tension
often it is the reverse though... it goes flat

may be the trem in your case? You can put a small piece of ebony or rosewood
between the trem block and the body cavity to prevent the trem from pulling back
but it will still let you go forward. Some guys like pulling back in the trem as well as forward

When I had trem gtr (sold them all for same reason) I would block of the trem
in two places so it wouldn't go sharp or flat. I couldn't use the trems
but I didn't care, hair metal was out of style by that point
#16
2nd April 2010
Old 2nd April 2010
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ButchP's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by robertshaw View Post
block off the trem
uhhh yeh..just get an LP...hahahaha..

letting out the trem claw will make the bridge float(depending on "how" muchits let out)be sure both sides of the claw are equal distance form the body cavitys back

....afterwards it will need to be re intonated..

on that note all my trems float.....quite a bit ..G string pulls UP a minor 3rd B string up a major 2nd...for musical reasons but also if my bridge doesn't reurn to it's position I give it a quick "musical" yank when playing(a lot of whammy stuff VH did was using this technique pre FR and became a habit I'm sure!!).

The final fact is some guitars don't want to stay in tune because of a multitude of reasons that may or may not be fixable.Personally I try not let it effect me too much.There is a degree of tuning forgivness... I try to only obsess when it's gone past that.

my 5 cents of tuning

BP
initialsBB
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#17
3rd April 2010
Old 3rd April 2010
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by ButchP View Post
is it gong WAY out like ...every string ...or is it the G string pulling 5 or over cents(about when your ear can percieve tuning difference) sharp?
No, it's very subtle. The G is slightly out in a noticeable way and the other strings are all equally sharp by a tiny amount that I can't really hear, but can see on a strobe tuner. It doesn't bother me at all, it just made me curious.


Quote:
Originally Posted by teleharmonium View Post
I think the nut, and the tremelo, and excessively high pickups with strong alnico slug magnets, are
Hmm, I hadn't thought of the pickups as a factor.


Quote:
Originally Posted by robertshaw View Post
block off the trem
Uh.... NO.


Quote:
Originally Posted by ButchP View Post
The final fact is some guitars don't want to stay in tune because of a multitude of reasons that may or may not be fixable.Personally I try not let it effect me too much.
Yeah, as I mentioned, it doesn't really bother me. I was more curious about it in an academic sense. For the record, I built and set-up the guitar myself, so tweaking things like this is all a part of the learning process.
#18
3rd April 2010
Old 3rd April 2010
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GotGear?'s Avatar
 

All of my guitars go sharp depending upon the temp and humidity.

They all do it equally though, by a few cents that you can't really hear unless compared to a piano or synth, but using the strobe tuner you can see it. Fortunately as I said, all the strings go sharp by the same amount.
#19
3rd April 2010
Old 3rd April 2010
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ButchP's Avatar
 

Is the bridge floating at all? If so per my suggestion give it a firm yank up then a tap to "seat" it.

also other culprits..

spring tension:
I like the highest tension springs possible..be sure they are all the SAME..I use

2 springs:
bridge holes 1&5 to claw 2&4

3 springs:
bridge holes 1&3&5 to claw 2&3&4

I've never used 4 or 5 springs before!!Id just block it!..

is the bridge 6 set screw or fulcrum?

6 screw:
make sure the "outsides" screws are tightened equally.Preferable flush to the plate without over tightening.I find the other 4 don't matter as much if anything I back them off a little (all equally).

if the body wood is soft like basswood or paulownia they can be slowly slipping out with whammy usage.

fulcrum:
Make sure the post are equally screwed in and that the knife edge is seated correctly and isn't binding.


I have graduated post tuners (sperzals).String trees are a tuning accident waiting to happen.

an improperly cut nut will hang up a string everytime.Im not good enough to pull that off consistently so I let experts do that!

If the PU's are too hot...uhhh..... lower them.


I know this is basic but proper string winding and stretching go a long way to help staying in tune.

after all this you can be fairly close to having the "open strings in tune"....fretted notes.....thats a whole other set of very complicated problem.
Thats why I'm not as anal.It's gonna be out anyways.( I have scalloped fingborad to boot!)

I like the Boss tuner or most cheaper tuners because they are way within 5 cents and when it's close the needle or light clings to the note...Strobe tuners drive me nuts.Too much precsion for playing (necassary for great intonation set up though!).

BP
initialsBB
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#20
3rd April 2010
Old 3rd April 2010
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by GotGear? View Post
All of my guitars go sharp depending upon the temp and humidity.

They all do it equally though, by a few cents that you can't really hear unless compared to a piano or synth, but using the strobe tuner you can see it. Fortunately as I said, all the strings go sharp by the same amount.
Yeah, it's possible that I just never noticed this before until I got a good tuner. I've only had the strobe for about a year.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ButchP View Post
I like the Boss tuner or most cheaper tuners because they are way within 5 cents and when it's close the needle or light clings to the note...Strobe tuners drive me nuts.Too much precsion for playing (necassary for great intonation set up though!).
Ah, I see. So you're not actually in tune then? Yeah the sharpness I'm talking about would probably show up as being in tune on a cheap tuner.
#21
3rd April 2010
Old 3rd April 2010
  #21
Gear Head
 

Hi. This is just a hunch, but I'm guessing when you set your guitar down you're leaning it against something that's putting a little bit of pressure on the back of the neck. When it's leaning there the overall pitch of the instrument will be slightly flat... following me so far?... The strings will slowly be pulled just a little tiny bit through the nut towards the tuners as a consequence of the tension trying to even out along the length of the string. When you pick the guitar back up the strings will still be slightly hung up in the nut and sound sharp. You can tell right away if it's this kind of thing going on if, when you first pick up to play and find it sharp, give a quick bend to each string to reseat the tension. If it comes straight back in tune, the solution is to do what someone else said here, graphite in the nut slots. If not, so much for hunches... Whatever the case, if the guitar is sharp when you first pick it up it almost will always be solved by a quick bend. Even after you dump the trem and the low E, G and B strings go sharp... same thing.. Sorry to rattle on. I'm new here. Take care.
#22
3rd April 2010
Old 3rd April 2010
  #22
3 + infractions, forum membership suspended.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ButchP View Post
uhhh yeh..just get an LP...hahahaha..

letting out the trem claw will make the bridge float(depending on "how" muchits let out)be sure both sides of the claw are equal distance form the body cavitys back

....afterwards it will need to be re intonated..

on that note all my trems float.....quite a bit ..G string pulls UP a minor 3rd B string up a major 2nd...for musical reasons but also if my bridge doesn't reurn to it's position I give it a quick "musical" yank when playing(a lot of whammy stuff VH did was using this technique pre FR and became a habit I'm sure!!).

The final fact is some guitars don't want to stay in tune because of a multitude of reasons that may or may not be fixable.Personally I try not let it effect me too much.There is a degree of tuning forgivness... I try to only obsess when it's gone past that.

my 5 cents of tuning

BP
is your avatar of zeppelin? looks like a cool rendering
#23
3rd April 2010
Old 3rd April 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robertshaw View Post
is your avatar of zeppelin? looks like a cool rendering
yeh it's by a So Cal artist I do work with.Here it is and a link to his work.

Celebrity Art

#24
8th January 2011
Old 8th January 2011
  #24
Gear interested
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by GotGear? View Post
All of my guitars go sharp depending upon the temp and humidity.

They all do it equally though, by a few cents that you can't really hear unless compared to a piano or synth, but using the strobe tuner you can see it. Fortunately as I said, all the strings go sharp by the same amount.
Pianos also go up in pitch when the lights are turned on.

I was not clear on what kind of tremolo bridge you have. I once had a "ployd rose" style whammy bridge with worn knife edges. When I pulled sharp and let go, the worn knife edges that pivot on the two mounting screws would bind, leaving the bridge slightly back to cause the guitar to be sharp. When I pushed in , like a dive bomb effect, the opposite would happen.
Make sure the truss rod is not loose inside. When the wood dries out (a bad thing) the truss rod can loosen up, allowing the neck to move more. Another thing I have experienced is movement where the neck is connected to the body. Sometimes it could be loose here. Bolt on necks are easy to fix. Try not to lean on the neck when playing.

BTW, a cheap entry level guitar does not have great wood density and humidity changes will effect it drastically.
#25
8th January 2011
Old 8th January 2011
  #25
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At church, my guitar sits at something like 65 degrees all week. When I first tune up and start playing, all the metal is at that temperature. AFter 5 minutes, pitch has dropped a few cents, enough to require a retune and then I'm good for the set. If you want to stop it happening, store your guitars at 80 degrees
#26
20th January 2011
Old 20th January 2011
  #26
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psycom's Avatar
 

Exclamation String wraps at ball getting caught

Keep a close eye on the end of your strings where the ball is. Not all brands are equal and of course doesn't apply to those that cut them off for a Floyd locker but I've had some stretch & unwind.

What happens is the tight wrap unravels, crawls up the string and then you can end up with a piece of metal acting like a hook catching the roller ball (in my case) or the knife edge of your saddle. Mine would tune up great, come back after a big whammy dip but go sharp if I then bent the string.

Turns out the string wrapping had unloosened and the end of the wrap would grab and take hold when I stretched the string leaving me a way sharp.Hitting the bar would release it and it'd go back to normal. Good luck trying to get the wrap back into place or cutting it back. Save your time and replace the string.

side note on strings, Dean Markley "Blue Steels" are the biggest offenders. tuttI've had a lot of trouble with those. One set broke a core while setting up a guitar and it drove me crazy. Would tune up but suddenly the octave was 20 cents sharp. Being in the middle of a setup on a new guitar had me looking at all kinds of things. In nearly 40 yrs of playing I never had this happen to me so it didn't cross my mind.

Do watch your strings and beware of these new ideas. Glowing frozen or other equally useless ideas are just that... useless. Stick with what works for you.

Last edited by psycom; 20th January 2011 at 01:21 AM.. Reason: public schooling
#27
21st February 2011
Old 21st February 2011
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darkhorse's Avatar
Actually just about every guitar I have ever had comes out the case w at least some strings sharp. I think it is because as you are playing the strings are hot and being stretched. When they go in the case they cool off, contract and get a little sharp. Pretty common. I currently have no trem systems and mine do it all the time. I learned this little trick years back to tune up into pitch, seems to help hold tuning better, I heard this is what string players do.

Not a huge difference in most strings, Most come from 4-5 basic factories and the same common steel and nickel sources. Might surprise quite a few to know sort of like some "tubes" the labels are just applied to generic.
#28
21st February 2011
Old 21st February 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by initialsBB View Post
When I first pick up my guitar it's always slightly sharp. What's causing that, is the trem pulling on the strings too much? Should I let out the trem claw a little? This is a strat btw.
Thin strings. However I prefer the sound of thin strings myself so tune one, sometimes two "dots" flat on my tuner.
#29
21st February 2011
Old 21st February 2011
  #29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Victory Pete View Post
I have noticed most of my guitars go sharp over time. I only have 1 with a Floyd. I wondered if it is the strings themselves. Age seems to make them more hard and brittle which may make them go sharp. The proccess of work hardening may be at work here. Work hardening - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
VP
strings won't make the guitar go sharp, getting caught in the nut will or the neck bowing out will. and that will also screw your intonation.
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