Our repairmen and guitar teachers have noticed that a number of guitarists do not know how to effectively tune their guitars. Keep the following tips in mind to help keep your guitar in tune.
1) Keep good quality strings on your guitar and change them regularly. Old or dirty strings do not stay in tune and even once they are tuned they will often not hold intonation. Once you have changed strings, stretch them and play them in a little.
2) Use a good quality tuner. We use a Peterson strobe tuner for all our guitar setup and maintenance work. We find the Boss TU 12 Ex to be a very accurate tuner as well. For cheaper clip on options - Peterson and Snark make good quality tuners.
3) Always tune 'up' to the desired pitch, make the last motion of the machine heads to be a tighten up, do not tune down to a note, go just below the pitch and tune 'up'. Tuning down to a note will cause the capstan to loosen and drop in pitch.
4) Keep the nut grooves lubricated with some graphite, use a pencil. Many tuning problems begin with a nut that catches the strings, especially with pitch bending.
5) Check your intonation or bring it in for our repairmen to adjust this for you. Intonations should be checked regularly as climactic conditions can change this faster than you might think.
6) Tune your strings in this order: 5th string A, 1st string E, 6th string E, second string B, 4th string D then 3rd string G. Double check them all, as you tune up other strings the tension on the neck changes and can cause the others to go out of tune.
7) Tune every time you play. Temperature changes affect tuning, playing the guitar affects tuning, taking your guitar in and out of a case affects tuning, even looking at your guitar affects tuning!
I hope these tips help you to get in tune and stay there. Next time; 'How to tuna fish'.