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#250591 - 05/21/14 09:31 AM [Off-Topic] Is it worth the cost to replace guitar tuners for 'premium' tuners
Joe V Offline
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Registered: 02/19/06
Posts: 981
Loc: NYC
Hi all,

I have a couple of lower cost guitars - Mexican Tele, cheapo Strat, some acoustics (300 - 400 range).

Do you think changing the guitar tuners to some premium brand (looking for recommendations) will make a noticeable difference in the instruments ability to stay in tune ?

Please share your experiences.

Thx,
Joe V.

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#250592 - 05/21/14 09:38 AM [Off-Topic] Re: Is it worth the cost to replace guitar tuners for 'premium' tuners [Re: Joe V]
90 dB Offline
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Registered: 04/20/10
Posts: 4477
Loc: Florida
Originally Posted By: Joe V
Hi all,

I have a couple of lower cost guitars - Mexican Tele, cheapo Strat, some acoustics (300 - 400 range).

Do you think changing the guitar tuners to some premium brand (looking for recommendations) will make a noticeable difference in the instruments ability to stay in tune ?

Please share your experiences.

Thx,
Joe V.






Yes. If the guitar is otherwise sound (straight neck, etc), a cheap guitar will usually benefit from a decent set of tuners. If your guitar won't stay in tune, I would check your nut first, before swapping tuners.



Regards,

Bob
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#250597 - 05/21/14 09:56 AM [Off-Topic] Re: Is it worth the cost to replace guitar tuners for 'premium' tuners [Re: Joe V]
Pat Marr Offline
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Registered: 10/25/08
Posts: 7436
Loc: Winston-Salem, NC
Joe,

when you say "stay in tune", are you talking about the strings not staying taut? or do you mean intonation changes as you go up the neck? They are different problems that require different solutions. Intonation problems wouldn't be helped by better tuners.

Having said that, I agree with Bob that if you like the guitar, a better set of tuners would benefit.

The local music store should be able to set up the guitar and take care of the intonation problems for a reasonable fee.

My personal philosophy is not to spend a lot of money replacing stuff on instruments. I'd rather sell it and buy a better instrument. Its kind of like buying a car at a used car lot as opposed to buying all the parts at an auto parts store, then assembling the car yourself. Assembled mass produced items are generally MUCH less expensive than the same item made from individually purchased components

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#250604 - 05/21/14 10:32 AM [Off-Topic] Re: Is it worth the cost to replace guitar tuners for 'premium' tuners [Re: Joe V]
Kemmrich Offline
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Registered: 02/27/07
Posts: 1814
Guitars that are in the $300-400 range should have adequate tuners already that stay in tune. Are you saying all your guitars go out of tune in 15 minutes of playing?

I would vote no on new tuners unless your tuners are broken.
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#250608 - 05/21/14 11:12 AM [Off-Topic] Re: Is it worth the cost to replace guitar tuners for 'premium' tuners [Re: Pat Marr]
GHinCH Offline
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Registered: 01/08/10
Posts: 1486
Loc: Schleswig-Holstein, Germany
For many cases you're right. Sometimes it is just a good crafted instrument with inferior mechanics or electronic parts. Replacing them will mostly be the better deal than buying another instrument, plus you need to find somebody stupid enough to buy your instrument for a decent price.

Guido
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#250612 - 05/21/14 11:51 AM [Off-Topic] Re: Is it worth the cost to replace guitar tuners for 'premium' tuners [Re: Pat Marr]
chulaivet1966 Offline
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Registered: 01/10/13
Posts: 554
Loc: West coast
Originally Posted By: Pat Marr
I agree with Bob that if you like the guitar, a better set of tuners would benefit.
The local music store should be able to set up the guitar and take care of the intonation problems for a reasonable fee. My personal philosophy is not to spend a lot of money replacing stuff on instruments. I'd rather sell it and buy a better instrument.


I agree with the above.
My three axes were quality built and played well at purchase but the stock tuners were obviously very cheap.
So, the first thing I did with all (3) was replace the tuners on my Martin copy (1975), Guild D40 (1973) and Ibanez Tele Silver Series (1977).

In those days it was Grovers/Schaler but I'm long out of the loop of what out there now.
I would not get new tuners on a cheap one....I'd upgrade my axe first. smile

Carry on....


Edited by chulaivet1966 (05/21/14 11:58 AM)
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#250729 - 05/22/14 08:58 AM [Off-Topic] Re: Is it worth the cost to replace guitar tuners for 'premium' tuners [Re: Joe V]
Guitarhacker Offline
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Registered: 04/03/09
Posts: 5250
There is a difference between the el-cheapo tuning pegs on a cheap guitar and those on a quality built guitar.

Replacing them will very likely make a noticeable difference. They tend to be smoother and hold tension a bit more securely. The internal tolerances and overall quality of the parts make that difference.

If you have a "cheap" guitar..... and replace the pegs for $50, that's probably going to be a good deal and you should see an improvement.

The bigger issue is, do you stop with just the pegs or do you continue to upgrade the other parts to match? Bridge, pickups, controls, etc.... Remember that under the accessories, there still exists a cheap guitar. There's a huge world of difference between the USA Fenders and the Chinese knockoffs. Money spent on accessories will likely never be recovered in a sale.

But... if it's a good guitar and you like it, and want to keep it.... upgrade it.
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#250731 - 05/22/14 09:10 AM [Off-Topic] Re: Is it worth the cost to replace guitar tuners for 'premium' tuners [Re: Joe V]
Notes Norton Offline
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Registered: 07/06/00
Posts: 4175
Loc: Fort Pierce, Florida, U.S.A.
I have two Parkers with Sperzel Locking Tuners. Unlike others, there are no attachments to the bridge or the nut, the string doesn't get wound and wound and wound around the tuner, 1/2 to 1 turn is enough.

They often stay in tune all night - and I bend strings a lot and use the whammy a bit.

I do one-nighters, so the guitars bounce around in the van, and get moved almost daily. It amazes me that they are often still in tune when I pull the guitar out of the case at the next gig.

Now I can't give all the credit to the tuners, the guitars have a Graph Tech nut and bridge and the string path is almost straight from the ball end to the tuner. But I think the Sperzels have a lot to do with it.





Sorry, it's the best picture of the headstock I have, but I think you can see that the strings don't wind one complete turn. There's a little thumb wheel in the back the locks the strings in the slots.

Notes
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#250732 - 05/22/14 09:20 AM [Off-Topic] Re: Is it worth the cost to replace guitar tuners for 'premium' tuners [Re: Joe V]
MarioD Offline
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Registered: 12/27/03
Posts: 10260
Loc: Hamlin NY
As many have said changing the tuning keys can make a difference IF that is the problem. I would rule out everything else first. Things like neck alignment, fret wear, nut, bridge and tailpiece. If they are ok then check to see if your tuning keys can be tightened. Sometimes the nut and/or the wood screws that hold them in place can come loose. If you are not sure how to do this then take the guitar(s) to a tech.

Then if everything is ok unstring the guitar and see how easily the tuning keys can be turned. If they turn very easily then that is your problem.

Ps – if your strings are old then you can never keep them in tune regardless of what you do. Also on very rare occasions you can get a bad set of strings. This has happened to me once, a brand new set that I could not keep in tune. That taught me too never by bargain strings again!
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#250735 - 05/22/14 09:22 AM [Off-Topic] Re: Is it worth the cost to replace guitar tuners for 'premium' tuners [Re: Joe V]
Guitarhacker Offline
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Registered: 04/03/09
Posts: 5250
A story:

In a band I played in, the other guitarist (Ralph) played a really nice Fender American Strat. I played a 69 Gibson SG.

We would both tune up with a conn strobe tuner before each set. By the 3rd song or there abouts, Ralph would be out of tune and checking his tuning quickly between songs with his tuner. My Gibson was rock solid and would seldom get out of tune unless a string broke.

So, one night Ralph suggested that we swap guitars for a set. He wanted to see if his guitar was the problem. So we swapped and played the next set.

Starting with 2 perfectly in tune guitars, by the 3rd song or there abouts, Ralph was out of tune with my SG, and the strat was still rocking it's original tuning. In that case, it turned out to be Ralph's heavy handed playing style. Once he knew what the problem was, he was able to work on modifying his playing style. He had played that way for years thinking that he just had the misfortune to buy guitars which would not hold a proper tuning.

All that to say, your technique may also be at the root of the tuning issue. The pressure you apply, how you pull or push the strings, all play a factor in how well the guitar will hold it's tune.

Does the guitar hold tune perfectly if you tune it up and then immediately set it aside and leave it untouched for a day or two? Assuming no major humidity or temp changes in the room.

I can tune the SG and play it during a recording session, put it away in the case and the next day it's still in tune.


Edited by Guitarhacker (05/22/14 09:25 AM)
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#250737 - 05/22/14 09:27 AM [Off-Topic] Re: Is it worth the cost to replace guitar tuners for 'premium' tuners [Re: Guitarhacker]
MarioD Offline
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Registered: 12/27/03
Posts: 10260
Loc: Hamlin NY
Good point Herb.

Another thing string gauge has a lot to do with staying in tune. The thinner the gauge the more likely that it will go out of tune. My 8-38s on my tele goes out of tune a lot faster and easier than my 13-58 flat wounds on my jazz box.
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#250741 - 05/22/14 09:49 AM [Off-Topic] Re: Is it worth the cost to replace guitar tuners for 'premium' tuners [Re: MarioD]
Guitarhacker Offline
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Registered: 04/03/09
Posts: 5250
Originally Posted By: MarioD
Good point Herb.
Another thing string gauge has a lot to do with staying in tune. The thinner the gauge the more likely that it will go out of tune. My 8-38s on my tele goes out of tune a lot faster and easier than my 13-58 flat wounds on my jazz box.


Another thing I have discovered through the years.

Absolutely, the thinner the gauge set, the easier it is to pull it out of tune. But even beyond the simple issue of gauge size....

Certain brands of strings seem to hold tune better than others. They are not all made alike.

Through the years, I have tried many different brands and gauges. When the gimmicks came along, yup, I bought some of them too and tried them. I always tended to keep coming back to one particular brand and gauge.

I even gave away a bunch of those brand new string sets to some guitarists who I knew didn't have a lot of money to buy strings because I didn't like that brand when it came to live performance and reliability. They were appreciative, and I got rid of the strings I would not use on stage.

Another string related issue to consider.

Strings have a time window during which they stay in tune fairly well. When they are first put on, they need to be stretched in....(broke in) ..... normally, I could install a new set of strings and in 20 minutes have them stretched sufficiently to play a set with only a few tuning touchups during the set. I kept my conn strobe tuner plugged into the line level out on the amp for tuning as needed while playing.

Once they are broke in, they will hold fairly well for quite some time. As the string get played, they start to wear on the underside from being pressed against the frets. Those wear points can be felt when you slide your finger down the string underneath it. That you can feel it indicates that the diameter of the string is different at those points and that affects the intonation of the string.

More than one time I've had tuning and intonation issues. A simple changing of the old strings and replacing them with new strings solved the problems.

Another thing: I never simply change one string. It's always a complete set swap. If that one string broke, that means all the strings are the same age.....probably going, or already dead..... so change them all. When I played on a regular basis and made my living from it, I would keep a spare set for breaks in a show. (I would also keep a second guitar handy.) But at the first chance, I'd change the rest. Knowing the average life of my chosen brand, I would change the strings on my guitar on a regular schedule. As a result, I rarely had one break in the middle of a song.
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#250742 - 05/22/14 09:53 AM [Off-Topic] Re: Is it worth the cost to replace guitar tuners for 'premium' tuners [Re: Joe V]
rockstar_not Offline
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Registered: 01/14/02
Posts: 7206
Loc: Colorado Springs, CO, USA
Joe,

Everyone here has given you great suggestions, but there is one that I almost hesitate to ask, but just for sake of completeness....

Do you go through a proper string stretching routine when you put a set of fresh strings on your guitars?

Many videos on this topic.

I assume that you do this, but just in case, this could be a source of all of your guitars having the same issue - if you are not stretching.

Honestly 300-400$ guitars these days have decent tuning machines. My Epiphone Nighthawk Custom Reissue, which now goes for only $299 at Sweetwater, came stock with some really nice Grover machines.

Do you play a heavier gauge string than what came stock on your guitars? If so, 90 dB's suggestion to check that the nut slots are wide enough and smooth enough in the very first reply is one of the first places to check. Then how about the intonation on your electrics? Do you know how to set intonation?

If not, then take the money you would spend on a set of nice tuners, and get the guitar professionally setup by someone who has a good reputation in your area. Ask him/her if they will teach you the basics on how to do that. You are a sharp guy, you can probably teach yourself given all the resources that are available today. You do need a good tuner to do a proper setup and all of the bridge and neck adjustment tools.

A full on pro setup can do wonderful things for a frustrating instrument. I would go there first after checking off string stretch and nut adjustment if necessary. Even filing the nut is something that is better left in the hands of a professional because of the specialized saw/files necessary.

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#250743 - 05/22/14 09:59 AM [Off-Topic] Re: Is it worth the cost to replace guitar tuners for 'premium' tuners [Re: Joe V]
Pat Marr Offline
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Registered: 10/25/08
Posts: 7436
Loc: Winston-Salem, NC
Quote:
Through the years, I have tried many different brands and gauges. When the gimmicks came along, yup, I bought some of them too and tried them. I always tended to keep coming back to one particular brand and gauge.


come on Herb! You can't leave us hangin' !!!

what is your preferred brand?

And what brand did you give away?

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#250744 - 05/22/14 10:05 AM [Off-Topic] Re: Is it worth the cost to replace guitar tuners for 'premium' tuners [Re: Joe V]
Pat Marr Offline
Veteran

Registered: 10/25/08
Posts: 7436
Loc: Winston-Salem, NC
Quote:
I have two Parkers with Sperzel Locking Tuners.

only one of my guitars has locking tuners: the Godin... but I agree, they are the Lexus of tuners (in my opinion, others' mileage may vary)

If I ever change tuners on any of my instruments, it will be to add locking functionality.

Interesting that we associate good tuners with quality guitars.... I always thought the stock tuners on the Gibson ES-335 were cheap. But I've never replaced mine because I'm afraid it would affect resale. Some buyers are obsessive about getting the original hardware with classic guitars.

Not that I'll ever sell it... but my kids will after I die

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