My Guitar Won't Stay In Tune

This is a slightly self-serving post. I frequently get contacted by players complaining that their guitars won’t stay in tune. I always ask them the same set of questions to try narrow down the problem and I figure that, if I can forewarn musicians with some things to think about, I can give everyone a head-start on getting this sorted.

My guitar won’t stay in tune doesn’t give enough information. Have a think about some other stuff too.

Before I start into this: A while back, I wrote a whole series on solving tuning problems and I definitely recommend you have a read if you’re in the market for having tuning problems solved.

However, if you want to bring your guitar to a tech for this stuff, it will help a lot if you can consider exactly what the problem is before you go. Because there’s a heap of variables, it’s not terribly useful to tell the tech, “it won’t stay in tune.”

Instead, for a while before you contact your tech, make a note (mental or otherwise) of the following :

  • Does the tuning go sharp or flat?
  • Does the problem affect one string or multiple? Which ones?
  • Is there any problem getting the strings into tune in the first place?
  • Does the guitar go out of tune only when played or will it slip out of tune in its case or on a stand?
  • Is there any playing style or technique that causes the tuning problem to happen (or to get worse) – for instance, bending a string?
  • Is there some circumstance where the tuning problem doesn’t occur? Or, some circumstance that seem to make it more likely to occur? For instance, a particular location or particular weather/environmental condition.
  • Is the problem any different with fresh strings – is it better, worse, or the same?
  • Ever hear any unusual noises – pings or creaking? Which strings and what were you doing when it happened?

It’s the most natural think in the world to just generalise this stuff in our minds. We think the damn guitar won’t stay in tune without noticing that it’s just the G string that keeps slipping, or that it only happens when we play in that rehearsal space with no air conditioning.

If you can really think about this stuff for a couple of weeks, it will go a long way towards making it easier to fix. And it will make your tech’s work a little easier – there’s only so much time they can spend with your guitar and being able to rule things in or out will really help.

Remember, if you have tuning problems, you might find it useful to have a read through my troubleshooting guitar tuning series. There’s some stuff there that might just get you playing in tune.

And if not, give some thought about exactly what’s going wrong and you’ll be a couple of steps closer to a solution.

That’s always nice, right?

This article written by Gerry Hayes and first published at