Your guitar can sound out of tune if it is really out of tune. Ha! The most obvious reason! When ALL the strings of your guitar are not tuned properly, your playing will surely sound a little ‘offish’. If 5 out of 6 of your guitar strings are properly tuned, that’s a pass mark, it should sound fine, right? Wrong! For your chords, solos, strumming and everything you play on the guitar to sound as perfectly as you want them to sound, you must tune ALL of your strings properly, leaving out no one. Tuning a guitar has been made easy, you can either use a high-quality electric tuner or simply use a tuner app on your mobile phone. Asides this obvious reason, there are lots other reasons your guitar may sound out of tune.
Your guitar can sound out of tune if your strings are worn
Old or worn-out strings lose their ability to hold tension, string tension is primarily what makes a guitar string stay in tune and when that tension is gone as a result of the wearing out of the string, the strings start to sound sharper. All you need to do is get a fresh pair of strings and replace the old ones (it is advisable to replace all your strings at the same time, not one or two or randomly at different intervals. Even if only one string appears to be old or rusty, replace them all). If you’re unsure of how often you should replace or change your guitar strings, find out all about that here. Clean your strings often to preserve the life span and slow it down from wearing out fast, avoid moisture or grease from coming in contact with your strings and always wipe your hands clean and dry before you play.
Your guitar can go out of tune if it just had a string change
This is because new strings stretch, so after fixing the strings on the guitar, they will stretch and become loose, making you sound out of tune, the solution to this is to manually stretch the strings with your hands after you’re done restringing your guitar, do this before you tune the guitar, that way your strings will stay in tune because there’s no opportunity for them to stretch themselves again, they have already been stretched manually by you.
Here’s a guideline on how to stretch your strings:
- Face the fretboard, and tuck your index and middle finger below any given string at around fret 20.
- Now place your thumb onto the string, holding it against the fretboard.
- With your thumb holding the string against the fretboard, pull upwards with your index and middle finger, so you are stretching the string.
- Repeat this higher up on the same string in 2 more positions (around fret 13 and fret 6).
- This will cause your string to go out of tune, since you are stretching it. Now tune the string to pitch, and repeat the process on the SAME string, until you don’t really need to retune it anymore. Make sure that when you tug on the string, you do it gently, don’t want to break it.
Image and guideline above extracted from https://www.theguitarlesson.com/guitar-lesson-blog/guitar-gear/strings-going-out-of-tune-after-a-string-change/
Your guitar can sound out of tune if the quality of the strings you’re using are bad
Poor string quality can cause your guitar to sound out of tune very fast, they get worn out faster and cannot hold tension. Invest in good quality strings that will last longer for you, the better the quality of your strings, the better the ability for them to hold tension and the better they will sound.
Your guitar can go out of tune if the size of the strings is incorrect
This can happen if the size of the strings you’re using are much heavier than the supposed size. When you buy a new guitar, take note of the original string gauge it came with (P.S: find out all about string gauge here), if you go one gauge higher, there might be little or no difference, but when you go two, three or more gauges above, the neck of your guitar becomes pressured because of the heaviness of the string gauge, consult a luthier if you have a guitar and want to change to heavier string gauges.
Climate change can cause your guitar to go out of tune
Guitars and their strings can be affected by changes in humidity and temperature, even though this is unavoidable to an extent, it can still be curbed and taken care of. There are certain places you should never store your guitar at home, like places that have direct sunlight or moist places. Even when you’re travelling, protect your guitar so that it does not face harsh weathers and temperatures as it moves around with you. Strings contract when they are cold, this makes them have sharper sounds and they expand when they are warm which makes them have flat sounds and may affect the sounds they produce.
Worn out tuning pegs/ machines
Your guitar may sound out of tune if the tuning pegs are too loose such that they cannot hold a tuning. The solution to this is to tighten the tuning pegs with a screwdriver often so that the tuning machines are attached tightly to the headstock and your tuning can be retained. If this does not work well for you, consult a luthier to replace them entirely.
Your playing technique can affect your sound
- Your guitar can sound out of tune when you play chords if you press your fretting hand on the strings too hard which may cause the strings to bend and go out of tune .
- Your guitar can sound out of tune when you play chords if you press your fretting hand on the strings too lightly such that there is not enough pressure to cause the strings to sound right.
- Your guitar can sound out of tune when you play chords if you if you use the pad of your fingers instead of your fingertips to play, using the pad of your fingers may cause you to accidentally touch or push against another note
Capo placement may cause you to sound out of tune
Capos when placed incorrectly, may clamp down your strings and cause them to bend and make them sound sharp and out of tune, be careful when fixing them. Do not let your capo place too much pressure on your strings, get a capo that can be adjusted and adjust it to a moderate pressure so that your strings don’t sound muted or like a rattle when you play with a capo.
I hope this article has been able to guide you to discover why your guitar usually sounds out of tune.
If you have discovered or know any other reasons why guitars may sound out of tune but they are not stated here, comment below.