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Many owners come in shop complaining that their guitar strings go out of tune and re-tuning
after playing a song or practicing is a constant. Well, there are six one or half a dozen reasons
why guitars do not stay in tune. This article focuses on one element: The String Nut.............
Guitars come equipped with different string nuts. Some are plastic, others are a bone material,
and others are made of materials designed to help strings pass through the "nut" smoothly and
with ease.
It's our opinion that although a bad string nut can cause a string to not tune or stay in tune or
get pinched causing a creaking noise there's no doubt that a string nut improperly installed
and string slots not cut correctly will cause tuning issues. So whether the string nut is of good
material or plastic installation and setup of the string nut makes a difference.
If a string nut defect(s), as mentioned above, is not the problem and the guitar continues to go
out of tune then looking elsewhere is needed to solve a tuning problem. At the end of the day,
the function of a string nut is to allow strings to pass through the string slots smoothly.
The string nut is not a function of intonation or string height other then marginal string action
at the first position. Simply, the string nut is a channel allowing strings to move so strings
can be tuned accordingly.
The only other issue for a string nut is string spacing, that is, the distance between the strings.
Improper string spacing is an issue that can effect finger playing or when using a guitar pick.
However, will string spacing cause tuning issues? Maybe depending on the angle of the string
exiting the string nut to the tuner, but most probably: NO! Bad or imbalanced string spacing
just makes playing the string whacky.
Technically, but without getting too technical, how a string nut slot is angeled is the issue
and dependant on the angle of a guitar's head stock. Simply, there's a difference between a
Fender Strat headstock angle or a Les Paul or an acoustic guitar head stock angle.
However, regardless of a head stock angle the fulcrum point of a guitar string and the
string nut is where the rubber meets the road. Just like a car tire only a small section of a tire
meets the road. This means a correctly installed and a correctly slotted string nut means
there is only a small fulcrum point of contact for the string. Thus, too much contact or too little
contact can cause a tuning problem or a fret buzz problem, or a string break and etc.
Now with the above stated that does not mean there cannot be other causes for being
out of tune, but the string nut is part of the equation in a small way.
Finally, there's no question that strings nuts come in all shapes and sizes especially
from imported guitars. It seems that production standards (imports or U.S.) puts out
a spec standard with nominal inspection of certain elements of a guitar. For example,
frets and of course string nuts. That's the way it is and requires inspection if there
is a problem of staying in tune.