Do Stratocasters Stay In Tune?

Photo of author
Written By Sarah Barlow

Chief Music Officer

The Stratocaster, one of the most recognizable guitars ever created, has sparked a broad spectrum of reactions worldwide. Keeping your Stratocaster in tune is one problem all guitarists encounter at some point. Nothing is more annoying than having to tune your electric guitar constantly. 

In this article, I will discuss whether Fender’s famous Stratocaster remains in tune or if you must make the necessary tweaks to keep it that way. 

Your Stratoctaster’s Tuning

Like any other electric guitar on the market, the Stratocaster will sound its finest with routine care. Its exceptional innovations, such as its synchronized tremolo mechanism, will all the more call for special consideration.

Before we go in-depth with this topic, you must first be aware that any change in string tension will impact the tuning of every string and the entire guitar since the tuned state of every string depends on the cumulative sum of all the strings’ tension.

After that, it’s a matter of maintaining everything well-lubricated and graphitized, especially the grooves in the nut where the strings rest, to prevent any binding of the strings and allow them to move as freely as possible.

What Makes The Stratocaster Go Out Of Tune?

Quality Of The Strings

One of the frequent causes of poor tuning stability is using poor-quality strings. This is the first thing to look at whether you play a Stratocaster or another type of electric guitar.

If you want to maintain the tone, longevity, and durability of your Stratocaster strings, then it would be best to invest in high-quality ones. Even though it would cost a little more, you will undoubtedly get your money’s worth.

Hardware Check

The Fender Stratocaster is renowned for its excellent tuning stability. However, there is very little likelihood that you will have stable tuning if your hardware is broken. So, it’s essential that you check the bridge of the instrument and your tuning devices.

If your Stratocaster has tuning peg screws on the top of its buttons, try checking them. This happens frequently, and they become excessively loose, but be careful not to tighten them up too much.

Verify that all of the components in the bride are there. The Stratocaster’s bridge strings occasionally get messed up by a faulty intonation screw, so make sure everything is operating correctly.

Using The Wrong Technique

Novices or intermediate players can hear some tuning issues with their guitars. In terms of pitch, guitars aren’t perfect. As you move up the fretboard, your guitar will consequently be somewhat out of tune. Authentic temperament guitar designs are the sole remedy for this, although they can be pretty expensive and are incredibly rare.

The incorrect playing technique is another potential cause of your potential for sounding out of tune, and the culprit for this can either be your fretting hand or your plucking hand.

Also, you risk accidentally bending the note and making it sharp if you press the strings too firmly. The problem is more evident on guitars with scalloped fretboards and large frets.

Using The Wrong Gauge

If you down-tune, tuning stability problems are not unusual. This problem can result from lower string tension, and in such circumstances, thicker strings are the only way to make things work. Just make sure that you’re using the proper gauge for your Stratocaster.

Newly Installed Strings

New strings are coiled tightly and are waiting to be stretched out. If you put new strings on and immediately begin playing without stretching them first, the strings will naturally stretch and cause your guitar to lose tuning. So to avoid this problem later, stretch out your new strings as soon as you put them on your guitar. Stop occasionally and pull them up as you adjust them to the ideal pitch. It’s best to do it at around the 12th fret.

If you stretch the strings, it will start to sound off-key, but that’s exactly what you would want. You can re-tune it after some time and repeat the procedure as necessary if the tuning is still off.

How To Keep A Stratocaster In Tune

There are quite a few techniques you can use to keep your guitar in tune, as well as certain options you should consider while buying a guitar or as upgrades.

Tighten The Tuning Pegs 

Check if your tuning mechanism is loose when your strings are off the instrument. The tuning pegs may become loose over time, which will affect tuning. With the appropriate size socket wrench, they are simple to tighten. 

You can tighten the tuning pegs using the 10mm hex wrench that’s located on the handle’s end. Since it is made of rubberized material, your guitar won’t be scratched by using it.

Lubricate The Nut, Pivot Points, And Moving Parts

Lubricating the guitar nut is crucial to maintain your guitar’s tuning. The tiny sliver of material where the strings leave the fretboard and travel to the tuning pegs is known as the guitar nut. Graphite, plastic, or bone are the most common materials used to make it. Guitar nut lubricant is available online or at music stores. Utilizing a mechanical pencil is an additional low-tech and affordable option. 

To add additional lubricant for the guitar strings, apply some of the graphite from the pencil to the nut slots.

Where the strings cross or travel through various metal pieces of the guitar, as well as other moving parts, you can use the same lubricant. Consider lubricating your tremolo system’s pivot points, string trees, and individual bridge saddles, for instance.

Some people like to apply gun oil or another comparable lubricant on the metal pieces. The lubrication you use for the nut can also be used for these parts.

Replace The Strings From Time To Time

The natural oils in your hands will cause your guitar strings to stretch over time and become unclean. The bright tone you hear with new strings will now disappear. At the same time, the strings won’t intonate as well and will sound flat. 

There’s no doubt that your guitar will stay in tune longer if the strings are kept fairly new, so make sure to change them repeatedly.

Strings Equal Springs

Make sure the six screws are not tightened all the way. By adding or removing springs from the tremolo housing, you can change the spring tension. 

The spring claw can be adjusted precisely by screwing it in or out. It’s important to note that you must consistently use strings of the same gauge when doing this. Afterwards, you would just have to re-tune and readjust as necessary.

You can tune and tweak the guitar until the tremolo plate floats and it is tuned to pitch.

Additional Tips To Maintain The Tuning Of A Stratocaster

  1. Ensure that the nut slots are large enough so as not to trap or pinch the strings.
  2. Lubricate the nut slots to grease them.
  3. Pull up or press down the vibrato bar after tuning up your strings. Tune the strings again as necessary until they stay in tune. You may reset if you fall out of tune by raising the bridge.
  4. Examine the smoothness of the bridge saddles.
  5. 1-3 orderly rotations of the string on each tuning peg.
  6. Stretch the strings before installing them on the Stratocaster.
  7. The heads of the two outer screws should remain a millimeter or two above the surface of the bridge plate if the bridge uses the original 6-screw mounting system. This does not apply if the bridge is a contemporary bridge with knife edges sitting on two posts.

Key Takeaway

The unique six-point “synchronized tremolo” mechanism, which runs through the Stratocaster’s body and links with the tremolo springs in the rear, was one of the best features of the guitar when it was first released in 1954. The Stratocaster’s vibrato system moves the bridge and tailpiece together, in contrast to other vibrato systems that only move the tailpiece.

However, players have criticized the tremolo system throughout the years, claiming that it makes the Stratocaster challenging to tune.

If your Stratocaster has recurrent tuning issues, they are probably caused by two factors that apply to all guitars: the width of the nut slots and the condition and caliber of the tuning mechanisms. Most importantly, keeping the Stratocaster in tune depends greatly on the player’s technique, which includes how hard they play and how they use the bar.