Good old G string. Have you ever noticed how often does it go off the tune? If you did, you’re not the only one. G string has always been the one that likes to go off the rails.
Why is that so? And how to fix it? If it drives you crazy, you’re not alone. Luckily, there are some ways you can take in order to make your G string sound right.
Here they are.
1. Use Wound G String
If your G string is not wound (if it’s plain), change it with wound G string. What’s the difference? Wound strings have a core string wrapped with metal string around it.
Usually, wound strings are thicker and lower in pitch. Those are E, A and D. Acoustic guitar string packs often have G string wounded. If you have a plain G string, you can give a wound G string a shot.
Why would wound G string help in this case? Well, plain G string is the thickest plain string on a guitar. Plain strings (high E, B and G) have lower gauge than wound strings (low E, A and D).
D’Addario brand of guitar strings has a deal you can take that includes a pack with wound G string. Take a look.
This combination that G string has (it is the thickest of the lowest – to put it that way) is making the G string unstable.
Replacing a plain G string with a wound G string means getting a slightly heavier G string. The mass affects the vibrations of the string. Heavier the string is, vibrations of that string get lower.
That’s because wound strings are a bit heavier since those strings have its core wrapped with metal string. Adding a mass means higher linear density. Linear density is mass per unit length. Higher linear density means lower fundamental frequency, meaning lower and slower vibrations.
Lower vibrations means less friction in the nut slot of the G string. Friction between a string and its nut slot is perhaps the main reason of tuning instability.
Anyway, too find out more about how the physics of string and how it’s affecting the string sound, check out this scientific article by David Robert Grimes. It’s called String Theory – The Physics of String-Bending and Other Electric Guitar Techniques and it’s published on the website of National Center For Biotechnology Information.
OK, so the wound G string will certainly help you a bit with your tuning problems. But will it affect your playing?
Yes, but little. Wound strings are heavier, and also harder to bend. But then again, don’t worry. Very quickly your fingers will develop strength to handle it. After a few days, you’ll get used to it completely.
2. Locking Tuners
If you have non-locking tuners, you may consider getting yourself locking tuners. Why?
If you have a problem with your G string, locking tuners will help, that’s for sure.
Locking tuners are beautiful, as they make the tuning stability of your guitar significantly stronger. Also, changing string has never been easier with locking tuners.
How do they differ from regular, non-locking tuners? In each tuning post, there’s a clamp that tightens up the string. Also, under each there’s a screw that needs to be tightened so the clamp presses the string.
You won’t have to wrap the string around a tuning post. Just pull the string through the hole and turn the peg for about 90 degrees to the side. The string should be tightened enough to be in tune.
Anyway, check out the article from this page about locking tuners and locking nut. There’s everything you need to know about it. Check it here.
3. Nut Lubrication
As it’s been stated already, the friction between a nut slot and a string is causing majority of tuning problems.
That’s why you need to check out the nut when you have tuning problems. Every time the string is bent, a string is moving in its nut slot.
The same is happening when a whammy bar is used.
That friction is changing the tension of the string itself. Change in tension is, obviously, changing the pitch of the string.
To minimize those changes, you’ll have to make a nut slot for your G string smooth. In other words, lubricate that nut slot.
How to do it? There are several ways. First, try the simplest one. Use a pencil to draw the nut slot with it. Pencil contains graphite, and graphite is a very low friction material.
(To find out more, check this article about Graphite as a lubricating agent in fault zones, published on ResearchGate.)
Instead of pencil, you can try some graphite powder lubricants.
Anyway, that’s one way to lubricate a nut slot. You can also get yourself specially made guitar lubricants.
Music Nomad TUNE-IT Lubricant is the one I got for myself. You can use it not only for a nut slot, but for the bridges, string guides and other critical parts of your guitar, too.
Users like it, because it, unlike the most of other lubricants, does not leave any residues when it dries out on a surface.
3. Strings Quality
If you’re experiencing problems with your G string, maybe it’s time to get yourself new strings. But this time get good quality strings.
Good quality strings won’t go off the tune so often. That’s because they are made out of the better material.
I regularly use D’Addario strings for my acoustic guitar.
Yes, they are a bit more expensive, but in the long run – that’s the best solution. And cheapest.
Good quality strings can last up to 3 or 4 times longer than low quality strings. I recommend you the article from this page about coated and uncoated strings.
You’ll get valuable information about guitar strings in general. Check out the article, here.
4. Stretch And Tune Up
Maybe your G string is just not stretched enough. That may be the reason why it’s always out of tune.
When you’re changing strings, make sure to stretch each string (and especially G string) before you pull each through tuning post.
Do not leave any slack, also. It is important to stretch a string, as it will reduce (or even remove) snaps you get when you tune.
Stretch your G string also after you put it on your guitar.
Do you know that snapping sound that happens when a string is getting tuned? That’s because a string is slipping. Each time a string snaps, its pitch lowers.
Make sure you protect your G string from snapping. That way its pitch will be more stable.
Also, when you tune each string immediately after setup, you’ll have to tune it a few times. Again, that’s because the string tends to slip.
However, you may want to tune your G string a bit sharp. That way the tension will be higher. That’s another way to tackle tuning instability problem.
5. Try Different Gauges
This is another tip that revolves around nut slot problem. What’s the connection between a nut slot and a string gauge?
Often, a nut sloth width and a string gauge do not fit. Maybe the gauge of your G string is too wide or too narrow for its nut slot. Or it’s the other way around.
Maybe the nut slot for your G string is too wide or too narrow.
Trying different string gauge may reduce tuning instability of your G string.
Buy a few G strings, each with different gauge and try it, one by one. It could help you. It can’t harm your guitar, that’s for sure.
6. Cut The String If It Hangs
If you’re lazy (we are all to some extent), you may just tune the string and not cut the rest of the string hanging out of the tuning post.
That’s the case of a “messy headstock”. It’s messy because there are string “residues” hanging from it.
But it’s not just the mess that’s the problem. That part of the string is not necessary, as it gives the weight on your headstock and guitar neck in general.
That unnecessary weight can affect the tuning stability. Cutting the string from the tuning post outside may improve the tuning stability.
Of course, don’t expect it to work wonders. But sometimes a small change (or adjustment) leads to a significant improvement.
7. Setup Your G String Properly
Often, a tuning issues happen when the string is not set up properly on a guitar. What does it mean to set up your G string properly?
Let’s suppose you have a regular, non-locking tuners. That means you have to wrap each string around tuning post.
When you pull the G string through tuning post hole, make sure it winds from down to up. That way the angle between nut and the locking tuner of your G string will be the steepest possible.
Steeper the angle is, the more pressure is applied on a string in its nut slot.
The more pressure there is, the less “dancing” of a string in its nut slot will occur.
That can help if your G string goes off tune when you bend it, or when you use your whammy bar.
Also, you can wrap your G string a few more times around its tuning post. That can improve the stability of the string itself.
8. Change Nut Position Or Height
Again, the nut. Nut position can play a role in tuning stability of your G string. Maybe the nut is too far or too close to your guitar neck.
Changing the position slightly can be of help. However, if you’re not experienced in making those changes, it’s better to leave that job for professionals.
The other reason may be the nut action height. Have you changed the nut lately?
There are dozens of different nuts out there. They differ by length, width, height, nut slots height, and so on.
If your guitar nut is too high, strings are too far from the fretboard. If it’s height is too low, strings are too close to the fretboard. Again, all of this affects the tuning stability.
9. Detect If There Are Intonation Issues
You know you have a problem with intonation if your guitar doesn’t sound right at all positions.
Having a perfect intonation is nearly impossible. It depends on too many physical factors. Since no musical instrument can be designed perfect, there will be some intonation issues.
However, here’s how you can check out if your G string has some intonation issues.
Tune your G string so that’s in tune when it’s played open. Now play the second fret. Does it sound right? Play an A major chord? Again, does it sound right?
If it doesn’t sound right, then you know that there’s an intonation problem with your G string.
If the intonation problem persists only on your G string, then it’s caused by nut slot depth. You’ll have to change the nut.
If the problem persists on all of your strings, then the problem is caused by improper nut action height.
10. Ask For Professional Help
If you try everything you could, and your G string still drops out of tune, ask for a professional help.
Maybe the problem is with your guitar body. Or the guitar type itself. Gibson guitars are usually guitars with significant tuning instability, for example.
Anyway, the problem may be with the neck, truss rod, fine tuners on the bridge, and so on.
To detect if there’s a problem of this kind, you better take your guitar to the expert.
Your guitar will be examined, and the problem will be detected quickly.
Final Thoughts About The G String Problem
As you can see, the G string getting out of tune can be caused by a million little different things.
Nut slots friction, nut slot depth, nut action height, nut position, and so on. Also, there can be a bigger problem with your guitar. Bent neck, tuners loose, intonation problems, and so on.
It is very hard to list all of the potential causes. This article listed some of the most common causes of your G string going out of tune.
However, there’s a chance that nothing of this will help. Again, if nothing helps, take your guitar to a professional examination. You’ll find out there what’s the problem.
And, last, but not least – maybe your guitar is just too old. It may be that your guitar is just too old and broken, so there’s the cause.
Whichever the reason is, I hope this article helped you in detecting a problem with your G string.
If it did, I’m more than happy. That’s what this site is all for. Helping a fellow guitar brothers.
Don’t forget to check out some other interesting articles I wrote on this site!
Cheers, and rock on!