Tuning stability. It’s one of the most important factor of every guitar. If you’re an experienced guitar player, you know how frustrating it can get when strings go out of tune often.
Luckily, there are several technologies designed to keep your electric guitar in tune. As long as possible.
Today we have locking tuners and locking nut, both tools made to help your guitar stays in tune for a long time. What to choose, though? Can you have both installed on your guitar, at the same time?
Is locking nut better than locking tuners, for a certain type of playing? These, and many more questions and issues will be addressed in this article. Both locking tuners and a locking nut will be compared thoroughly.
Stay with me!
What Are Locking Guitar Tuners?
Locking tuners are tuners that have a little clamp in the hole of each tuning post. That clamp is there to help hold a string tight when it passes through hole.
Under each tuning post there’s a screw that needs to be tightened in order to move the clamp up.
That’s basically all that there is. Locking tuners are simple, and yet very efficient technology that helps to keep strings more stable.
Do Locking Tuners Really Keep Guitar Tuned?
If you compare locking tuners with regular ones, the answer is yes. Locking tuners are much more efficient in keeping the strings stable and in tune. However, that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to tune your guitar strings now and then.
It is impossible to keep any string tension the same all the time. That’s due to many physical factors. Friction between nut and the string, friction between tuning post and the string, string mass etc.
Over time, all of those factors change, and inevitably, the tension changes, too. If you want to know more about string tension, check out this scientific experiment about it from Illionis College Of Engineering, here (pdf).
However, locking tuners provide a stronger stability for the string. That’s because of the clamp inside the tuning post hole. Every time you bend your string, or use a whammy bar, a bit of the string gets unwrapped from tuning post.
With locking tuners, that unwrapping is minimized, if not completely eliminated.
How Do You String A Guitar With Locking Tuners?
Changing and setting up strings on a guitar with locking tuners is so easy. That’s perhaps one of the biggest advantages of locking tuners.
With regular, non-locking tuners, changing strings is often tedious. You have to wrap each string around tuning post. Also, the tuning can be frustrating. Every time you turn guitar peg around, there’s a slippage of string that directly affects the tension.
Also, you have to turn it for at least 360 degrees. With locking tuners, none of that is a problem. How to string a guitar with locking tuners?
Set up the string end on the bridge. Turn the tuning post so that its hole is facing the nut slot. Pull the string through the hole. Make sure you pull all of the slack through the hole.
Cut the rest of the string with pliers. Now turn the peg around. Usually it takes only around 90 degrees to the side to get the string tighten up. And that’s it!
Your string should be tighten up just fine at very moment you pull the tuning peg. Now imagine doing that with a non-locking tuner. Impossible.
Can You Tune Down With Locking Tuners?
Yes, you can. But if you plan to do this from, make sure you leave a bit of slack before you lock the string (when you’re setting up the string).
There shouldn’t be any problems with that.
Do Locking Tuners Affect Tone?
Locking tuners do not affect tone significantly. However, they do add a mass on a guitar headstock. That means that the guitar itself gets a bit heavier with locking tuners installed.
Mass is affecting the vibration of the guitar, so technically everything that adds a mass will affect tone. However, locking tuners do not affect tone significantly, since they are not contributing to the overall mass of the guitar significantly.
You probably won’t hear the difference, anyway.
Are There Any Disadvantages Of Locking Tuners?
Some guitar players argue that locking tuners do not provide the stability as it’s the case with the locking nut. But is it really the problem of locking tuners?
Tuning stability often depends on different factors. For example, the friction in nut slots affects string tension the most. So, if you’re experiencing some tuning stability problems, it may be easily that your locking tuners are not the real problem.
Are the strings you use worn? Are they good in quality? Are nut slots in your nut smooth enough to not affect the tension?
Check out those things first.
Also, many argue that a locking nut is better for keeping a tune in place when you have a Floyd rose. Especially if you tend to use a whammy bar often. But does it mean that the locking nut is significantly better than locking tuners for that purpose?
In my opinion, that’s not the case. Locking tuners can keep your guitar in tune perfectly fine even in that case. Check out this video where the test is performed. You’ll see that strings stay in tune even after a strong usage of whammy bar.
Locking Tuners With Low Friction Nut – The Best Combination
As it’s been said, the most tuning stability problem is due to other factors. Friction in nut slots are causing the tuning instability in most of cases.
That being said, you may consider getting yourself a low friction nut. Or, on the other hand, you can lubricate nut slots to minimize the friction.
GraphTech PT606000 TUSQ XL (link to Amazon) nut is impregnated with PTFE which is five times more slippery than graphite.
With it, you’ll have your strings ring out more, and artificial harmonics will sound significantly better.
However, test it first, without gluing it on the neck. You’ll maybe want to use sandpaper if the height is not proper for your guitar.
On the other hand, you can try a few tricks to make the nut you have at the moment more smooth.
Try to lube nut slots with a regular pencil. Pencil is made out of graphite, which is naturally slip and smooth material. That should help to minimize the friction in nut slots.
What Is A Locking Nut?
A locking nut is a nut that’s locked – to put it in the simplest way possible. Regular, non-locked, nuts are not locked, and therefore, strings can move up and down in their nut slots.
With locking not, strings are immobilized. So, no matter how far do you dive with your whammy bar, strings won’t move in their nut slots.
Is Locking Nut Better Than Locking Tuners?
The main argument locking nut proponents are saying is that locking nut is better for a Floyd Rose guitar. Especially if you use lot of divebombs when playing. Also, locking nut completely eliminates the slipping of a string out of its nut slot.
Yes, it’s certainly a case that a majority of Floyd Rose guitars come with the locking nut installed. So, if you already have a locking nut on your guitar, it’s perfectly fine.
However, if you want to install locking nut on your guitar, you might just think twice. Will you get a stronger tuning stability with a locking nut?
While some may argue that that’s the case, I highly doubt it. Your guitar won’t get any additional superpowers. Whichever is the style that you’re playing.
Potential Disadvantages Of A Locking Nut
Keep in mind that potential disadvantages come with installation of a locking nut.
First, the action height. Finding a good nut is often tedious. It’s highly probable that the action height won’t be fine after you setup a locking nut on your guitar.
Also, removing the old nut can be potentially harmful to the neck. Make sure you leave it to the professionals.
Second, it’s the tuning. Once you set up the locking nut, the strings can be tuned only on fine tuners on your bridge.
It’s often complicated to tune the strings on fine tuners. Also, you have to be sure the tuners itself are proper.
Taking all of this into account, it’s easy to see why it’s complicated to install a locking nut.
However, if you have a locking nut already on your guitar, that’s perfectly fine. There’s no need to remove it just to put on locking tuners.
Final Thoughts On Locking Tuners Vs. Locking Nut Dilemma
When it comes to tuning stability, keep in mind one thing. It is impossible to keep your strings in tune all of the time. That’s just the reality.
You’ll always have to tune your strings a bit from time to time. There’s no technology that can eliminate this.
However, locking tuners provide a big ease when it comes to tuning stability issues. Locking tuners are practical, simpler to install, and efficient. String setting is so easy with them.
Locking nut is also efficient in keeping a tune stable. Still, you may want to consider installing a locking nut on your guitar, due to the potential problems described above.
Anyway, I hope this article gave you a valuable information about this subject. If it helped you in any way, I’m more than happy about it.
Don’t forget to check out some other interesting articles I wrote on this site!
Cheers, and rock on!