When playing your guitar you probably have to return it fairly frequently. But have you ever wondered if you’re having to do it too often? Or more than the average?
So, how long should a guitar stay in tune? It depends on quite a few factors but generally a good quality guitar should stay in tune for a few days at least. But there’s atmospheric conditions, humidity, age of strings and more that all affect how well it holds tune.
So if you’re interested in more details about how long guitars should stay in tune, why they lose their tuning, how long it takes new strings to settle in and more then keep reading.
How Long Should a Guitar Stay in Tune
There are a lot of different things that affect how long a guitar stays in tune. Roughly though assuming that the strings aren’t brand new a guitar should stay in tune for a day or two. But this can be much less (or more!) depending on certain factors.
Factors Involved in Guitar Tuning Stability
Let’s take a look at everything that all the different factors involved in a guitars tuning stability.
Type of Guitar
The difference between how long electric, acoustic and classical guitars stay in tune can be big.
Electric guitars generally stay in tune for longer than acoustic and classical because of the way they are made. Being solid body and having a truss rod helps keep everything very stable and prevent the strings from losing tension.
Acoustic and classical guitars don’t have truss rods and also have hollow bodies. Both of these can really affect how long they stay in tune.
Without a truss rod the neck and fretboard is far more likely to get bent and this pulls the strings out of tune.
Having a hollow body means the guitar is affected to a much greater extent by temperature changes. Fluctuating temperature and humidity causes the wood of the body to expand and shrink which in turn affects the strings tension and makes them lose their tuning.
Quality of Guitar
While every guitar will go out of tune the better constructed it is with better hardware the longer it’s likely to hold its tuning. A $100 cheap, knock off guitar is probably going to lose its tuning very quickly whereas a $1000 Fender should hold it for much longer.
This isn’t a perfect science, and many people have experience of expensive guitars struggling with their tuning and more affordable versions being rock steady. But generally the higher quality the instrument and the higher quality construction and parts used then the better the tuning stability.
How it’s Played
If you’re strumming gently or finger picking then you’re not putting the guitar and the strings under a huge amount of pressure. Compare that with doing huge bends and really attacking the strings. Which do you think is going to affect the tuning more?
It’s obvious but the way in which you play the guitar does dramatically impact on how long it will stay in tune. You can see live guitarists having to retune after every song because they really attack the strings and are bending them a lot.
So if you want your guitar to stay in tune longer then maybe look at how you’re playing.
How Often it’s Played
How frequently a guitar is played also impacts on the tuning. If you tune your guitar then play it for 2 hours it’s far more likely to be out of tune at the end of that session then if you hadn’t played it at all.
That’s not to say if you never play your guitar it will stay in tune forever. As you’ll see in the other factors listed here there are many different things that can affect tuning stability.
Humidity and Environment
Fluctuating temperatures play havoc with the tuning of guitars. In fact it’s one of the main reasons for guitars to go out of tune. This is especially the case for acoustic guitars.
It’s actually the changing in the temperature that guitars really don’t like. Going from hot to cold, or vice versa, causes problems because of the expanding and shrinking wood.
Also the changing temperature can directly affect steel strings. The hotter the weather gets the strings expand and the colder it gets the strings contract. As you can imagine this would result in them going out of tune very quickly.
So if it’s possible keeping your guitar at a constant temperature will reduce the chances of it going out of tune more frequently.
Age of Strings
Brand new strings always take a while to fully settle. In fact you may find after restringing your guitar with new strings and tuning it that within minutes it’s out of tune again!
That’s because the strings need time to settle. So if it’s a new set expect to be tuning a lot more often during the first few days after putting them on.
They soon settle down though and the frequency you have to tune will go back to a more normal period.
Going the other way very old strings will also struggle to stay in tune. Strings lose their elasticity and become worn over time which makes them struggle to stay in tune. So make sure you’re changing them often!
Type of Strings
Electric, acoustic and classical guitars all use different types of strings. The major difference is the material they are made from: electric and acoustic strings are usually made from steel as opposed to classical which are made from nylon.
Steel strings are tougher, harder and more rigid than nylon strings. They tend to stay in tune longer because of this.
However, there are different string gauges. Electric guitar strings are much thinner than acoustic which makes them more likely to lose their tuning.
Nylon strings are the least stable of them all. They are also more susceptible to temperature changes than steel strings. As nylon is made from plastic, which is affected by fluctuating temperature and humidity, nylon strings struggle with those changes much more so than steel strings.
Quality of Strings
The better the string brand and the higher quality string the more time it will spend in tune. If you use inferior strings that are poorly made you can expect them to go out of tune much more often.
In the long run it’s better to spend that little bit more on a well known and established string and know you’re getting a set of strings that will sound good and stay in tune for longer.
READ MORE: How Long do Guitar Strings Last?
Nut and Tuning Pegs
A nut with too small or narrow slots is going to affect the tuning stability. Strings can bind in the nut when it’s tight which will make them go out of tune quickly.
Lubrication at the nut is important too. Strings getting stuck or slipping from the nut will definitely affect the tuning of strings.
How it’s Strung
You can help a guitar to stay in tune for longer by stringing it well. That means avoid winding the strings around the tuning posts too many times and ensuring that new strings are properly stretched.
If you wind the string around the tuning post too many times it will just end up winding over the already wound string. This can lead to compression of the string which makes it a lot less stable in its tuning.
How Often Should Guitars Be Tuned?
It’s good to get into the habit of tuning your guitar every time you play it. As guitars go out of tune easily and often it just makes sense to tune it whenever you pick it up.
It may not need much (if any) retuning but it doesn’t hurt to check. You’ll then get more used to hearing it in tune and be able to notice if it isn’t by ear.
Is it Bad to Tune your Guitar a Lot?
No. The guitar itself won’t be affected by tuning it a lot. Constantly changing tunings will cause your strings to break more frequently however as the increasing and decreasing in tension will wear them out quicker.
The main thing to remember is that all guitars go out of tune. You can’t expect them to stay in tune forever, especially if they are being played.
But as there are so many factors affecting how long a guitar stays in tune you can do things to help keep it tuned for as long as possible and avoid constantly having to adjust and retune more than is necessary.