Squier Strat Won't Stay in Tune
December 26, 2009 10:44 PM   Subscribe

Urgent guitar tweaking help needed! I want to fix my brother's guitar before he goes back home in the morning...

It's a cheap Squier Strat that he bought as part of a beginner's package deal thing online somewhere. As I feared, it doesn't stay in tune worth a damn. Took it to the local Guitar Center but they said they don't do that sort of repair/tweaking work anymore (I, of course, thought, "Then who does?") Anyways, I've got it taken apart right now, but I can't find any how-to tutorial thing anywhere on the web. A video would be ideal. The guy at Guitar Center said something about the tremolo unit, bridge, and the neck bend all needing to be tweaked. If you read this within an hour or two of my posting this (1:40am on the East Coast here), can you point me to any good videos or simple tutorials about how to do this work? Thanks so much.
posted by frankly mister to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
On cheaper guitars with tremolo's it can be a challenge to keep it in tune.

The best thing to do would be to bring it to a local guitar store for a set up. this usually runs about $50-75 but this is clearly not an option at this hour.

One old trick for getting a guitar to stay in tune is graphite dust in the nut (the nut is the thing at the headstock end of the neck that the strings run through). Fillng down a graphite pencil will work fine. just move the strings aside and put the dust into the slots on the nuts.
posted by phil at 11:06 PM on December 26, 2009

I asked my husband... not much as far as what you can do with at the moment, but for future consideration:

go to the store and buy a couple of extra tremelo springs and add them to the tremelo. the stock squiers have three springs installed, but you can add two more. that will stabilize the guitar to a point, but you may want to take it to a shop and have them check the intonation as well

posted by kellyblah at 11:13 PM on December 26, 2009

first thing i would do is *carefully* unscrew the tuner knob covers with a teeney phillips screwdriver and then tighten the large screw in the back of each tuner with a bigger phillips screwdriver and then carefully replace the tuner covers *do NOT overtighten*.. the neck may need to be straightened via the truss rod and the bridge adjusted as well as the tremolo spring tightened, but i would leave that to a pro unless you know what you are doing.. hope that helps!
posted by axmikel at 11:27 PM on December 26, 2009

I have my Stratocaster set up to essentially disable the tremolo. I removed all the springs and adjusted the bridge so it just lies flat. If your brother doesn't use the tremolo like I don't, that's an option for keeping it in tune better. Cheap guitars like that don't really stay in tune that well no matter what you do, though.
posted by DecemberBoy at 3:20 AM on December 27, 2009

I have this guitar and it will stay in tune just fine if you do what kellyblah's husband and phil mention. The issue with the nut is that the tension won't equalize very well if it's not lubricated as it's a cheapo nut. So for example if you add tension with the tuner, more if it will remain on the upper side of the nut than the fretboard side. You can easily equalize this manually by pressing down on the upper part of the string above the nut and then doing a deep bend on that string on the normal fretboard side. You can tell that this is what's doing on if you tune a string, then do the above steps a couple of times, and then it plays out of tune again without you having touched the tuner. You just keep going until you reach an equilibrium where the string is in tune and doesn't change after bending.
posted by Rhomboid at 3:53 AM on December 27, 2009

This is simply not something you can do yourself with no experience. You need a scope, the right tools, and experience. Give him the bucks to get if done by a pro at home.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:55 AM on December 27, 2009

PS- Really, don't be adjusting the truss rod unless you know what you're doing. Lubricate the nut, sure.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:57 AM on December 27, 2009

The trem unit is likely a large part of your problem. Disable it (you could just unscrew the arm for a quick and dirty fix) and/or add extra springs as per above. Also, please listen to fourcheesemac. By all means lube the nut, but stay the heck away from the truss rod unless you have experience or assistance. The bridge is relatively simple to intonate if you have an electronic tuner, but if the neck is not in proper whack your bridge settings are only going to be a kludge.
posted by Wolof at 4:25 AM on December 27, 2009

You can just block the trem
get a piece of wood and slip it between the block and the back of the guitar
posted by SatansCabanaboy at 9:40 AM on December 27, 2009

put it back together and don't worry about it. the beatles and the who and god knows how many other great bands learned to play competently on instruments of slightly better quality than a cigar box with rubber bands on it. if your brother wants to play so bad, he'll get used to retuning every three songs or be fascinated by the tonal possibilities of slightly out-of-tuneness. or he'll play this one for a year or so and then drop an extra hundred bucks on a better guitar, since, in this economy, there's be zillions of great ones for cheap on ebay/craigslist.
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:22 AM on December 27, 2009

Truss rods aren't magic. It's something you'll have to learn sooner or later. Just look up one of the many "how to set up your guitar" guides on the net for info on how to adjust the neck and intonation. Unless the guitar is just a complete piece of crap (which Squiers aren't, although they're nothing great either), you're not going to break anything.
posted by DecemberBoy at 4:16 PM on December 27, 2009

the beatles and the who and god knows how many other great bands learned to play competently on instruments of slightly better quality than a cigar box with rubber bands on it.

Johnny Ramone used the same Mosrite Ventures II for like 30 years. It was held together with duct tape. As long as you got soul, man.
posted by DecemberBoy at 4:18 PM on December 27, 2009

Also, Bo Diddley started on an actual cigar box. He used banjo strings I think, not rubber bands, but same principle.
posted by DecemberBoy at 4:22 PM on December 27, 2009

Johnny Ramone used the same Mosrite Ventures II for like 30 years. It was held together with duct tape. As long as you got soul, man.

Not only that, but word is that he would never let them change the strings, replacements went on only if one broke. If it ain't broke...
posted by dbiedny at 4:59 PM on December 27, 2009

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