You know how some guitarists shake or bend the neck of their guitar when playing a chord or note in order to add vibrato in a subtle way? Well my guitar does that when I am not intending to do it, causing whatever I am playing to sound slightly out of tune.

It’s like the slightest amount of pressure one way or the other while I am playing chords causes drastic vibrato effects to the notes being played. The lower/closer to open strings, the more pronounced/worse it gets.

How do I fix this? Is it normal? Am I just being overly picky? I don’t ever remember this being an issue on any guitar I have owned in the past, then again, all on my past guitars have had a polyurethane coat on them/the neck and this one does not. Is that a factor? I know it has a rosewood fretboard as opposed to mahogany like all my past guitars.

Even while doing my best to keep the tension of the strings in A neutral position seems near impossible while I am playing. And now that I have heard it, I cant un-hear it. It’s driving me crazy! Any wisdom/advice would be welcome.

  • 1
    What guitar? What strings? What action? What vibrato - if any?
    – Tim
    Commented May 23, 2021 at 7:00
  • Right now, it's virtually impossible to answer. It may be the guitar, it may be the strings, it may be the way you're playing. Let someone else play, and that may eliminate the latter. Post a video and that will certainly help.
    – Tim
    Commented May 23, 2021 at 12:05

6 Answers 6


Not knowing much about your instrument I have some ideas.

The neck may be loose, or even damaged. Check it thoroughly. If it’s a bolt on tighten the screws. If it’s a set neck see a repair person.

You may have very light gauge strings which are more susceptible to pitch shifting.

Your whammy bar springs (if you have a whammy bar) may be too loose/badly adjusted. Here is a great video by Carl Verheyen that explains how to set up a simple claw like the ones on a Strat:

One other thing, mahogany is used for necks but not for fingerboards. It is too soft. Typical fingerboard woods are hard woods like maple, rosewood and ebony.

  • Its an LTD ec-1000, the Les Paul look alike. No whammy bar or floating bridge. I have changed the strings multiple times and upped the gauge with no change, so I really doubt its the strings. I have had the intonation adjusted as well as the saddles. And while that did help somewhat, there's still no denying that the closer the note is to open strings, any amount of pressure applied in front or behind the neck causes major shifts in the pitch of the notes being played. Hold on, let me try and upload an audio clip of what I mean.
    – JetCaspian
    Commented May 23, 2021 at 15:08
  • youtu.be/eii5U18wIB4
    – JetCaspian
    Commented May 23, 2021 at 15:28
  • There is a video/audio link. obviously its not quite all that bad when im making a conscious effort to keep it from happening, I just wanted to demonstrate what effect I am talking about so there's no confusion.
    – JetCaspian
    Commented May 23, 2021 at 15:30
  • @JetCaspian did you adjust the truss rod when you changed string gauges? Commented May 23, 2021 at 17:30
  • 1
    Truss rod shouldn't have anything to do with neck stability, but everything to do with playability. Commented May 24, 2021 at 0:28

Based upon that audio, I can hear all the strings in the chord shifting, and by a lot. Sounds like it might a serious issue, like a crack opening and closing. That's a pretty expensive set neck guitar. Take it into a guitar shop for a look by someone else, preferably their in house tech.

  • The more I think about it, the more likely a crack or something along those lines seems. Would it be something i could see from the outside though? I have looked it up and down, and cannot find any signs of something like that visually. If its something that severe, wouldn't it be pretty noticeable?
    – JetCaspian
    Commented May 24, 2021 at 22:41
  • Not sure: it only takes a tiny shift to detune. If you see nothing, take a look at the bridge: is it wobbling? It should be rock solid.
    – DocMartin
    Commented May 26, 2021 at 1:30

There are things you can't tell by description alone, and the class "What's wrong with my instrument?" is solidly in that category. Stating that, there are a few hopefully helpful things I can say.

  • Talk To Your Local Tech/Guitar Shop - That person has been dealing with instruments for a while and can tell if the instrument is in bad shape or if it's just your bad technique.

  • Try Heavier Strings - My guess is that you're using .009s or less, and light strings can easily bend sharp under your fingers. If you go heavier, they're harder to bend when you want to but they're harder to bend when you don't want to.

  • Well it cant be technique, as the audio I uploaded showing the issue was all open strings, no frets or fingers involved. And i thought the strings were perhaps too light as well, so upping the gauge was the first thing I did. However, it had no effect.
    – JetCaspian
    Commented May 24, 2021 at 22:36

I hope you got this sorted out mate. One of the most obvious things to check first , and I’m surprised no one mentioned it, is tightening your truss rod with an Allen key. If your neck is flexing a lot even with light gauge strings on it, this is the most likely reason. It’s best to take the guitar to a proper guy to do this if you’re unsure but I set my own guitars uk and glance for years. It’s actually not all that complicated so long as there are no inherent faults with the neck. Turn the truss rod clockwise a quarter turn then check it. Then if it’s still wobbly turn it another quarter and so on, tuning it up to concert pitch after each turn. This should fix it. If th me rod is very hard to turn with a regular sized Allen key, it may be too tight already and this not the problem, but otherwise you should be fine doing it in this incremental way. This will give the neck less relief though which I. Turn may cause fret buzz. If it does, raise the string saddles at the bridge to compensate. And yes, I know this is an old thread but I feel people have failed you in their advice here. Maybe this could be help to others.

  • Hey thanks! Old thread indeed but most all answers I got were useless/just talking to talk. So thank you very much for your response! I've actually had the truss rod tightened since then and it has indeed helped stability. Didn't exactly fix the issue though. But I've gotten a higher quality instrument since then so now I'm just using it as a backup.
    – JetCaspian
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 20:46

There is NOT enough data to really evaluate the problem. It could be that your action is too high and you are squeezing the strings too much, causing them to bend out of tune. You could also be bending them slightly when you play.

It may not be the neck. If it is the neck then you must be cranking on it in an unnatural way when you play. This could be from poor technique. Your fingers do not need to exert much force to play a note is the guitar is set up properly.

  • Well TWO of thoes possibilities have been ruled out, as the audio clip I posted is of me strumming open strings with no frets or fingers involved. So it can't be poor technique or the distance the strings are from the fretboard. In the clip, I am strumming open strings and touching the front of the headstock, then the back of the headstock very lightly. I am wanting to know if that is normal, or if that is very not normal.
    – JetCaspian
    Commented Jun 8, 2021 at 1:50

I have the lower end model e-256 or whatever it is and I have the same problem. I'm sure the frets are the problem they prob need to be leveled and crowded.

  • I can't say I agree. If it's remotely new, there shouldn't be fret wear that would require a level and crown. You would get dead notes but not poorly-intonated notes. This is a nonsense answer. Commented May 24, 2021 at 4:56
  • Yeah there's no way its the frets. as this issue happens on open strings with no frets being used or touched.
    – JetCaspian
    Commented May 24, 2021 at 22:32

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