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Reading through Fender’s online instructions for property setting up a Stratocaster I found the following:

Remember—with most tuning keys, it's preferable to tune up to pitch. However, with locking tuners, go past the note and tune down to pitch.

The page provides no reason for this. I have locking tuners on my Stratocaster, and I’ve always tuned up to pitch with no problems.

Why does Fender instruct us to tune down to pitch with locking tuners?

Addendum: To clarify, I agree with everyone who says we should tune up to pitch. This is what I do, despite the aforementioned instructions to do otherwise. I would like to understand the logic behind tuning down to pitch with locking tuners.

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  • Yeah I don’t get it. I find that one thing tuning up to pitch helps with is any friction at the nut. Locking tuners don’t mitigate that. Jul 28 at 4:26
  • You only tune from down to up on a guitar. Standard tuning is as high as guitar strings go, anything higher and you are either just gonna snap strings or even rip the bridge off your guitar
    – Neil Meyer
    Jul 28 at 18:49
  • IDK the exact numbers but just tuning one string on a steel acoustic up a semitone higher than standard tuning may put enough added strain on the bridge to break something.
    – Neil Meyer
    Jul 28 at 18:51
  • 1
    @NeilMeyer - there's a heck of a lot more forgiveness in strings/guitars than you think. Obviously it depends on what gauge strings on what guitar, but generally, a few semitones higher will be no problem. How do you think two tone bends work? Rarely are strings broken doing them. A student once tuned his bottom string up an octave higher, and that didn't break anything.
    – Tim
    Jul 29 at 7:48
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    @Tim what are dvs? I took your suggestion and emailed Fender. See answer below.
    – wabisabied
    Jul 29 at 19:22
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Locking tuners do absolutely nothing for tuning stability. Their sole purpose is to make string changes quick and neat. So as Todd commented, the real issue that requires tuning up to pitch, nut or tree friction, is no different when you use locking tuners.

For interest I had a look at various experienced guitarist's blogs, and all said it was mostly nonsense. Haze Guitars, however, gave a possible reason:

The first piece of information (another piece in a minute) — and the one that’s repeated in different forums — is attributed to Fender Customers Relations and states, “That is just ensure that the string is stable on the tuning post, when you overwind the string slightly the grooves of the string can settle onto the post eliminating any ‘slippage’ during first time use.”

So, I think what they’re saying is that the string winds can settle onto/around the post.

Ok. I can see where they’re coming from. Over-tightening the string could compress the wraps a little and speed that process. That could certainly lead to a little extra stability. I’d argue that stretching will do the same thing.

And, here’s the thing: Even if you over-tighten and then back off, I really recommend still de-tuning lower than the note and tuning back up.

So, if you have trouble with your thicker strings slipping against each other, you could wind them higher, but I'd suggest the more usual technique for guitarists - where we pull on the whammy bar or pull the strings to do the initial stretch - is still your best bet, then tune up to the note as usual.

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  • 2
    +1 Absolutely. Even if it's true about settling in to the post (sceptical) By merely de-tuning to the right pitch gives the string an opportunity to unwind. So, 9 times out of 8, tune up to the required pitch.
    – Tim
    Jul 28 at 8:30
  • The question has nothing to do with locking nuts, only locking tuners. I totally get why tuning up is best in regards to strings wrapped on the post, but the “proper” way to string a guitar with locking tuners is to not wrap the post at all, just lock the string in the hole and tune. Also my Strat has a roller nut, which eliminates the need for string tree, and theoretically also eliminates nut friction. Honestly your answer is irrelevant to the question. Sorry to downvote.
    – wabisabied
    Jul 29 at 5:17
  • @wabisabied - my answer was entirely about locking tuners - thanks for pointing out I accidentally used the word nut in the wrong place at one point. Also, your impression that all these answers are irrelevant is just plain wrong - you should maybe revisit Carl and Neil's answers to see how they are answering your question as well as mine.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Jul 29 at 9:59
  • I’ve asked why tune down to pitch with locking tuners. Your answer and the others tell why we shouldn’t tune down to pitch. I don’t disagree with what you are saying, but it does not answer the question.
    – wabisabied
    Jul 29 at 18:51
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    It very specifically does give the most likely reason - read the quoted part again @wabisabied. The fact I then point out why that is wrong doesn't change that. And, reading your answer - it also says we shouldn't - so I'm puzzled as to what your challenge is with all the other answers that say the same as yours but with more information.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Jul 30 at 7:29
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I emailed customer support at Fender with this question. Here’s the answer from one of their Senior Gear Advisors:

That is odd. I would disregard that suggestion. I never do that and have never had a problem.

So the answer, straight from Fender, is that there is no reason to tune down to pitch with locking tuners.

Carry on.

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I agree with DrMayhem. In addition,

  1. tuning down means over-tensioning strings which hastens their demise.
  2. tuning down means releasing tension, and that relaxation is slower to reach a stable situation than when tuning up and increasing tension (the difference is relatively small and varies with string type). I'm not talking about brand-new strings, where one expects stretching to occur for a couple days.

I don't really buy the quoted part about settling the string onto the winding post, because you should be taking care to wind in a helical wrap to begin with. Us bowed instrument players learn to be fanatical about proper winding onto the pegs.

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    Locking tuners require no wraps, they lock the string to the tuner with a mechanism inside the hole in the post. I agree with your logic against tuning down to pitch. My question asks why we are instructed to tune down to pitch with locking tuners.
    – wabisabied
    Jul 29 at 18:50
0

Locking tuners are also useful for keeping string stable while you do the fine tuning and intonation adjustments on certain terms. For floating bridges like a Floyd Rose you don't want the strings to move while you are getting the details of the bridge correct. You lock the tuners so that the strings don't move, you get the setup correct and then you lock everything down with the locking nut when everything is done.

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  • Floating bridge or not, the tuners get locked and stay that way when the guitar is strung. I don’t understand how this answers why we are instructed to tune down to pitch.
    – wabisabied
    Jul 29 at 18:43

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