I currently play a classical guitar that I have borrowed, and it has some tuning issues that I have never really had to deal with before. The intonation seems fine action is also okay. Also, once I get it in tune, it stays pretty stable. But I have two primary issues:

  • The nylon strings are very sensitive to tightening. I swear sometimes I barely touch the tuner and it immediately is about 20 cents higher.

  • The wound strings have a slightly different problem. Sometimes when I am tuning they can't decide what note they want to be. They start out on a certain pitch and then jump up slightly in pitch about 10 cents or so. After I have fumbled enough with the tuners, this problem goes away and I get stable notes.

I am not so sure if I am maybe doing something wrong, since I had never had this kind of trouble with guitars in the past. I always tune up to a note, never down, and when I slacken my strings I always stretch them a bit.

Can issues with the nut or tuning heads cause something like this? Has anyone had an issue like this before and was able to fix it?

  • That describes most classical guitars I've ever played. The strings are supple and slip out of tune easily. The tuning knobs are often of poor quality, which doesn't help the situation.
    – Grey
    Jul 12, 2014 at 16:42
  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but can't you just have the knobs "tightness" (dunno a better word) adjusted?
    – Lee White
    Jul 12, 2014 at 16:45
  • @Grey hmmm. I used to play a Washburn for years with absolutely no issues. I figured for that reason there might be something I could do to help this one. Jul 12, 2014 at 16:46
  • @Lee do you mean tightening the screws on the little gears that go through the pegs? Jul 12, 2014 at 16:48
  • 1
    @Tim Is tuning a string too high accidentally somehow a permanent thing? Jul 20, 2021 at 12:38

2 Answers 2


I'll relate a situation I once experienced and maybe it will be of some help to you. Many years ago I picked up an old acoustic that needed quite a bit of work to make it something I wanted to play. One of the things I noticed right off was how loose the tuners were. Without a second thought I grabbed a screwdriver and cinched everything up nice and tight. When I put the strings back on I had a terrible time tuning it. So I decided I must need new tuners and I went online to order some replacements. In the process I came across an article that explained that the tightening that I had done was wrong and that the tuners actually needed to have a small amount of play in them in order to function properly. I went back and loosened the tuners up slightly and my tuning problems disappeared. I still have that old guitar and it plays and tunes like a dream. I hope this helps.

  • I don't exactly remember, and I don't have the guitar in question anymore, but there is a pretty good chance that I actually did tighten the screws on the machine head gears. I did screw around with pretty much everything adjustable on the guitar since although it was in good condition, it was not in a playable state when I received it. I think after I had asked this question, I noticed some binding in the nut, but I never really spent time to figure out what to do about it, since I returned the guitar to its owner actually a short time later due to an unexpected move. Jul 20, 2021 at 20:24

It may be cheap strings, cheap machine heads, cheap guitar. Good for tuning UP rather than DOWN, Maybe the strings themselves have never been stretched properly. I've been given guitars to tune with 6 month old strings, and until the strings get a real good pulling to stretch them and bed them into the bobbins on the machine heads, they would always be going out of tune or untunable. About 3 turns on the bobbins is o.k., too many means the strings bind into each other, too few means they may slip round. Neither much good.Or - the strings may just be past their best.

  • Well cheap strings I can rule out, that was the first thing I did. This has just been something that annoys me the more I play this guitar. I guess I am probably fitting into either or both of the cheap guitar or cheap machine heads columns. Jul 12, 2014 at 16:53

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