I used a cheap Epiphone Les Paul for my first 10 months of learning guitar, however I received a new Fender Stratocaster as a birthday gift recently.

When I tuned my first guitar, it only took one run through to tune perfectly (sometimes with very minor adjustments).

With my new Fender, I seem to have to go over each string 4 or more times to get them right. On the second and third iterations for example I'll find the strings almost a whole step off what I tuned them to on the previous iteration.

Is this normal? If so, has it got something to do with the 6-in-line headstock vs the 3+3 on my Les Paul, or the flat headstock vs the angled one? Maybe it's just the brand of guitar that contributes to this? Or maybe I'm just tuning my Fender incorrectly / inefficiently compared to my newbie tuning of the Les Paul.

3 Answers 3


If your strat has the tremolo floating (that is, with the back suspended just above the body - not flat against it - so it can rocked freely in both directions) then the bridge moves slightly as each string is adjusted. So it may take a few more goes to tune up. This can be especially so if you've changed all the strings at once or swapped to a different string gauge.

Four or more tweaks for each string is quite a lot though - it may just be that the strings are new and need a little time to settle.

(Incidentally when I had a cheap strat copy I used to have the tremolo springs, in the back, tightened up fully so the tremolo wasn't free floating. Tuning was a lot quicker that way, as well as suiting what I wanted to play. But most strat owners wouldn't want to do that as it makes the tremolo less useful!)

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    If taking longer to tune the guitar is a bi-product of the floating bridge then I'm fine with that - can't believe I didn't think of it :-)
    – Marty
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 7:09
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    I would say the second paragraph (new strings) could well be the most relevant - even with the floating bridge, the tuning shouldn't be so unstable as to require going over the strings four times. I suggest giving the strings a gentle stretch to help them settle in - put a couple of fingers under each string in turn and pull it away from the fingerboard a few times. Carefully on the thinner strings of course!
    – Bacs
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 9:22
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    IMHO the term is not worth it on a standard strat. My first guitar was a strat copy and things got so much better for me when I locked down the trem. I still play that guitar 22 years later and the trem is still locked down. Loosen the strings and use a screwdriver to take off the large panel on the back. There should be screws going through a metal claw and into the wood near the neck. Tighten those as much as you reasonably can. Put the cover back, tune up, unscrew the trem arm and keep it somewhere safe in case you want it later. Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 10:12
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    Trem arms are like socks & biros... you cannot just keep them in a drawer & expect them to still be there next time you look ;) [Owner of a 64 Strat & a JP Squier since new.. neither with surviving trems]
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 20:17
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    I have tightened the springs on mine so that the trem is locked fairly hard against the body. I can still use it though - only to loosen the strings of course but it's at a happy medium of locked enough to make the tuning easy, vs. loose enough to use the trem. Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 8:42

There are a few possibilities:

  • Tremolo - as Andy says

  • The nuts which hold the tuning pegs in can come loose meaning the peg can flop about in its hole. You'd hope this isn't the case on a new Fender but it's a possibility.

  • The way the strings are wound over the tunung pegs: They should be neat with each wind of the string next to the other, as opposed to all crossed over and anarchic. The reason is if it's all crossed and in a knot that allows flexibility (elasticity) in the string and it'll be hard to tune, and also might sound strange

  • Tight nuts. Yes ma'am. If the grooves in the nut are too tight for th strings you're using, the strings can get causght in the nut with means the tension you're applying with the tuning peg isn't evenly transferred to the string over the fretboard - the bit between the nut and the peg might take more tension until you try to play something, then it evens out and goes out of tune. Again you'd hope this is fine on a new guitar but it might be worth running the relevant string through the grooves in the nut to check it runs free. If it catches or is tight, it might just need lubricating: Graphite powder (dust from sanding a pencil lead) will do the trick.

These others probably hopfully don't apply to a new guitar, but just to be complete:

  • On a strat, the hex bolts which hold the individual bridges can end up poorly aligned so that the bridge sits crooked. It's possible for them to rest on just one bolt making the whole thing unstable, or even if they're just crooked you can get odd results as the string doens't sit properly in the saddle.

  • Old/mucky strings - the muck affects the weight of the string and thus the tuning.


The trem will stay in tune just fine on any Fender model from the Squier affinity on up. 3 straight springs for up to .11 guage strings. Yes you can go all Hendrix on it.

I'm going to take a wild guess and say you have a Mexican standard Stratocaster. The problem is the string trees. They are screwed flat to the headstock, but they should have 1/4" spacers under them. This creates too much downward pressure and the strings will get struck. Get better string trees or use small nuts as spacers.

To keep a floating trem in tune smack the bar forward before tuning. Make sure your last turn on any tuning peg is up. When the guitar goes out of tune smack the bar forward and it will jump back into tune.

Cut your strings 2.5" past the tuning post, stick the end in the hole, one wrap over the cut string end, 2 wraps under. Any more will create slack

Btw-Always tune the guitar to the same tuning and pitch, you want to play slide with an open tuning, use your old guitar. The guitar gets used to a tuning and likes to stay there.

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