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Help: Locking tuners anyone?

02 Apr 01 - 11:32 PM (#431712)
Subject: Locking tuners anyone?
From: Shouter

hey, i'm an acoustic guitarist who often plays in alternate tunings. the downside is that dropping the low E to D or C will cause the A, D, or sometimes G strings to go sharp. this is inconvenient in performance situations. then i caught wind of locking tuners. now, i don't know enough about them yet, but the name implies that they lock strings into specific pitches. is this correct? if so would it be beneficial to install locking tuners on my acoustic guitar to minimize/eliminate pitch variance in the strings that i do not detune? would these tuners also preserve proper intonation against the wear n' tear of string bending and aggressive playing? so far i've gathered that these tuners were originally meant for electric guitars, to solve the problems with tremolo use. but is there a reason not to use them in my situation? so let me know what you know/think/feel, about: 1) the function of locking tuners 2) the pros/cons of locking tuners 3) the plausibility/absurdity of locking tuners for acoustic guitars 4) whether locking tuners will solve my pitch variance problem 5) any other advice, comments, opinions

Thanks, i'll appreciate all help

03 Apr 01 - 12:19 AM (#431741)
Subject: RE: Help: Locking tuners anyone?
From: GUEST,Timothy Cameron

Hi Shouter, Locking tuners are machine heads with a hollow post. Inside this post is a smaller post which, when tightened, comes up through the larger outer post, and grabs the string as the string passes through. Picture a piston inside a cylinder. The advantage of this is that you don't need to wind the string around the post, the little inner "piston" is holding it securely for you and it can save some time when changing a string. The design originally came from a company named Sperzel, and was a standard feature on Fender's Plus series of Strats and Teles from the late 80s onward. The downside of locking tuners is that they add some weight to the headstock, and with the earlier Sperzels, the adjustment wheel which controlled the inner piston could come right off, and go to that place where the socks from the dryer go, invariably in the middle of a gig. There are newer versions of locking machine heads that alleviate the latter problem. In your particular case however, I might suggest a drop tuning machine head made by a company named Hipshot. A friend has one on his Tele, and just raves about it. If you only detune the low E string, that's what I'd recommend. The gizmo is large enough that you can only fit one of them on the average headstock. Hope that helps. Timothy

03 Apr 01 - 08:46 AM (#431925)
Subject: RE: Help: Locking tuners anyone?
From: Whistle Stop

I have locking tuners on my electric guitar (a PRS); not Sperzels, but a newer variation that is less cumbersome and lighter. But I don't think they'll solve your "detuning" problem. If certain strings go up in pitch when you drop the tunings on others, the cause is probably not slippage through the tuners, but rather the neck reacting to the sudden decrease in tension by pulling back a little. It's the same thing that will happen if you gently pull backwards on the peghead; all the strings will go slightly sharp. It usually isn't all that dramatic if you only detune one string, but if the tuning does shift a little the solution is just to do some quick compensatory fine-tuning. If your existing tuners are in good shape, there's no need to replace them. If they're worn, I'd just replace them with good quality non-locking tuners -- Shaller, Grover, Gotoh and Waverly are all good brands.

03 Apr 01 - 09:03 AM (#431941)
Subject: RE: Help: Locking tuners anyone?
From: Mooh

Whistle Stop is correct. You might be better off trying those (name escapes me at the moment, check out a supplier like Stew-Mac) banjo tuners with adjustable presets. I like the Hipshot too, though I haven't got one, but you can't replace all your tuners with them because they won't operate with hardware on both sides of them, unless they've re-engineered them lately.

If the weight of more hardware at the end on the neck becomes a problem, do what I do and replace the tuner buttons with much lighter (and classier) ebony or faux pearl buttons.


03 Apr 01 - 09:20 AM (#431961)
Subject: RE: Help: Locking tuners anyone?
From: Murray MacLeod

I concur with Whistlestop's advice. I don't think locking tuners will help with that problem.

One test you should always do on an acoustic guitar you are contemplating buying is to string it up with your preferred gauge of strings, bring them up to concert pitch and then totally detune them all except for the top E. If the E string has gone sharp by more than a semitone (I can only speak here for medium gauge strings .012 - .056 ) then IMHO there is too much slack in the construction of the guitar, most likely in the neck but conceivably in the top. Whatever, it means too much energy is being dissipated somewhere, and detuning one string will result in a disproportionate sharpening of the others.

Why don't you do that test on your guitar, Shouter, and let us know how much the E string sharpens by?


03 Apr 01 - 11:27 AM (#432057)
Subject: RE: Help: Locking tuners anyone?
From: Uncle_DaveO

If you think YOU'VE got problems of the changing of one string throwing other strings out of tune, try the banjo! Because the banjo head is thin and flexible, and its tension is what keeps the un-fastened bridge in place beneath the strings, every change in tension of the strings firms up or slacks off the firmness of the head, and affects the tension of the strings.

What's more, with a five-string, when you capo you will usually need to retune the fifth string, leading to the problem in the first paragraph.

The bottom line is the well-known observation that YOU CAN'T TUNE A BANJO!

Dave Oesterreich

03 Apr 01 - 02:12 PM (#432253)
Subject: RE: Help: Locking tuners anyone?
From: Richard Bridge

Some guitars are less susceptible to this than others. My Mugen has a rather flexible table and is a pain for this purpose. Old EKOs are built like cricket bats and as stable as all hell (but don't sound do good). THe Landola 12 strings have a gadget like an upside down truss rod from the inside of the saddle to the tailblock which makes them very stable but a bit thinner sounding than many 12s.

Locking tuners, either of the type already described, or locking nuts (ie a nut with a bar over it held down by little bolts to clamp the strings at what is analogous to the zero fret) are not likely to solve this problem.

However, the problems of an acoustic in this situation are nothing to that of a plank with a fully floating floyd-rose trem, which wobbles like a jelly on a plate when tuning.