Lower Tunings--Guitar won't stay in tune

by Lewis
(England)

This is sort of two questions, I hope that is ok. So I have been playing guitar for about 5 months, and last month changed the strings on my first electric guitar from .09's to .10's. I read a lot about putting on the strings and decided to do it myself as I didn't want to pay a silly price for a seemingly simple task. I think I have replaced them to a decent level.

Anyway, the reason I got thicker strings was because I wanted to play in lower tunings. When my guitar was in .09's, if I tuned it down any further than 1 full step then it would be pretty loose and go out of tune quite easily. Unfortunately I now have the same issue with the .10's. I like the feel of these thicker strings better but they still do not hold very well in lower tunings and it all sounds a bit wrong. I was wondering what I would have to do if I wanted to play in lower tunings? Thicker strings, a different guitar, or have i maybe not put the strings on properly. My guitar goes up to 21 frets by the way, if that is of any help.

Second question is about the intonation. Basically I read about guitar intonation and how the open string and the 12th fret of that string were supposed to be the same note (well one octave different but you know what I mean). Unfortunately the 12th fret on each string is a bit too sharp when compared to playing each one open. I have read guides and moved the saddles as far away from the neck as possible to create more string length, but the note is still sharp. First off is this correct? Secondly is there anything else I need to do to make the intonation better?

Thanks a lot for reading this.

ANSWER

Hi, Lewis--

1. They ability of a guitar to maintain its tuning when tuned lower is influenced by a few factors. One is the quality of the guitar in general. Less expensive guitars tend to not be as adaptable. Another factor is the type of bridge. Some bridges cause the guitar to resist retuning.

Did you stretch the strings before you put them on? If not, then the strings themselves will be unstable for quite a period of time.

Also, the intonation problem may itself be one of the causes of the tuning problem.

Forgive me for being blunt, but as a guitar player with such a limited amount of experience, you should NOT be trying to adjust the intonation on your guitar. You could mess it up royally!

Take it to a qualified repair person and get the intonation set. This involves, among other things, adjusting the neck by using the truss rod. Then see if that helps your tuning problem. In fact, you should ask the repair person while you are there.

Best Wishes,
Lynne

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