This will be determined in two categories: 1)Tuning Problem: After correctly tuning the guitar, it wont stay in tune. AND 2) Intonation Problem: Guitar stays IN tune but will not play in tune at different locations on the neck. This page is for 1) Tuning Problems. Page 2) is for Intonation Problems.
This is the number one cause of tuning problems. Make sure the strings are properly wrapped around the tuning posts so as not to loose tension. Learn how to prevent that on the Stringing the Guitar pages
Got new strings? Are they nylon ? (hope not !) New strings must be stretched before they will remain in tune. I do this by lightly pulling and pre-stretching the strings and retuning several times until they quit stretching. If they are nylon, then good luck !
If the slot size in the nut is too small for the gauge of string you are using then it may bind or catch in the nut. Do you hear a popping or creaking noise? If so, the slot may need to be resized to relieve the binding of the string. It is an easy and inexpensive procedure.(coming soon: More about nuts)
When stringing an acoustic guitar it is important that the ball end be seated firmly against the bridge pin AND bridge plate or it could eventually slip upward and seat against the bridge pin and cause a loss of tension and tuning to go flat. Read more about proper stringing techniques on the Stringing the Guitar pages
Do you have worn or even worse "cheap" tuners ? The best way to deal with that problem other than replacing them is to always tune UP to the note, never down. If you are sharp, tune down below and come back UP again to take up the play/slack in the gears.
Does your guitar have a tremolo? And you still want to know WHY you have a tuning problem ? Each time a tremolo is used, the strings MUST return to the exact position it started form to remain in tune. Tremolo use stretches the strings and eventually causes tuning problems. If you have a Floyd Rose style, the loss of tension or a broken string causes ALL strings to lose pitch. (coming soon: more about tremolo's)
Loose necks that can move around when tension is applied. A loose and rising bridge. Sloppy saddles that move back and forth, a neck with not enough stiffness or other structural problems.
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