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Keeping SG's/G-400's In Tune

charlie brown

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I have lusted after an SG, for some time. I had one, in the '60's, but (foolishly) sold it,

to finance a different guitar. So, the Gibson '61 Reissue, or Epi G-400, have

caught my eye. However, a buddy, that I jam with every now and then, got the

Epiphone G-400 "Deluxe" (Flamed Maple Top, Gold hardware, etc) for a really

good price, and he let me play it. It was a beautiful looking guitar, well made, and

I was enamored of it's tone and playability, but dismayed at how it would

absolutely NOT stay in tune. The strings were stretched, well enough,

and the nut didn't seem to be binding, either. It has "Grover" tuners, too...so????


Any similar experiences, problems, or concerns, with any of you? And, is it limited to Epi's, or

do the Gibson models, now, have similar problems? (My '67 Gibson SG would stay in

tune, really well!)



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Yea, it's possible there's too much up-bow in the neck or the strings may even be binding at the bridge (unusual, but happens). I've found that my SG and LP are best set up with almost no neck bow at all and a fairly high bridge. They stay in tune very well...what sort of tuner is he using? Some generic 1 cent accuracy tuner?

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Yeah, I'll have to mention/ask him, about the "Set up" thing, next time I see him.

Maybe, I just bent strings to much, for it, initially? Who knows? Winter weather, seems to play havoc, on even our "solid body" guitar necks...even in "comfortable" (for humans), conditions. Must be the humidity,

or lack thereof, here. Summer is way less problematic, for some weird reason. You'd think, there'd be the same problems, but for different reasons? And, "acoustic guitars?" We won't even GO there! LOL!



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I had problems with my Elitist Les Paul until I rounded out the V notches in the bridge a bit. Eventually I swapped out the entire unit for an Allparts bridge with the vintage brass saddles but in the meantime a bit of filing fixed the tuning problem.


I've taken to filing down the saddles on Epi style bridges so that they are almost flat, with just a shallow dent to keep the string in place. Check out the bridge saddles on a Gibson and compare them to an Epi and you'll see what I'm getting at.

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The strings could also be old and worn out, new and not properly stretched, or just plain bad strings --- or the strings might not be properly wound onto the pegs so they slip. If a new set of quality strings properly installed doesn't solve the problem, then the nut, bridge, and/or setup are the likely culprits.

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I had the same problem with my G-400and my Epi Les Paul. Even after having it set up, it still didn't stay in tune well. I've since replaced the bridges on both of them, and that has helped greatly. It seems the stock bridges aren't very stable, they can rock back and forth a bit, and that can mess up your intonation. The les paul is now staying in tune very well. The G-400 is much better, but it could still use a little improvement. I think I will eventualy replace the tuners on the G-400 anyways (I just don't like the way they look), hopefuly that will give me the last bit of improvement I'm looking for.

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What Rotcan said. Ditto all that.


The stuff about a guitar not playing in tune with a little relief in the fretboard is a bit alarmist ;^)

Excessive relief will compromise intonation along the neck but correct relief will not.


It's maybe worth mentioning that SGs are a little less stable than some guitars simply due to the length of unsuported neck. There's more potential for them to wonder around than with many other guitars.

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Well, I will see my friend, and his SG, on Friday night...for another jam. We'll

see how the guitar performs, then. It may be, as most of you have said,

just a matter of proper setup, or some serious "breaking in" time? It played

(tuning problems aside) very well, and sounded fantastic, stock pickups and all!

So, I'm pretty sure, he'll get it in shape, tuning wise, in short order.


I'll be really interested to see, if some of the "Vintage" G-400's will show themselves,

in the area "Guitar Center," or E.M. Shorts Guitars, in Wichita? I'd really love to try one out!


Charlie B.

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While you're checking the grooves on the nut and saddles' date=' run a ordinairy pencil through. A softer B-type will work nice. Not the H-or HB-variety.[/quote']


Before I bought my Casino I had a Kramer/Focus/Faux-Strat and it would not stay in tune. Especially if I touched the whammy bar. I removed the whammy and it still would not stay in tune.


Then a fellow musician told me about the pencil lead. I checked with tech support and they agreed with my friend.


I now run a number 2 pencil in the grooves of all my guitars whenever I change the strings, and I have had no abnormal intonation issues since.


I don't like to put the pencil lead on the saddles, because I often play muted guitar, and don't like to get the lead on my right hand. But for my guitars, it isn't necessary.


There are many reasons why your guitar might not stay in tune, this is only one, but since the solution is cheap and easy, it would be the first one I would try.


Insights and incites by Notes

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Try another branch of strings, not to light, maybe .010''s and stretch them a few times.

Also put enough winds around the string posts.

With new strings set the intonation, action, neckrelief and check for wide (deep) enough nut slots and not to

deep a groove on the saddles (maybe replace them with Graphtech saddles).


Good luck,



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a FLAT neck with low action will be near perfect note to note, fret to fret.... ANY bow in the neck WILL change the distance of the string to the bridge in an uneven and un compensated manor... high action, the string stretches more to reach the fret.


graphite the nut, to high hell, put some good strings on it with the proper amounts of windings on the tuners,


ALSO TEMPURATURE(even plus or minus 5 degrees) air airpressure changes will screw with epis and gibsons SOOOOOO much its disgusting.


my gibson is VERY touchy with tuning. i fear string bends more than i fear dropping the guitar.


i am a tuning and intonation NAZI... i tune 6 times before every playing..open notes, harmonic tuning and cross refferencing every string against my A string... i am a sick man.




tube amps will cover up a little bit of intonation issues-- solid state may actually make your guitar sound out of tune (only to the nazi eared like myself that listen to harmonics)because it has less note regerneration or what ever the technical aspects of the electrons bouncing around the tubes and through circuts mroe loosely.

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Well, I hope it won't end up being much of a problem, when I decide

to take the SG plunge, myself. Love the way they look, and play...

but, constant tuning problems, could be a real "hassle?" Thinking,

right now, about saving for the Gibson '61 reissue...but, every time

I look at the Epi's, especially for the price, it's hard NOT to grab one

of those, too. So...???


Charlie B.

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haha, bro, i been playin guitars a long time... and repairing/building...



and this my friend, is almost as close as what someone else said up there




but if a guitar with not many moving parts won't stay in tune, and at least the gears inside the tuning machines aren't chewed (you'd feel them skipping and grinding as you tuned...) its a classic problem.


wanna know the problem???




whoever strung that guitar can't string a guitar correctly.


there i said it and its, from my experience, 90% of the 'won't stay in tune' problem

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haha, i just kinda read this whole thread....


a lot of you people have crazy ideas as to the set ups of guitars...


first, relief in a neck is a needed thing - strings vibrate in an eliptical fashion... durh...


pencil graphite is a great way to lube a nut!!!


a binded nut will cause tuning problems, but only if your bending, or have crazy high action... which is retarded because its intonation hell...



I do set ups for intonation nazi like that other guy.... if your such an intonation nazi - you should really try a bit different method to doing your intonations... don't forget your picking and fretting effect intonation the most....


remember, if you got the ABR-1, B-1/2 bridge type, they ususally come with those saddles in the wrong direction. no matter what anyone tells you, a vibrating string needs a definate edge to leave off of. the slow ramp off will give you intonation gadzooks if your a wee lil nazi... i mean its a guitar, not a sitar... who came up with leaving those saddles backwards from the factory??? I know its tradition, but its lame...


well dressed frets are always needed.... and levelled well, i notice its always in the levelling....




anothe rtthing thats nice is if the radius is set correctly... now with epi's its a lot of work cause they give you a slot already/.. thats maddening...


but gibsons are nice because they come with no slot! great! thanks gibson!!



radius ain't a job left to just anybody... just like carvin a nut... theres some simple rules of thumb to work too... like break angle, both up and down and side to side...



i mean a fender is easy to set radius...




i just thought of another tuning disaster - concerning old SG's as well


the ol' leaner bridge... like a fiddle, the more you tune, the more she leans....



can be a simple problem to fix, you just need to turn the pole pieces deeper into the body.



know how thats done??? same way you put an exhaust stud in an engine block.... go ask a mechanic.... and with this advice, the method is much harder to do when your dealing with tiny bridge parts.... but i have my secrets and i do have to keep them....






other than that, old sloppy bridge parts.... but i mean, thats not really much of a tuning issue... can be... but so small... all you need to do here is just slop on the lubricating jelly... unless shes way past worn, but they never are... how much work does an intonation screw go through anyways??? haha



ok, I'm done... people, do more reading. read what i say. or don't


its not like I'm an engineer with experience in guitars.... ? haha



right, one last thing..


guy with straight neck can't keep in tune with other guitars....


you need relief.


and yes, now the frets are at different distances, great, you know some calculus...


well now, isn't that the point of those intonation screws to compensate for such mess???


how many of you have actually tried to see how tight to tolerance epi/gibson actually places there frets/bridges???



haha, go do that, and then give me tuning whoas and intonation this thats and no relief hibblygibbilty...




you people don't do much setting up for other people do you...??? you think some metal jerk with huge fatty strings tuned to C# could play a straight neck??? HA!!!!!



that being said, I play deadly low action.... with a neck relief of like .004" at maybe 7 or 8....



any fiddle players here???? go uh, neck the straightness of your neck... learn something or two about vibrating strings and sound mechanics....

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you can sure tell me to **** off... but you can't tell physics to **** off..


and seeing that a guitar is basically a class 3 lever (simple machine), and seems to follow them rules of physics...



sorry dude, but thats the way them things roll.... i tried to dispell some myths, but if you need graphs, and formulas, and photos - I'll be glad to make up a nice lil report...

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um, by compensating with string length, to move the nodes and anti-nodes around? by turning those adjustment screws on the bridge....


make me a believer and show me how its more in tune accross the neck just because you'd set the neck to zero (or what you might think is zero) relief.... not to mention them frets were placed right on the exact physical mark... not too sure if they've made a machine precise enough to cut that, or place that, or measure that... I mean, I checked all sorts of guitars on a CMS machine... and welllllllll...........



this is simple wave mechanics bud... also, the string is more apt to be balanced if its able to be fretted, and vibrated, in its standard eliptical pattern...


if you upset its pattern, it won't ring true.


which leads me to believe, the subject of intonation is very, uh, subjective... and your case isn't any different...



i mean, even the dudes building violins back in the 1400's understood this... thats why you sand relief into a fiddle...




now also, saying "bow'd" and "relief" or two different terms.


relief is a controlled amount of bow... either you just don't know how to use a truss rod correctly, or you are sadly misinformed...


remember, when intonating, you have to use a consistant picking attack and its best to have it upright in playing position. don't push on anything. and as you attack the string it'll be slightly sharp, obviously. this is where you think - "does this guitarist pick fast, or let a lot of notes ring" and thats how you decide how to set it up...



theres a few methodsto intonating, not to mention compensating for fret wear.... or misplaced frets and bridges. thanks to phsyical limitations, like, everything... this is more common then you'd think.


another thing to is our new decided form of 12 tet intonation... which means some frets just might not sound totally in tune, which could be opinion... and pretty much always is...


especially saying 7th fret, which would be the depths of the relief, and the 13th, where theres always a hump because nowadays they build guitars backwards... your supposed to glue the fingerboard on then fret it, not fret a fingerboard then glue it onto the neck... thats what creates the hump.



guaraunteed, de-fret your guitar. level the fingerboard, compensate for the neck pulling up at the body (by wrapping a feeler guage under some tape usually at the twelfth fret and continue levelling... refret the neck, level it, compnesate the same way at the twelvth fret, crown it, dress it, polish it, set it up.



be subjective, and you'll find your notes are a lil closer this time.


din't forget, theres limitations in 12 tet, just as there was in "just" intonation... there always will be. theres billions of frequency and they took 12 and called them notes. and double or divide in two to get a whole scale, your bound to find problems there, thats just the way it is....


get used to it.

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ok,my guitar is setup if you put a true striaght edge along the fret board from the ist fret to the 22nd fret it is completly in line "0" gape at any fret.and on a peterson strbe tuner open e is the same at the 12th fret .holding the note fretted 5th "A" is in tune at the 17th fret.so why with no neck releif is it correct if in fact relief is needed?

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