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Rich W

Changing ES-339 Tuning Keys

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I’m thinking about changing the tuning keys on my 339, and I’m wondering if anyone else has done this?

 

I’d like to stick with the Kluson-style tulip heads and keep the same look, and prefer a direct replacement that won’t require much in the way of modification.

 

Does anyone have any suggestions about 339 replacement tuning keys?

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Well...I just changed the tuning machine heads last night. I got my 339 new back in March and it hasn't been right since. It wouldn't stay in tune. The strings constantly went flat. It's been to the local authorized Gibson repair place 3 times since I got it and they kept dikkin around with it without fixing it. Last week in the recording studio was the last straw. I had to stop and retune so many times I had just about had it.

 

So yesterday I picked up a set of Gibson "Modern Machine Heads (with metal buttons)" made by Grover. Sam Ash sells them for about 60 bucks. They were literally a drop-in replacement. It took me about a half hour and that includes replacing the strings. The original Kluson-style tuners came off easily and the holes drilled for the "Klusons" lined up perfectly with the one screw hole on the Grovers. I kept the original screws and used them in the same hole in each tuner location. I used a small phillips head screwdriver and a 7/16 socket wrench. I think 10 mm fits it perfectly but I only had standard sockets in my music room and I was too lazy to go to the garage to get a 10 mm.

 

The new ones are nice in that they are shaped very similarly to the originals, except they are chrome AND the guitar stays in tune. The whole guitar feels different now- very much more solid and it has stayed in tune for almost a whole day already.

 

Now I just got to see if some sukka wants to by some nearly-new Kluson-style machine heads. They don't need to know they stink. Naw- I can't do that to a fellow musician.

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I have a 2007 ES-339 that I bought used about 9 months ago. The person I bought it from (Ebay) evidently, never played it as it seemed to have the original strings on it when I got it. Anyway, for such a great guitar, it never stayed in tune and I had issues with the G string slipping. I tried a new set up, 2X to the luthier for neck adjustments, nut carving, saddle work, lube, nut juice etc. Nothing worked Finally, I took out the Deluxe tuners and dropped in a set of Gold Grovers. Immediately the guitar stayed in tune, no longer has any problems with slippage and, I think it helps the sustain with the added weight. It certainly feels more balanced.

 

Recently, I changed out the bridge for a Gold one and added a TP-6 for better intonation. Both pieces were taken from an ES-336 and fit perfectly without any alterations. The guitar plays flawlessly now. I can put it in the case for a week and when I take it out it is perfectly in tune.

 

I know a lot of people say those Deluxe tuners are fine and point to other issues when it comes to tuning but, with my ES-333, my Les Pauls and my SG (to a lesser degree) I have always had tuning problems with the Deluxe tuners and it has always been solved perfectly with the addition of Grovers. Just my opinion. I mean, how many set-ups and neck adjustments should a relatively new and in good condition guitar have to go through in order to get the tuning issues resolved?

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Sounds like an epidemic. I talked with Gibson customer service twice and they said specifically that it wasn't the tuners. Of course that's what fixed it. I think the problems may be the coarser 12:1 ratio of the deluxes versus the finer tuning 14:1 of the Grover versions. Mine were kind of loose feeling so they were sloppy as well as coarse. I played another 339 in the shop the other day and the deluxes were tight and it tuned fine. Now it's dawning on me that's the problem- they aren't slipping per se, there's just enough slop in some of them so you can never dial it in unless it's by accident.

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I’m glad to hear that you were able to solve the tuning issue, and that Grovers are a direct replacement.

 

I find the 339 to be a little neck heavy, even with the stock tuners, and that’s partly why I’ve been wondering about TonePros Klusons.

 

Do the Grovers add much weight?

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I'm glad it wasn't my imagination. Last year I purchased an ES339 and I returned it a week later because it would not stay in tune for more than a song, especially the G string. I have not been able to find another one in a red finish locally so I gave up the idea of buying one and bought another Les Paul instead. I don't think a person should have to change out the tuning keys on a new guitar.

Kenny V

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My 2c about tuning issues...

 

Since this is the semi-hollow board let's start with temp. and humidity changes. Depending on your guitar this can and does make a difference. Second is the sort of strings you use and the set up for each gauge. Change just a little and you will sometimes see dramatic differences in tuning. Then there is binding at the nut and saddle. I use Big Bends Nut Sauce for that. It works better then the old stand by of pencil lead and who can resist that name? :huh: Lastly, there is the way you wind the strings. Proper string winding makes a difference.

 

All that said, the Grovers that Gibson uses on their mid range guitars are not bad. Not great, but not bad.

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Two different luthiers have had a go at the nut on my 339, so I don't think I'm getting string binding there. But that's a good point about possible binding at the saddles.

 

My 339 had to have been rushed out the door ... the bridge setup and saddle notching was done carelessly because the string spacing is way off. So it wouldn't surprise me if there is also some string binding at the saddles as well. I looked into Gibson replacement saddles to rectify the string spacing, but it's not really that much more expensive to just get a new (and potentially better) bridge.

 

I ordered a TonePros ABR bridge this week, and I'm going to get the saddles notched and radiused properly by my luthier. I don't know who puts on the bridges and notches the saddles in Memphis, but mine must have been a Friday afternoon job.

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Well, here it is 2020 and the problem with the 339 still exists. I gave up on Gibson service who kept saying it's the nut. They serviced it 3 times under warranty. I had put the guitar away for a month, tuned. When I returned to it, the B string was flat by 1 1/2 steps, to G# and the D string was flat by a whole step to C. The rest were only slightly off. Both of those tuners, B and D, have too much play in them, not as tight as the others. Unacceptable! My Humingbird stays in tune all the time varying only when humidity varies, and even then the adjustments are slight. Same head stock configuration, same Grovers, same nut. I haven't had my Humingbird serviced because it didn't need it. Conclusion: Grovers are uneven in quality and Gibson won't replace them on a $3,000 guitar! Totally unacceptable!!!

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Iirc i had deluxe original tuners on my ~1987 SG go bad. So not a new prob at all.

i also had an early ‘90’s sg with an impossible to keep in tune g string.

 

 

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