Does Anyone Really Have Tuning Problems With Electromatics?


Hello Gretsch lovers. I wanted to talk about the comments I have seen regarding tuning issues, requiring the Gretsch player to scramble around changing the nut, upgrading the Bigsby, and getting expensive locking tuners. I've owned a 5122 for 2 years, and never had one issue of it not staying in tune. After all the comments I've read here, I thought that perhaps I got lucky, but I've had my new 5420 for a few weeks, and it stays in perfect tune just like my 5122 always has.

I don't get what the issues are. Did I get lucky twice? Are the tuning issues possibly from players who don't do their bends properly, or don't put strings on the right way, causing tuning to be problematic?

I plan to do complete upgrades to my line of 5420 guitars, and installing new locking tuners is on the agenda, but to be 100% honest, it doesn't seem necessary.


I have had 7 Electromatics over the years and never had a tuning stability problem. I do have a tech check and, if needed, dress the nut. The other mods are for tone (the bridge and the pickups) and Aesthetics (pick guard and Bigsby).


The tuners are almost never the problem. Locking tuners almost always solve a problem that isn't there.

It's usually the nut. It's the nut. It's the nut, guys. Dress the nut.

If it's not the nut, it might be the bridge. But it's not often the bridge.

It's not the tuners. (OK, every ONCE in a long while, it's the tuners.)

If you like the guitar, and you want to love it, it's worth paying the man for a high-quality, professionally cut nut.


I've got a 2008 5120 and have never had any problems. I haven't changed anything on it. Like Bob, I have my friendly, local guitar guru go over it, at least, once a year to make sure everything is good. It may not be the world's most expensive guitar, but I really love the neck and the build quality and tone (Not classic Chet or Duane but, to my ears, a nice, mellow, jazz tone) has made it one of my favorites.


Yes, always dress your nuts...especially if you're sitting on wicker furniture.


I had tuning issues on my Bono Red Electromatic and my 2006 6120. Both times it was the nut. Both guitars came to me with 10-46 and I use 11-53 strings. These guys are so right about dressing the nut. I was about to give up and buy a PRS! Gross. Sorry about the crude humor.


The tuners on my G5445T were pretty bad. The high E tuner would get really tight half way thru the rotation and barely turn. Replaced them with USA Grovers now all is peachy.


All of my Electro/Synchros hold tune just fine.


Well, yes, people do have problems.


For every person you hear with problems there are hundred - if not thousands -- who have no problems at all.

All those people saying they need to change the Bigsby are wrong. OK, maybe not all, but 99.99% out of 100%.

Those people saying they need new tuners are wrong too. OK, maybe not all, but probably 99% of them.

As noted above, if there's an issue, it's the nut. Pretty much every time.

So why are there nut problems? Because that's where there's the most hand-crafting (and chance of error) in a largely automated process, because there's little time on the line to get them right every time (not saying that's an excuse), and because a simple string change can make it wrong again.


Nephew's 5120 or his new Streamliner Jr.: No. Friend-who-gigs's with a newer 5420: No.


NJ Bob has the correct answer here. I did change my nut out for a bone (is that OK to say on a family website) on my '05 5129 and it eliminated some minor sticking issues the stock delrin nut gave me. I now use Nut Sauce and do not play on wicker furniture.


Stock 2013 5420 owner here. No problems.


Stock 5422 with a Tru-Arc bridge.

No tuning issues with the stock bridge or with the Tru-Arc.

As has been stated, most tuning issues are with either the nut or how the strings were put on (incorrectly).


Oh wait. DO people have tuning problems with Electromatics? Likely. Probably proportionally more than have problems with pro-line Gretschs.

Because, as has been explained, the nuts don't get the same attention at the factory. You may be fine if you stick with the gauge strings that come on the guitar (though not necessarily). If you go heavier (as many players do, especially on hollowbodies), then - as Bax suggests - the string slots in the nut may well prove too tight for the new strings, and will pinch and grab and detain and waylay the strings as they try to squeeze through it. Tuning precision and stability will both be degraded.

Nutty nut nut nut. Nut nut nut.
Don't change the tuners
Till you've dressed the nut.


Or the bridge, or the Bigsby.


I have two Electromatics and have played a half-dozen others, with no discernible tuning problems on any of them.


Tuning problems are caused by the nut not being cut properly. Locking tuners make string changes easier, but have nothing to do with tuning. Bigsbys will NOT make your guitar go out of tune unless your nut is cut wrong. Only nuts and players affect tuning.


(Does that sound redundant? It wasn't meant to.)


I've had a few sporadic tuning issues with my Black Phoenix but never my '08 5126. I think Mr. Zoom is right when it's nuts or players. If the player happens to be a nut then all hell can break loose!


my 08 Pro Jet's stock tuners were adequate, but i changed them to Sta-Tites anyway which are fine but had no effect on tuning. changing from the stock bridge to a bar bridge did help a bit though, probably because the bar bridge lacks the sharp saddle edge and steeper break angle of the Tunomatic. the only time the tuning gets weird--other than from great long Albert King bends across the fingerboard--is from deep drops with the Bigsby which aren't too hard to deal with. probably a little judicious nut work would help. IIRC i put in a bone nut, but that was a decade ago so i don't exactly recall.

you want to watch out using nut sauce if you live in a dusty environment. if you get dirt in there it'll turn to glue.


Ive never had tuning issues with my ProJet.


I play my 5422 on a wicker patio chair occasionally, however, it is thickly padded. I stuck with the 10 - 46 guage strings that came on the guitar originally, and have remarkably stable tuning, even when I play it on the wicker chair.


My 5120 had tuning issues on the G-string. It would be sharp, then tune to pitch, suddenly it's flat, etc.

I took it to a guy who showed me the issue with the nut. He did a little filing, now it's pretty good.

The problem was that there were actually two channels on the tuning head side of the nut. They came together into one slot thru the neck side. Like two stream channels joining to make one. A Y. The string would sometimes move from one channel to the other.

Glad it's fixed.


While I strongly agree that in most cases the nut is the culprit for tuning instability, you guys are forgetting one other X-factor-- operator error.

What I mean is that not everyone who owns a guitar has been taught to wind strings correctly and stretch them in if necessary, nor have they been coached in the nuances of Bigsby vibrato operation. Furthermore, If they are using light strings with a floating bridge and the bridge base hasn't been properly mated to the guitar top, they can move the bridge without knowing it (I know that the last issue has been largely eliminated on newer Electromatics, but it can still be an issue for non-secured bridges). I like to think of it as a similar situation to some people who drive an automatic transmission, and they use one foot on the accelerator and ride the brake pedal with the other foot. Pretty soon they're wondering why they need a brake job after only 20,000 miles.

All I'm saying is that for Gretsch newbies, it's usually the nut, but it ain't always the nut. There's a human involved in the equation, ya know.

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