Why Cheap Guitars Go Out of Tune and How To Fix It

Why cheap guitars go out of tune

One of the most frustrating things about playing guitar is when it goes out of tune, and no matter what you do, your guitar keeps going slightly out of tune. This makes everything you play sound terrible and leaves you frustrated beyond belief. 

It is even more common for cheap guitars to go out of tune, and this can seem impossible to fix, but thankfully there are a few solutions to overcome this common problem.

Is it normal for cheap guitars to go out of tune?

It is common for cheap guitars to constantly go out of tune because the quality of the materials used is low. A guitar is a mechanical instrument that relies on constant movements on the strings to be played, and inevitably every guitar, no matter the price range, goes slightly out of tune.

This varies a lot depending on the brand, the quality of the materials, the guitar hardware, and the player. Some players push their instruments to the limit, inevitably making the guitar go out of tune. A simple example of this is an electric guitar with a tremolo. While it is possible to set up a guitar with a tremolo bridge to maintain its tuning, the more you use the tremolo bar, the easier it will be for the guitar to go out of tune.

Additionally, having the right setup for your guitar will also make a significant difference in how well it stays in tune. Setting up a guitar is an art form that requires practice and dedication to master.

Let’s look at some of the most common reasons why cheap guitars go out of tune and how you can fix it.

6 Reasons why cheap guitars go out of tune

1. Low-quality construction

The main reason why cheap guitars go out of tune more quickly is because of the low-quality construction and materials used. Sometimes, the neck might not be wholly aligned with the bridge or other mistakes. The quality control of guitars that are cheaply manufactured in mass is nearly inexistent, and therefore there are all sorts of problems that can come from it.

Unfortunately, when it comes to low-quality construction, there is very little you can do to fix it. Therefore if you are looking to buy a cheap guitar, make sure you check different models and choose one that has some quality.

2. Low-quality tuners

One of the main reasons cheap guitars do not stay in tune is that they have cheap tuners that do not hold the strings in place. This makes the string slowly slide as you keep playing until your guitar eventually goes out of tune. 

This is one of the simplest things you can fix by just replacing your current tuners with high-quality tuners. Either Grover tuners, or you can even consider locking tuners, which are typically used in high-end guitars, and will help you keep your guitar in tune for a longer time.

3. Bad nut

Another common reason why cheap guitars go quickly out of tune is because of the nut. Low-quality nuts or nuts not well set up can create additional friction on the strings. This makes it easy for the guitar to go out of tune because the strings are not able to move on the nut slots freely. To fix this you can consider changing your nut, which should be done by a luthier with experience. Avoid trying to replace the nut if you do not have any previous experience.

4. Used or cheap strings

If your strings have been used a lot, this can also explain why the guitar is quickly going out of tune. Additionally, cheap strings or strings that are not stretched can also make it easier for the guitar to go out of tune. This is easily fixable by replacing your strings, which shouldn’t take long.

5. Temperature changes

While this is often an overlooked aspect, the temperature, and the humidity can affect a guitar’s setup and tuning. A guitar is made of wood, and if you live in a place with drastic temperature and humidity changes between summer and winter, it is normal for the guitar to suffer from this. The best way to fix this is to set up your guitar depending on the season. So usually, you would set up your guitar for winter and summer to adjust to the different temperatures and humidity.

6. Setup

Finally, one of the most important things to do to ensure your guitar stays in tune longer is to set it up properly. A guitar setup is usually less than $50, and it is important to ensure you can adjust the strings’ height and the guitar to your playing style and preference. 

How to make a cheap guitar stay in tune

There are plenty of things you can do to make your cheap guitar stay in tune. However, there are some things that are more effective than others. Start by replacing the tuners if you have cheap tuners. In some cases, if you install locking tuners, most of your tuning problems will go away. 

If this does not work, consider whether or not your strings are old or cheap and replace them. Finally, you can also consider changing the guitar nut. You can consider a roller nut, which is one of the best nuts for electric guitars and can help you keep your guitar in tune for extended periods of time.

Which guitars stay in tune best?

The idea that you have to spend a couple of grand on a guitar for it to stay in tune is false. There are plenty of new guitars in the $400 to $500 price range that come with medium-quality hardware that can stay in tune. Always consider what kind of hardware the guitar has before purchasing it.

Research online whether or not other guitar players with the same guitar have had problems keeping their guitar in tune. You can also visit a guitar shop and play for a while to test whether or not the guitar will stay in tune if you play for a long time.


A guitar that quickly goes out of tune can be extremely frustrating and can deter you from keep learning and practice. This is especially common in cheap guitars, but following our advice, you’ll be able to fix this common problem and keep your guitar in tune for longer.

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