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Why is the G String on the Guitar Always Out of Tune?

Tuning a guitar up is something most beginner players can do – after all, you just need several minutes of patience and a tuner. Now, even if we disregard the obvious elephant in the room, which is the varying accuracy of each tuner model, at first strums of a chord most people realize that something feels off.

More precisely speaking, the G string is the one that is presenting you with these problems. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on new sets and tuners, there are means to correct your G string setup, so let’s see what it is that makes it the least popular string in the set and how to correctly set it up.

Improper placement on the headstock

First and foremost, a huge number of guitars feature the three-plus-three headstock, where three strings are set up on each side. This puts both D and G strings in a peculiar situation where they’re more angled than the rest of the strings.

However, the D string is much easier to tune since it’s both thinner and has a bit more space on the guitar’s nut. Additionally, G strings are typically unwound, which makes them more reactive in terms of fluctuations.

Paul Reed Smith guitars, for example, have addressed this issue by reducing the angle via bringing the pegs a bit closer together.

Of course, there are guitars that feature inline tuning pegs (most notably Ibanez models), which completely negate any problems of this kind.

As far as the design of your guitar’s headstock goes, we wouldn’t advise making major physical modifications as more subtle and equally efficient alternatives exist.

Poor-quality nut

If the headstock of your guitar is not the reason why your G string goes out of tune, a good place to continue your search for answers is at the guitar’s nut. Namely, the spacings in the nut and its quality itself also play big roles in determining how well the strings can bind to the guitar.

Cheaper nuts are not only flimsy but offer very little in terms of space and durability, which are both viable explanations of why your guitar’s G string is going out of tune.

An obvious solution here is to buy a better quality nut. Even better mid-range models aren’t that expensive, although you’ll probably need to hire a professional to install them.

Further on that note, it may be worthwhile investing in a locking nut. This is a sure-fire method to keep your guitar completely in tune for extended periods, although you’ll need to ‘unlock’ it (with a screwdriver or hex key) every time you want to re-tune or change your guitar’s tuning.

Lubricating your guitar’s nut

With minimal space available to bind, the G string will struggle if the nut is not properly lubricated. Lithium grease is an excellent choice as it is both inexpensive and highly reusable while being fairly forgiving to the nut’s durability.

This way the string will be able to resist frequent bending, although this may not be the solution for people who have problems with headstock and intonation.

Poor intonation

Essentially, guitars with poor intonation struggle to keep all the strings in tune. This is usually the case with the budget and entry-level guitars, but even more expensive models may have been set up poorly, which would invariably lead to subpar intonation.

Basically, an optimal level of intonation is achieved when the distance from the saddle to your guitar’s twelfth fret is identical to the distance from the twelfth fret to your guitar’s nut.

An ideal way to fix this issue is to use a hex key to tilt the saddle (back if the note is sharp, forward if the note is flat). Alternatively, pay a visit to your local music store and have your guitar examined by a professional.

‘Over-bending’

The G string is every guitar player’s favorite when it comes to bending. Aside from the fact that our fingers naturally fall on it whenever we pick the guitar up, solo guitar players also rely on it for screeching vibratos more than any other string.

As mentioned earlier, the G string is not wound like the rest of the strings in the set, and it is highly responsive to any form of fluctuation while having little room to properly bind. This doesn’t mean that you should refrain from using bending techniques, but it could answer a portion of the question.

Using a set with a Wound G-string

Even though the chances of G string going out of tune if you’ve fixed the headstock and the nut are small, the possibility still exists. If the problem endures, you may fix the string by replacing your current set with wound strings.

Round-wound strings in particular seem to be perfect for this particular scenario while flat-wound strings fare the worst.
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