The purpose of this article is to share with you how to “lock” a string on your guitar. This is a method of catching the string very securely on the tuning peg, so that it cannot slip at all. This is desirable, because it keeps your playing better in tune. It’s more useful on some strings and not really needed on others. And I’ll describe how to do it. Have you had the experience of tuning up, and then you start playing and as you play, somewhere along the way you realize you’ve gone flat, and it doesn’t really sound in tune anymore? This is very common, and it’s caused because some of the strings can slip a little, and just a little bit of slippage is enough to change the tuning of the string very much!
But when you lock a string, it gives you more stable tuning while you’re playing, and minimizes that embarrassing “going flat” halfway through a song. It’s not really necessary to lock all the strings, though some folks do. It’s enough to lock the smaller gauges, because they’re the offenders in the slipping after tuning department. The largest-gauge strings are not as likely to slip. And big fat bass strings on your electric bass are not likely to need locking, because the heavy-gauge central core wire is quite stiff. If it’s threaded through the tuner hole, and bent, it’s not going anywhere.
How to do it? I’ll explain, but this is one of those things that’s easier to show, so in a moment I’ll also give you a link to a video that demonstrates the method. However, let’s discuss it first. Let’s assume that your guitar or bass is lying flat on a table in front of you, tuner machines to the left, body to the right. It’s right side up so we’re looking at the strings. Let’s assume we have a single string to load on the instrument.
You’ve already threaded the string through the mount holes in the body, and you bring the string up the neck and over the nut. You thread the end of the string through the hole in a tuner. Let’s say you bend the string sharply where it enters the tuner-hole, and where it emerges on the other side of the tuner peg, you bend it again. You don’t bend it back toward the rest of the string; rather you bend the free end of the string to reach toward the tip of the headstock. Now you turn the tuner peg, taking up some slack on the string, but you only turn it about half a turn, so that the string that goes into the tuner peg is just about to touch the string section that comes out of the tuner peg.
Now you take the free end, and wrap it around the peg until you come to the entering string section, and you pull the free end of the string under the entering string section and then straight up above the peg. Now continue turning the tuning peg and tune up the string. Because the free end is now caught beneath the entering string, it cannot slip.
How many turns? The friction of the string around the tuning peg is what basically holds the string on the peg, but if there are too many turns, then we are creating the potential for “slack” in some of the turns, and this can release during play. A general rule of thumb is for the low strings on your guitar to wind 2-3 turns maximum, and the high strings perhaps an extra turn or two more than that. Real large bass strings will often work well with a single turn or a turn and a half.