Today we’ll talk about modern electric guitar machine heads, and how to fit strings into one, in particular. It may seem like a simple task, but it’s also precise and delicate – you have to know what you are doing.
But don’t worry, with this short yet informative guide you’ll learn how to fit strings to modern electric guitar machine heads in no time! I’ve also included a video below to make things easier for visual learners.
The technique for doing this follows pretty much the same idea as used in the case of the vintage machine heads.
Old strings are usually removed one at a time.
Simply slacken the string at the machine head and then unwind and straighten or cut the old string.
Remove the old string from the body and replace it with the new one the same way it’s done for vintage machine heads.
Let’s go over the steps really quick!
- First, turn the hole in the tuning peg so that it is in line with the run of the neck.
- Poke the string through the hole and pull it hand tight.
- Next, pull the string back through the hole in the tuning peg about 3 inches.
- Bend the string end downwards and round the machine head and under the string as it comes from the body towards the machine head.
- Bend the end of the string back over the string until the end is pointing upwards.
- At this point, make sure that you have some tension with your one hand pulling the string back towards the body.
This should trap the string in position.
- Turn the machine head so that it lays windings over the upward pointing end of the string.
- You may need to keep adjusting the end of the string so that it still points upwards.
- Once the string begins to tighten, you can stop pulling back on it.
The idea behind this method is that the successive layers of string windings trap the end of the string up against the tuning peg.
The more that you stretch the string, the tighter the windings become.
The net result is that the harder you work the strings, the less likely the windings are to slip and therefore tuning remains constant.
Once you have the string to concert pitch stretch it a few times and retune until it remains in tune.
You can now use the wire cutters to cut the upward pointing string end level with the top of the tuning peg.
Stretch the strings, as detailed for the vintage machine heads, retuning each time until it becomes stable.
Play the guitar for a few minutes and check the tuning and retune if necessary.
The machine heads are probably one of the weakest points in the string path as far as mechanical problems are concerned.
They get a lot of use, so if your Strat is old, it might be time to renew them.
If you suspect that a particular machine head is causing tuning problems, then the first stage is to check that it is securely attached to the headstock.
There should be screws in the case of the machine head which secure it to the back of the headstock.
Check to see that they are all present and that they are tightened up.
I have sometimes come across instruments where the machine head is lifting away from the headstock due to poorly fitted screws.
Each machine head has a central spindle around which the string windings form.
Remove the string from the suspect machine head and try to rock the spindle from side to side.
The spindle should be solidly fixed to the metal mounting of the machine head.
If this is not the case and it moves a lot, then this could also cause tuning problems.
Most machine heads are sealed units these days, so the only thing that you can do is to replace them if they are slipping.
In this case, remove the machine head back casing and look at where the spindle is fixed to the back plate.
There should be a large screw located there. Tighten the screw up so that the spindle is once again securely fitted to the back plate.
The machine heads can be implicated in tuning problems purely because the strings haven’t been put on the guitar in a good way.
If you suspect that this might be one of the problems you should look at the section about stringing your guitar.
While it isn’t the easiest thing to learn, you only have to do it once – after that, you’ll be all set for years to come! So why not give it a shot and save your best electric guitar from dusting in the closet?
Here is an excellent video I’ve promised – if you happened to have doubts about the process before, the video below would solve them in no time!
Liked this tutorial? Well, there is a ton more on Blue Buzz Music for different musical instruments, gear, and soft!
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