Why Your Acoustic Guitar Won't Stay in Tune

Acoustic Guitar Front

Acoustic guitar won’t stay in tune? Some guitars just don’t seem to stay in tune regardless of what you try. If that’s the case with yours, try the below lesser-known solutions.

Rough Nut Slots

Your guitar’s final set up at the factory likely included adjustments to the nut slots with specialty nut files. Those files can leave the slots rough and your strings might be catching just a touch. Smoothing your guitar’s nut slots can result in strings that flow easily and thus stay in tune better. Check out our article with tips on customizing your guitar for details

Guitar Tuning Peg Problems

Tuning pegs can come slightly loose and move around a small amount. You may have a tiny screw holding your tuning place to your headstock. Tighten that screw to keep your tuning pegs tight. Another problem is that the internal gears either need oil or are loose. If you have open-back tuners, try putting a drop of oil on the tuners so that they flow smoothly. If you have closed-back tuners, you may need to replace the entire machine. If you have mediocre quality tuners from the factory, then you might want to replace the entire set.

String Age and Quality

Dead strings don’t stay in tune. You should change your strings once per month with regular playing. Also, clean your strings after each time you play. If you play more often, or have acidic fingers, change strings more frequently, or look into coated strings.


Wood shifts with humidity and thus your acoustic guitar won’t stay in tune. Your HVAC could be causing major humidity shifts that your guitar does not like. Check to see whether the room you store your guitar in has significant humidity shifts. You can do this by purchasing a hygrometer. You can find digital hygrometers online for around $10 to $20. You should keep the room where you guitar is stored in the 40 to 60% humidity range. If you see fluctuations outside this range, get either a humidifier, dehumidifier, or both.

User Error

Sometimes your playing style may be the problem, especially your fretting hand technique. Pulling downward (or pushing upward) on the strings when holding chords can result in a sharp tone. Also look at your initial attack for striking individual notes. If you strike too firmly against the fretboard that can result in a sharp tone. Your picking hand can cause problems, too. If you pick the strings too hard, it can create a sharp tone.

Still Having Problems?

If your acoustic guitar still goes out of tune, then we suggest you take your guitar to a professional repair shop. They can take a more thorough look and provide further advice.

Next Up: How High Should the Action Be on an Acoustic Guitar?