Stringing Your Guitar Without String Locks

Welcome to the first lesson on stringing your guitar properly. This is a fairly straightforward task, but there are some tips that can be helpful in this area. In these lessons we will discuss some dos and don'ts of stringing your guitar, including some information on string-locks.

A little about string locks

First off, I'd like to say a few words regarding string-locks. Don't use them! String locks are a horrible idea that will only complicate everything from stringing to tuning to breaking strings. Not every guitar has these, but many with fancy tremolo units do. String-locks are the little clamps that tighten down on the strings to "lock" them in place. Though this might sound like a good idea, lets look at some of the reasons why it isn't.

Reason #1 - stringlocks are designed to keep your guitar in tune which would be fabulous except for the fact that most tuning problems are a result of the strings stretching and not slipping on the tuning posts. The locks won't help in this area. I'll show you a technique for locking the string in at the tuning post so that it doesn't slip, curing this problem while avoiding reason #2.

Reason #2 - stringlocks crimp the string, causing a weak spot in the string where you lock it. I am sure many of you have experienced strings breaking right where they go into the lock which is not a good thing. This happens because of the locks weakening the string where they are crimped, causing you to suffer more string breakages.

Reason #3 - it is much more difficult to change strings when using these locks, and takes much longer. When you break a string on stage you need to be able to replace the string as quickly as possible, and the job is twice as fast without these locks getting in the way. Having to search for your allen key or proper tool to use the locks in the middle of a show is a big no-no, you should be able to change strings quickly and easily without any special tools. Seems kinda silly that you would take twice as long to put a new string on only to weaken it and have more chance of it breaking as well.

Reason #4 - fine-tuners are great, when they aren't your only option. If you use stringlocks, how many times have you run out of adjustment on your fine tuners? When your strings are locked at the nut, you can't use your tuning posts. This can be a serious problem in the middle of a tough show where you have stretched out your strings enough so you run out of fine tuner adjustment. And guess what, you can't loosen the locks to make an adjustment for it because of the weak spot in your string from the lock, and trying to unlock and retune will certainly end in a broken string. I don't know about you, but I like to be able to tune my guitar when it needs it.

I should note that string locks are made for heavy tremolo use, and if you are one of those people who like heavy tremolo like diving until the strings fall loose on your guitar, you may be one of the few who should use these. Most people do not use the tremolo that much though, and the bad far outweighs the good here for most people. If you are a performing pro who uses heavy tremolo, then my advice would be to have a guitar that uses stringlocks just for those songs. This makes life much easier and you aren't dependent on your strings for the whole show anyway.

All in all, it is much better to use a nice locking technique at the tuning post so they don't slip and leave these string locks to the few people who really need them. Now lets move on to the next lesson where we will cover actually stringing your guitar up properly, since this has grown into a full lesson on the drawbacks of stringlocks.


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