A simple way to figure out if strings are binding in the nut slots

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jaymenonjaymenon Frets: 110
edited July 30 in Guitar
Stratocasters can be very frustrating...

1. Tune the string
2. Stretch the string by pulling it upwards away from the fingerboard, between the nut and bridge (at the 12th fret is the most convenient place to grab the string)
3. Especially if new, each time you stretch it, the string will come back a little flat.  Less and less so until stretching no longer makes the string go flat.
4. Now you know your string is properly stretched.

5. Now bend the string behind the nut (in-between the nut and the tuners on the headstock) - like country players do.

If it comes black sharp - the string is binding at the nut - and you need a guitar tech...
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  • Strat_a_tat_tatStrat_a_tat_tat Frets: 2505
    jaymenon said:
    ... and you need a guitar tech...

    Or apply some nut sauce.
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  • jaymenonjaymenon Frets: 110
    You need a well cut nut slot in the first place...  

    Lubricants are useful, but they don't compensate for a badly cut nut.
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  • thegummythegummy Frets: 2633
    Nice test, just tried it on my Strat.

    Any reason it wouldn't work for other types of guitars like a Les Paul?
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  • jaymenonjaymenon Frets: 110
     I think it should work on any guitar ...
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  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 4102
    edited July 30

    As someone who's obsessed by behind the nut bends and does it much too often can I say the  type of string tree can also bind the string even if the nuts good ... especially the older fender type on the B and E strings

    This is why my guitars don't have string trees  

    www.2020studios.co.uk 
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  • sweepysweepy Frets: 2846
    Danny1969 said:

    As someone who's obsessed by behind the nut bends and does it much too often can I say the  type of string tree can also bind the string even if the nuts good ... especially the older fender type on the B and E strings

    This is why my guitars don't have string trees  

    If you wind the strings on correctly you don’t need String trees, unless you pick like a gorilla ;)
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  • jaymenonjaymenon Frets: 110
    sweepy said:
    If you wind the strings on correctly you don’t need String trees, unless you pick like a gorilla ;)
    Actually that's only true up to a point Sweepy - I have guitars with staggered tuners and do get away without a string tree.

    The break angle is however, relevant in that it improves the tone of the string.

    Winding the string a number of times such that it 'takes off' from the lowest possible point on the tuner post, is pretty much as good as a staggered tuner - on a hard tail.

    On a tremolo equipped guitar, every time you depress the tremolo arm, the windings around the tuner posts loosen, and then tighten again, sometimes in a different place. It's interesting to consider that when we stretch new strings, a lot of what we're doing is actually tightening the windings around the tuner posts.

    A staggered tuner allows fewer turns around the post - so reduces the loosening - tightening phenomenon. Even more so a locking tuner.

    On a 6 in-line headstock however, the tuner posts for the 1st and 2nd strings are so far away from the nut, that staggering the tuner posts, really doesn't increase the break angle of the strings across the nut. 

    Leo Fender himself realised this, and when he devised the head stock for MusicMan guitars he created the 4 + 2 tuner figuration, which brough the tuner posts for 1st and 2nd strings much closer to the nut and afforded a much better break angle.
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  • thegummythegummy Frets: 2633
    Just tried it on another couple of guitars, sadly my Les Paul has 4 strings that go sharp and the PRS has 3 I think.

    Quite annoyed about that since I paid quite a bit to have the nuts made for those especially.

    I had a set of proper StewMac nut files as well, kind of wish I never sold them now!
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  • DanielsguitarsDanielsguitars Frets: 1461
    edited July 31 tFB Trader
    every nut i make gets the strings bent behind the nut without any lube to make sure it's not sticking,  it's especially important for gibsons with the way those strings go outwards, how the nuts made to begin with is just as important 
    www.danielsguitars.co.uk
    (formerly customkits)
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  • jaymenonjaymenon Frets: 110
    edited July 31
    On a guitar with a floating bridge (like a Strat) its particularly confusing since, when:

    - one string binds in the nut
    - you depress the trem arm, that string comes back sharp
    - the higher tension on that string pulls the tremolo forward
    - that flattens the pitch of the other strings
    - so other strings go out of tune as well.

    Tuning-wise - that can be a real mess...

    I found a simple solution - on my guitar, the other five nut slots were cut nicely, so it was reasonable to assume that the fundamental shape of the A string nut slot was satisfactory, but that there were some rough bits in the slot, promoting friction.

    - Take a small piece of 800 grit sandpaper / wet and dry
    - Place it in the nut slot under the string (business side downwards towards the nut)
    - The string presses the sandpaper into the nut slot
    - You then move the sandpaper towards the tuner posts (i.e. in the direction of the nut slot)
    - The string tension provides the downward pressure on the nut slot
    - If you do this 5 or 6 times, it'll swipe out a little bit of nut material, and the nut slot gradually gets smoother (I had to do it a bit more)
    - And on my guitar, the tendency of the A string to 'bind' reduced significantly to a point where with the help of a little graphite lubrication of the nut slot, the guitar now stays in tune.

    If the slots are badly cut, you need a luthier...
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  • alexhalexh Frets: 33
    Surely the thickness of the sandpaper is a problem. 
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  • jaymenonjaymenon Frets: 110
    alexh said:
    Surely the thickness of the sandpaper is a problem. 
    Yes on the 1st and 2nd strings.

    Works great on the wound strings...
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  • rossirossi Frets: 762
    Often strings will ping  as you tune up or bend if trapped in the slot, at least on the top three.
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  • thegummythegummy Frets: 2633
    Something I've wondered - when using liquid lube like Big Bends Nut Sauce, does dust not mix with that and possibly cause some kind of binding at the nut?

    Always wondered if I should be cleaning the nut out when I change strings, seems like there's potential for dirt to cause friction.

    Have to admit I'm quite surprised and bummed that a couple of my guitars fail this test despite having paid for someone to install and cut the nuts. I've used the guy before for other things and he's done such a good job, it really is surprising if he's not done these properly.

    Might be a silly question but is it actually a problem for guitars without a trem? Obviously on a Strat if you use the trem bar it can cause the string to move in the same direction as this test but without a trem is there any way the string can move that way?
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  • jaymenonjaymenon Frets: 110
    I think it is a problem even for non-trem guitars, in that each time you bend a string, the string moves along the nut slot towards the bridge. When you release the bend the string needs to move freely in the opposite direction again.

    So yes, a badly cut nut slot on a Telecaster or Les Paul will make the guitar go out of tune...
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  • robertyroberty Frets: 1632
    Two more things to check, pinging while tuning is a dead giveaway, and the pitch should move up and down evenly when you turn the pegs. Any sudden jumps means it's binding. People talk about tuning issues with Gibson guitars but £25 and a decent tech will fix it 99% of the time
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