As guitarists, we often spend time obsessing over guitar modifications to enhance our sound.
Sure, you can spend a ton of money on cutting-edge guitar pedals, screaming pickups, and bridges that provide sustain for days, though when upgrading your guitar, why not start with one of the simplest and most inexpensive upgrades out there?
I’m talking about locking tuners.
In my opinion, if you’re looking for the simplest way to upgrade your guitar without breaking the bank, locking tuners are the way to go.
Why Locking Tuners?
Locking tuners are incredibly effective at locking strings into place — hence the name. When using regular tuners, the standard is to wind your strings approximately three times around the tuning peg post. However, with locking tuners, you won’t need to wind as much to achieve stable tuning. Essentially, you’ll be able to re-string your guitar more efficiently.
I also recommend locking tuners for guitars that use tremolo bridges (typically known as whammy bars) as they reduce string slippage. Heavy whammy bar use can pull strings out of tune, unless you have a double-locking bridge or you use it in a more subtle fashion.
Most important, locking tuners combat de-tuning, which can be helpful if you like to dig into your whammy!
Here are three of the go-to tuners that I’ve used on various guitars through the years…
The Gotoh Magnum Lock-Trad Tuners are some of my favorite tuners. From my Thinline Telecaster to my Gibson Les Paul, these traditional thumbscrew-style tuners hold nicely. Thanks to its conventional thumbscrew design and locking functionality, I never have to worry about my guitars going out of tune during longer shows or sessions.
The string posts are incredibly solid on these tuners and there are two post heights; this gets rid of the need for string trees. They have an 18:1 gear ratio, which makes string replacement easy as well.
No matter what kind of guitar you are using, these tuners are excellent. The gold has a beautiful, vintage look to it, so I would highly recommend going with that color if you can.
Grover has been a go-to brand for tuners for quite some time. I actually discovered Grover when I replaced my Fender Jazz Bass tuners with Grover Titan Bass Tuners, thanks to a friend’s recommendation. The difference was noticeable right off the bat. Plus, they looked great.
I figured that if the bass tuners were that great, then the guitar tuners must be too.
The Grover 406G Mini Locking Tuners are similar to the Gotoh Magnums in that they have a gear ratio of 18:1. You get all of the benefits of standard romantic tuners with the internal cam posts. Essentially, when you begin to tune your guitar, the locking cam turns within the string post. Once the string is locked, the post will start to turn. Your string will lock-in quickly, and it will stay in tune for days.
Even with the thousands of guitar and guitar accessory brands around, Fender is still one of my favorites. Yes, sometimes the biggest brands out there still make the best products. I’m talking to you boutique nerds out there!
Best of all, these particular Fender tuners work for just about any guitar. You may need to re-drill your holes if they’re too big, but if you have a guitar tech that you rely on for work, it shouldn’t be difficult.
I wasn’t surprised to find out that these locking tuners were just as spectacular as the rest of the Fender equipment I use. There are a few colors to choose from, including polished chrome, brushed chrome, gold, and black. They all look great, so it truly depends on what style you’re looking to obtain.
These particular tuners come standard on the American Deluxe guitar line. If you’ve ever played a Fender American Deluxe, you’ve probably used them. The tuners are staggered to increase tuning stability and break angle over the nut. With an 18:1 gear ratio, string replacement is easy as pie.
I use these tuners on my American Deluxe Strat and I’ve always found them to be quite durable. They’ll hold up for a long time and keep your guitar in tune for long periods.
Locked and Loaded!
There’s nothing wrong with spending time tuning your guitar if you’re sitting at home jamming or practicing. However, if you’re playing live, doing sessions, or you are playing in the studio often, you don’t want to waste time tuning your guitar every five minutes.
If you have a tremolo bridge without a double locking bridge, locking tuners can save you an incredible amount of time and frustration. Installing a good pair of locking tuners, like the ones above, will give you peace of mind to shred away!