Does the Whammy Bar Make Your Guitar Go Out Of Tune?

If so, this article will reveal why it happens and how to fix this problem.

The reason why a guitar often goes out of tune while using a whammy bar is because when the whammy bar is pressed or pulled, it changes the tightness of strings, making them move slightly along the grooves and saddles in the nut and the bridge.

The subtle movements of strings on an electric guitar around the nut and the bridge

When the bar is released, the strings often stick a little in these grooves, and can't completely return as they were, so the shift in pitch occurs.

In order to reduce detuning you'll need to lubricate the grooves and saddles through which the strings pass with a special lubricant for guitars, such as Big Bends Lil Luber, or any other that is non-toxic and non-corrosive, safe for both you and your instrument.

This tip I got from a guitar master years ago and it works wonderful. No fears in using the vibrato arm since then. As an additional benefit, the lubrication also drastically reduces string breakages at the bridge and saddles ;)

A good time to apply lubricant is when you're replacing the strings and the grooves are completely open for access. At other times you need to slightly loosen the strings to put the lubricant under them in the slots.

Some guitars such as the Fender Stratocaster have little bridges that route the strings to the tuning machines on the guitar head. You'll need to lubricate the grooves in these bridges too.

The string supporting bridges on the headstock of an electric guitar

If your guitar has a locking vibrato system (Floyd Rose, Ibanez Edge), you won't need to lubricate the nut, or anything around the guitar head. Apply the lubricant only on the grooves and saddles in the bridge.

Also make sure that the string locker next to the nut is firmly attached to the neck and that the strings do not move under it at all.

Usually the locker consists of three braces secured by screws. Each brace holds a couple of strings.

String locking braces on a guitar with a locking vibrato system

If just one of these braces is screwed loosely, the strings will glide under it and change the whammy bar position, detuning the whole guitar when the bar is pushed or pulled.

Sometimes even with lubrication the strings won't return to their place completely, especially after using the vibrato arm too hard. In this situation you can force the strings to come back by performing silent bends somewhere on the fingerboard or around guitar body.

I hope these tips will help you to stay in tune as they have helped me.

Please feel free to ask any questions via this form.

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This article was last updated on January 18, 2024