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The Benefits of Locking Tuners and How to Use Them

Here you are again, sitting with your freshly strung guitar, exhausted from tediously unwinding and pulling worn out strings through your machine heads. You’ve drawn blood changing strings, winding them around posts, pricking your fingers (your livelihood!). At this juncture you’re probably thinking, “there has to be another way.” Enter locking tuners. 

Locking tuners came about with the popular increase of extreme vibrato-arm usage in the 1980s, but have since proved to be quite useful in other scenarios as well.​​ They have been a staple for professional musicians and often incorporated on professional-grade instruments since their debut. The term ‘locking’ is slightly misleading as it’s not your tuning that locks in place, but rather your string. They’re called locking tuners because inside the eyelet of the machine head, there is a clamp that locks the string in place. While a slightly more modern take on an age-old technology may seem daunting to players first approaching locking tuners, they’re actually quite intuitive. Across the D’Angelico line, Grover Super Rotomatic Locking Tuners are featured in the Deluxe Series on solid-bodies and semi-hollows alike. Let’s dive into the guitar tuning specifics. 

Before going over how to properly string your instrument with locking tuners, we should address the pros and cons of this style of machine head: 

  • Pro: Locking tuners provide greater tuning stability.  Standard, non-locking machine heads require a string to be wrapped around a post several times. But, as the grooves on wound strings are the only mechanism to prevent the string from slipping, your guitar still falls out of tune. Locking tuners, on the other hand, have a clamp inside the eyelet to firmly hold the string in place, drastically reducing the ability of the string to slip. The clamp is engaged simply by turning the lock on the underside of the machine head after you’ve fed your string through the open eyelet.
  •  Pro: Locking tuners also speed up the process of restringing your instrument. Without having to unwind your strings from the post, you’ll be able to slap on a new set of strings in no time! As previously mentioned, just unscrew the back of the machine head to release the string.
  • Con: Locking tuners add some extra weight to your headstock. This is expected since locking tuners have more components than a standard modern or vintage style machine head. Simply put, more metal = more weight. It may be a valid point, but the benefits of locking tuners undoubtedly outweigh the detriments. There are even some players who claim a heavier headstock aids in more sustain—but we’ll get into that in our article on Physics.


Now let’s go over how to properly string your guitar with locking tuners:               

  1. Thread your string through the tailpiece and/or bridge of your preferred instrument.
  2. Pull it taut across the fingerboard and thread it through the eyelet of the machine head
  3. Turn the lock (righty, tighty) on the back of the machine head to secure the string in place. 
  4. Tune the string to pitch and clip away any excess. It’s that simple. *chef’s kiss*
    • Note: Locking tuners do not require strings to have multiple wraps around the post. This is a common guitar maintenance mistake players make when first using them!

In the case of the Grover Tuners found across the D’Angelico line, in addition to locking capabilities, they offer a 14:1 gear ratio. 

What the heck is gear ratio? 

When referring to a tuning machine, the gear ratio describes how many turns of the tuning key will generate a complete turn of the string post. In other words, a tuner with a 14:1 gear ratio means that you’ll need to fully rotate the tuning key 14 times to make the string post complete one full revolution. The higher the ratio, the more turns it takes for the string post to make a complete turn. Here’s the important part: higher gear ratios allow for finer tuning.

The Verdict:

Locking tuners are an excellent choice for any serious player looking for more tuning stability and a more efficient string change than standard or vintage style machine heads offer. They’re as practical as they are reliable. 



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