How to Restring a Guitar with Locking Tuners

If you’ve recently added locking tuners to your guitar, or you’ve just bought an axe that had them equipped as standard – congratulations! You’ve made a serious upgrade to your guitar’s playability and tuning stability, which you’ll almost certainly benefit from immediately.

For players who have never owned anything with locking tuners before, the restringing process looks a bit different. But don’t worry, it’s generally even more straightforward than restringing a guitar with standard tuners!

In this KillerGuitarRigs Guide you’ll be learning more about what locking tuners do, how they work, and how to restring a guitar with locking tuners.

What are Locking Tuners?

Locking tuners are a special type of tuning machine for guitars that keep your strings secured to the guitar without the need for multiple winds around a tuning post as with a traditional machine head.

There are many different locking tuner manufacturers, meaning not all are created equal. One thing they all have in common, however, is decreased restringing time and increased tuning stability.

In the majority of cases, locking tuners don’t look much, if at all different from standard tuners. In fact, you can get Grover locking tuners, Fender vintage locking tuners, and many others that are designed to look exactly like stock non-locking machines. This way, the look of your guitar remains unchanged, but you’ll get the benefits associated with locking tuners.

Standard tuners rely on multiple wraps around the tuning post for securing the string. This is a tried and tested way of installing a string, but nonetheless an inherently flawed way. All those wraps around the post leave room for slippage, so with every bend and every tremolo movement, you’re pulling slack out of those wraps, and pulling the string out of tune.

How to Restring a Guitar with Locking Tuners?

Lay Your Guitar Down

Place your guitar down on its back on a sturdy workbench, table, bed, or other flat surface. Avoid using the floor, as the risk of missteps and the resulting damage is high! Cover whatever surface you’re using with some carpet, a towel, cloth, or other soft covering to prevent scratches.

Support the Neck

Using a purpose-made neck support or even something as simple as a pillow, support the neck of your guitar close to the headstock. This will keep it stable and prevent unfortunate and costly accidents.

Remove the Old Strings

If this is the first set you’re installing in your guitar since installing the tuners, you can skip this step. If not, slacken the clamp on the back of the tuning machine.

Pull the old string out of the tuner.

If your guitar has a string through body, feed the loose end through until the string is out.

If your strings go through the saddles or you have a stoptail bridge, pull from the ball end to remove the string.

Get the Tuning Post in Position

This is good practice for any tuner, but is a must on locking tuners! With the string removed, turn the tuning machine until the hole in the post is parallel with the neck of the guitar, so that when the string is threaded through, there are no bends.

Feed the String Through

Feed the string through the body or through the bridge as appropriate.

Ensure that the strings are seated correctly in both the saddles and in the nut slots.

Thread the string through the hole on the tuning post.

LOCKING TUNERS - You're Doing It Wrong! | GEAR GODS

Lock the String in Place

Once the string is properly aligned, pull it tight by hand while turning the knob on the rear of the tuning machine. This activates the clamp that holds the string in place.

Make sure the clamp is tight to prevent the string coming loose, but not so tight that it shears it off.

Tune Up

Unlike a standard non-locking tuner, you won’t need multiple turns of the machine head to tune the strings to pitch.

After the string you’re working on is secured in place by the locking mechanism, turn the machine head to tighten the string and bring it to the correct pitch.

Trim off Any Excess

Once the string is tuned, use your string cutters to trim off the excess.

Some locking tuners come with a built-in snipper that automatically takes off the excess as you turn the knob to tune the string. If this is the case for you, then there’s no need to worry about doing this manually.

Repeat all of the above steps for each subsequent string to fully restring your guitar.

Final Thoughts on Restringing a Guitar with Locking Tuners

You’ll notice that even for first timers, the procedure for changing strings on a guitar with locking tuners is not only easier, but much faster than it would be with standard tuners. An upgrade to locking tuners is genuinely one of the best modifications you can make to any guitar. Not only are changes faster, but tuning stability is vastly improved. Some even claim that the overall tone and sustain of their guitar is better due to the enhanced contact and connection with the guitar as well also the additional weight in the headstock.


  • Simon Morgan

    Simon is an Orlando based musician, but originally hails from Newcastle, England. He started playing bass and guitar in 1998, and played the local scene throughout his teen years before life got in the way. Favorite Genres: Blues, Classic Rock, and he’s not ashamed to admit - Emo