Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Slipping Strings

I have only been playing mandolin since July of 2018, but there seems to be an issue with keeping the strings from slipping resulting in tuning issues. I can get the mandolin tuned, then it seems difficult to keep the string tuning smoothly. (As I turn the tuning key, the string will go sharp or flat. I have upgraded the tuning keys to eliminate this as a source of problems.)

I need to know some stringing techniques that will keep the mando in tune longer. I am familiar with temperature change effects, A string issues, etc.

I think my primary issue is getting the strings on the tuning key stem correctly to begin with so they don’t slip in and out of tune. I am playing an Eastman MD 315 and very happy with its sound and look! Being new to the mandolin has made realize how difficult it is to keep in tune while playing.

Thanks for your response. Good YouTube videos would also be helpful.

Welcome! Get some fine grit sandpaper and very gently clean out the slots in your nut (the white piece up by the head stock). You may have some debris in there that is catching your strings. Further, you can put some kind of lubricant (like graphite) in the string slots to help. Do not press hard enough with the sandpaper to take away the white plastic material (deepen the slots).

What I don’t understand is why do other folks have trouble keeping they mandolins in tune? I have 3, and the only time I have to keep tuning them is when I change the strings.

Maybe there is not enough string wraps on the tuning posts, and that are slipping?

You do need to lock the stings around the tuner. If you don’t know how to do that, then wind the first loop above the bit of string that sticks out of the hole in the peg. Then wrap the other loops under the bit of string so your first loop string effectively sits on top of itself, locking it in place.

@Jake, didn’t you post a video somewhere (maybe the store) where you show your trick for tucking the string tail under to prevent slipping? I can’t seem to find it.

Lots of great comments above. A good dry lube for nut slots (as Ben was talking about) is a standard issue #2 pencil.

Sometimes a picture is helpful… Here’s a video from my buddy and guitar doc Bryan Kimsey. Notice how he treats the non-wound strings a bit differently. Since I started “locking” my treble strings many years ago, I have not had one issue with strings slipping at the tuner.

Thanks for all the suggestions. I think you have all nailed it! Clean, then lubricate the nut. Then, lock the strings on the tuner!

Great help!

Another trick I use, is to Tune UP to the desired Pitch. If I get too sharp, then I loosen down below the correct pitch again and then tune back UP to the correct Pitch. Why might you ask? Because if I tune DOWN to the correct pitch, then there is relative slack in the string between the Nut and the wire around the Tuner and as soon as you start picking, the added tension of the string pulls the slack out between the nut and the wire wound around the tuning peg leaving the string Flat again. Skeptical of this explanation? Try this experiment: Tune your string too sharp, then tune DOWN carefully to your correct pitch. Now use your pick to pluck that string a few times smartly. Now look at your electronic tuner (or other method). Well, there you are; You’re Flatt ! (Pun intended) :wink: Well anyways… my 2-cents. Worth about that.


Thanks for your response! With all of the input, I have been able to correct most of my tuning issues!

Although I still have to adjust the tuning from time to time, the mando is staying in tune for much longer periods of time now. The pencil graphite trick has now kept the strings from snagging for a smoother tune. I also adjusted the strings on the tuning pegs to make sure they were pinned correctly and wound down properly.

Thanks again.