Tuning Machines

Last modified 12-23-2009

General Information

Tuning machines, also called machine heads or tuning gears or simply tuners, are the gear-driven tuners used on guitars and mandolins and such. They use a worm-gear mechanism for stability and precision in the tuning process. Tuning machines are normally sold in sets of six for guitar, four for bass, etcetera, but we sell them individually so you can purchase however many you need for your project, be it a seven-string kerschnozzle or an eleven-string kerschnizzle.

Left and right orientation: Most tuning machines come in two orientations – left and right. The “left” ones would normally go on the left side of an instrument’s headstock as seen from the front; the right ones on the right side. (The tuning machine photographs in our catalog show the left orientation.) Most guitars have three left-orientation tuners and three right, while some guitars have six left – that is, six tuning machines in a slanted line along the left side of the headstock. Six right can also be done, but is less common.
In practice you can get away with having a “left” machine positioned on the right side of the headstock, or vise verse. However, this may contribute to an unsymmetrical appearance, as well as confusion in the turning directions for tightening and loosening.

Individual tuning machines vs. bracket-mounted sets: Many instruments, such as most steel string and electric guitars, use individual tuning machines. Each machine is mounted on its own little bracket which is fixed to the headstock.  Other instruments traditionally use six or eight or twelve tuning machines mounted on a pair of  brackets. Classical guitars, for instance, normally use two bracket-mounted assemblies of three machines each.  Most of what we sell are individual tuning machines. This gives you the greatest flexibility as to how many tuners to have and how to position them on your instrument.  However, we also carry an economically priced classical guitar set consisting of left and right brackets with three tuners on each bracket.

Machine gears vs. friction pegs: most of the tuners we sell are machine gears — the sort with worm gear mechanisms that make for precise and stable tuning.  (In some cases the gear mechanism is exposed; in others it’s hidden inside a small metal housing.)  In addition, we sell gearless friction pegs of the sort often used in ukuleles.  These aren’t as precise or quite as stable as machine gears, but have the advantage of being simpler, more compact, less obtrusive and slightly easier to mount than the machine gears. At this time we don’t carry the tapered wooden friction pegs traditionally used on violins & cellos.

Open-gear vs. enclosed-gear tuning machines: In enclosed-gear tuners the worm drive mechanism is enclosed in a small metal housing.  In open gear tuners the gear mechanism is expowed for all to see.  In theory enclosed gears are preferable becuase they keep the mechanism free of dust or grit.  In practice, however, many fine instruments both traditional and contemporary use open gear tuners. 

Mounting screws, bushings and washers: some tuning machines use ‘em and some don’t. Most but not all of the tuning machines we sell require small mounting screws, which we include with the tuners if  needed.  Likewise, most but not all of the tuning machines we sell use washers and bushings (metal collars that fit around the post to improve appearance and reduce wear), which we include as needed.  Bottom line: when you order tuning machines from us, you get all necessary hardware for the type of tuner you’ve ordered.

Purchase tuning machines



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