Locking Tuner Upgrades: Pros and Cons

Gotoh brand, Klusen style vintage button style locking tuner

Those looking for vintage tone, feel, and styling will probably opt to forgo locking tuners. They aren’t strictly necessary – Jimi Hendrix sure didn’t need them. A disciplined string changing routine and well set-up instrument can result in tuning stability almost as good as having locking tuners installed while keeping the guitar stock. Particularly on Stratocaster, I’ve even gone as far to go for the modern, sealed, stock tuners to an upgrade to a Klusen style, split-post, vintage style tuner. [above]

Traditional Klusen style tuners installed as a upgrade mod on a Standard Stratocaster.

There’s something about the look and feel of the vintage style tuners that just seem to give better tone and playing feel. This guitar is also upgraded with a graphite impregnated nut and string guide. [above]

For locking tuners on fixed bridge guitars, I think they are a convenience, but not necessary. There’s no real significant advantage over standard tuners with strings that are wound on the posts neatly and the strings snapped and stretched when fist changing strings for new. A graphite nut material is probably as effective.

Fender Brand Locking Tuners.

Fender Brand Locking Tuners. Note the single alignment post rather than screws for installation – This can be a tricky upgrade due to the proximity of the original screw hole. The knurled lock knob is similar to the Sperzel design. [above]

It’s not entirely insignificant to note that most locking tuners add a bit of weight to the headstock which translates into a difference in the tone of the instrument. While many will suggest that anything past the nut has no bearing on the sound of the open strings, the change of mass does effect vibration transfer, sustain, and the resonant peak of the instrument. Picky differences that for most the advantages of locking tuners will outweigh, but for purists important considerations.

Floyd Rose equipped guitar with standard tuners, but a locking nut & tremolo.

Floyd Rose equipped guitar with standard tuners, but a locking nut & tremolo. For when you really want the best tremolo performance and tuning stability. [above]

If you’re going to shred with a tremolo and want less fuss, go for the locking tuner upgrade. For vintage tone and feel go for vintage style locking tuners. They weigh less, and help keep the instrument feeling stock.

Published by ModGuitar Senior Editor

I have been building and modding guitars for 20+ years. My goal is to share my knowledge with readers, as well as offer affordable learning and do-it-yourself resources.