Wooden flamenco guitar pegs tuning

How to tune wooden flamenco guitar pegs?

Flamenco guitar pegsOriginally, flamenco guitars were made with wooden tuning pegs because they ware a lot cheaper. Some flamenco guitarists still prefer these pegs to the modern tuning gears. Some say flamenco pegs change the tone; we like the look, the feel and tuning of a flamenco guitar with well-fitted wooden pegs. Some flamenco guitarists believe that pegs results in quicker attack, which is a desirable quality in a flamenco guitar. This could explain why many flamenco players still favour the traditional pegs.

The legendary flamenco guitar luthier Manuel Reyes once said that flamenco guitars with tuning machines sound a bit more metallic. Also other flamenco guitar builders such as Anders Eliasson say that there is a slightly bit of sound difference. Flamenco pegs could help if you sit in the old, traditional flamenco position. Playability is not any different, in the beginning it is harder to tune, however the benefit is that it stays in tune longer and pegs are quicker for mounting up new strings.

The weight difference is minimal. With tuners more wood is removed and this compensates some for the extra weight of the tuners. Tone difference is debatable. Every luthier made flamenco guitar has a different tone. We have concerted several flamenco guitars from pegs to machine tuners and could not tell any difference. Pegs by theory might conduct more sound because of the more direct contact to the peghead and neck, however since the string vibrations terminate at the nut, we don't see this as being an issue. We have played on peg and machine tuned flamenco guitars made by the same flamenco guitar maker and couldn't hear that the machines added any metallic sound.

Flamenco pegs are tapered and must contact the insides of the holes on both sides of the peghead. The fit is very important as is the nature of the contacting surfaces. Assuming the surfaces are making good contact and assuming you have the right type and amount of peg dope on them, the real issue is how the flamenco peg is turned. You can't just turn it and expect it to stay put. Rather, you must press in on it as you turn the peg to make sure the surfaces remain properly engaged. Only then will it stay and not slip. Imagine that you are screwing the peg in as you turn it. Instruction how to tune wooden flamenco guitar pegs, have patience, take your time to learn, practice helps.

How to tune a flamenco guitar with wooden pegs.

Tuning flamenco peg position. While tuning the pegs, hold your flamenco guitar vertically in your lap and hold the opposite side of the peghead with one hand (to take the strain off the neck joint). This position will help you to create the force needed to turn the pegs correctly and it will keep your instrument safe.

Hill compound flamenco guitar pegs

  1. Locate the correct flamenco peg that you will be using to tune. Pegs, made of ebony wood, are knobs located on the neck of your flamenco guitar near the top. Observe and make sure that each strings is attached firmly to the pegs.
  2. With one hand, grip the desired peg; holding the opposite side of the peghead with your other hand. You will be turning the peg “towards” you or “away” from you based on how you would like to change the current pitch of the string.
  3. For strings that are very “sharp”, or high-pitched, you will need to turn the peg “towards” yourself.
  4. For strings that are very “flat” or low-pitched, you will need to turn the peg “away“ from yourself.
  5. Always tune up to a note, never back off to the correct pitch. Start below, tune up and push in a bit as you turn.
  6. Start tuning the low E string, after getting this string to pitch, next tune the high E string, next the A string, next the B string, next the D string and finally bring the G string to its relative pitch...the reason you would do this is to evenly distribute the tension on the neck and body
  7. Loosen the flamenco peg by sliding peg out of peghead slightly a few millimetres (do not remove the peg completely).
  8. As you turn the peg, pluck the string you are tuning but still keep a firm hold on the opposite side of the peghead of your flamenco guitar. It is important to pluck the string so that you can hear how the pitch is changing.
  9. When you would like to stop turning the flamenco peg, push the peg back into the peghead of your flamenco guitar neck to reinforce its position, do not force anything but push in firmly. This will help keep the peg in place so that the tension won’t move and to ensure the peg will not slip from the tension of the string. This can be difficult when tried the first time, so have patience, you will be able to familiarise yourself quickly with this.
  10. When the peg finally sticks in place, pluck the string again and listen carefully. Is the string too high? Too low? Is it so out of tune that you need to turn the peg some more?
  11. Never hold the instrument close to your face while tuning. If the string were to break, it could hurt your eyes.

Flamenco guitar peg dropsOne thing we always do at La Sonanta before shipping a flamenco guitar with pegs is to add peg drops or Hill compound on the pegs of your new flamenco guitar. This is part of our set up procedure and we believe everyone should keep some of this at her or his disposal. We always add one set of compound together with a new flamenco guitar having pegs. It will prevent the pegs from moving after putting your instrument away. There's still a slight chance that the strings will pull down the peg a slight amount; however, it will most definitely minimize the peg from slipping. This is also great when attempting to tune with your pegs. We've found it makes the general approach to tuning a peg far less frustrating.

Common Issues:

  1. Slippage on the wooden flamenco pegs
  2. New strings will require some stretching before they settle in and hold pitch.
  3. The string windings on the flamenco pegs themselves need to settled in.

Properly working flamenco pegs aren't normally a problem. But if you have a problem with the wooden pegs slipping or sticking, you'll need to either apply peg drops (available at most music stores) or pass some Hill compound at the point of contact inside the peghead so that they will turn smoothly. Get the string up to relative pitch Insert peg and wipe off excess liquid or compound from peghead. If the pegs seems to pop out, especially when it's been sitting in a case not even being played, it probably has to do with temperature change and the quality of contact of the bearing surfaces. Check this: See if the peg is making good contact all the way around at both sides of the peghead. Good contact is indicated by an even, shiny, burnished surface, 360 degrees, where wood meets wood. Pegs, being made of wood, naturally tend to shrink across the grain as they get old. Pegs can thus become oval in section with age, meaning they no longer contact fully all the way around. We recommend a few things to ensure that the pegs of your flamenco guitar do settle in properly and hold perfect pitch:

  1. Use peg drops or Hill compound to ensure that the wooden pegs do not slip or get sticking
  2. You can also use the old fiddler's trick and apply rosin dust to the peg, this requires some technique in that you'll have to pull the peg out slightly, sand down the rosin cake so that the dust falls directly onto the shaft of the peg, and then push the peg back into the peghead.
  3. If still this doesn’t help, the best thing to do is get a qualified luthier to check it out. Pegs must be fitted, meaning the raw peg is ground in a shaping device (a bit like a pencil sharpener) to make it just right, and fitted to a perfectly matching hole. This requires tools few players own or know how to use.