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Gearless Guitar Tuners

Updated on July 3, 2012

Gearless Guitar Tuners

Traditionally, guitars are strung and tuned using geared tuners. You may be surprised to learn that this is not the only way to string a guitar, and the alternative has been getting rave reviews for years.

These unique tuners developed by Ned Steinberger have no gears, a sleek look, and an amazing 40:1 tuning ratio. Instead of the usual method of winding the string around a post, gearless tuners pull the string down into a socket using a threaded post, where the strings are then locked into place. This makes for a unique look and feel, as well as improved clarity of tone. The resulting smoothness when using gearless guitar tuners has to be experienced to be believed.

Gearless guitar tuners were created based on the need for a stable tuning system with a "straight-forward" feel and unparalleled accuracy. The special locking knob on top prevents slippage, and after the initial installation, stringing your guitar will be fast and easy. This new tuning technology fulfills the dream of tone plus sustain, enabling the use of shorter strings and less tension. This means less stress on the strings, which makes them less likely to break during use. Gearless tuners don't suffer from the "backlash" of geared tuners, so it's no longer necessary to tune your guitar from below your desired note. They are also a great solution in many instances where standard tuners just won't work. This design weighs in at only 8.39 ounces per set of six; slightly heavier than a standard telecaster, but much lighter than a standard Gibson.

Gearless guitar tuners

Nice, Shine!
Nice, Shine!

Major challenges to Gearless Guitar tuners

According to the creator, the development of the gearless tuner was a major challenge. Likewise, installing these gearless tuners can seem like quite a challenge at first, but with the proper installation instructions instructions, anyone can assemble their own gearless guitar tuners at home.

These gearless guitar tuners were originally developed for use exclusively with Steinberger guitars, which are minimalist in design and have no heastock. Despite their exclusivity, gearless tuners can be used with almost any headstock. Unfortunately, the gearless guitar tuner was not widely advertised or promoted, and did not make a significant impact on the market. In most cases, they can be ordered from a catalog at your local music supply store.

Available in chrome, black, and gold, gearless guitar tuners retail in the $100-$150 range. The installation requirements for these tuners are a minimum headstock thickness of 1/2 inch (12.67mm), maximum headstock thickness of 43/64 inches (16.89mm), and a maximum string gauge of 0.060 inches (1.52mm). Make sure that gearless guitar tuners would fit your instrument before purchasing or ordering.

Gearless Guitar tuner instructions

Step by Step, OOOHH Baby!
Step by Step, OOOHH Baby!
They are a thing of beauty, Yes?
They are a thing of beauty, Yes?

Installing a gearless guitar tuner

In order to install gearless guitar tuners yourself, you will need to follow these instructions:

First, Loosen the 2 hex set screws that hold the tuning knob to the tuner shaft. Remove the knob. Remove the teflon washer, the hex nut and the thick spacer from the shaft.

Next, you will want to insert the tuner shaft through the 3/8 inch (10mm) tuner hole on the guitar from the front side of the headstock. Note that there is a positioning pin on the tuner which MUST be pointed towards the outer nut. Orient the pin and push down on the tuner to accurately make a small mark on the face of the headstock next to the tuner hole.

Remove the tuner and drill a 1/16 inch pilot hole 1/8 inch deep. The fit should be snug, but it will be pulled in tight when the installation is finished.

Gearless Guitar!

Nice guitar equipped with Gearless guitar tuners.
Nice guitar equipped with Gearless guitar tuners.

Next, insert the tuner from the face side of the headstock, fitting the alignment pin into the pilot hole. Install the spacer from the back of the headstock, and then the hex nut. Tighten the nut carefully; use only enough force to pull the tuner even with the peghead. Be careful not to break the delicate tuner body by overtightening.

Replace the white teflon washer and replace the knurled tuning knob on the shaft. gradually tighten the set screws that fit into the groove at the end of the tuner shaft. Tighten one screw a little, then the other, and repeat this process until they are both tight. Wiggle the knob to make sure the screws remain in the groove. This will ensure the knob is properly centered on the tuner shaft. Make sure not to over-tighten. Over-tightening means the pressure will distort the shaft and prevent it from tuning freely.

If you wish, you can now place a small amount of graphite lubricant on both sides of the washer to ensure smooth operation.

Installing strings on your guitar after switching to gearless guitar tuners also requires a little explanation. Plain strings must either have silk or steel wrapping at the ball ends or be soldered. Otherwise, your guitar will be easy to pull out of tune.

Unscrew and remove the tuning knob using a clockwise motion, fully exposing the string hole. Unscrew the clamping knob in a counterclockwise motion, opening the string hole.

Insert the string into the string hole in the tuner. Pull the string taught, then clamp the string in the tuner by turning the clamping knob in a clockwise motion as far as possible by hand.

To prevent the high E string from stretching too much, tilt the tremolo forward and pull the string tight before clamping. Only use this method for the high E string. Ensure that the clamping knob is as tight as possible.

Now, cut the excess off your strings. Tune your guitar.


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    • profile image

      Randy Brewer 

      8 years ago

      Should I use pliers to clamp string down? When I hand tighten it slips.

    • jagged81 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from New Mexico

      This is a great link, have you tried it yet?

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I like this hub!

      I'll check out this tuners, if you would like a more "traditional" tuner you should check out this funky tuner:


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