Did you know that strings trees play a vital role in how your well your guitar strings sustain and intonation.
What are string trees? String trees, string retainers and string guides are those small metal widgets (shaped like a hook) that are located on the headstock (between the nut and the tuners) and provide downward tension on the strings for more accurate tuning.
In this article, I discuss string trees in greater detail so please continue reading.
1. What are string trees?
As discussed, string trees are small metal widgets that attach onto the head-stock of guitar. They are only found on straight head-stocks because this particular design lacks downward force that securely holds the strings in place.
This leads on to why they are called string trees…
They are called strings trees as they play the vital role in stabilising the tension of the guitar neck and secure holding the string onto the Nut (just as a tree would).
In addition, straight headstocks (such as Fender guitar) all have flat headstock and in-line tuners which makes the distance between the nut and the tuning posts longer. Because of the longer distance they are required to have this component to increase the stability.
Guitars that are not required to have string trees will have a headstock that tilts backwards at an angle from the neck which creates the proper break angle.
2. What is the role of string trees?
The string tree essentially pin the string down to the nut. This is done in the same way you’d press a string against a fret with your finger.
As the strings pass over the nut and thread towards the tuning pegs there may be some slack on the strings. If there is too much slack on the strings they won’t resonate as well and may sound a bit dull and faint.
String trees securely hold the strings in the groves of the nut and removes slack on the strings by creating a proper break angle to securely hold the strings.
This is because the design of straight head-stocks (such as the fender design) are not angled enough from the nut to provide the tension that is required to do this. So, by applying a downward pressure on the string in question (usually G and B strings) will better hold the strings in the groves and provide the right amount of tension to reduce slack and overall ensure the strings don’t buzz and rattle within its nut slot.
3. How the string tree and nut work together
The strings trees work with the Nut as it removes the slack by creating more of an angle to hold the string in place. Where the string tree is positioned on the head-stock changes the angle of where the string threads over the nut. As the angle changes, so does the tension of the strings. The angle has to be precise as not enough angle will mean to much slack on the strings and too much of an angle will mean the string wont flow over the nut as well as it should and may catch on other components and you may find yourself running into additional tuning problems.
Luckily, some tension is controlled by the position of string tree (between the nut and the machine head). As the string thread over nut we can move the string tree towards the nut to create more of an angle, or towards the machine head to straighten the angle out.
Overall, by controlling the angle of which the strings thread over the nut towards the tuners we control the tension of the strings.
Overall, string trees are a vital component for guitar with a straight headstock design. It is a very simple component but can significantly help tuning stability.