Monday, March 26, 2012

Schaller Locking Guitar Tuners Review

Buenos dias, amigos!

Schaller locking machine heads have been around for quite a while now, but I am still tickled whenever I get a chance to mess around with them.

Locking guitar tuners are a by-product of the heavy whammy bar metal days of the 1980s, when everybody and their brother had a Floyd Rose Locking tremolo and a locking nut on their guitar. The idea of a locking nut was that it held the strings tight, and the guitar would not lose tune during severe playing antics.

Locking nuts are also a royal pain in the butt, as they make tuning and string changes take forever. An allen wrench is needed to remove the nut clamp, and there are little tiny screws to lose. This is a recipe for disaster on a dark stage.

Schaller came up with a better way to do things with their locking tuners. There is a locking thumbscrew on the back of each tuner that is used to press a pintel up against the string as it passes through the hole in the tuner post. The string can be cut to length with no wraps around the post, and the guitar can be tuned normally after the thumbscrew is tightened. No special tools are needed for string changes and they are pretty much fool proof.

These tuners are fantastic, and many high-end guitar makers are installing these as original equipment. They are smooth as silk, and have a 16:1 ratio so that they turn easily and precisely. A set of these Schaller machines comes in around 8.5 ounces, which is a little heavier than standard tuners, but not so much that they will cause neck dive.

Of course, you can upgrade your guitar with a set of these fine machines too. They fit standard 10mm (13/32”) diameter pegholes, and are available in in-line and 3-on-a-side sets. The inline sets have staggered string post hole heights. The tuners with the holes higher up are used on the E, A, and D strings, and the ones with lower holes are for the G, B, and E strings. This makes a steeper angle from the nut, and eliminates the need for string trees.

I installed a set of these on a Fender Stratocaster, and it took less time than it would have for me to change the strings. All it took was a 10mm socket, and the old ones dropped out. The new ones installed in the same manner, with no screws required. Easy!

And they perform just as promised – the strings hold tight with no play, and there is no drama. Even if you do not have a tremolo it is worth upgrading to these tuners so that string changes are easier. I have owned and used many guitars with these machines over the years and have never had a single problem. They kick butt.

I have saved the best part for last, and that is that a set of Schaller locking guitar machines will not break the bank. The street prices on these range in from $69.99 with a brushed silver finish to $81.85 for chrome or $149.81 for gold. This is not much more than buying a normal set of tuners, and will provide tangible benefits in playing performance and ease of maintenance.



  1. I really like them too. I think the best part is that you can change a string in no time.

    Do you know if they make replacements for Gibsons WITHOUT having to drill new holes in the headstock?

  2. Hey Eric -- I have not seen 3 per side Schallers that will drop directly into a Gibson. But Grover makes locking tuners that will fit normal Gibsons, and Gotoh makes locking tuners that will fit the historic models. I think you can get them from Stew-Mac...