When the Gibson Robot guitars first came out—bearing motorized tuning technology invented by Germany’s Tronical company—they represented yet another milestone in the long line of guitar-tuning miracles. And, as with many such early technological leaps, some problems quickly appeared. These were soon addressed by making the systems smaller, quicker, more accurate, and easier to install. For a time, buying a Tronical-outfitted Gibson was the easiest way to get into automatic tuning, but now you can get Tronical systems for many electric and acoustic guitars. Motorized tuners are very cool in many regards, but here are several things you’ll want to keep in mind to get the best out of them.
• Robot systems rely on the tuners being able to smoothly move up and down in pitch—and in smaller and smaller increments—until the string is in tune. The only way this can work is if the string slips freely in the nut. Taking the usual precautions helps a lot: Flare out the back of the nut slot a little, apply some kind of lube, and so on. A lack of free motion, in fact, caused problems with 2015 Gibson USA guitars bearing G-Force Tuners and adjustable brass nuts. While the adjustable part was a cool idea, strings quickly cut into the brass nut and got stuck while the motorized tuners were trying to find the right notes. If you have one of these models—Graph Tech makes a direct replacement nut for the adjustable piece that works much better.
• Mechanical tuners rely on a small computer for processing tuning and pitch information, so I recommend doing a full reset if you have any problems. You may have to reprogram your custom presets, as well as redo any “learning” the tuners have done, but I’ve found a hard reset helps the tuners work more quickly and be less glitchy.
• Learn how to change strings correctly. The process is definitely more involved than with standard tuners, so it’s worth the effort to do it right. There are even YouTube demos for those who don’t like cracking open manuals. When done correctly, the tuners will last longer, because they’re not being forced to do things manually—which they don’t like—and you should have better tuning.
• These systems work better with the .010-.046 gauge strings they’re designed for, but other gauges will work if the guitar is set up properly.
• Make sure your guitar is accurately intonated, as Tronical works better with an intonated string—which means the string is the correct length for the pitch it’s producing.
• We’ve noticed some string breakage when making large tuning changes—especially when going up in pitch—so if you want to leap to a much-higher pitch, do it in two jumps. First, set the system for a pitch that’s lower than the target pitch and stop there. Then, go for the higher pitch.
• Experiment with string brands and styles and see what works best for you.