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View Full Version : Fender strat and the whammy bar


MattChen
03-18-2011, 03:44 AM
I haven't had my american strat for long... I'd had the whammy bar winded up just so it starts to tighten and stay afloat at around the volume knob. As time has passed and as I've wound it back and forth a few times it's gotten loose; now at the first tone knob.

Is it normal for the whammy to keep slipping down? What can be done about this? Am I setting it up right? Thanks

Gypsyblue
03-18-2011, 06:15 AM
I haven't had my american strat for long... I'd had the whammy bar winded up just so it starts to tighten and stay afloat at around the volume knob. As time has passed and as I've wound it back and forth a few times it's gotten loose; now at the first tone knob.

Is it normal for the whammy to keep slipping down? What can be done about this? Am I setting it up right? Thanks

Is that normal? Yes. What can be done? Nothing really. It was a great design for it's time - 1954! Although your Strat has a slightly more modern design with two mounting/pivot screws on top instead of the six that a '54 Strat would have.

Don't keep trying to keep that arm tightly in position as eventually it'll break off and it'll be a real pistol to get the broken off threaded piece out of the tremolo block. It's better to let it hang loose rather than to expect it stay tight. Back it off one counterclockwise turn and when you need it just reach down for it.

Are you setting it up right? All depends. I have one of my Strats set up with the springs around the back tightened so that I can dive bomb down in pitch but cannot raise the pitch. If you go that route you'll also want to screw in the screws around the back until the springs are tight enough to pull the bridge plate on top down flat to the body of the guitar and then screw down the two mounting screws on top until the front of the trem plate lays flat against the top of the guitar as well. Don't screw those two screws down to much though or the base will start to tilt again at the rear because directly under those two screws it's beveled.

Jeff Beck likes to be able to pull up on his vibrato so his is adjusted to float. Jeff is my favorite rock guitarist but I can't handle a floating set up. I like to be able to rest the palm of my picking hand on the bridge with the vibrato warbling.

Jeff loves middle eastern music and that warbling effect is part of his style.

Eric Clapton loves the tone that a Strat with a vibrato has better than a string through design without a vibrato - but he NEVER uses the vibrato. So he goes around the back to tremolo spring cavity and has a block of wood pounded into that 1/2" space between the tremolo block and the back edge of the spring cavity to prevent the vibrato from moving at all.

That's how I do it on my favorite Strat. Sounds better as well. But your vibrato won't work at all.

Every Strat player has his or her own preference. You just experiment - sometimes for years and years until you find the compromise that works for you.

But don't expect that arm to stay tightly in place - it'll break off eventually if you do.

RP
03-18-2011, 06:38 AM
If you won't be using the whammy bar, another thing you can do is add two additional springs to the three it probably came with. That will keep it from moving, and Clapton's wooden block will (according to EC) increase sustain...

Gypsyblue
03-18-2011, 06:47 AM
You can also drop a little ball point pen spring into the hole that the arm screws into and then install the arm. The pressure from the spring compressing will make it so the arm isn't so loose. Might have to clip the spring to a length that works and experiment some to get it just right.

Maybe even better would be to take your guitar to a hardware store and see what springs they have. Usually they get a big kick out of seeing a nice guitar and will be glad to help.

MattChen
03-18-2011, 07:30 AM
interesting, thanks

ntotoro
03-18-2011, 08:07 AM
You can also drop a little ball point pen spring into the hole that the arm screws into and then install the arm.

I was actually going to suggest that. There's a good chance the little spring that is supposed to be in there probably fell out. The reason I like the Callaham block (other than tone) is that you don't need the spring in there. Plus, I like the feel of the bar he uses.

Nick

ELK
03-18-2011, 08:15 AM
I don't put my bar on unless I'm playing a song that requires it, and then I let it hang loose. You do have to reach for it but at least it doesn't get in the way of your volume knob.

MattChen
03-18-2011, 08:27 AM
actually now I think of it my strat came with a bunch of tools, instructions, etc... in the case; and one thing I found recently was a small black spring. I had no idea what is was for, in fact I thought it was something lose that broke off from the guitar. I've kept it around ... is that what Fender actually provides for the whammy bar like you guys suggested? It's its intended use? hah, was wondering about that...

does that solve the problem with the whammy bar can I always be able to keep it a bit higher now close to the volume knob with that spring? Or will it eventually keep getting looser and looser again?

markwayne
03-18-2011, 08:28 AM
The simple solution is to take a piece of electrical tape or plumbers tape and wrap it around the base of the arm where it threads. You should now be able to achieve the arm position you desire and not run the risk of stripping the threads or breaking the arm. And, yes, there are many players (Chet Atkins comes to mind) who do not like to have to reach for the arm when adding subtle whammy use and always keep it under their palm.

ntotoro
03-18-2011, 08:37 AM
actually now I think of it my strat came with a bunch of tools, instructions, etc... in the case; and one thing I found recently was a small black spring. I had no idea what is was for, in fact I thought it was something lose that broke off from the guitar. I've kept it around ... is that what Fender actually provides for the whammy bar like you guys suggested? It's its intended use? hah, was wondering about that...

does that solve the problem with the whammy bar can I always be able to keep it a bit higher now close to the volume knob with that spring? Or will it eventually keep getting looser and looser again?

That's exactly what that spring is for. It goes in the cavity where the bar screws in. A lot of guys don't realize that and either lose it or throw it out. I don't think it makes a ton of difference, but it does keep the bar from bottoming out and makes it a bit more snug when screwed in.

Nick

Badfrog
03-18-2011, 08:45 AM
Of the couple of stratocasters that I've gotten new in the last year, the little black spring was already in the tremolo/whammy bar whole. That spring should work well for quite some time. My whammy bar stays where ever I put it. I bought a pack of little springs off musician's friend in case mine ever falls out (from taking the bar off an putting the guitar in the case to go some where).

I think there are a lot of people that don't know about the whammy bar spring. I didn't know about it either till I read about it on the internet.

markwayne
03-18-2011, 08:52 AM
Well, for us old timers, those springs were not an option. I'm glad to know Fender has addressed this issue. However, my most recent Strat is from 1981 and the other two are from the 70s.