A tremolo or whammy bar can make  a guitar much more expressive but also introduce tuning issues.  I like having a tremolo and it is essentual to properly play   Lenny or Jeff Beck.  However, SRV and Jeff Beck setup their tremolo completely differently to compliment their style of play.

SRV used very heavy strings and tuned a half step down like his idol Jimi.  He used the maximum amount of  five springs   to counter the tension  and  pull it back into  tune.  He had exquisite technique and could use the tremolo as  a soft detune  as in Lenny or  deep  bends  as in Voodoo  Chile.  When I first started building  strats  I wanted them to sound like SRV’s guitar and setup the tremolo accordingly.  I can’t play a guitar with strings as heavy as Stevie liked so I backed  the gauge  down   to at least a medium gauge  and removed one spring .  i thought this was a great compromise.

I am also a great admirer of Jeff Beck who is the master of the tremolo in my mind.  He can  play like he does because of the way he holds the tremolo bar and because the amount of force required to bend the note  is  very  slight.   This naturally implies fewer springs and light gauge strings.  I’m not sure if additional modifications  have been made to the guitar to allow a greater range of tremolo swing but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that that was the case.  The second factor with  Jeff Becks guitar is a roller nut.    I use an LSR roller nut and it works very well in this application.  The roller Nut allows the strings to stretch and then bounce back to the original tension with no stickiness or resistance.  This in turn keeps it in tune even when the overall tension  induced by the tremolo is relatively  less.

Hence, I have learned that  there is more than one way to skin the proverbial cat   if you will and that tremolo setup is a personal preference.

The setup  of the tremolo regardless  of the style of play requires that you specify the string gauges  you want to use on that guitar, and how you are going to tune it.  That information  will determine  how to set up the tension evenly across the tremelo, choice and number of springs,  and  the depth  of the tensioning  screws  on each side of the spring tension rake.  The tremolo should be flat with play both to raise pitch and lower pitch.  Since the tremolo is also a bridge, the leveling of the tremolo  will effect the string height  on the neck  and therefore the playability.

With so many factors involved with the proper setup of a tremolo it’s no wonder that many decide  to dispense with them altogether, or have them disabled using wedges in tremolo  cavity.   It’s also very common to see tremolos incorrectly or poorly setup rendering them less useful or even detrimental to the playing of the instrument.

One final word on tremolos, when you tune expect that it will take multiple passes  through the strings to get the tuning correct.  it’s simply the nature of the beast, changing one string  changes all the others  so you need to tune until  all strings are equally bearing the load.

I haven’t said  anything about Floyd Rose  and locking nuts.  While these tremolos all suffer from the same issues as any other tremolo.  The Floyd  Rose setup requires that you  get all the natural stretch  out of the strings before you lock them down  or you’ll constantly be fighting the tuning.    There are string stretching tools available to facilitate this process.

I’m sure that string composition  has a subtle effect on all this but I haven’t  done enough research to speak  to that issue.  I will have another page   on this web site to discuss  Strings in general.

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