Adjusting the tremolo height on a Strat

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by Anthony M, Mar 23, 2008.

  1. Anthony M

    Anthony M Silver Supporting Member

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    Hi Guys! I've looked around the forum for this topic, but couldn’t find anything.

    Just purchased a 2008 Fender Strat "Standard" while in pursuit of a Gretsch. :horseIt was just calling me, unexpectedly. Anyway, I test drove and fell in the love. When I brought it home, and was finally able to screw in the tremolo, the bar wouldn’t set down quite as low as I like it. It's actually very high, about 2.5' from the tip. Is there anyway to adjust this so that the threads have more give, or does it seems like an issue with the guitar and requires I can action and send it back?

    Thank you all very much. Although this guitar is not a Gretsch, it does rock![​IMG]
     
  2. Bob V

    Bob V Member

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    OK, assuming that the "Standard" you refer to is not an "American Standard" or "American Series" then the "Standard" strat would, on bulletin boards like these, be called a "MIM" (Made in Mexico) Strat. They had vintage bridges that get set up a little differently than the American Standards.

    Having said that "tremolo height" as you put it, can mean several things:

    1. The height of the bridge plate off the body: this depends on whether you prefer the bridge floating or tight to the top (you adjust the tension on the spring claw under the rear spring cover by turning the two screws). Fender recommends a floating setup with the back of the plate about 1/8" off of the top of the guitar. When you do this, the arm does change it's position relative to the top of the guitar, and when you have the bridge cranked down flat to the top, the arm is really high up.

    2. The height of the bridge saddles, which controls the "action" height of the strings off the fretboard. On a vintage type bridge that pivots on six screws into the guitar top, you adjust each of the six saddles individually every time you want to make an adjustment to the string height. On an American Standard bridge which pivots on only two screws, you can preset the six saddles to follow the curvature of the fretboard then raise and lower them all together at once by turning the two pivot screws.

    3. Maybe you're referring to the position of the whammy bar. If the bridge is set up floating the way you want it (which is a very different issue) then the position of the bar is very simple. You unscrew it from the guitar and chuck it in a vise and bend it. I also like the arm to be low so it fits under my hand until I reach for it. You can really go another step here by unscrewing or pulling off the trem arm tip (the newer ones pull off without turning them) and taking a hacksaw to the arm to shorten it. 1/2" or 5/8" makes a difference. Now the trem arm tip is not only lower (because you bent the arm) but it's further back towards the crook of your pinkey near your palm. Some players prefer the arm to be long and high, so it's really in their palm when they reach for it.

    This also depends on whether you let the arm swing free or sit still. To get it to keep from swinging, get one of the little black springs Fender makes to go under the arm when you thread it in place. They get lost easily, so I prefer a wrap of plumber's tape (which you have to replace now and then).

    Don't know what you mean about two and a half feet "from the tip" - to where?
     
  3. Anthony M

    Anthony M Silver Supporting Member

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    Bob

    Your response was extremely helpful and quite insightful. Thank you so much.

    In a nutshell, I guess I will have to cut and bend the tremolo bar. It’s just strange that anyone could like their trem bar so high off the body.

    Yes, the guitar is a 2008 New American Standard Stratocaster, in Olympic white with Rosewood fret board. Same guitar I had when I was a naive metal-head kid, roughly 25 years ago. That one too was hacked, but at the body for a humbucker and floyd rose. That’s what you did back then, before I knew about Kramers and Charvels. How fitting!

    Back to the beast, yes the bridge floats at about 1/8 off the top and the saddle heights are perfect. Action is spot on. Everything is set up exactly how I want it. Then, I screw in the tremolo, and gets to where it is hard to turn. From here, the tip of the tremolo’s distance to the body/pickguard is 2.5”. I measured from the tip of the tremolo arm to the pickguard and it’s way too high. And the arch of the tremolo turns at 1”, again very high compared to my other Strats (2” and .5”). I thought perhaps there was a way to adjust the tension where the tremolo gets screwed in, but Fender has left that up to me to hack!

    Thanks again, Bob. I very much appreciate all the information and any little more would be extremely helpful.

    Anthony
     
  4. Bob V

    Bob V Member

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    You probably want to back off a turn after the threads bottom out. Now as for modifying the arm, since this is the new run of a new model there may be some vintage value lurking in there. Bending the arm is no big deal, but before you cut the original one, I'd suggest buying a spare arm and hacking at that one - they're between twelve and fifteen bucks. Just specify that it's for an American Standard (I believe the thread is an Imperial 10-32 pitch).

    The little black spring I referred to actually came with your guitar, that's why there's a round colored paper dot over the hole where the trem arm goes - it probably fell out.

    Glad to help.
     
  5. Anthony M

    Anthony M Silver Supporting Member

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    Bob: Thank you! I will then go ahead and purchase another arm to modify, keeping this one aside. I spoke to another 2008 ASS owner and he also felt the tremolo was too high. So maybe fender felt they would rather you cut than add, since that option is not possible.

    Yes, the spring did fall out, but luckliy into the case, It did little to nothing to resolve my issue. Thanks again, Bob for your guidance!

    BTW, ASS = American Standard Stratocaster
     

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