Calling Strat Owners - Setting up a Strat Bridge


I have a LE CIJ Fender Jerry Donahue Stratocaster. I was less that happy with the stock vintage style (6 screws holding the bridge to the body) so I am replacing it with a Callahan complete bridge assembly and steel block.

My questions is this... Do I adjust the springs so that the bridge has a gap at the back of the bridge between it and the body, so that the bridge can raise and lower the pitch of the strings as it was originally designed?

or... Have the bridge actually rest on the body so that you can only lower the pitch of the strings?

Dana Olsen

Platinum Supporting Member
Hey Skeeter -

Well, it's your call, ya'll (GRIN). Strat bridge set up is an area where there is substantial disagreement, complicated by the fact that they're all individual guitars and require individual considerations anyway. In addition, once you 'float' the bridge, every adjustment you make influences another area of adjustment - change the claw, you change the action; change the intonation, the action and bridge move a little too. There's a bit of 'chasing your tail' in the process, much more so than setting one up with the bridge screwed down all the way.

That said, IMHO it's worth it tone wise to float the bridge. What I do is:

1) Hold onto the back edge of the bridge when you screw each of the 6 bridge mounting screws in - press gently against the body to feel when each screw just starts to lift the back edge of the bridge, then back the screw out until the bridge just rests flat on the body. Repeat for all 6 screws.

2) Set rough action and relief.

3) Adjust the claw: After tuning to pitch, screw the claw in until there's about 1/16" to 3/32" clearance at the back of the bridge and both claw screws are about evenly tensioned . Retune, repeat.

4) Detail adjustment: Now experiment with adjusting the claw so the bass side is screwed in tighter than the treble side. Retune, repeat. Check action again. Check the 'action' of the bar - lower and raise pitches. Do This in conjunction with step 5 below.

5) Choose a chord that has most of the notes on one fret - I use an E13 - open low E, then fret strings 5-1 on the 11th fret, then add ring finger on 2nd string, 12th fret. Play with the adjustment of the claw - the goal is to get that chord shape to stay in tune, or very close to in tune when lowering the chord pitch by 1/2 step, or raising it 1/2 step.

6) Repeat 2-6 until you're satisfied, or Homicidal (GRIN).

There are many many methods. There's a recent video of Carl Verheyen setting up the bridge on HIS Strat that's interesting - here's that link:

Seriously, there is no one right way, and even if there was, every Strat is different and has to be approached that way for best results. You only have to please yourself, but there's the rub - it's hard to tell when you're pleased, and IME, much of Strat set up is very counter intuitive.

If I had you in person I could better show you what I do and what I'm looking for, and my little process would make more sense and be more obvious. Since that may not happen soon (GRIN), I tried to write out a quick overview to how I do it, or at least where I start.

Good Luck, hope this helps, Dana O.


Thanks Dana, that's a big help. Just a couple questions.

The guitar currently is strung with 9's and I plan on going to 10's. Do you think that will make the adjustments somewhat easier, harder or no difference?
In step 4 you say to screw the bass side in further to increase the tension on that side. Is that because the lower strings exert more tension and you trying to get the tension even accross the entire bridge as Carl recommends in the video?


yes, the lower strings have more tension. 10's will have more tension than 9's. If youre going to float the bridge, its worth considering that if the back springs have too little tension, when you bend a string, the whole bridge will lower in pitch as a result, which can be very annoying.

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