Fender Mustang setup tips?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by moredirt, Jan 4, 2008.


  1. moredirt

    moredirt Member

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    I just bought my son an MIJ Mustang ('66 I believe). I've never dealt with the dynamic vibrato unit, and was hoping someone could give me a few pointers on tuning stability. I'd like him to be able to use the tremolo and still keep in some semblance of tune, but I'm not quite getting it there.

    Thanks in advance for any help folks can offer.
     
  2. moredirt

    moredirt Member

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    Any thoughts? Am I doomed by the dynamic trem, or will locking tuners, nut sauce, and/or other tricks get me to an acceptable place?
     
  3. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    Pray?



    Really though, there are a couple of things you can do. First, make sure the nut is properly cut and preferably of good material (the factory plastic nut may not cut it) Bone is always a safe bet, but I've actually been warming up to Delrin nuts for trems lately. Second, some sort of nut lube can be a big help, my personal favorite is the GHS Graphitall. Third, make sure your bridge is centered and balanced when you're tuned up, rather than resting too close to the front or back of the sleeves in the body.

    Take care of all that and you should be able to make it acceptable. Still, how you use it is going have a big effect as well. Just don't expect to be able to use it like a Floyd Rose - it can work as a vibrato, but won't handle dives and swells so keenly.
     
  4. Ron Thorn

    Ron Thorn Gold Supporting Member

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    Moredirt,

    Is the bridge on the reissue meant to "rock" like it does on the vintage ones when you use the trem?
    If so, I found removing the bridge and wrapping the posts with copper shielding tape until it was a tight fit helped. This prevents the rocking motion, which was by design, and keeps it stationary like a ToM bridge. Lube the saddles along with the nut a see if that is any better.

    Ron
     
  5. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    The bridge is meant to rock. If you prevent it, all that will happen is that the strings have to slide over the saddles instead, where they will stick, probably even if lubed. I'm amazed that anyone would find this an improvement.

    The key to getting it as stable as possible is to use heavier strings - minimum 11s, remember it's a short scale so the tension won't be as high as you would expect - and set the rocker bar as low as possible over the baseplate. The height adjustment screws (Allen) are down the two holes at each end of the bar.

    String it carefully, with the minimum wrap (about one full turn) on the tuner posts - wrap the thinner strings half a turn round the wrong way first, then back across the slot, then wind on normally, this will stop them slipping - and wind the low E upwards to reduce the angle over the nut, and lube all the grooves. Also check that the string tree is not too low, and add a spacer if it's right down on the headstock face.

    Even given all that, it doesn't quite work as well as a Strat or Jaguar/Jazzmaster trem though.
     
  6. moredirt

    moredirt Member

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    Thanks for the advice guys, I appreciate it very much. I'll try it all out and let you know what works (I hope). I just want him to be able to add a little shimmer, no dive bombs (not sure that's what he wants though!).

    Trying to figure out John's "wrap it half turn the wrong way" technique will give me something to do with all my old oddball strings.
     
  7. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    He's referring to a common string fastening technique - feed the string through the tuner hole, allowing just enough slack to give you 1/2 to 1 turn on the post when up to pitch. Then when looking at the face of the headstock wrap the loose end of the string backward (clockwise around the post on bass, counter-clockwise on treble) and feed it under the string. Holding it tight wrap it over top of the string, bending the loose end 180 degrees around the string leaving the tuner toward the nut. When you tune it up, the tightened section of string will in effect clamp the loose end against the post at the edge of the hole. It's a string locking technique that ensures the string will not slip through the tuner hole up to pitch, without having to rely on the 2 wraps on bass/4-5 wraps on treble strings to provide enough friction to prevent slipping.

    The idea is that if you have that many wraps around a post, as you drop the tension on the tremolo, the windings may absorb some of the slack and not fully return to original position ending up sharp when the trem is released. Or if you tune up to pitch without stretching the string, a string bend or pull back on the trem will pull up more slack in the windings and lower the pitch.

    I generally prefer the standard wraps because I like both the aesthetics as well as the increased break angle at the nut on Fenders and other shallow angle headstocks. For a trem system like this though this can help both in locking the string with fewer turns, as well as lowering the nut friction a bit by lessening the break angle. I think it's a good tip for this kind of system.
     
  8. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    Actually I just re-read John's post, and he may be talking about a different string-lock technique. The one I described is common with bluegrass players and with nylon strings, but there are a few other techniques that work just as well. I'm not entirely sure from the description if I know the exact lock John is talking about either, but in any case less wraps and a string lock wrapping technique is a good suggestion here.
     
  9. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    :joAnother duh moment. For some reason I had Gibson on the brain - Fender headstock, obviously I meant the backward wrap as clockwise on all strings.
     
  10. moredirt

    moredirt Member

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    David, thanks. I use the string lock technique you describe, though I always have trouble making it work on unwound strings. It's easy and works great, though like you I prefer the aesthetics of a traditional wind. Maybe John'll chime in and let us know how his differs; I haven't tried to fully conceptualize it yet.
     
  11. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    I'm describing how you do it in a Kluson 'Safe-T-Post' type slotted post, like Fender used up to around 1985, including Mustangs.

    Cut the string about 2" beyond the post as normal, poke the end down the hole and bend it over into the slot as normal, but then wind the string the wrong way for half a turn, then back across the slot, pull tight, then finally wrap on the right way as normal. When you look down on the post from the top the string should make an 's' shape.

    This is useful for the top two strings in particular, which need to have the minimum wrap possible to help make sure they don't stick under the string tree, but can slip out of the post if you get too little wrap on it.

    I use David's method on 'through hole' tuners.


    The real problem with Fenders is that to get enough break angle on the G string in particular when there's no G/D string tree, you have to put much more than the minimum wrap on - basically it needs to be wound down as far as possible on the post. This conflicts with the 'minimum wrap for tuning stability' requirement, and there's not a lot you can do apart from wind it on as smoothly and tightly as possible (by turning the key, not wrapping the string by hand).
     
  12. moredirt

    moredirt Member

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    Thanks again to everyone for the tips. I'm crushed at work right now and haven't spent much time on it, but simply bringing the rocker bar down to the base plate as John suggested has made a HUGE improvement. I'll have more time over the weekend and will report back on my success with the other tips. Thanks again for taking the time to help me out, I appreciate it and could not have found this information elsewhere.
     

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