How many Tremolo Springs for 11s on a Strat?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by AlexT, Mar 14, 2005.


  1. AlexT

    AlexT Guest

    I'm new to setting up a Strats - how many springs should I use for 11s. Don't plan to use the trem arm much.

    Thanks,

    Alex
     
  2. Guinness Lad

    Guinness Lad Silver Supporting Member

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    I like 4 springs. 3 is too light for me and 5 is too heavy. A lot of the spring tension is relative anyway. If you don't use it that much why not just screw down the six bridge plate screws and be done with it? I usually float mine the way it was supposed to be set up, 1/8th inch, technically 3/32nd off the body, to me the guitar just sounds better. Everybody likes something different. Jeff Beck supposidly sets up his guitars so it takes hardly any effort at all to move the trem, that's too sensitive for me.
     
  3. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    Do NOT do that - that's absolutely the wrong thing to do with any Strat set-up, floating or non-floating. It's a very common mistake, and can lead to severe problems in extreme cases - damaged finish or even snapped screw heads - and at the very least tuning stability issues.

    There is a quite critical right adjustment for these screws, and it is not with them down as tight as they will go - it's with them set carefully so the bridgeplate is just - and only just - pulled flat to the top, and not forced to rise at the back. This is the same whether you want the bridge to sit flat or float BTW - that's only controlled by how many and how tight you have the springs in the back.

    If you tighten these screws fully then (especially) fit five springs and crank them up tight too - or even worse, force a wooden block in the back - you're exterting enormous upward force on the screw heads, and corresponding downward pressure on the guitar body just behind the pivot point, where the baseplate is angled upwards.

    Sorry for the lecture, but I've seen more Strats with serious bridge problems caused by wrong adjustment of these screws than any other single cause, I think.


    FWIW, I have three springs on my Strat with 11s. It does depend on how strong they are - they vary. These ones must be fairly strong; four is often better.
     
  4. AlexT

    AlexT Guest

    Thanks.

    I will not fix the bridge - I believe that one of the components of the strat tone is the floating tremolo.

    Cheers,

    Alex
     
  5. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    So do I.

    I know it's a minority opinion, but I find Strats have better tone, more sustain and often even better tuning stability when set up with the bridge floating.
     
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  6. Kevan

    Kevan Member

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    I'm gonna go with John on this one, but add a twist (not a string or spring pun).

    With 11's on a Strat, I've found that 4 seems to be the most popular, and closest to 'feel' as a Strat with 10's and 3 springs. Now, here comes the tricky part: there are several different spring lengths. Not all trem springs are created equal. :)

    Just from what I've read, John probably runs a "short" set of trem springs, thus the 11's and only 3 springs. If you have "medium" or "long" springs, 4 might be in order. If you're not using the trem much, try 4 short springs- It'll give you a stiffer 'feel'.

    Just be sure when you re-spring, that all your new springs match the old ones in length. It's not crucial, but it will help with setting it up. Also, springs wear out, so when it comes time to replace them, make sure you replace them with the same 'size' as before (did I already say that? Ugh...too much time in a trem cavity lately).

    Lastly, anytime a spring is in the equasion, sustain is lost. Springs are big time absorbers. It might be dramatic, or it might be slight, but it does happen. A properly setup trem will sustian wonderfully, but won't sustain as long as a hardtail of the same model (there are 2000 other variables in that equasion, but it's a basic guidline).
     
  7. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    Ah... I don't think so. Springs (good ones) don't absorb energy, they store it. Friction is what absorbs energy. I find that a really well-set-up Strat-type trem sustains longer than an equivalent hardtail.

    It's a different type of sustain, certainly - less linear, there's a quicker initial decay, but the overall sustain is longer albeit quieter. Basically what's happening is that the springs and the mass of the trem block are acting as a reverb unit. The initial decay is quicker because the string energy is partly going into getting the block and springs moving... but then they keep moving longer than the strings because they as less damped, so eventually they feed some of that energy back into the strings.

    I'm not remotely joking, if you play a chord on a good Strat, let it ring for a while then damp it dead, and listen to to the bridge itself, you'll hear it resonating.


    FWIW, the three springs I have aren't actually shorter than normal, but they are definitely stronger - you can actually feel the difference if you just take one in your hands and pull it. I don't know where I got them from unfortunately - they didn't come in this guitar, they were just in my parts box when I needed to find some springs...
     
  8. Kevan

    Kevan Member

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    Sorry about that John; I was just speaking in simple terms (you obviously have a few dozen more engineering degrees than I. LOL).

    When I said "absorbers", I was referring to the fact that the vibrations don't make it from the block, thru the springs, to the claw, into the claw screws and end in the body wood. I guess springs are kinda like capacitors in that regard.

    A well-set-up Strat with a trem vs. a hardtail Strat? Hmmm...I'll take that bet and put my $1 on the hardtail. There's only a few problems: variations in the neck wood grain & the body wood grain, neck attachment bolt torque, and a few other factors make a scientific test almost impossible.

    I'm totally up for a real test. You wanna do it at my place or yours? :D
     
  9. alderbody

    alderbody Member

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    i play with 11's and use 5 springs but a bit loose so to barely lift the back of the bridge plate.

    The sustain and resonance is far far better than when i foolishly had the six mounting screws and the springs tightened.

    Set the bridge "free" and it will sing!...
     
  10. kurt1981

    kurt1981 Supporting Member

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    Hi guys, how do you set your springs, if you have three, are they all parallel, or any at angles? Also, do you angle your claw, if so which way? I saw the carl verheyen vid, but wasn't sure how he was angling his claw.
    Thanks,
     
  11. Ronsonic

    Ronsonic Member

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    Depends on the springs. There's a lot of variation out there. Myself, I'd use the "Raw Vintage" branded springs and use five of them. They're a bit softer than the others which lets you get a good smooth motion even when cranked down most of the way.
     
  12. methenyesque

    methenyesque Member

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    +1 on the Raw Vintage springs and using all five of 'em. Mine's set up that way and it sounds and plays great. Tried it with three and four springs but it didn't compare to using all five. Great springs.
     

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