Keeping Strat In Tune

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by Bendimax, Jan 23, 2012.

  1. Bendimax

    Bendimax Member

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    When I saw someone mention in another thread about returning his brand new Strat because he couldn't keep the Strat with tremolo bridge in tune, it dawned on me, knowing how popular Strats are, how many people really aware of this enigma called 'keeping a Strat in tune"/ know how to keep a Strat in tune?

    I am just curious.

    Of course I'm not talking about any Strat without tremolo bridge or for those who do not abuse whammy bars and play one like a civilized cultured person... even then I'd think it would be a perilous precarious task to keep them in tune? Strat with tremolo bridge is a beast, a devil. Folks should know this before purchasing one (or suffer through it until you finger it out).

    You can't return a devil because it is a devil. You bought a devil; a Strat is a devil. You have to put the devil into submission and master the devil to dance for you.

    You master the beast; the beast is master-able, trust moi, but it requires tenacity and particular types of personality that can comprehend the incomprehensible. :huh

    Why does this post feels like a déjà vu...??
     
  2. candid_x

    candid_x Supporting Member

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    For me it's about fine tuning the instrument. Even a slight tightening or loosening of the claw, cleaning and lubing string contact points, how many springs and what kind and configuration.
     
  3. Zero G

    Zero G Member

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    :bong What the....?! Anyways, my experience has been that some Strats stay in tune really well, even with some whammy bar abuse, and some of them don't. A Strat, like any other guitar with a trem, will not stay in tune very well if it is not set up right.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2012
  4. mesa/kramer

    mesa/kramer Member

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    I would say, just put a Floyd on it and me done, but not everyone is into Floyds.

    I had similar problems with my PRS.
    After replacing the nut, installing locking tunners, it still went out of tune very easily.

    I tried this stuff called "Nut sauce" and it really helped a lot.

    [​IMG]


    But this Vid is what really brought everything together

    Sauce + Staggering the springs like in the Vid = Win

     
  5. Hwoltage

    Hwoltage Member

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    You can if you set it up differently than stock....
     
  6. Seafoam Green

    Seafoam Green Member

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    Of course you can, just set the trem up to float? Or am I missing something here?
     
  7. mesa/kramer

    mesa/kramer Member

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    Really?

    You live under a rock?

    Of course you can set a fender style trem to float so you can use it as a true Vibrato, and not merely as a Dive bomb noise maker :bonk
     
  8. Bendimax

    Bendimax Member

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    I don't know; I played many Strats for the past 4 decades (58, 60, 78, and a number of newer ones) and basically they are all the same because the basic mechanics are the same... of course, that is, with everything functioning as they should, such as tuning machines.

    If you really think of it, it's really understanding a tremolo bridge that is floating between spring tension (on the back) and string tension (keeping it flush against the body is, well..., cheating and disservice to the whole beauty of the thing), the tuned state of all the strings depend on the sum tension of all the strings accumulatively; meaning first of all you have to understand that if you change any string tension you'll affect the tuning of every string/ the whole guitar.

    After that, it's matter of keeping everything well lubed and graphited (bridge saddles and nut grooves mostly where strings rest) so strings do not get binded or caught anywhere and move freely, as much as they will (it's not going to be perfect and inevitably some string will get "held" somewhere. Then you need to stretch and work the strings so they are stretched as much as they will and tuning them until they return with the tap of whammy bar to the tuned position.


    ........

    ... put some graphite powder or spooge or whatnot (just use pencil lead) into the string grooves on the nut, and some on the bridge saddles' string pits too, and work the devil out of the strings (another words play hard/yank strings and go nutz with the whammy bar or whatever as if you became insane for a while and often - this is what you need to get in habit of doing often and particularly every time you put new set of strings on (the point is to make the strings stretch as much as they will and make them easier to slide/return back to "tuned" position without getting caught and binded somewhere, anywhere.

    More you do this more the strings will wear the nut groves and saddle grooves, a sort of get worked in/trained so to speak of repeating the movements; a bit like helping along a spring to retract to its original length). If you do this enough times, graphite powder becomes one with the nut and your strings can feel very pleased with the now baby-butt smoothly filed grooves and well lubed at all string contact points, especially the nut and the bridge saddles, you won't have to do as thorough job every time because your guitar has learned and reached the perfectly worked in state. Again, graphite all the string contact points / tiny grooves on the bridge saddles (I do).

    These procedures will greatly help your strings slide back (and forth) to the position they were, ie, post-whammy action/tuned position. You need to incorporate certain whammy bar tap actions into your playing (or in between playing), often, to make the strings return to their tuned home position, so to speak. This might sound like some far-out bizarre zen meditational practice but it works. You need to get your elbow grease into it and work in the repeatable string movement action. It will work like a well tuned machine. It will keep tune predictably and you will learn how your guitar/strings behave.

    You need to tune each strings with alternating bending hard and whammy actions in between every time you turn any tuning pegs and fine tune until each strings consistently return to the same tuned spot consistently. It takes little time and getting used to but it will become just another day at the office.

    If you do this long enough, you and the devil will become one and you won't even know you are doing anything different and do it without thinking about it; it's all part of playing guitar - a Strat for you. You will then have beaten the devil and the devil will become your best friend; the devil will sing beautifully for you.

    I truly believe tremolo bridges should be set up floating (it's your preference how much float you want, ie, if deep dive bombing is your thing, etc), ie, the bridge move either up or down directions; this gives you that beautiful almost roto-like effect with whammy bar tap/modulation action. If your bridge only moves to one direction (obviously you'd be pushing down/bombing on whammy bar) you don't quite get that elusive beauty of modulation; it needs to be floating... neither here nor there state ~ ~ ~

    .....

    Or you can just replace the original bone nut with a locking nut like Beck's or a graphite nut or whatnot (I don't have none of that... though might be nice if I did) and/or locking bridge (that's abomination I personally think; it's not necessary - any stock Strat can be set up and worked in to do this without anything special; you basically need your elbow grease and the understanding the mechanics of how the strings are pulled and let loose by the raising and lowering your tremolo bridge/whammy pulling an pushing down action).

    OR just get a Tele (or Strat without tremolo bridge/whammy bar) if you are a Fender kinda person but don't want to get involved with all these esoteric ritualistic steps all the time.

    Well folks, that is all. Pardon my long winded babble to those who know this already. Phew....
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2012
  9. Bendimax

    Bendimax Member

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    In the beginning I did this too thinking that's the only way to get a handle on the devil beast. But after diddling with my Strat enough times I figured out it is totally doable. Just dive bombing gets boring and kinda stupid after a while.

    With the bridge floating you can use your whammy bar to pull/bend up each note/string and bend down(?!) - drop down the notes. If you do it enough it becomes smooth enough that you will sound a bit like a horn. :hiP
     
  10. wilblee

    wilblee Hack sans shame Gold Supporting Member

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    I have an Am Dlx V-neck Strat with locking tuners, 2-point trem, Earvana nut, low pulling Kinman pickups. I could not get that thing to stay in tune, no matter what I did. I took it to my favorite guitar guy (Walter Hutcherson, no affiliation, just love his work) for a truly professional set up. Now, not only does it play and sound (love those Kinmans) like a dream, but the tuning issues disappeared.
     
  11. Bendimax

    Bendimax Member

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    Or you can pay to have someone do the "work in" and set up work... but I'd rather "know" my guitar well. There is this thing about knowing your guitar as if it is a part of your body because you worked on it. It's not rocket science. Of course there are things and times that should be left to professionals rather than wonder aimlessly in nether-world. YMMV.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2012
  12. dani_boy79

    dani_boy79 Member

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    what worked for me: Firstly, I replaced the crappy Nuts that come on all Strats. Then I set the trem. to float 1/8" of the body. I recently got the Raw Vintage Spring Set(But this didn't help with setup, it just made using the bar easier), I used all 5 springs and balanced the tension of springs & strings perfectly. be sure to fix the strings properly into the tuning keys(verify that there are no loose winds, etc.

    I believe that the single most responsible factor for most tuning issues is the Nut. I have kissed all of my tuning issues goodbye ever since I replaced the Nut.
     
  13. guitarz1972

    guitarz1972 Member

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    This thread is good for me, and appreciate all the great comments (esp Bendimax, great posts on the tuning issues related to string tension).

    I have a '56 relic that I've unfortunately decked due to the tuning issues being discussed. It got to the point that I was having to retune about every other song during a given set. My local luthier has told me that unfortunately, my high-E tuning key is slightly bent. I cannot see a bend with my naked eye, but I take his word for it that maybe I have a slight issue there. Says that short of replacing the tuners (b/c he doesn't have just the one to give me; since these are Fender CS tuners I'm assuming a new set of relic'd keys isn't going to be cheap), it probably won't hold tune better than it was before.

    I'd love to go back to a floating trem, and I'm going to look into doing some of the work Bendimax referred to in his first post. I've always graphited the nut with a pencil, but I've never thought to do the bridge saddles; I'll try that too.

    Thanks again for all the great comments on this topic, and any other thoughts or suggestions are of course appreciated.


    Chris
     
  14. fumbler

    fumbler Member

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    Stop picking on the newbie! Look at his post count.

    Welcome, Leo, by the way.

    I can keep ALMOST any floating strat in tune: carve and polish the nut right, lube on all points of contact (i used to use graphite but now teflon oil works even better for me). I made the devil my b!tch and you can, too.
     
  15. burningyen

    burningyen Vendor

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  16. SNick

    SNick Member

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    It's all about the setup and having a good tuner. A good setup means it will stay in-tune. Tuning a guitar for the way you play is also essential.

    It's just that simple. I find most of the time the problem is user error.
     
  17. GCDEF

    GCDEF Supporting Member

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    Not that stupid video again. He's counting on the strings binding at the nut and tuning to that. That's nonsensical as is evidenced at 7:41 when he actually tries to play it.
     
  18. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

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    You also see tons of threads on LP's not staying in tune. A poor craftsmen blames his tools. Strats, teles, LP's they all stay in tune, even the cheapies.

    For a lot of years, I used a Floyd because I thought a strat wouldn't stay in tune with the bar. It was a crutch. I figured it out and dumped the Floyds.
    And unlike the Carl Vernehayan video, I can dive as well as pull up on mine and remain in tune.
     
  19. andyk

    andyk Supporting Member

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    Carl pulls up and dives on his trem too. :huh
     
  20. midwayfair

    midwayfair Member

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    I really don't understand the hate.

    He has an extremely good 5-part series on how to prevent binding and reduce friction at all points of contact. This video is before he posted that other video.

    The main point of this video, which he doesn't really come out and say, is to show you that without any other modifications that most tuning issues associated with heavy wammy bar use are the result of string binding and that you can avoid a tuning mess if you just tap the wammy bar after heavy bending to return the strings to the happy little grooves they're going to eventually settle into on their own. The process in the video just speeds up nature and shows you that you don't have to touch the tuners if the strings are already settled.
     

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