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My least favourite tremolo... the Strat!

Deed_Poll

Member
Messages
3,088
Ok this is sure to divide opinion, I can accept that objectively (if there's such a thing) I'm 100% wrong and it's a design I appreciate a great deal as an engineer.

I've just discovered that I'm really not a fan of the Strat vibrato as a player, and I will explain why while you all hide behind the sofa, gather the lynch mob or get the popcorn out of the microwave!

I always liked Strats - the look, the comfort, the simplicity of the basic Fender bolt-on flat 6-a-side headstock design, but extended with a versatile pickup and control scheme. The way every position on the guitar can cut through in any live or studio mix and sound like a guitar should.

I thought for a long time that whilst I was a Strat guy, I wasn't a vibrato guy. So I keep the thing decked, I always have.

Then I basically went on a mad love affair with offsets 10 or 15 years ago. For a long time I just left the arms in the cases, after all I'm not a trem guy and 'common knowledge' is that an offset trem is unreliable, accident prone and just not up to the theatrics like a Strat. So I leave well alone, for years.

After a time I just started putting the arm in there, and a time later than that I realise that I love everything about the offset trem. It gives me the leverage and control I need, and the distance between where you hold the arm and where it attaches to the guitar feels more like the arm is floating above the body, not getting in the way of my picking hand like on a Strat.

On top of this all the character that comes with the long string length behind the bridge (which makes the guitar sound unique even without the trem) gives the tremolo this great warped tape effect as you come back up to pitch that sounds like nothing else out there.

Recently I bought a Gibson CS Flying V reissue, fully expecting the Maestro to be awful. Everybody knows that. I even budgeted for fitting a wraparound bridge a la Firebird III / SG Special to make it an optional thing.

But it's marvellous. As soon as I got the guitar back from my luthier he had deepened the slots in the rocking ABR bridge and whilst the break angle is tiny, it has this amazing trashy, punchy character to the sound.

The arm on the Maestro is in the perfect place, and is the perfect shape. It stays where you put it and I find I can quite comfortably rest my pinkie on it without hampering my picking technique whatsoever.

So now I think I'm a trem guy, naturally I get my luthier to overhaul my beloved Strat to float the trem when the bi-annual setup comes around.

And guess what? It sucks. For me, at least. I can't use it - my point of contact with the arm is nowhere near the tip, I have no leverage and feel like I'm opening a door hinge-side first. The quality of the modulation is sterile and has no character - it sounds springy and comedic, like the pitch wheel on a keyboard.

There is none of the extra tangy metallic thing like the Maestro, nor the dimensionality of the offset unit. I can't double stop my bends any more -although to be fair, this is an issue on the Maestro too (but curiously not so much on the Jazzmaster).

So there's my 'cool story bro' autobiography. thanks for listening.

Freezeframe subtitle recaps -

The Strat has gone back to being decked and is rocking harder than ever.

The JM just had a new shim and fretwork and is great.

The Flying V is a dirty little secret, and loving it.

So are there any other Strat-trem-haters-anonymous members out there?
 

stratter

Member
Messages
1,421
the strat itself isn't a tremolo

do you mean the Fender "tremolo"?

I like my strats with a 2 point wilkinson
 

Deed_Poll

Member
Messages
3,088
the strat itself isn't a tremolo

do you mean the Fender "tremolo"?

I like my strats with a 2 point wilkinson
There is more than one type of Fender tremolo!

You are technically correct that the Strat itself is not a tremolo... Unless...

I'll be in the toolshed. I may be some time...
 

rhinocaster

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
23,459
I find that the stock Strat trem is the least natural one for me to operate....sonically, there are several other systems that work better for me and easily create a more musical effect with respect to the movement of the arm (a Bigsby and Maestro both work better for me) but over time I've found that it's not too much trouble to get a satisfactory vibe from the Fender system.

With a Strat I go with a shorter Callaham trem arm and 5 Raw Vintage trem springs. The shorter arm stays out of the way more and gives the leverage at the tip of the arm that, when combined with the feel of the Raw Vintage springs, allows me to work it more like a Bigsby and ultimately gives me that more subtle warble I like compared to the more on/off feel I get with a standard Strat setup.
 

Dave Wakely

Member
Messages
1,860
The shorter trem arm is definitely an improvement for me too, although a 2 point Strat trem remains my favourite. If something with the range and fluidity of action were an option on a Firebird, I'd be a very happy man.
 

zztomato

Senior Member
Messages
11,394
The vibrato action on the lyre and offset guitars is much different in feel than a strat vibrato. The strat vibrato is an entirely different animal with much more extreme capabilities.

It clearly does not suite your style nor is it something that you seem to be able to get used to or find use for. Nothing wrong with that. That's why there's more than one type of vibrato system.
 

Evan_R

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,309
I never have the term arm on my guitar, always in my case for these very reasons. Never considered changing the bridge or the arm though because the guitars already sound great and I don't want to mess with that. The short arm option is interesting though.
 

DRS

Member
Messages
11,966
I like my Hipshot Contour which is just a highly refined Fender 2 point. I like the sound of the Fender style bridge better and the articulation. Try doing Jeff Beck stuff on a Bigsby.
 

gibsonES330

Senior Member
Messages
877
I love Maestro's, too (as long as the angle on them is correct - lots of them have a bad angle and the string break angle then becomes too shallow). Strat trems are finicky, but fantastic when you get the set up properly.
 

Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
33,540
Strats, Floyd and all the other similar types are hyper-reactive to touch, just too sensitive to allow subtle wobble consistently.
Some have too much play in the arm.
Some do not retain tuning well.
Some are bulky and obtrusive.
Some arms protrude awkwardly.
I haven't tried them all but I don't think any are close to perfect, imo.
 

s2y

Member
Messages
19,483
Strats, Floyd and all the other similar types are hyper-reactive to touch, just too sensitive to allow subtle wobble consistently.
Some have too much play in the arm.
Some do not retain tuning well.
Some are bulky and obtrusive.
Some arms protrude awkwardly.
I haven't tried them all but I don't think any are close to perfect, imo.
Some set the Floyd to be very responsive. They can still be set up to have more of a stiff feel.

Which don't stay in tune? Other than my Steinberger, I don't own any fixed bridge or Bigsby that stays in tune as well or as long as my Floyd Rose equipped guitars.

The Floyd Rose Pro sits much lower if that's a priority.
 

Jayyj

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
8,929
I'm the same with Strat vibratos - they just don't feel good to me. I don't dislike it as a design, and I appreciate others love them, but I'm with the OP in prefering offsets, lyres and maestros. I did pay a Gilmourized Strat a few months back that had a much shorter arm and I could probably adapt to that if I ever got into Strats, but a well set up Bigsby will always be my preference when it comes to vibratos.
 

logdrum

Member
Messages
2,116
I heard it can be improved. I bough a Japan issue Wilkinson bridge and block based on what folks here said. I also had graphite lubricant. I lubricated the bridge contact points, listened to the Italian guy on you tube on how to float it and it works now and the guitar tone even improved. Maybe some day I'll put in the Wilkinson. This is a 2 screw Fender bridge. I also shortened the arm. I use 3 springs.
 




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