Electric Guitar Tremolo Springs
Electric guitar tremolo springs setup is something I've neglected to pay much attention too until recently. Though not a big Tremolo user, I have been playing some tunes that require some vibrato.
Most of my Fender and generic strats are set up with four or five springs, clamped down tight so the block is up against the body. Whenever I need to use the vibrato arm it's always quite a chore to get it moving, and once it moves it's hard to control due to the tension I have on the springs, along with the number of them.
As someone who appreciates Jeff Beck, and his amazing use of the tremolo arm, volume and tone controls, and picking strings, all at the same time, I did a little reading up on his technique. It seems that Jeff rarely uses more than two springs, and sometimes one. He creates a delicate balance between the tension the strings exert, versus the counterbalance needed by the strings to keep the bridge plate level with the body. In doing this very little force is needed to move the tremolo, providing much better control over the initial movement of the arm, and wanted vibrato action once the arm is in motion.
I recently built some of my own Fender Sustain Blocks , and as you can see from the photo here I've employed two springs, stretched quite a bit admittedly. The block is tight to the body the way I like it, but the action is much easier when using the tremolo arm. So here's what I've learned, and I hope it helps some of you out.
Use the least amount of springs you can get away with. I play heavy strings so I'm never going to get away with one, and will probably stick with three as a rule. Having less springs, and stretching them, or tensioning them more, will result in an easier moving tremolo. As opposed to more guitar tremolo springs, under less tension. If you like a heavy feel, and only use your tremolo for dive bombs then spring count probably doesn't matter. But if you're looking to do quick, high frequency vibrato with a light touch, then achieving that "Jeff Beck Balance" is probably in your best interest by using less springs. Also keep in mind that if you're playing a strat with a threaded tremolo arm, there are some intrinsic design problems with that arm, and heavy tension will wear out the tremolo arm threads much quicker than a lighter tension. Thanks for reading, and as always, your questions and comments are appreciated. J.B. 4-7-11
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