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Tremolo Bridge Electric Guitar Setup

tremolo bridge

 

 

 

As the two big guitar manufactures (Fender & Gibson) are based in America most guitar setup measurements are given in inches rather than in millimeters.

Initial Assessment


  • Clean Guitar
  • String to pitch
  • Check electronics

Block The Tremolo


On this style of guitar with a tremolo. I find the best setup is achieved if the tremolo is ‘blocked’ while the setup is carried out.

Remove the tremolo cover on the back of the guitar. Push a wedge shaped piece of wood between the tremolo block and the routed cavity of the guitar. Adjust the wedge in and out until the back of the tremolo is 3/32″ above the surface of the front of the guitar, for vintage style trems (or 1/8″ for American Standard Trems). The pressure of the tremolo block should hold it firmly in place, if not unscrew the tremolo spring claw a little to increase the pressure of the tremolo block on the wood.

This holds the tremolo in the perfect position while all other adjustments are carried out.

 

Neck Relief


The pull forward on the neck of the guitar is countered by the pull of the truss rod.

All guitars need a slight forward bow (this is called neck relief) to allow for the natural pattern of vibration of a plucked guitar string.

The neck relief is adjusted by tightening or loosening the truss rod nut. Tightening it adds less relief and loosening ads more. These adjustments only require small changes in truss rod nut position 1/8 to 1/4 of a turn. These adjustments should be carried out using the correctly sized and shaped tool (either a truss rod wrench or allen key).

trussrod allen

 

 

 

 

WARNING – please get a good guitar tech to do this for you if you are not confident or if the truss rod nut doesn’t adjust easily and freely, you do not want to break the truss rod or strip the threads.

Gibson, Strat & Tele Style Electric Guitars

Put a capo on the first fret and fret the string at the 17th fret, there should be a small gap between the bottom of the string (which is acting as a straight edge) and the top of the 7th fret.

Electric Guitars; between 0.005″ and 0.012″

Guitar relief

reliefgauge

String Height


Strat & Tele Style Electric Guitars

With capo still on the first fret, the distance between the bottom of the guitars strings and the top of the 17th fret.

Between 3/32″ and 1/8″

string height

 

 

 

Set the height for the 1st and 6th string and then use a radius gauge which matches the radius of your fret board to set the other strings.

saddle allen

Gibson Style Electric Guitars

With capo still on the first fret, the distance between the bottom of the guitars strings and the top of the 12th fret.

Bass string approx. 5/64″

Treble strings approx. 3/64″

Nut Height


Strat & Tele Style Electric Guitars

Use a set of feeler gauges to check the nut height. Measure the distance between the bottom of the string and the top of the first fret

If the nut is too low it will need replacing or shimming (beyond the scope of this guide).

If the nut is too high you will need specialist files and a careful hand to file the nut slots to the correct depth and keep the correct shape.

Remember if you go too far you may need to replace the nut. The special nut files available from Allparts or Stewart-McDonald are expensive so maybe you could get a good guitar tech to do this.

The measurement should be approx. 0.020″

nutgauge

Gibson Style Electric Guitars

Measure the distance between the bottom of the strings and the top of the 1st fret.

Bass string approx. 0.030″

Treble strings approx. 0.015″

Action


The action of a guitar is determined by the interplay of;

  • Neck Relief
  • Nut Height
  • String Height

Use the above advice as guidance but if you change one of the above you may need to change the others to achieve the action and feel for the guitar that you want.

Some fret buzz is acceptable because metal strings on metal frets do make noises.

Action is a personal thing. Players who play with a lot of distortion (gain) a nd want speed may settle for a lower string height and a little more buzz. Plays with a clean sound and lots of bluesy bends may settle for a higher action and less buzz to achieve the tone they are looking for, it’s a personal thing.

Pickup Height


Gibson, Strat & Tele Style Electric Guitars

Fret the last note and measure between the bottom of the strings and the top of the pole pieces of the pickup

Fret the strings at the last fret and use the pickup height adjustment screws to set the pickup height.

Set the pickups too far away and tone will be thin and weak, set them too close and the magnetic pull of the magnets on the strings may affect tuning.

Again trust your ears to produce a good tone and a balanced volume between each pickup.

Bass string approx. 1/8″

Treble strings approx. 3/32″

pickup height

pickup height screw

 

 

 

 

 

 

Set Intonation.


The saddle of each guitar string can be moved backwards (away from the nut) or forwards (towards the nut), this is to correct the length of each string to achieve an instrument which plays in tune along the whole fret board (or as near as possible).

intonation screw

Use a digital guitar tuner and play the open string, then fret the string at the 12th fret and make sure the two notes are in tune with each other. If the fretted note is flat move the saddle forward, if the fretted note is sharp move it back.

Make small adjustments to each string to produce two notes which are in tune with each other.

Un-Block The Tremolo


Don’t forget this step. Turn the guitar over so the tremolo cavity is down and slowly tighten the tremolo spring claw screws. When the wooden block falls out the tremolo springs are set to the perfect tension to balance the pull of the guitar strings. Replace the tremolo cavity cover.

Setup finished, enjoy!

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