Just rambling thoughts about tremoloes.

LesterLester Posts: 1,704Member, Moderator
edited September 2019 in Guitar Chat
I have a growing desire not to be afraid of tremolo arms. Hmmm, lets see what happens - will it abate or grow further?

Comments

  • MegiMegi Posts: 7,191Member
    Just to throw in my 2 pence worth, based I admit only on a little bit of experience, but I feel the doing up a cheap guitar route can only take you so far, and is generally not a sound idea financially. I guess what I'm saying is that they are not worth spending a lot of money on with upgraded parts, because a) there will still be some cheaper aspects you can't improve, and b) you would have been better off taking the whole sum invested, and spending that on a better guitar in the first place.

    But of course that is not to say you can't make good improvements to a starter guitar just by sorting out the setup, oiling the dry fretboard if needed, etc. :) But honestly, I would have thought a player of your experience and level should look a bit higher up on the guitar scale Lester. Like you, I've tended to steer away from tremolo use, but have thought of having one guitar set up with a floating tremolo. I really liked an Ibanez RG370AHMZ I tried the other day in G4M, which had a locking system - not something I would have thought I'd like, but it seemed to be high quality hardware, and worked very well. That guitar was around the £400 ish mark I think, but I suspect in terms of value and playability, a better bet than an upgraded starter guitar.
  • ESBlondeESBlonde Posts: 962Member
    I agree Megi, the cost invested in a starter guitar will never be realised in selling the upgraded guitar. Returning it to original spec and selling the upgrades separately can recover more money, but is a ball ache.
    The true advantage is in developing your skills in amature luthrie. You can cut not slots, level frets and dress the fret ends. Play with the truss rod, shim the neck. Experiment with the trem springs, adjust pickup heights and generally learn a lot while expanding your skills. No one else is likely to pay a premium for all your hard work, but next time you have a quality instrument to work on you are confident of your abilities.
  • JockoJocko Posts: 7,107Member, Moderator
    Starter guitars are great for learning the skills as you can buy a battered Squier for £30, take it entirely to pieces, rebuild it, set it up and if at the end of the day it is bu**ered, you are only £30 down. That is how I started.
    Later I bought one Squier Affinity (£50 including amp, cable, bag, strap, and CD - a beginner bought it and found guitar wasn't as easy as it looked), did a lot of work on it, and passed it on to my Grandson. He reckons it is the best playing and sounding guitar in his collection. It is not worth anything to sell, but he would have to spend at least ten times the original price to replace it.

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  • LesterLester Posts: 1,704Member, Moderator
    edited April 2019
    You don't know how helpful it is to hear all those comments. I can say that you guys have me sussed completely. Here is my situation in pictures:

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    My Strat has an unusual tremolo and was the first guitar I got that had a tremolo on it.

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    Chandlers in Kew, London, sadly no longer there, did some fret dressing and flattened the tremolo to the deck and I have been happy with that for the last 30 years - and will be for the next 30 because so many have commented that that particular tremolo in infamous for breaking strings, a problem I have not encountered.

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    Looking for the tremolo springs - where are they? I unscrewed the pickguard but as the guitar is strung and the pickups and pots are mounted in the pickguard, I couldn't even see inside the guitar. Maybe when I next change strings I will.

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    My only other guitar with a tremolo is my 1991 PRS Custom 24. I hesitate to dive in with such an expensive guitar. Once I know what I am doing this is the guitar I would like to have set up for me to enjoy using a tremolo.

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    The tremolo allows me a half step up and who knows how far down; a minor third is not hard but after that I am unsure whether I am just fighting spring resistance or the mountings or what. I would like to be able to go up a minor third.

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    I guess I could move one spring to the centre and remove one and see what that does. I have no clue, other than to do it with slackened strings, probably.

    Browsing the web, guess what I found? Guitars where the neck doesn't sit in the neck pocket, others where screws have rusty heads, any yet more with visual problems that are not mentioned in the advert. Boy have I become fussy! However, I also found one new guitar - here - that sells for under £100 new and has a Floyd Rose licensed tremolo. I think we know the brand, thanks to Megi.

    I am still musing over the possibilities. A Floyd Rose sounds like a great place to learn about using and adjusting tremoloes. Maybe I'll get over this desire before I buy something. I'll keep you posted.
  • MegiMegi Posts: 7,191Member
    Just to say, despite my past endorsement of a certain brand, I'd be a bit cautious re the guitar you link to Lester - I just find the price a bit too good to be true, and wonder if there might be some kind of issue with the guitar that the seller hopes you will overlook given the low price. I have occasionally checked what the shop in question are up to, and it's been a fair while since they've put up such a "bargain" price, and perhaps they've got to the dodgy end of their stock of that model - just a thought though.
  • LesterLester Posts: 1,704Member, Moderator
    edited April 2019
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    Look at what Richard's Guitars has for sale: a secondhand Jackson JSX-94 for £199. But I don't particularly like black as a colour. Apart from the colour, everything else about the guitar appeals to me, especially a fast, slim neck.

    My wise wife asked whether this could be the guitar I learn about tremoloes on and then we could pass it on to our nephew who has a Strat copy yet he really wants a Jackson. What a brilliant idea ... so I bought it.
  • nicholaspaulnicholaspaul Posts: 989Member
    There really isn’t anything you can mess up on a guitar so badly that you’ll be out of pocket as much as the cost of the guitar. Just about everything can be adjusted and readjusted back again, except for obviously the finish. But that’s just cosmetic anyhow.
    Go for it, have fun!
    I came across Jay Turner a few years ago while in Canada and they were regarded as a good option to Squier, if not better. I would have no qualms living with one, even stock. Great guitars, even.
  • nicholaspaulnicholaspaul Posts: 989Member
    Lester, Lester...whatever you do, do not pickup a screwdriver until you watch this video! Seriously...

    I’ve spent years adjusting trems and resigned myself to thinking I’d have to buy a boutique system to get it to feel right. I watched videos, bought books, nothing worked properly.
    But after watching this video, and spending about the same amount of time with my own trem, I’m happy for the first time! A friend of mine who has had more guitars than I’ve had hot dinners was amazed when he played it. He had no idea that you could actually tune a tremolo.
    Brilliant stuff. I do this to all my trems now and it’s so easy!
  • JockoJocko Posts: 7,107Member, Moderator
    Once I got to grip with the Floyd Rose I found it easy to work with. As a tremolo system it is better than those on the Strat and such. The fact you have to cut the ball end off the strings is a worry and getting the strings to grip was a bit hit or miss. The locking nut and tuning at the bridge takes a bit of getting used to. The number of times I adjusted a tuner before remembering I should have gone to the other end of the string!

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  • LesterLester Posts: 1,704Member, Moderator
    edited April 2019

    There really isn’t anything you can mess up on a guitar so badly that you’ll be out of pocket as much as the cost of the guitar.

    That is pretty much my thinking.

    Go for it, have fun!

    I will!

    Lester, Lester...whatever you do, do not pickup a screwdriver until you watch this video! Seriously...

    That for sure.
    Jocko said:

    Flying V image

    I was starting to look at more extreme applications of Floyd Rose tremoloes and Flying Vs caught my attention. I found a flourescent green one just 20 minutes down the road from me, which would have been great, except it is a hardtail. Pity.
  • LesterLester Posts: 1,704Member, Moderator
    Nicholas, that video you linked to is great. Thanks for posting it. Another of his that is really quite an eye-opener for tremolo users is this one: How to keep your Strat tremolo in tune (below). It certainly showed me that being timid with the tremolo arm is purely down to a lack of confidence.

  • nicholaspaulnicholaspaul Posts: 989Member
    Glad you liked it, Lester. I agree, the fender style trem is meant to be abused! I use mine in anger regularly and never suffer from many tuning problems.
    Sadly I was put off buying one for years when someone in a shop told the impressionable 17 year old me that those trems can’t stay in tune and I should avoid them.
  • LesterLester Posts: 1,704Member, Moderator
    edited March 12
    Let me wind the clock back 11 months to the post a few up this page where I posted the picture of the black Jackson guitar. Richard let me know that there was a stock count error - the Jackson had already been sold. Oh well part 1.

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    Shortly afterwards I found this Ibanez SA260FM from around 2006 and that one I bought and it arrived just before I fell ill so it has sat around for 11 months. It needs a lot of love as it arrived really manky, as if a sweaty person had played in every night in a sweaty bar for a year and never ever cleaned it. Yuk! Also, the pickup selector switch has been removed, but not with a soldering iron but with wire clippers, so I have a fair bit to sort out. It will be an enjoyable project but as I am now looking at replacing the tremolo (which it needs) and the tuners (which don't need replacing but quality locking tuners make a lot of sense), I am unlikely to be able to sell it for the price I will have spent on it and new parts. Oh well part 2.
  • LesterLester Posts: 1,704Member, Moderator
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    Schaller locking tuners are now on the guitar.

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    I have a question, because I have not come across staggered posts before. 3 are a bit taller and 3 a bit shorter. I started with the taller ones for the 3 lowest strings but that meant the 6th string would be held too high. So, I swapped them round and now have the shorter tuners for the lower strings and the taller tuners for the higher, unwound strings. Is there a correct placement for staggered tuners or, like me, do you assess the situation and do what you think will work?
  • JockoJocko Posts: 7,107Member, Moderator
    I was under the impression the shorter the tuner the thinner the string.

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  • LesterLester Posts: 1,704Member, Moderator
    Thank you, that is a useful picture. A friend mentioned to me today that staggered tuners are for guitars where the head doesn't have an angle, just as per your diagram, Jocko. I guess that leaves me free to do what seems best. I think I will try them as I have them and I can always move them around at string change time.
  • JockoJocko Posts: 7,107Member, Moderator
    The idea is they replace string trees on a headstock with no angle,
  • LesterLester Posts: 1,704Member, Moderator
    edited April 1
    Okay, the next thing is the tremolo. I didn't mention it yesterday as this is, for me, a much more major task.

    This the stock Ibanez tremolo. Notice how the tremolo arm sits right next to the top string bridge and is just inside the line for the bolt that sits in the guitar.
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    Here is the replacement Schaller Vintage tremolo. It is a mere 1 gram lighter and is almost identical to the Ibanez tremolo, apart from the location of the tremolo arm which is a tad further away from the top string bridge and is just outside the line of the mounting bolt.
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    What that means is the tremolo arm mount touches the edge of the cavity.
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    I will need to extend the cavity, removing 2 or 3mm of the body, in order for the tremolo to sit squarely on the two mounting posts and the tremolo arm to be able to move without touching the guitar's body.
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    This is a section of a YouTube video where I saw someone with an Ibanez and the same Schaller Vintage tremolo. He showed how much he had cut out to make room.
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    Does anyone here have any experience of the cutting, boring or routing of guitar bodies? This may be the right time for me to buy a router or use a friend's drill stand or to do it slowly and carefully with a file and sandpaper. I have no idea so I am looking for some suggestions.
  • nicholaspaulnicholaspaul Posts: 989Member
    I’ve routed a few guitars in my time. I think a small cut like that would be a lot of work to setup, so you’d be better of using a flat rasp and take it easy. I usually mark off a line to work up to by putting down a piece of masking tape first and drawing on the tape. Or just position the tape where you want to cut up to and use the edge of the tape as your guide. A flat rasp for the straight edge and a rounded one to tidy up the corners would work. I have a rasp that is about 20cm long, 3 cm wide, flat on one side and curved on the other with one end rough and the other end smooth (or not so rough). ive had it for over 25 years and used it on every guitar I’ve build or worked on. Dont know why i felt like sharing that, but I’m just really proud of my rasp!! I also have a round one, about 10mm across, that is really handy for tidying up curved edges.
    Hope this helps. If I’m not making sense (highly likely,) I can draw diagram of it if you like.
  • LesterLester Posts: 1,704Member, Moderator
    Nick, after spending too long today studying routers and Dremels, checking specs and watching videos I came to the same decision you are suggestion as it seems silly to be spending so much on a tool I have never used for a piece 20mm wide by 2 or 3mm deep. As shops are closed, part of the coronavirus lockdown, here I just need to find someone who has a curved file as I only have one flat one. That and sandpaper make take some time but right now I have plenty of spare time. I appreciate your bothering to comment.
  • ESBlondeESBlonde Posts: 962Member
    +1 on the router thoughts. They are quite wonderful, but you do need to fashion a jig to restrict them or they can twist off into parts you don't want. That jig might just be a straight edge clamped atop the body or some such. An alternative would be a nice sharp chisel if you have one and are comfortable using it.
  • JockoJocko Posts: 7,107Member, Moderator
    An option I would consider is a fret saw. Quicker than a file, cheaper than a router.

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  • LesterLester Posts: 1,704Member, Moderator
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    I found the answer by accident: sandpaper. I rolled up a piece like a cinnamon stick or one of my dad's roll your own cigarettes and with plenty of time at home I gently sanded away until I got clearance.

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    One nice thing with sandpaper is that I felt there was no risk of cracking or splitting the finish on the top of the guitar nor the wood. I am feeling quite pleased with myself.

    Next: figuring out how to set up the guitar and the tremolo. Time to watch Nick's suggested video (above) again.
  • nicholaspaulnicholaspaul Posts: 989Member
    What a beautiful job! Very nice! That’s a lovely clean edge.
  • ESBlondeESBlonde Posts: 962Member
    Thats a respectable job irrespective of the tools used. Wee done.
  • LesterLester Posts: 1,704Member, Moderator
    edited April 15
    It seems quiet in the world and also here, so I will ramble on about my slow-burn project.

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    The lesson I wanted, learning about how to set up and thereby gain some confidence in using a tremolo, is almost complete. I didn't realise at the start that the whole tromolo needs to float, just a bit, above the guitar so that when you press down on the tremolo arm, the tilting tremolo does not come into contact with the guitar's body. To achieve that I had to raise the two support/hinge posts.

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    The Ibanez tremolo had two springs, the Schaller tremolo came with three. It feels firm yet stable to me with three, probably akin to moving to a thicker guage of strings. Figuring out how far the two screws on the left should be was all part of tuning the tremolo as per the video above. It was so helpful and concentrating on just the 3rd string got me there so easily.

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    You can see the individual string saddles have almost all been moved back as far as they can travel to correct the intonation. Silly me forgot that I had, a long time ago, adjusted the truss rod to flatten the neck so that I could give it a fret dressing. Once I had sorted out the neck, the tremolo's tension, the intonation and the saddle heights I started feeling better as there was a short time when I thought I had bitten off more than I could chew, with everything needing adjusting. As it is, I am pleased with how it is working, mechanically. I need to polish the frets some more and oil the neck again, which I will do at the next string change. The guitar now plays quite nicely, acoustically.

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    You can choose to laugh with me or at me: I strung the guitar before I set the tremolo tension and the intonation. Of course I had to but I didn't think ahead and so when the saddles needed moving so far to correct the intonation that used up all the available slack in the 6th string and almost all on the 5th and 4th strings. You can see that that means the strings are not in straight lines as they would be if the strings wrapped further around the string post. Oh well, you live and learn but now the guitar is set up I shouldn't repeat this mistake, hopefully.

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    Next, which I will ask for help on later, will be the electrics. The seller gave me a brand new Ibanez 5-way switch and you can see here three red cables that have not been unsoldered but just cut. I need to buy 2 screws (bolts without nuts, actually) to hold the switch in place and to wire it up. After that I should be all set to rock 'n' roll.
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