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Blocking Trem on Strat-why?

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(@roundi)
Trusted Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 98
Topic starter  

Ok, I have a HWY 1 strat. I don't use the Trem so I just don't bother to put the bar on the guitar. I do put a sticker over the hole because the salesman who sold me the guitar said there was a spring in there that can fall out. I went through my sons sticker selection and chose a nice little spiderman sticker. It seems to work well.

Anyway is there a significant benifit to blocking the trem or adding more springs (currently there is three)? I wold hate to miss out on some great trem blocking benifit after all. Also is there a little spring in that hole?


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(@katmetal)
Honorable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 727
 

Players block the trem in order to keep it stable during playing, if you are not going to use the trem bar. I am not real familiar with strat trems, since I usually play guitars w/ floyds on them, but I am not aware of any small spring in there that can fall out.

EDIT: - Just did some reading on this, apparently there is a small spring in that hole to apply pressure on the arm when you thread it in...ny mistake.


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(@gnease)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 5058
 

floating trem guitars also suffer from "trem-gargle." to hear it, grab the B string, pull it and inch away from the guitar and let is go. hear the waver in the note? that's the trem oscillating back and forth. it's exaggerated in this case, but as you develop your ear, you will notice it on the more strongly accented/louder notes.

other floating trem issues:

* bending one note (string) in a chord or interval will affect the pitch of all the other notes (bent note goes higher, others go lower)

* if you break a string on a floating-trem guitar, the remaining strings will go out of tune -- badly.

in addition, having a floating trem -- even if you don't use it -- imparts certain timbral characteristics to the guitar. some like it (witness Jaguar and Jazzmaster aficionados), some do not. common wisdom is that blocking the trem will tighten up the tone and increase sustain. YMMV.

-=tension & release=-


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(@mark-taylor)
Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 111
 

Depending on type of trem, there are 2 things that can be gained. Adding strings will insure that the guitar will stay in tune easier. If you full out block or insert a device to stop the tremolo from functioning, you can gain some incredible sustain as the trem is now in full contact with the body of the guitar. I have did this to 2 of my strat copies since I don't like a tremolo. Really helps it to stay in tune and can use a heavier string this way also.

You can ride a Yamaha, or play a Yamaha, it is up to you.


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(@roundi)
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Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 98
Topic starter  

I have been googling this and it seems to relate a little to another observation I have about my guitar. The slot in the little plastic cover on the back does not line up withe the trem block and I need to take the plastic cover off to change the strings. I usually just leave it off.

Having taken it off I observed that the trem block is pulled forward by the springs until it contacts the body of the guitar. Is this where it is supposed to be?
I have looked at other strats and the trem blocks line up perfectly with that slot in the back cover. I had previously assumed the cover was screwed on incorrectly.

How difficult is blocking the trem?

The guitar seems to stay in tune quite well but I do sometimes find it a little too bright but I credited this as being a strat trait and I am learning to adjust the tone on the guitar and amp to deal with it. I suspect this is mostly a problem with the guitarist not the guitar.


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(@jeffster1)
Estimable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 231
 

It's a very common myth that blocking a trem will increase sustain. At least on newer guitars (I'm not that sure about older ones) the trem is designed to increase sustain, and a guitar designed this way will actually lose sustain if you block the trem.

I know this not only from reading, but from experience on a couple of different guitars.

Edit: This isn't to say that guitars with tremolos have better sustain than fixed bridge guitars, they generally don't, but if the guitar is designed with a trem, typically blocking it will hurt sustain rather than help it.


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(@gnease)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 5058
 

I have been googling this and it seems to relate a little to another observation I have about my guitar. The slot in the little plastic cover on the back does not line up withe the trem block and I need to take the plastic cover off to change the strings. I usually just leave it off.

Having taken it off I observed that the trem block is pulled forward by the springs until it contacts the body of the guitar. Is this where it is supposed to be?
I have looked at other strats and the trem blocks line up perfectly with that slot in the back cover. I had previously assumed the cover was screwed on incorrectly.

How difficult is blocking the trem?

The guitar seems to stay in tune quite well but I do sometimes find it a little too bright but I credited this as being a strat trait and I am learning to adjust the tone on the guitar and amp to deal with it. I suspect this is mostly a problem with the guitarist not the guitar.

really depends on which type trem. an older "vintage" style strat set up to float will probably have the misalignment you describe, as it was not originally supposed to float. but bend-down-only vintage style or two-point floating or six screw :modern" (Squier and some others) made to float should have the string replacement holes line up with the inertia block (part of trem). yours is probably one of the latter, and that means your bridge plate is not properly angled under properly tuned string tension. it may also mean your intonation is off. (high frets out of tune?) For a two-point floating trem, the bridge plate should float parallel to the guitar body, and the inertia block will be roughly centered in its body cavity. if this is not the case, your strat needs a set up for the trem and intonation. you should either buy one of the Dan Erlewine books on guitar repair and set-up (Guitar Player publications) book and learn to do this or take it to a good tech.

-=tension & release=-


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(@u2bono269)
Noble Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 1188
 

I do this on my Strat. First, I installed 2 extra springs. I'm not sure why...some part of mind thinks it adds to the tone but I'd be hard-pressed to prove it. Then, I do block off the trem. I made a little block of wood in a wedge shape. I did this because even with 5 springs and the trem claw in as far as it could go, my .12 strings pulled the bridge up too far. so I blocked it. I don't use it...I'd only ever use a bigsby. i like those. shame i dont have one.

I also leave my back plate off. It got on my nerves. I've read Eric Johnson claims this improves tone. any idea why?

http://www.brianbetteridge.com


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(@roundi)
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Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 98
Topic starter  

Thanks for all the input guys I appreciate it!

I just checked the specs on the fender site and it lists the bridge as "Vintage Style Synchronized Tremolo"

Pardon my ignorance but does this mean it should NOT be aligned with the backplate and is the bend down only type. I have not used it much but it does only seem to bend down and doesn't seem to move if I pull up. The intonation does not seem to be off either. When I plug in the tuner and check the strings at the 12th fret the little green light is on and the needle is just a little above the center.

Gnease: Thankd for the book recomendation I will pick it up


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(@trguitar)
Famed Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 3711
 

Small spring in there? Really? Wonder if mine fell out? I have 2 guitars with trems, and don't use the trems on them. One is a MIM Strat. I have 5 springs in it and they are tight, the trem sits flat to the body. The other doesn't have the extra springs but I got that tight to the body as well. I don't see a need to block them. I think the springs add an intrinsic reverb to the sound of the guitar. Kind of like it. :?

"Work hard, rock hard, eat hard, sleep hard,
grow big, wear glasses if you need 'em."
-- The Webb Wilder Credo --


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(@gnease)
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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 5058
 

Thanks for all the input guys I appreciate it!

I just checked the specs on the fender site and it lists the bridge as "Vintage Style Synchronized Tremolo"

Pardon my ignorance but does this mean it should NOT be aligned with the backplate and is the bend down only type. I have not used it much but it does only seem to bend down and doesn't seem to move if I pull up. The intonation does not seem to be off either. When I plug in the tuner and check the strings at the 12th fret the little green light is on and the needle is just a little above the center.

Gnease: Thankd for the book recomendation I will pick it up

not a problem if it's vintage sychno. that is bend-down only, and everything is as it should be. completely agree with TR (except for the imaginary reverb on a down only trem ): you really do not need to block this trem. just tighten the springs (screw spring claw further into wood) to make sure the bridge is firmly pulled to the body. you could also add a spring to do the same thing (a la TR's rec).

as for the hole misalignment: annoying but not fatal. sounds as if Fender got a bit lazy on that. if you bend down, they probably align -- 'course that does not help you much (no arm). you could have the holes/slots lengthened.

TR: the little spring in the arm hole was added after Fender realized players were putting retractable pen springs in the hole to keep the arm from dangling freely.

-=tension & release=-


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(@roundi)
Trusted Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 98
Topic starter  

Well I guess the easiest fix is just to leave the back plate off. I may also buy additional springs but I don't think t is moving when I do bends. That will be tonights experiment.


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(@citizennoir)
Noble Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 1248
 

It's a very common myth that blocking a trem will increase sustain. At least on newer guitars (I'm not that sure about older ones) the trem is designed to increase sustain, and a guitar designed this way will actually lose sustain if you block the trem.

I know this not only from reading, but from experience on a couple of different guitars.

Hi Jeff.

I'd be interested to know more about your sources for this as well as your personal experience.
Are you talking about Fender Strats, and the stock Fender trems specifically?

On the newer Strats, I can assure you that the trem was not designed to increase sustain or resonance....
At least on ones made from 1988 - 2007 (and I mean MIA's).
In 2008, Fender finally addressed the Strat bridge/trem block/bridge saddle problem and they now come with a much better system.

Replacing the thin, stock, cast inertia block with a much thicker/heavier one will increase sustain and resonance.
Properly blocking it off will add to that by creating better transfer to the body.
Removing the paint from the block area will furthur increases.

Ken

"The man who has begun to live more seriously within
begins to live more simply without"
-Ernest Hemingway

"A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"
-Orson Welles


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(@jeffster1)
Estimable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 231
 

I don't have my bookmarks here at work, but I will take a look when I get home, it's been awhile since I read about trem blocking. The reason I started reading about it was I blocked my Fender American Deluxe fat strat and my Ibanez S series (ZR trem). I had a local tech do it, so your results may vary. As far as I could tell, the strat stayed about the same, neither gaining, nor losing sustain. The Ibanez clearly lost some sustain. Not a lot, but enough to notice. I ruled out setup/action issues as best I could. I then read up on it and found a lot of information about the myth of blocking before removing the blocking.

Back then I wasn't at the same experience level as I am now, so there is a chance I may have just had a bad tech and couldn't fix it myself, but I really did find a lot of evidence on the web to indicate blocking newer trems wouldn't help sustain and might hurt it. If I remember correctly, mostly for the ZR trem.


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(@citizennoir)
Noble Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 1248
 

Hey Jeff,
Thankx for the reply.

Yeah, I'm sure any newer style floating trem system is designed to work much better than the Strats'.
I would also have to say that the newer systems are based on the basic design that Fender came up with for the Strat,
only, they have all the flaws in that system to use as a 'what not to do' blueprint

While Fender on the other hand, faced with keeping the Strat the iconic archtype that it is, has it's hands tied
when it comes to 'improvements'.
So, in reality - us Strat lovers are forced to accept a design that hasn't changed much since 1954.

And, unfortunately, they haven't always made 'improvements' over time.
From 54 - mid year 71, Strats had a wonderful bridge/inertia block/saddle system.
From 71 - 07 - a rotten set up.

I would say that maybe there isn't much of an actual gain in tonality when blocking off one of the thin cast inertia systems.
They just dont have good physical properties to begin with.
It would be like trying to get the newer style saddles to sound as good as stamped steel ones.... just ain't gunna happen.
I mean, you've got to have something to work with in the first place.

Blocking off the cast block trem would give you more stability and stuff like that.... for a tone improvement,
I would get a thicker steel block though, to start out with.

Ken

"The man who has begun to live more seriously within
begins to live more simply without"
-Ernest Hemingway

"A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"
-Orson Welles


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