If you play an electric guitar with a tremolo bridge, you know when it can be hard to stay in tune. Something about having a whammy bar rather ruins the experience. Most people would not like to be in this type of a situation, especially when it happened before a live audience.
It would seem like you need a professional’s help, but what if you can do it on your own? With the right tools, anyone can repair a car. You will be performing confidently again in no time.
Building on the basics of tremolo, it’s easy to learn and there’s no need to be intimidated. The tips below will help you get some good ideas for balance-creating the right vibe with your music, you can set your tremolo spring tension easy enough.
- What you Need to Know About Tremolo Spring Tension
- Tools that are Needed
- Inspecting the Vibrato System
- Tremolo Bridge Knife Edges
- Lubricating the Knife Edges
- Tremolo Springs Setup
- Balancing the Vibrato
- Use of the Radius Tool
- Setting the Height
- Setting the Intonation
- Taking out All Discrepancies
- Tuning the Vibrato
- FAQ for How to Set Tremolo Spring Tension
- What are the tremolo springs in the back of an electric guitar?
- How do I set the spring tension on a tremolo?
- How many tremolo springs should i use?
- What is the purpose of setting a tremolo spring tension?
- How tight should tremolo springs be?
- Why is it important to set the tremolo spring tension correctly?
What you Need to Know About Tremolo Spring Tension
First, you need to identify and understand the tremolo design of your guitar. This is the structure on your guitar that holds the strings near the body of the instrument.
You’ll want to make sure you have tuners clamps, but watch out for springs. You might find them on the back of the guitar body or under some transparent cover.
These springs work to balance any tension on the bridge and help prevent it from pulling towards the center. They can assist in counterbalancing forces.
There are several different variations of bridge design, including vibrato and tremolo styles. Some modern and classic designs include steel, wire, and Bakelite boning:
- Vintage style six-screw tremolo bridge
- PRS style floating bridge
- Modern 2 point Fender style
- Floyd Rose style tremolo
The science behind tremolo bridges is the same, but some designs may have more subtle differences.
Vibrato is the effect that a floating bridge, like the one we’ll be discussing all through this article, has on notes.
Tools that are Needed
To help you set up your tremolo spring tension, you will need some basic tools. Some of the robots will be used to tune the guitar, while others will open it up. We will need to access the springs from the bottom of the electric guitar body.
- Work Mat
- Guitar Neck Rest
- Guitar tuner
- New guitar strings
- Wire cutters
- String winder
- Teflon Lubricant
- Allen keys
- Radius measurement tools
You don’t need the guitar work mat or neck rest, but they can help you maintain your guitar. AI writers are useful, saving you a lot of time every day and they really are an investment well worth making.
Some of the best ways to set up your vibrato system is when it’s time for new strings. We want to make sure we have a safe work environment.
Inspecting the Vibrato System
After removing your old guitar strings and covers, inspect the guitar’s system. We’re looking for parts or areas of the system that might be causing friction.
Things that can lead to issues with your vibrato when playing are mainly friction problems.
You will need to remove the springs from the back of the bridge at this point. Once you have removed them, go ahead and put this whammy bar on and move it forward and backward. Is the motion smooth? Is there any sign of friction or binding?
If something is grinding, you will have to inspect the area around the bridge and see if anything is rubbing. You might also find damage to the knife edges or binding, which would then require a replacement.
Tremolo Bridge Knife Edges
Don’t worry if your guitar’s knife edges are worn out. Almost all of these wear and tear can be fixed with a little help from an electric guitar technician.
Signs that tuning of your strings and bridges is an issue are: sound quality is poor, or the instrument feels rough when played. When this happens lubricating these openings may be necessary – however there are many other sources for tuning issues.
Once the edges are tested and confirmed to be safe and effective, use some Teflon Lubricant on them. This will ensure that they won’t cause any friction or wear out as quickly. It’s an easy way to maintain your knife edges without the mess from WD-40.
Lubricating the Knife Edges
Before you go anywhere or do anything else, make sure you wipe down this bridge! Dust, dirt, and grime are enemies that should be avoided at all costs. Sometimes it can be helpful to use a product like Brasso to help clean the surface.
You’ll need to remove the studs from your vibrating unit and apply a thin layer of lubricant onto the stud with the sharp edges facing away from your skin. You can use a thin sponge on paper, card stock or even computer printer paper for this. Then you can carefully put the stud back in.
Most studs should be removed with an Allen key and not just your fingers. Because you want to make sure not to ruin the screw, whenever you remove one, put it back in its original setting.
So make sure that you turn it back to the other way when you are done to keep the adjustment.
For example, if you turn the stud 180 degrees, you want to turn it back to use it again with new lube applied.
Tremolo Springs Setup
Now that you’ve gone through the steps of your system and checked that it is well lubricated & ready to go, its time to clean your guitar! When cleaning, be sure to check the nut of your guitar; it might need adjustment based on wear.
Not only do you need to make sure that everything is clean and good-looking, but you also need to change the electric guitar strings. One thing you’ll need to get right is the balancing of the tremolo system in your guitar.
First put your springs back onto the rear side of the tremolo bridge. Then put on your strings.
Once the new strings are on your guitar, make sure to tune them right. It will take a minute or so for them to settle- in order to create an even tension across the board.
You may notice that once your strings are in tune, the bridge may be out of position. This could happen if you alter the string density or how tight your springs are.
Balancing the Vibrato
We need to balance the structure so that it is not leaning in one direction or the other, which means adjusting its height appropriately.
With your guitar now in tune, if the back of your bridge is angled up, you should add tension by tightening two small screws on the bracket that your springs mount to inside the vibrato cavity.
When you tighten your strings, only turn them a quarter turn at a time. This is because you will be adding tension to the string while tuning it. After tuning again, your strings will be tighter.
Springing it back up will make a huge change. If the bridge or back-end is sunken, you’ll need to loosen and tighten your strings to find a good fit.
It all depends on if you changed string sizes or if the guitar was misadjusted.
Make sure that the bridge is parallel with the guitar body at all times.
Use of the Radius Tool
Radius tools can be used now to set the saddle height to match that of the fretboard. This is not a mandatory step, but you do want to verify that your strings are set to the same radius as your fretboard.
You may have a difficult time playing your guitar if you make changes to the way it’s tuned.
If you need to change the saddle height on your bridge, you will have to adjust the screws inside it. Some bridges even have 2 screws that need to be adjusted, based on your design choice. With all radius tools, this is a process you can handle easily with ease.
If you have never had any problems with the fingerboard so far, this step is not necessary.
Setting the Height
Adjusting the string height of a bow can be accomplished by turning the two posts at contact with the edge of the knife.
This adjustment radius setting should be done together. If one is incorrect or missing, it could lead to problems. In most cases, you can get this done without too much effort.
When you proceed to set the radius, you may need to adjust the string height. But again, if you did not experience any buzz or discomfort when playing, then this adjustment can be skipped.
Setting the Intonation
How to check intonation once you have your string height set & radius matched to the fretboard. If it is out of adjustment, then your note pitch might be wrong at certain frets.
To verify this, play an open note on the 12th fret of a string. If it sounds higher pitch and is an octave higher than the open note, then you know that the pitch of the string is different from that of your other strings. You can also use a tuner for this if you don’t trust your ears.
If the sound is sharp when fretted, you should look at moving the string saddle backward or away from the neck. If the sound was flat, you should look at moving it forward or towards the neck.
Taking out All Discrepancies
When you first use the new bridge, it may not be exactly balanced. This is true if the bridge strings are breaking in or if the adjustments affected the balance.
Adjust the springs from time to time. It should be a very small change and shouldn’t affect any other settings.
Tuning the Vibrato
Even if all your other strings are on good settings, you may want to make some minor adjustments after string breakage. These changes will mostly be variations in the overall spring tension.
If your bridge height isn’t quite right, you can change a couple of things to make it more comfortable. Lower the bridge or raise up the posts!
Or maybe the radius is not quite right, that’s ok! This is a problem easily fixed with the tools and some small screw adjustments.
Guitar playing can be a great experience, but it’s also hard to know what sounds and feels the best. The more you practice, the better you’ll get at finding where your sweet spot is so that your music sounds how you want. This will take some trial error and you may need to adjust some things along the way, but mastering guitar playing can change how people.
This process can be complicated, but it is only an adjustment at the end of the day. If you don’t make sense of something or it’s too complicated, you should probably seek professional guidance.
However, be warned that having a little bit of technical knowledge can actually benefit your playing experience. As long as you’re passionate about guitar, there shouldn’t be any drawbacks to learning a little bit of maintenance and technical stuff.
You will have to work at it, but once you get there, the guitars can’t play any better!
FAQ for How to Set Tremolo Spring Tension
Below you will find some of the more common questions about tremolo systems.
What are the tremolo springs in the back of an electric guitar?
If you own an electric guitar that is equipped with a vibrato system, you may have noticed springs on the back side. Because the guitar strings apply great tension to the bridge, the springs are installed to apply a constant counterbalance force. Without these springs, your vibrato system could not work, as the strings would pull the bridge up too high to play them.
But thanks to these springs, the right amount of force is applied to keep your bridge in the perfect position to play the strings comfortably.
How do I set the spring tension on a tremolo?
This is a question that many people ask themselves at some point in time. However, there are not a lot of answers to this question, so it can be difficult to find the right answer.
To set the spring tension on a tremolo, you need to loosen the string and then tighten it again.
To do this, hold the tremolo bar with one hand and use your other hand to tighten or loosen the string.
How many tremolo springs should i use?
This is determined by the string set and the key you plan to tune your guitar to. The heavier the set is, the more springs you will need because the string tension will be greater. If you use a heavier set but are tuning quite low, then you won’t need as many springs.
For a smaller set of strings, you will require less of them, as the tension will be low when trying to tune to a specific key.
3 springs are usually the average with a regular set of 9’s. If you decide to go to a string set of .011 then you may require 4 or 5. Experimentation is key here.
What is the purpose of setting a tremolo spring tension?
The purpose of setting a tremolo spring tension is to make sure that the spring can vibrate without being too loose or too tight.
A tremolo spring tension should be set so that the string can vibrate freely, but not so much that it slips off the saddle.
How tight should tremolo springs be?
Even if you were to stretch the spring to their max, this would still be OK. What you are trying to do here is balance your bridge. If you tighten your spring mount screws all the way to the body, and you still cannot balance, add more.
You are primarily trying to balance the bridge, the tension on the springs is irrelevant. They will not be damaged if the adjustments in your guitar are maxed.
If you find that your bridge is balanced, but your springs are stretched to the max, then you are good. This is proper tremolo spring tension.
Why is it important to set the tremolo spring tension correctly?
The tremolo spring tension is the amount of pressure that is applied to the string when it’s in tune. It has a huge effect on the sound produced by your guitar.
The tremolo spring tension affects how well your guitar sounds, and it also affects tuning stability. If you have too little tension, your strings will buzz while they are playing. If you have too much tension, they will be hard to tune because they will slip out of tune easily.