#1
Hi, I just got a used Fender Mexican Standard from eBay, and I don't like the way it was set up. Maybe I shouldn't have read "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," but I really want to learn how to set up and maintain my guitar myself. So, any tips, tricks, and useful resources you experienced guys want to share?

To start with, these are my particular issues:

  • The string tree is screwed all the way down to the wood, which noticeably pulls on the 2 highest strings. In particular, when looking across the guitar neck, the high E string is at least a full millimeter lower than the rest of the strings near the lower frets. I believe this is what is causing some minor buzz. Should I raise the string tree until it isn't pulling on the strings so much, or should I remove the string tree altogether?


  • The tremolo is currently set tight. Like, really, really tight. I guess this was done to give the guitar greater tuning stability? How should I go about changing this so that I can use my whammy bar to greater effect?


I'm also thinking about upgrading a few parts on my guitar, particularly the vintage style 6 screw tremolo bridge, and possibly the nut. My primary goal is to improve tuning stability as much as possible while playing (which is why, at this point, I'm not really interested in upgrading the pots and pickups). What would you guys recommend?

I'm particularly interested in how difficult it would be to upgrade each item. Like, for example, how would I go about removing the old nut without damaging the neck? If changing the nut requires any kind of damaging modification or is too difficult for a beginner, I'd prefer to leave the one already installed as-is. Also, I don't want to do any re-drilling or make any modification to my Fender MIM standard that can't be undone.

Thanks!

EDIT: Sorry, I intended to post this in the "Gear Building and Customizing" forum. Is there a mod that would like to move this for me? Thanks!
Last edited by GeetarGal at Feb 25, 2014,
#2
Check out the 3rd sticky in the Electric Guitar forum. That's what I used to learn how to setup my guitars.
Guitars:
Ibanez RG1570 Prestige
Jackson Kelly KE3 - MIJ (Distortion/Jazz)
Jackson DKMGT Dinky (EMG 81/85)
ESP E-II Eclipse Custom (JB/'59)
ESP LTD EC-1001FR (EMG 81/60)
Fender MIM Strat

Amps:
Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier Roadster 212
Laney IronHeart IRT-Studio
Peavey Vypyr 30
Peavey ReValver Amp Sims
TOOOO many T.C. Electronic Pedals. . .
#3
Quote by metalmingee
Check out the 3rd sticky in the Electric Guitar forum. That's what I used to learn how to setup my guitars.


While the sticky guide is very useful, I didn't notice it discussing proper height of a string tree.

Similarly, the guide went into great detail about how to block a tremolo bridge, but I'm primarily interested in tips for loosening and balancing my too tight tremolo so that I can use it with the whammy bar.

I didn't read past the first page, though, so if I missed something in later parts of the thread, please let me know.
#4
The string tree needs to be screwed all the way down. It is very unlikely that the tree is what is causing string buzz, because the nut will dictate the string height rather than the string tree. If the nut slot is cut too low it could cause that issue. But the string tree only serves to lower the string height after the nut. Unscrewing the string tree will cause the tree itself to buzz or wobble and possibly pull out of the headstock. If you want to try the alternative you can simply not use the string tree for that one string, but you will probably notice a loss of sustain as the string loses tension against the nut.

There are several adjustments for the tremolo:
  • There are the six screws that serve as the fulcrum and affix the unit to the top of the guitar. If these are screwed down too tightly the trem will be difficult to move. They can be loosened somewhat but too loose and they will become sloppy and tuning stability and trem reset (trem returning to proper pitch when released) will suffer.
  • The springs in the back of the guitar. These offset the tension of the strings, so using more springs will make for a stiffer trem feel. The number of springs you use often depends on the gauge of string you use. Most people will use three or perhaps four springs.
  • The 'claw' is the unit that holds the ends of the springs, and has two screws that hold it to the back of the guitar. They need to be evenly tightened or loosened to prevent lateral motion of the trem. Tightening them too close will mean the springs will be stretched out too far at rest, and it will be hard to initiate movement of the bar. Too loose and the trem will pull up off of the body, which will decrease tuning stability especially when bending strings or returning the bar.
  • One other thing to consider is if you want to set the trem up to "float" which is where the unit lifts slightly off the body which lets you pull up on the bar a little bit to raise the pitch in addition to the usual lowering by pushing the bar.
#5
Thanks for the reply. You have given me a lot of useful information that'll help me move forward.

Quote by Roc8995
The string tree needs to be screwed all the way down. It is very unlikely that the tree is what is causing string buzz, because the nut will dictate the string height rather than the string tree. If the nut slot is cut too low it could cause that issue. But the string tree only serves to lower the string height after the nut. Unscrewing the string tree will cause the tree itself to buzz or wobble and possibly pull out of the headstock. If you want to try the alternative you can simply not use the string tree for that one string, but you will probably notice a loss of sustain as the string loses tension against the nut.


Hmm, so it's probably the nut and not the string tree causing the fret buzz. That's good to know. However, as low as the string tree is, it's still really pulling on the strings. Sometimes when I'm playing, I can hear that 'plink plink' sound that is the string repositioning itself after being bound up in the string tree. If raising the string tree isn't the answer, is there some way to improve tuning stability while still maintaining sustain?

Thanks!
#6
Hey!

If you've got any questions beyond this thread, definitely feel free to check out the Setup thread. Jen and I both watch it daily, and we're both 'Strat' people.

I don't believe that if you want tuning stability on a floating trem, the 6 screw would be the way to go. In fact, out of the billion-and-a-half Strats I've owned, the only ones I've ever left on a float reliable were 2-point Trems and G&L DFV's. If you want to have a more fluid use of your tremolo, I would make sure of a couple things (everyone else is using bullets, so I will, too):

  • Make sure you're using 3 tremolo screws in the back cavity. For the best result on a fluid, 'surf rock' tremolo action, make sure the outside springs are on the outside claws, and the middle spring in line in the middle. The more springs, the more tension. The more tension, the more pronounced the trem sound. 3 springs = Surf Rock. 4-5 springs = Hendrix.
  • Angle your claw in the back slightly. If you're using a .009-.042 set of strings, or .010-.046 normal gauges, about a 20degree angle with the claw on the bass strings tightened further usually is good. I do this on my guitars I intend to play in my rockabilly/jazz outfit with. The reason is that your bass strings have more tension, so if you add more onto those springs, when you lift the trem, the whole trem plate will lift evenly.
  • A good thing to remember about floating your strat trem, is you won't be able to do double-stop bends as well, since bending one note puts the rest out of tune.
  • And yes, slamming the bridge against the body will help increase sustain, and dramatically increase your tuning stability. If it's a guitar I plan to leave in a float, I almost always change nut to graphtech, an get locking or vintage style tuners.
  • A new nut is always a good upgrade on Strats to help with that trem.



Maybe one day I'll write up a thread on my head-to-toe Strat setups. Colin, next time you're in the shop, check out the blue used MIA Strat and the American Deluxe. I've tried a couple 'secret moves' on setting those up, lemme know if it works. The Standard is slammed and the Deluxe is a float. I need second opinions from a guitar player.
#7
Quote by GeetarGal
Thanks for the reply. You have given me a lot of useful information that'll help me move forward.


Hmm, so it's probably the nut and not the string tree causing the fret buzz. That's good to know. However, as low as the string tree is, it's still really pulling on the strings. Sometimes when I'm playing, I can hear that 'plink plink' sound that is the string repositioning itself after being bound up in the string tree. If raising the string tree isn't the answer, is there some way to improve tuning stability while still maintaining sustain?

Thanks!

If the string is getting bound up in the tree, you can sometimes lubricate the underside with some graphite (just rub a pencil on it, really). The MIM trees are kind of crappy though so maybe you've got a burr on it or it's just a rough cast. New trees are cheap and you can get the nice MIA style that have a rounded underside. Those shouldn't bind at all, and let the string glide much more smoothly especially when using the trem.

Quote by JustRooster
Maybe one day I'll write up a thread on my head-to-toe Strat setups. Colin, next time you're in the shop, check out the blue used MIA Strat and the American Deluxe. I've tried a couple 'secret moves' on setting those up, lemme know if it works. The Standard is slammed and the Deluxe is a float. I need second opinions from a guitar player.

Are you going to be in weekday evenings or this weekend? Let me know when you'll be there and I'll stop by.
#8
This and this should help you out. The tuning stabilty is sooo amazing with this method. It also helps if you grind up some pencil lead and put it in the nut and saddles where the string contacts, also the string tree and it will be stupid stable... Have fun with your strat!

Source: I also have a MIM stratocaster and I approve this message

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmW0qT5UeKs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0Oyc6slYRc