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Tremolo Preference

Posted: Wed Aug 16, 2017 12:12 pm
by Gordon Bellerose
I want to take a poll of the members as to what kind of tremolo, if any, they prefer.
As someone who does repairs on a lot of different guitars, I may have a bit of a different point of view than people who simply play guitar.
I know that younger players will most likely prefer a Floyd Rose or similar locking type, and older players perhaps something else.
Musical styles will also play into this.

As there are many types of tremolos available, I have to limit the choices somewhat, but we can probably break it down to three different classes.
In no particular order these would be the choices.

The first would be the Floyd Rose, or copy of.

The second would be a Strat type, or similar.

Thirdly would be the Bigsby.

If you care to respond, please give your preference, and the reasons behind your choice.

Re: Tremolo Preference

Posted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 2:09 am
by Bill Raymond
Gordon, although commonly referred to as "tremelo" these devices are, in fact, vibratos. My preference is for the Bigsby, as I prefer the subtle, judicious use of vibrato since I grew up listening to Chet.

Re: Tremolo Preference

Posted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 3:16 am
by David Stelter
I really like the trem in my MusicMan John Petrucci, it's smooth and stable. That and the Hipshot contour I have in a guitar I made. Both have all the range I need. Out of the poll options, I guess these are somewhere between the Strat type and Floyd Rose as they're both two-contact fulcrum trems with posts but much simpler than a Floyd. I also liked a Khaler I had years ago, that's kind of an evolved Bigsby I suppose. I always found the Floyd to be too fiddly and more likely to have tuning issues than these others, but I'll admit most of my experience with those is pretty old and predates me knowing how to set up a guitar properly. Also was mostly licensed hardware on cheaper guitars.

Re: Tremolo Preference

Posted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 11:16 am
by Barry Daniels
As a repairman, I hate having to work on a Floyd Rose. And that knife edge fulcrum can wear pretty quickly. I saw a modern adaption of this type of bridge on a guitar in the store the other day, that replaced the knife edge with a full bearing and shaft pivot. It also had a quick adjust nut on the spring tension on the back of the guitar. As a side note, this solid body was only about 3/4" thick. I was impressed.

Re: Tremolo Preference

Posted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 3:17 pm
by David King
Not to change the subject, Hipshot Products makes a respectable vibrato.
Stetsbar vibratos were also popular for a little while but that seems to have passed.
I've long heard that the Skyway vibrato was the ultimate for tone but I find no trace of the maker so he may have moved on to greener pastures.
I have no opinion on the three under current consideration other than that they all sort of work in a kind of a way as A.A. Milne would say.

Re: Tremolo Preference

Posted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 3:31 pm
by Freeman Keller
I was recently asked to route and mount a Kahler tremolo for a customer and came away totally impressed. The vibrato action is a very clever cam rotating on a shaft, and you can easily adjust the amount of travel (dive and stretch) relative to string tension. The particular guitar was short scale, he down tuned and used light strings so the tension is pretty low, but it was easy to set up.

In addition the basic action setup allows for individual string height, string spacing and intonation and uses roller saddles. I don't think I've ever seen a bridge adjustable for spacing - pretty elegant. One little setscrew blocks or unblocks it. They are expensive but come in a variety of different mounts (including one for ToM studs which I haven't tried). I talked with someone at the factory, he said they even have versions for multi scale guitars. Straightforward route, no back access needed


For a jazz guitar I still prefer a Bigsby with a roller bridge


Re: Tremolo Preference

Posted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 7:08 pm
by Gordon Bellerose
Thanks for the input guys!
One of the reasons I am asking, is that I have a couple of B-5 Bigsby's that I would like to mount on solid body guitars.
A couple of other players I asked about the Bigsby said that some of the disadvantages are that the handle doesn't detach, and they are hard to get into a case.
I do not have to use the Bigsby, as I can simply install a tail piece, but I have them and want to use them.

Nice guitar by the way Freeman! Is it one of your builds?

Like Barry, I do not care for a Floyd Rose. Too finicky and hard to work with.
The Bigsby is practically bulletproof.

Re: Tremolo Preference

Posted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 9:55 pm
by Freeman Keller
Gordon Bellerose wrote: Nice guitar by the way Freeman! Is it one of your builds?
Thank you. The green and black one is a Warmoth Jag-stang, I just mounted the bridge and set it up. The red one is something I built for a local jazz player - he requested the B7 and makes very good use of it.

As an engineer I'm offended by both the Floyd and the standard Strat vibratos, as a player I don't need one period. But if I was going to put a trem in a solid body today it would be a Kahler. I forgot to mention in the last post that it also has a pretty good fine tuner built into the bridge so it works easily with a locking nut. If you set it up right you can tune almost a complete semi tone either way. Also (am I starting to sound like I own the company?) - the way the string ball drops into a little pocket is pretty cool - no threading from the back. I had to take the neck of the Jagstang a couple of times to get the relief correct (don't ask my opinion of adjust at the heel truss rods) - it was easy to loosen the strings but keep them wrapped at the tuners.

Re: Tremolo Preference

Posted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 3:17 pm
by David King
In my limited experience the quality control at Kahler hasn't always been the best. The company has gone through several iterations and maybe everything has been ironed out now.

Re: Tremolo Preference

Posted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 4:58 pm
by Randolph Rhett
I have only owned one guitar with a tremelo, and I hated it. I have never since had one or made one with a tremelo.

Re: Tremolo Preference

Posted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 5:20 pm
by Gordon Bellerose
I completely understand Randolph.
I am in the same boat. I don't really like a Vibrato, :lol: so I do not use them.

I have seen players who are very good with them, and they can be a beautiful thing.

Re: Tremolo Preference

Posted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 8:40 pm
by Jonathan Griffin
The Floyd Rose is my favorite. They stay in tune if they are installed and set up properly.

I like Kahler's but they never stayed in tune for me as well as a Floyd. Most of them use a normal nut, with a string lock behind it. Once you adjust the nut, you may as well have a nice 2 point vibrato and nice tuning machines instead of the Kahler. They do sell true locking nuts like the Floyd Rose nut and they also sell or sold a vibrato that outperforms the Floyd called "The Killer". That vibrato is like a Floyd Rose, but completely adjustable.

As a technician, I prefer to work on Fender, Bigsby and their variants. They are way easier to deal with. :D

Re: Tremolo Preference

Posted: Tue Aug 22, 2017 10:11 pm
by Dan Hehnke
I would consider the Jazzmaster style tremolo (vibrato) another category, wouldn't you?

I don't have a favorite style tremolo, but I do like the JM style quite a bit once it is set up correctly, and with a much steeper angle over the bridge than a JM has (my preference is a good roller bridge).

It's simple, easy to route for, has enough range for most things, and it's easy to take the bar off and tighten it up so it's almost like a hardtail.

BTW, Freeman, how the heck did all that crazy color get into the grain of that guitar you posted? Is that the natural color that was in that piece of wood??

Re: Tremolo Preference

Posted: Wed Aug 23, 2017 11:46 am
by Freeman Keller
Dan Hehnke wrote: BTW, Freeman, how the heck did all that crazy color get into the grain of that guitar you posted? Is that the natural color that was in that piece of wood??
Thread drift....

I didn't do the "paint job", it was on the guitar when it was brought to me. As I understand the technique you float oil based paint, sometimes several colors, on the surface of water in some sort of big tub. Dip the object to be painted into the mixture and let it drip off. I think there are YouTube vids showing how it is done.

The other somewhat interesting thing about that guitar is that after it was painted but before I got a hold of it it was in a house fire. Apparently there was some kind of nylon athletic jersey draped over it, that partially melted and added some texture to the finish. The guitar also got a good dose of smoke which added an aged patina - all in all not necessarily an effect I would want but it was kind of cool and the story was totally great.

I routed and mounted the tremolo, finished the wiring (he had some wacky ideas about the pups and switching) and did all the final setup. The owner is a big Kurt Cobain fan, I think the guitar suits the genre.



fwiw, the cover over the control cavity is cut from an old Led Zep LP album, again, not my choice but seems to fit.

Re: Tremolo Preference

Posted: Wed Aug 23, 2017 12:01 pm
by Barry Daniels
I think there is a thread on the forum by Mark Swanson that shows how to dip a guitar.

Re: Tremolo Preference

Posted: Fri Sep 01, 2017 10:33 am
by Rob Carty
Barry, I hope you made it through Hurricane Harvey okay. We managed to emerge unscathed, but many friends did not.

I have an old mid-80s Charvel that has the original Kahler trem -- uh, vibr -- uh, whammy bar, with the locking nut. It withstood all the abuse I gave it back in college, did its job, and generally stayed in tune. Still, over time, the strings would detune -- eventually, when the tuners on the bridge were maxed out, you'd have to twiddle the headstock tuners. At that point, the locking nut was a pain.

I built myself a Strat with an Allparts standard (six-screw) Strat whammy. I thought I'd hate it, but I like it just as much as the Kahler. More, actually, since the tuning is as stable as any guitar I've ever owned, including fixed-bridge guitars. Believe it or not, but I speak the truth. I reckon that the locking tuners I used help a great deal here.

Not a fan of the Bigsby. Maybe it's the bridges on every Gretsch I've ever played, but tuning is an issue.

As a side note, don't even get me started on the Mustang whammy. That thing will. not. stay. in. tune. :x

Re: Tremolo Preference

Posted: Sun Sep 10, 2017 12:22 pm
by Mark Wybierala
The Floyd with a a locking nut is the ultimate for tuning stability but you get what you pay for in terms of quality base metal materials and hardware. There are a lot of licenced Floyd bridges and probably a lot of ones that claim to be licenced but are Asian knock-offs made from inferior metals. Every component of a Floyd is critical and needs to be manufactured from highest and most appropriate metal. If any part of the assembly fails its all just junk. Knife edges should be hardened or better yet tool steel inserts. The base needs to be good quality steel or the intonation screws will strip. All of the allen head screws need to be able to deal with a little bit of abuse and you want to purchase a version of the Floyd for which replacement parts are readily available.

Ibanez locking trems seem to be well designed for their upmarket guitars but I don't know much about the availability of replacement parts.

For me, Bigsbys are hit or miss when it comes to quality and tuning stability. I think they look great and are good on a telecaster if you have a rocking style bridge.

Strat bridges work. You need to refer to the setup points made in Erlewines books. They work well with the design of Fender's 6-in-line headstock. You'd be lucky if you got a 3X3 headstock guitar to stay in tune but that is a general issue with all trems. The PRS style 3X3 headstock is far better than most if you must have a 3X3 headstock. The bridges used by PRS are first rate and work well if you understand the nuances -- again refer to what Erlewine has to say -- its critical to set them up.

For me, I'd rather not install a trem at all on an instrument that I want to play properly every time I pick it up. If I need to install a trem, my favorite is the old fashioned maestro style trem and a bowtie style bridge. Its just simple and it works.