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My Peavey Falcon -- a Strat clone -- has tuning problems. The instrument has a Kahler tremolo that I suspect is contributing to my tuning problems. (The roller nut and tuning machines are other possible culprits, but that's a separate question.)

  • Is there a way I can test the guitar to see if the tremolo bridge is indeed contributing to the problem?

  • I adjusted the tremolo bridge flush to the guitar body years ago, since I never use it. Is it possible to replace this entirely with a non-tremolo bridge?

The guitar in question: alt text

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2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

There are some steps that you can take to see if you can do a quick fix yourself.

  1. If the bridge is indeed a floating bridge, this may be causing problems (like the Tin Man suggests). You can check how much the bridge may be moving by fretting a note then pushing the bridge down and pulling it with your picking hand. This problem may affect your playing when you are palm muting (as you will be pushing down on the bridge), or bending strings (as this will pull up the bridge—see here).

    As you say you've made the bridge flush with the body, it may be that the latter option only applies.

  2. Try checking the guitar's intonation. Fretting the guitar at the twelfth fret should produce the same note as a harmonic at the twelfth fret. If they don't, the strings may be the wrong length, and can be changed by adjusting the rollers on the bridge - see a tutorial here.

  3. If you haven't changed the strings in a while, these can often cause tuning issues. A new set could help.

  4. Tuning problems can occur when friction occurs between the strings and the nut. While you're changing the strings, to make sure they run smoothly over the nut, rub some graphic from a soft pencil into the 'V's that the strings run in.

However, as the Tin Man says, ultimately a luthier may be the only option for you.

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I'd recommend taking it to a guitar tech and letting them take care of it. It will take you longer to figure out the problem, and then fix it, than it will for them to fix it completely.

I'm not familiar with that tremolo, but, if it's anything like a Fender, where there is a block that extends through the body, you can often take a wedge of wood and push it behind the tremolo block from the backside of the guitar, locking it into place. If your bridge is a floating tremolo, where you can pull up and push down, this will stabilize your tuning nicely. It's common practice.

An alternate way to go about it is to reduce the spring pressure in the tremolo so it no longer is balanced and is pulled against the back of the tremolo cavity by string tension. That's how I have the tremolo on my Ibanez strat. It stays in tune nicely, single note bends act like they should, and sustain is as good as the guitar can do.

As for replacing the bridge, yes, it's possible. They'd remove the bridge, cut some wood to fit the shape of the cavities that remain, glue them in place, do some sanding and filling of any gaps, then shoot matching paint over it all. On top of the work you'd have to buy a fixed bridge and tailpiece.

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I think replacing the bridge is more work than I want to have done, but thanks for the good info. –  neilfein Jan 20 '11 at 17:07

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