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I recently restrung my Squier stratocaster with 11 gauge strings (Rotosound Reds) instead of 9s. Since then it won't intonate properly - no matter how far back I move the bridge saddles the 12th fret notes are sharp.

I popped into the shop where I bought the guitar and the guy there told me that I needed to adjust the tremolo claw and that I should bring it in for him to adjust.

I want to have a go at adjusting this myself first - what do I need to do?

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2 Answers 2

If you pop off the back plate off your Strat and look in the cavity, you should see the tremolo springs which go from your bridge to a metal bracket that is attached by two screws to the neck end of the body in that cavity.

Generally, the screws on that bracket are not fully screwed in. You can tighten these screws to move the bracket closer to the body. That will increase the tension on the tremolo springs and hence the bridge.

Seeing as you have gone to higher gauge strings, you will have to tighten the tension to compensate for the extra load. Also, if you haven't got all 5 springs in the trem cavity, you may need to add springs - especially if the bracket is already tightened down to the body. (Note: You may only have a 3 spring trem. I have a 5 spring trem on my Strat, but I only use 3 springs).

The other thing that some players do if they have only 3 springs is to angle some of the springs to increase the tension. So instead of

(bracket)
-----
| | |    <-- (springs)
-----
(bridge)

They would do:

-----
/ | \
-----

Once again, you need a 5 spring cavity to do this.

All in all though, setting up a Strat trem is a process that requires some experience - so you may want it to initially get set up by a professional - perhaps take some before and after photos so you can learn from that and make future adjustments yourself.

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Thanks, I'll give it a go and let you know how it goes. I have three springs in there, by the way. –  Anonymous May 2 '11 at 9:14
    
Ok, I had a go - the screws are really hard to tighten :( The three springs are already angled, unfortunately. I moved the screws in a few milimeters but the 12th fretted notes were still sharp with the saddles as far back as they go - do you have to move the claw back quite a long way to get results or should subtle changes do the job? –  Anonymous May 2 '11 at 12:08
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Moving the claw will certainly pull the bridge back against the extra tension of the thicker gauge strings. The amount you need to tighten the claw screws varies between guitars but the rule of thumb is to aim to make the bridge sit flat (there are differences depending on whether you like more freedom in dive bombing or pulling up but as a general rule it works.)

If that doesn't do it then you need to look at the bridge pieces. If you have them, they can be moved in order to fix intonation, and the idea is to ensure the 12th fret is exactly an octave higher than the open string.

Failing that, take it to your guitar guy.

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