A tremolo is a lever system that allows you to rapidly and temporarily alter the position of your guitar's bridge, causing its strings' tension to dip. This creates a distinctive sonic effect where the note drops down in pitch. While tremolo systems have multiple applications and permit you to perform impressive tricks, they have the drawback of reduced tuning stability. If your playing style doesn't call for a tremolo arm, you endure the negatives of having a tremolo without taking advantage of the benefits. Mitigate this by blocking off the tremolo system to convert it to a hardtail bridge, with superior tuning stability.
Things You'll Need
- Phillips screwdriver
- Measuring tape
- 2.5-mm hex key
Unscrew your guitar's rear panel to expose the tremolo cavity. In here you'll see a rectangular inertia block, attached to the cavity wall by a set of springs. The inertia block is attached to the bottom of the bridge. The tension of the springs on the inertia block acts as a balance against the tension of the strings.
Measure the distance between the inside edge of the inertia block and the wall of the tremolo cavity on the opposite side to the springs.
Cut a piece of wood 2 mm wider than the gap between the inertia block and the cavity wall. The wood doesn't need to completely fill the depth of the cavity; it only needs to apply resistance to the lateral movement of the inertia block. Off-cuts of wood are fine for this purpose.
Unhook the springs from the inertia block. Lift the hook out of the loop on the base of the inertia block. The springs are mounted on a metal plate, which is screwed into the cavity wall. Unscrew the metal plate and set the springs and plate to one side. This reduces the tension on the inertia block. The strings may go out of tune at this point.
Lift the tremolo arm slightly upward. Typically this is difficult to do, but because the springs are no longer fitted it should be relatively easy. This forces the inertia block into a slightly advanced position.
Slot the piece of wood into the gap between the inertia block and cavity wall. Because the wood is 2 mm wider than the original gap, the inertia block will come to rest slightly farther forward. The force applied by the block will stop the bridge from moving and will stabilize the tuning.
Tune the guitar. Due to the new position of the bridge, the strings will be slightly sharp. Loosen the tuning machines to compensate this.
Lower the bridge height to compensate for the repositioning of the inertia block. Depending on your guitar's make and model, there is either a nut or a screw on each side of the bridge that controls height. For example, guitars fitted with Floyd Rose bridges have a 2.5-mm nut. Fender Telecaster bridges have height-adjustment screws. Make small adjustments in a clockwise direction to reset the bridge to the original height.
Tips & Warnings
- Keep your springs safe in case you want to undo this modification.
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