Adding a whammy bar to a guitar gives you more pitch control and vibrato options. The whammy bar is also called a tremolo bar and is the detachable metal arm at the bridge of a Strat-style guitar. Most electric guitars can be modified for a whammy bar, but the add-on requires routing the guitar body and is irreversible. If you don't have experience with woodworking tools, then this modification is best left to experts.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Hex keys
- Razor blade
- Drill press
Remove the strings from your guitar and slide the current bridge and tailpiece off of the body. Some bridges may require you to loosen their mounting screws with a screwdriver or hex keys.
Place the routing diagram for your new bridge and whammy bar on the face of your guitar and line it up with the mounting screws of your old bridge. Trace around the diagram or tape it into place.
Flip the guitar over and set the routing diagrams for the whammy bar's block and mounting springs on the guitar. Use a razor blade to mark the areas of the routing diagram that have different depths.
Use a drill press to begin routing the guitar from the back according to your templates. This rear control cavity is split into two areas: one for the bridge itself and another for the claw arm and tremolo springs. Route the shallow area for the claw arm first. Drill the bridge area to within half an inch of the guitar's front face.
Flip the guitar over and drill through the routing template to remove just enough wood for the bridge. Set the new bridge into place and align it with the bridge mounting screws.
Flip the guitar over and screw the spring claw into the wall of the far end of the routing. Hook the bridge springs to the claw arm, stretch them out and connect them to the bridge block. Tighten the spring claw with a screwdriver once all the springs are attached.
Insert the screw-end of the whammy bar and turn it clockwise to thread it into the bridge. Restring the guitar and tune it to pitch. Tighten the screws on the tremolo claw if the bridge doesn't stay close to flush with the guitar body.
Tips and warnings
- Some whammy bar models, like those made by Bigsby, do not require routing the back of the guitar since the entire bridge assembly is front-mounted.
- Check to be sure the new bridge's mounting posts will fit in the old bridges slots. If not, you need to remove and fill the old mounting posts before they can be redrilled.
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