How to Adjust the Tremolo Bridge on a Mexican Stratocaster

Written by matt gerrard
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How to Adjust the Tremolo Bridge on a Mexican Stratocaster
The classic "Synchronized" tremolo bridge was one of Leo Fender's own designs and appeared on the first 1954 Strat. (Tonabnehmer image by Jakob Sons from Fotolia.com)

Fender's floating tremolo bridge is one of the most popular designs for a vibrato tailpiece. It's more stable than a Bigsby-style tailpiece, and more user-friendly than the complex Floyd Rose systems. The synchronised bridge has appeared on the Stratocaster since its introduction in 1954, and as vintage examples have proven, if set up and maintained correctly, it can do its job well for many years.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Screwdriver
  • Guitar tuner
  • Silicone grease or petroleum jelly

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Check that he guitar is in tune, to confirm that the current string tension represents what would normally be applied to the bridge. Remove the rear cover from over the tremolo cavity on the back of the guitar, by taking out the screws around its edge.

  2. 2

    Pull the tremolo arm up, as if trying to bend the pitch of a string upward. Loosen all six screws running along the front edge where the bridge meets the body of the guitar. Each one should protrude from the bridge by about 1.5mm. Keeping the bridge pulled flat against the top of the guitar, tighten the outermost screws until they are snug in their recesses. Tighten the four inner screws gently, just enough that you feel the resistance increase when turning them. They should still protrude from the bridge, but only by around 1mm. This will cause the bridge to pivot on the outer two screws, with the central four providing tuning stability.

  3. 3

    Tune the guitar. It's important to keep the string tension constant during this step, so retune after each adjustment. Loosen the claw screws inside the cavity on the rear of the body if the bridge is still sitting flush against its surface. The recommended elevation for the bridge is around 3.2mm between bridge and body. Continue adjusting the springs and retuning the guitar until the bridge floats 3.2mm above the surface of the body, and remains stationary when bending strings.

Tips and warnings

  • A dab of grease or petroleum jelly on the screws and springs can help ensure your tremolo bridge keeps working smoothly.
  • Don't over-tighten the claw-screws holding the springs, as this can increase the amount of pressure on the guitar's body and hardware.

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