Fender Stratocaster floating bridge setup - how & what? Advice needed

This is a continuation of my last post in this topic: NGD No. 5 - Fender Player Plus Stratocaster in Tequila Sunrise - #21 by Jozsef

I tried to find some guidance on setting up / adjusting the floating bridge and the whammy bar, but there are a lot of videos/posts about this with sometimes conflicting advice, and I’m starting to have second thoughts about my guitar’s integrity, so to say.

My problem is that it gets out of tune very easily. If I use the whammy bar, it doesn’t get back in tune properly. The bar seems to need a bit of force to function - is this OK? From listening to music with whammy bar effects (like Hendrix), I’ve always had the impression that it doesn’t require much force to operate. Was I wrong?

Also, when I bend strings, they invariably go flat after 2 or 3 bigger (1-1.5 tone) bends. I haven’t noticed this happening on my other guitars.

A lot of sources mention that it can be due to the nut, but there are so many other factors at play here. The guitar has 9-46 strings, so I’m wondering if the three thinnest strings just don’t take bends that well…

Honestly, I don’t know what to do. I could take it to a luthier for a check-up, but the guitar was already expensive as it was, and I wouldn’t like to have some bigger job done on it as I could just sell it to someone more willing to persevere with it. Which would be a pity because it’s quite comfy to play. The floating bridge could be docked, too, but then what would be the point of having it in the first place?

What are your thoughts on this? I’m getting a bit frustrated that I can’t trust this guitar to stay in tune, and I got information overload from the various articles over the Internet. It’s strange that when I bought my other guitars I spent a few weeks with playing them almost exclusively, but it’s not happening with this one.

Jozsef, have you talked to the luthier at the store you bought it from? I would think they would be willing to go through the instrument and solve any issues they find. Fender would more than likely reimburse the store so you should not incur any additional charges. You may also get some advice from people at the store familiar with this particular model.

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No, not yet. I’ve been thinking about talking to them and/or a pro luthier. It’s just that I’ve got a feeling I’m starting to see problems even where there’s none. But I’ll definitely seek IRL advice as well before making any big decision either way (returning/selling/big setup).

Trem’s shouldn’t take that much force to operate, but I rarely use mine.
I could probably deck it, but I quite like it the way it is.

There’s a few things go into correctly adjusting a trem. It’s got to sit at the correct resting angle, the correct height. Then the saddles need adjusted to get the correct action and intonation.

Strings going flat after big bends, sounds like strings slipping.
If tuning was randomly going between flat and sharp, it could point to something like the trem being unstable, but consistently flat is more likely to be slippage.
What technique do you use to wind the strings onto the posts?

In all honesty, I think it would be good if you could find a good local luthier (or even a competent player/tutor), who’d be willing to go over the guitar with you in person, and establish if there are any faults, and what adjustments might be needed.

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Oh yes, that seems to be another can of worms. As the open strings have to be retuned quite often, I haven’t bothered about intonation yet.

This guitar has locking tuners so there’s no need to wind the strings around the posts, so I assume there’s not much room for the strings to slip. Funnily enough, I can bend strings without any issues on my guitars that have regular tuners.

József, I found this setup guide to be useful:

I used two ‘credit’ cards to space out…

If you are wondering about the screw height check out:

Having said that, I was still having issues with the tuning, so in the end I’ve set up so that the bridge touches down on the body under tension via the springs which only enables me to ‘dive’ the strings but it keeps it in tune a lot lot better.

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It does sound like a problem with the nut slots… is it possible the shop you bought it from put a set of 10’s on… I can’t remember how much of a difference there is between 9’s and 10’s

Dave

I replaced the factory strings with a set of 9-46 strings. At the moment, I’m not in a rush to have this guitar worked on as I have 2 other electrics, but I’ll definitely check if I can adjust the floating bridge myself or take it to a pro to check it out. I’m sure the tuning stability can be improved, it’s just that I wasn’t prepared to have to make these extra adjustments.

Just a data point. My Squier Strat doesn’t go flat after bends or whammy usage. I did do a home-job setup on it to make sure the bridge sat in a position that looked good but nothing major.

How hard the whammy is to use depends on your springs, open the back up and have a look.

The fact yours is going flat after bends is interesting… I reckon @mc is on to something, sounds like an issue with the tuners. I found the strat floating bridge is a bit annoying compared to fixed bridge if retuning (e.g. to Drop D) but the stability was pretty good.

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I’ve been browsing the Internet for some detailed guides on what can be set up and how, and last night I found this video that seems to me the best so far. Great attention to details (each little screw in the floating bridge is shown separately and how to assemble the parts) and well-structured. As my desperation has eased a bit, I’m trying to convince myself to give it a try on one of the weekends.

Not being very knowledgeable about physics, I was surprised that the more springs you attach to the mechanism, the easier it becomes to depress the whammy bar. :thinking:

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Not sure how useful that video is going to be for you. The Stratocaster you have has a 2 point trem on it; so long as the edges are aligned with the posts, it should be smooth to operate.

Chances are the tuning issues are from the bridge not returning to the correct position… which is probably because something is going on with the bridge.

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There are many factors at play in a floating trem system. For most learners decking and removing the arm is the easiest option.
But if you want a trem you need to learn it.

Did you stretch the strings when you replaced them? That is a big cause of ‘going flat’ in the early days of a new set.

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Yep, I’ve searched for sources on 2-point trems as well. To me, the basic principle of operation seems the same in both 2- and 6-point trems.

Yes, I stretch the strings every time I change them.

Hi József!!

First things first, happy NGD! It looks beautiful!

I was curious amd wanted to ask you, dkes the guitar go out of tune when you bend with the whammy bar or when you bend strings with your fretting hand? Or maybe both?

I seem to recall having seen some videos on youtube mentioning the guitar not returning to pitch after bending with the fretting hand and having to just jerk the whammy bar a bit to fix it. Something having to do with string tension and moments when bending… But I can’t find it again, I’ll share it if I do.

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Thank you :slight_smile: What I noticed was that after “manual” string bends the strings remained flat and after the whammy bar they were mixed…

Having examined the guitar more closely, it’s visible that the bridge plate is not parallel to the body of the guitar and that the back of the bridge is quite high. I’ll look for some suitable object to use as a spacer during the adjustment, take detailed measurements, and give this piece of setup a try.

If I’ll still have tuning issues, I’ll try a different set of strings (the current set is Rotosound 9-46).

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I would also check to make sure the neck screws are tight and the nuts holding the tuners. That can cause some strange tuning issues.

Dave

Tonight I decided to do as the video above suggested. Even though now the floating bridge is parallel to the body of the guitar and the action and intonation are also set, there’s quite a bit of string buzz on strings G, B and high E above the 5th fret. These were not there before.

Also, the bridge is not floating as there’s just no room left in the back cavity for the mechanism to raise the pitch… Granted, I’m not a stellar handyman, but I followed the steps of the setup, so it’s either the guitar or my brain.

I’ll take the guitar to a luthier to have it sorted out. Depending on the price, I may give it back to the store where it came from and try to get my money back or just sell it myself. I guess that’s it for my fling with Fender electric guitars.

Once again, thank you for all your comments and suggestions. I really appreciate that you tried to help.

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