In the world of guitars, the Fender Stratocaster is still a classic.
No guitar model has been built and copied more often.
To change the sound of a Strat, guitarists mostly think of changing the pickups. But today, I would like to make you learn more about the “sonic” function of the vibrato springs.
The right setup
For sure, the right pickups and a well-done setup is absolutely important for the sound and the usability of a Stratocaster.
An exact octave tempering, the string gauge, the height of the strings as well as the right distance between strings and pickups might make the decisive difference between a good and a very good instrument. Therefore, you should spend some money and/or time for the right setup.
Unfortunately, most guitarists overlook the right setup of the vibrato. To most musicians, the bridge supports the strings and, now and then, can be used for slight vibrato sounds by using the whammy bar.
There is a reason why Joe Bonamassa loves his hard tail bridge Stratocaster and also Jimi Hendrix experimented with different springs and arrangements in his Stratocaster.
In this case, it is important if you are using only 3 or all 5 springs. This varies the smooth running of the vibrato as well as the sound of the guitar.
Frequently, the vibrato system is fixed with a screw to alter the sound of the guitar.
But even if you play your Stratocaster without a whammy bar, you ought to have an eye on the right setup of the bridge.
Floating or flush bridge
Even without a whammy bar, you can adjust the bridge floating to create slight vibrato effects by hand.
Especially, if you are using a flush bridge, the right setup becomes important.
In this case, you will have to tighten the springs until the bridge is flush to the body of the guitar. Depending on the respective traction of the springs, the sound of the Strat can vary because they are the countermove to the strings and therefore are able to vary the tension.
If you tighten the springs only until the bridge is flush pretty slightly, the tension of the strings must be reduced to maintain the right tuning.
The decreased string tension leads to a soft attack and a smoother sound of the Stratocaster. While you pull the strings, he springs will yield a bit. This effect is almost similar to a slight compression. The signal sags a bit. This effect is also perceivable when you play bendings – this will be much easier now.
If you fully tighten the springs, the bridge will be flush to the body of the guitar and the strings will be stretched a bit more (although the tuning stays the same). The guitar will sound brilliant with a crisp attack.
You can experiment with the number as well as with the traction of the springs to get the best balance between string tension, attack and tone.
I prefer 3 springs (to be able to move the bridge without and effort) with a strong string tension for a brilliant tone with much attack.