Hip Tip: The Things We do for Trems

In my years of guitar repair I have seen so many fixes for non-problems.
By Gary Brawer ,

In my years of guitar repair I have seen so many fixes for non-problems. I used to think trying to stabilize a trem was one of them until I tried a few devices that worked. They helped make the insane task of stringing and tuning a floating bridge bearable for the average guitarist, not to mention keeping the other strings in tune while bending. It turns out a well-made trem stabilizer is a nice thing to have in the arsenal.

Some bridge makers were clever enough to include a stabilizing system, either installed or available as an option. Sometimes these were a little clumsy, sometimes not. Some manufacturers that offered these include Steinberger, Kahler, and Wilkinson. On the newer Kahler Flat Mount there is a cam locking screw to lock the trem. You need a wrench, so it is not something you can do on the fly, but it’s a nice option.

When it comes to aftermarket products, some are designed to provide some stability while keeping the trem floating. One of the original units available (and still going strong) is the Hipshot TremSetter. The newer Mag-Lok from Super-Vee uses a similar idea, which is to give the trem a stable center detent so it can still go up and down but will always be pressured to return to the center position. The TremSetter accomplishes this with springs and is a little more adjustable.

The Mag-Lok, as the name suggests, uses a magnet and offers less adjustment. Kirk Hammett has used the Trem-Setter for a long time. A few benefits are: no warble or flutter (which is actually a detriment for certain Jeff Beck techniques), it’s easier to get your guitar in tune when changing strings, you can bend one or two strings without the others going flat, and an overall more stable feel to your trem.

The Schaller Trem Stop #399 can convert a floating system into a fixed bridge on the fly.

There is another group of products that allows your trem to go from floating to a fixed bridge. The Tremol-no will not only lock the trem in place, it also has the option of giving you a down-only function. It features a cylinder and piston that move with the block and springs. Which thumbscrew you tighten will give you different functions. You have to be careful to set it up so there is no friction in the unit, but once you get there, you can go from float to lock at the flick of a thumbscrew.

Floyd Rose and FU-TONE make a steel or brass piece called a Tremolo Stopper. It’s an easier way to block the trem and is adjustable after it is installed. Bear in mind, it’s a semi-permanent solution.

The Rockinger (remember those guys?) Black Box, Ibanez Back Stop, and ESP Arming Adjuster all work on a similar principle: a spring-loaded plunger that will stop the trem in place with a piston, but you can still pull up on the arm against the spring tension for some upward movement. They are all worth a look.

The Schaller Trem Stop #399 is a very cool and useable piece that adheres to the top of the body behind the bridge. It is designed for the trem arm to snap into, thus disabling the trem. It works amazingly well and is very simple. If you have a floating system, but want to use something like the D-Tuna to drop the low E string down to D, you can use this to lock the trem when tuning down, and then get the trem back when your low string is back to E. The only danger is a vintage finish may get messed up removing it.

Next month: some D-I-Y trem tricks!

Gary Brawer is bald, he’s bad, and he gives a sh*t about your guitar. His many clients include Joe Satriani, Metallica, and Neal Schon.

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