Improving Strat Tremolo Arm Response

After using Floyd Rose tremolos for many years, the standard 6-screw Strat tremolo took a long time to get acquainted to. Both the Schaller and Ibanez Edge tremolo I own are very responsive and in both cases, the tremolo arm makes a nice, tight contact with the tremolo base, so there’s no play in the tremolo arm movement. Even the slightest touch on the tremolo bar will be transferred to the tremolo base and will affect the pitch. Everything you do with the tremolo is immediate and predictable.

On the other hand, Strat tremolo arms are imperfect by design. The screw-in arm always has some play, making the response of the tremolo feel a bit odd and unpredictable. It’s not very easy to do the nice mild vibrato because there’s a couple of millimeters of the arm movement that don’t do anything and don’t put any resistance and then you get to the point where the springs start resisting and the pitch changes. But that sudden change between no resistance (and no change in pitch) and a lot of resistance always felt awkward to me. So I came up with a simple trick that noticeably improves the response of the Strat tremolo by improving the contact between the tremolo arm and the base.

Step 1

Get a piece of 6mm (or 1/4″) heat shrink tubing, about 7mm long.

Step 2

Slide it on the tremolo arm, just above the threaded part of the arm.

Step 3

Apply the heat, a simple cigarette lighter is fine, just be careful not to burn the tubing. It should shrink and look something like shown below.

Step 4

That’s it! Screw the arm back into the base and give it a go. If you got the length of the tubing right, it should be barely visible from above.

In the case of my Strat, the change was dramatic. The tubing gets sandwiched tightly between the base of the tremolo and the arm, making the tremolo respond to every touch of the arm. Of course, heat-shrink tubing is not very hard and will wear out after a while, but this is so simple and quick to do, that it doesn’t matter how long it lasts.

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    The idea behind this site is to share my experience with Do It Yourself approach to guitars, amplifiers and pedals. Whether you want to save a couple of bucks by performing a mod or upgrade yourself instead of paying a tech, or want to build your own piece of gear from scratch, I'm sure you will find something interesting here. Also, this is the home of DIY Layout Creator, a free piece of software for drawing circuit layouts and schematics, written with DIY enthusiasts in mind.