6 Screw Fender Tremolo Divebomber

@garbeaj - That’s an awesome diagram. Very well thought out and greatly appreciated!!@!!

I set my strings pretty deep because I often pick chords backwards and i play really violently, so the depth keeps me from blowing the strings out of the nut.

I also file deep grooves under the strings to allow me to push down on the strings behind the nut, as shown in this image:

I also tried one of the white Tusq XL nuts, but my low ‘E’ string sawed right through it in just a few weeks.


I don’t have to ‘reset’ my Stratocaster or my Floyd Rose equipped Jackson San Dimas or my Schecter Hellraiser C1FR. No matter how I play it or how I use the bar.

Now, on my YelloStrat, when I first put it together, I used some old tremolo springs I had laying on the bench, and I had trouble with the guitar returning to pitch after string bends. Once i.put the genuine Fender Tremolo Springs in it, the problem went totally away.

My only complaint with the Floyd Rose is the locking nut.

Here’s what happened a few weeks ago when I did a wild slide on my Schecter Hellraiser C1FR and banged into the locking nut…


Getting back to your comment about needing to ‘reset’ a tremolo with a slight ‘nudge’ on the bar. In general, I see this with worn fulcrums (knife edges) on Floyd Rose and when the stock Fender bridge plate begins to wear grooves in the screw shanks.

This is a commom problem with non-genuine Fender Tremolo to body screws, like generic E-Bay screws sold in bulk.

It’s also a HUGE problem on the old (soft) “wood screw” style Floyd Rose Bridge screws, a significant problem on the ‘Floyd Rose Special’ tremolos, and less common, but still somewhat of an issue on the Floyd Rose 1000.

I use the titanium bridge posts/fulcrums on all my Floyd Rose equipped guitars and I use only genuine Fender or Floyd Rose tremolo parts.

Hope this helps!!!

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@rtfeldman - Are you saying that only the ‘g’ string is affected???

A worn fulcrum or worn screw shanks will affect all 6 strings and not just one string.

If only the ‘g’ string is affected (going flat) I think it’s something else.

On stock Stratocaster Tremolos, I’ve seen this problem when a stamped saddle gets grooves worn in it and the string ‘migrates’ into the worn recess. I’ve also seen this when one of the saddle height adjuster screws is up off the bridge plate and the saddle ‘cocks’ to one side when returning to pitch.

On Floyd Rose, I’ve encountered string blocks that had grooves worn in them and would allow the string in question to ‘creep’ flat and lock nut plates either worn or installed wrong I’ve also seen a loose Floyd saddle shift around and go flat, but in this case, intonation was also affected.

Follow up and keep us posted…

I would say that I don’t have a “problem” as far as using the bar to bring the guitar back in tune in the event that a left hand bend should cause the strings to go flat. This is exactly how Eddie Van Halen kept his Fender vibrato systems in tune.

I actually use Callaham hardened steel bridge screws and I don’t have an issue with the screws or bridge plate causing any tuning issues. To make a long story even longer, if you want to know how I set up my Fender vibrato systems, please check out this forum thread that goes into detail on my process. Van Halen Fender Vibrato System Use & My Tips For Keeping It In Tune

I have to say, I’ve never seen or heard of anyone “sawing through” a TusqXL nut through playing. Very unusual. I’ve been using them for at least 15 years and I’ve never once experienced or even heard of such an occurrence.

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Is it just my imagination, though, or are you getting straight string angle across the nut at the cost of slightly uneven string spacing? The E to A, for example, looks a bit tighter than the G to B. Could be an optical illusion from the string size, of course, but I don’t think it’s my eyes playing tricks on me.

I’ve NEVER cut myself on a locking nut. :laughing: How the heck did you do that?!

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@garbeaj - I apologize if I implied that your guitar had any kind of “problem.” I think you have an amazing command of this instrument and how to set it up properly. I was only sharing what I’ve experienced personally.

I saw the Darrell Braun “Fatal Flaw” video this morning. I tried to duplicate his ‘flattened g string’ condition by playing the exact same phrase as he played in the video and I cannot duplicate his “fatal flaw” on any of my personal guitars.

That “fatal flaw” is news to me.

Here’s a shot of my guitar from last night’s show and what a new Fender medium pick looks like after one show:

With respect to the Tusq XL nuts, I was using YelloStrat in the studio daily and also supporting several bands nightly. (This is what I do for a living and it’s my only source of income) After a few weeks, I developed a buzz on the low ‘E’ string and noticed there were pieces of the nut material around the groove, like what you get when taking a rasp to a piece of wood.

The low ‘E’ had cut the nut down enough that the low ‘E’ was buzzing at the first fret.

As an experiment, I tried bone nuts and they seemed to work well, but I also experienced problems with the wound strings cutting grooves in the bone and eventually hanging the wound strings sharp.

I even 'grafted in pieces of fossil ivory into the bone nut as an experiment on my own guitar.

That seemed to be the best material I found for longevity and resistance to string wind imprinting. Nut blanks in fossil ivory can be purchased from $20 each, but I wanted an ever cheaper alternative.

Marine grade brass is readily available and fairly resistant to tarnishing. I can purchase a piece 12" long x 1/8" wide by .250" for less than $10 and can make quite a few nuts from that piece.

You have really gone the extra mile on your setup and you’ve noticed all the details, like dissimilar hardness and other details that a lot of people overlook.

I’m not trying to say that my way is the best. In fact, much of my success is from sheer persistence and not skill.

I’m grateful for the information and link you shared. I still have a lot to learn!@@@!

@Drew - You are exactly right. I’m less concerned about even string spacing and I’m willing to compromise it to be able to have a 6 screw tremolo that is 100% reliable.

Definitely not saying this is the “correct” method, but it has worked for me.

Compare my current spacing compared to how the new Warmoth neck arrived with a factory installed, CNC cut, Graph Tech Tusq XL nut:

(Tilt your phone away from you when viewing this photo, to nearly parallel to the floor, and the lateral misalignment in the nut will jump out at you)

I was completely unable to use the tremolo with this nut. I couldn’t even use it as a hardtail. It went sharp after bends or tremolo use and it was just totally aggravating.

One night, we were playing a large venue and I was covering for a guitarist in a Judas Priest Tribute. On the very last song, I did this really wild slide on the low ‘E’ with my index finger, from about the 17th fret all the way to the 1st fret, and I hit the treble side of the lock nut.

@grabeaj - The documentation that you have amassed on your build is absolutely stunning. Very good work!!!

@garbeaj - Question for you with regard to nut slotting.

I noticed your images indicate a strong down angle to the tuner. I do this also, but maybe even more extreme???

On my nut slot floor profiles, I shoot for only about 15% to 25% of the slot being in contact with the string. Beyond that, the slot “falls away” from the string.

I’ve found this to give me the best results (in tuning stability) on both Fender and Gibson style guitars.

Here’s a shot of my #2 Les Paul where you can really see this “fall away” effect in practice:

On Fender guitars with a non-locking tremolo, I think the fall away serves two purposes. First, it minimizes string to nut contact and provides a natural escape path for debris, dirt, shavings, etc.

What’s your opinion on this minimal percentage of string contact in the nut???

@garbeaj - I read deep in your link about string life and how you rarely break a string. I was amazed by this.

I break strings fairly frequently if I don’t change them out regularly. My breaks always happen around the 10th to 14th fret on both my Stratocaster, Schecter and Les Pauls.

I never get a break at the bridge or at the nut, its always at the string’s mid-point.

I’ve used GHS, SIT, D’Addario and Ernie Ball, but I get the best performance and tuning stability from Ernie Ball. I use Hybrid .009 x .046" on all my guitars.

My basic routine is to change strings after every live performance, so that generally means going through 5 packs a week per guitar, so I use the standard Ernie Balls I can get for $5 a pack.

If I put a new set of strings on, I can get through one rehearsal and generally squeak by with that set for a live performance.

Every time I have tried to use a set of strings twice, I get a break during the show.

Zoom in on this image of the fretboard on my 2019 Schecter after 3 months of playing daily in the studio and nightly supporting band. Look at how much brass is piled up next to the frets.

I tried a wound .017" ‘g’ thinking it might be better than a plain .016" for durability, but broke it at rehearsal.

Images of my 2019 Schecter Hellraiser C1FR after 3 months of ‘daily driving.’

I really have to say that I was a HUGE skeptic at first, but the Jescar Gold Evo Fretwire on my YelloStrat is absolutely impervious to string wear.

Shown here after 5 months of daily/nightly playing:

In contrast, here’s an image of my 2019 Schecter Hellraiser C1FR after 3 months:

Very good fretwire!!!

Also - has GraphTech changed their formulation at any point over the last, um, maybe two decades? I’m trying to remember when I had it put on, exactly, but I’ve had a GraphTech nut on my Strat since probably 1999 or 2000, and I have yet to have any issues with it wearing enough to impact playability. I haven;t exactly babied the bridge on that thing either - i’ve had a Gotoh Wilkinson VS100 on it for the last ten or fifteen years, and that thing isn’t much below a Floyd in terms of range. Looking at what you do to picks, I’m wondering if you’re just abnormally hard on things. :laughing:

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@Drew - I’ve always played really hard, ever since I was in my first band at 15.

I was 16 in 1981 when we took this photo for our band “Troubled Youth.”

I think there are certain sounds that I just can’t get out of a guitar when playing it normally??? As long as I can remember, playing hard, loud and getting weird sounds out of a guitar really appealed to me.

I’m not sure about Graph Tech reformulation. I don’t think there is anything wrong with their product, it just didn’t work for me.

When I’m performing, I just play flat out. I have to use wood glue on my Straplock screws or they will back out, so now, they can never be changed, because the screw is now bonded to the wood, but it stays put.

Did you see what I did to the frets on my Schecter???

It’s probably just really bad technique.

I can say that whatever feels good to you in terms of your playing style, by all means go for it. You clearly have a very heavy pick attack and I can only guess that your left hand is also as merciless!

I did go through a long phase of using fairly heavy strings on my guitars. From 1987-2011, I used GHS Boomer Mediums (11-15-18-26-36-50) on Strats, Teles and my Kramer Striker with a Floyd and then Dean Marley Jazz strings (.012-.015-.026 Plain-.034-.044-.054) on my Les Paul. I used Heavy purple Tortex picks. I liked the way it felt and I played with a pretty heavy attack. I broke strings a little more often, but even then I would rarely break strings…I’d only replace one string at a time if there would be a break, but I’d keep the same basic set of strings on for literally years. Back in the 90s, I would play anywhere from 8-12 hours a day for months at a time.

In roughly 2011, I switched to Fender 150XLs (09-11-15-24-32-42) and Fender Medium celluloid picks in my hobbyist research into Van Halen’s style. I had an instant improvement in sound, feel and tuning stability. It took a very slight while to get used to it, but the difference in tone was stunning-I started getting a MASSIVE improvement in the sound of my pick slides as another by-product. I started using the same gauges on almost all of my 6 string electric guitars and it was a similarly dramatic improvement right across the board. I began to talk to some professional players that are friends and acquaintances who told me that I was just “getting it” by switching to the light gauge strings and Medium picks and moderating the force of my pick attack. Apparently this is something that a lot of people figured out long ago, but it took me a while. I think most of this was because of the influence of Stevie Ray Vaughan who was a huge force in my life (which was even more prevalent after spending time with him just before he died) and I just equated good tone with heavy strings and a heavy attack. I didn’t realize then that it worked for him, but not for most people.

You may indeed be one of the people that can get what you are looking for by using a lot of force from both hands and as I said, I wouldn’t change a thing if it works for you. I just had an epiphany which completely changed my approach and yielded results that were shockingly positive for me personally.

As far as frets, I would generally require crowning and leveling at least once or twice a year and complete refrets every 3 or so years. That is until I switched to stainless steel frets. I never have to do anything since I’ve switched. I love them. I also began to understand the benefits of larger fret wire. It’s just more comfortable for me. My main guitar, even today, has always been my first guitar which is a 1968 Fender Strat with a maple board. I didn’t realize that these Strats came with smaller fretwire and I had just replaced them with the same wire in the interest of keeping it vintage correct, but switching to the now standard large fretwire made a HUGE difference in playability for me.

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Yeah, I watched the video and that is my experience in a nutshell except it doesn’t matter whether it is a floating or dive only bridge setup. And this is more prevalent on the G string as the video demonstrates, but it also happens on the B and other strings. And it will happen to at least some degree on whole step bends as well…it does not have to be a particularly wide bend.

But since I’ve been studying Van Halen so closely, I began to notice that his entire playing style with the Fender tremolo was built around the idea of either silently diving with the bar when not playing after a left hand bend or diving with the bar during the course of playing after a passage with a left hand bend. He even described it in detail in his very first interview. It just took me a lot of years to actually see what he was talking about, especially since he described the process as a “quick jerk UP” on the bar to bring the strings back in tune after a left hand bend. This is basically an impossibility because Eddie always set all of us vibrato systems for dive only.

There are some people who don’t seem to have this problem and I’d love to pick their brains about what they do. Yngwie, Blackmore and Doug Aldrich seem to be able to do whatever they want on a vintage strat and they don’t necessarily have to dive to get any very slight flatness resolved. It’s easy to talk to Doug after a Dead Daisies show and I will make it my business to ask him the next time they play in my city.

I don’t know if VonHerndon checks his strings with a strobe tuner after every left hand bend, but it could be that the flatness is so slight that it really isn’t apparent to an audience. I also know that using tuning offsets as Van Halen and many others do and as I do further helps to disguise any temporary flatness.

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@garbeaj - Admittedly, im a musical Neanderthal. I know my technique is one of the reasons I can’t play the YJM stuff that ties on fluidity and finesse.

Aside from being a musical caveman, I listen intently to everything I can find relating to music technique and gear because I am hungry for knowledge. I was amazed at the work you put into your EVH guitar and I learned from reading the information contained in the link you provided.

My first guitar was a 1959 Sears Silvertone that my parents gave to me in 1979. We were not rich people, so I didn’t have a really quality guitar until I saved up and bought an Ibanez Destroyer II in 1983.

I always used .010’s because that’s all I ever knew. I thought everyone used .010’s. One time, around 1997, I discovered (a guitar tech buddy turned me onto them) the hybrid set with .010’s on top and .009’s on the bottom. I’ve never deviated from that gauge since.

I tried heavy picks, but broke strings during a performance, so I switched back to Mediums and stayed there.

In 1988, I auditioned for a band with a borrowed guitar and my bandmates chipped in and bought me a brand new ‘E7’ 1987 Fender Squire Stratocaster. It had the tiny vintage frets and i played that from 1988 until 2005 when I got my first Schecter with big frets.

That was a challenge. I have huge hands and I clamp down so hard (probably from playing poorly setup guitars) that i.pulled all my chords and notes sharp!!!

Once I retrained myself to grip more lightly, I felt like the taller frets were better, as you have pointed out, but I still had to really be aware of my tendency to fall back into that when I got really into my work.

I considered stainless, but on this last Stratocaster build, I went with the Jescar Gold Evo Fretwire after it was suggested by Warmoth. These frets are .104" x .047" and they were really excellent in terms of feel, wear resistance and playability.

It’s a constant learning process for me…

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I think you’ll be very happy with stainless steel frets. It’s a little tough to find a tech that is willing to install them because they destroy most ordinary fretting tools and it can be an expensive process, but for me they’ve been a game changer and they’ve saved me a lot of money and frustration because fretwork is essentially eliminated for the foreseeable future.

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I have been thinking about stainless!!!


SS can be very finicky. What I’ve learnt is I’m not a fan of SS in bright guitars. There’s an unavoidable note attack emphasis you cannot get rid off.

Good point…that was why Warmoth recommended Jescar Gold Evo Fretwire, which I went with.

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Yeah I once ordered a great custom from grosh only be ruined with the order including SS on a maple, had to sell it, such a wast of time and that was.

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