Threw a new bridge on my Strat, Gotoh 510

Mostly making conversation on a slow day at work while I wind down my lunch break…

My main guitar is probably still a '97 American Standard Strat I bought brand new in 1998. It’s not the fanciest or most expensive guitar I own, but I’ve played it the longest, almost every plateau I’ve broken through happened on that guitar, the way it feels and sounds is very comfortable to me, and it was my first “good” guitar and has really shaped a lot about how I approach the instrument.

I’ve also modded the hell out of it over the years. At present, I think the only parts of it that are stock is the wood it’s made out of and the finish on that wood, the string trees, and the output jack. It’s gone through a long series of iterations in its life, different pickups, different pickguards, and, pertinent to the story here, different bridges.

For maybe most of the last ten or fifteen years, it’s had a Gotoh Wilkinson in it. Great bridge, I forgot why I originally took out the stock Fender trem but I remember having a reason for it, but it probably would have been around… Jeez, maybe 2005? The trem arm holder, which screwed in but then had a bushing and allen key to adjust arm tension, was at the time I bought it, I thought, the coolest thing I’d ever seen. When I first made the swap, the trem studs werent threaded the same as thr stock Fender ones, so I brought it to a shop up the street from me (Mouraidian Guitar, if anyone knows the MA area luthier scene) to have the studs swapped, and Jim just told me to use the Fender ones as he thought they were a little more robust than the Wilkinson ones. So, for 20 years, barring a brief experiment with a Hipshot Contour that I really liked but ultimately felt wrong for this guitar so is in another Strat now, that’s what I was using - a Wilkinson on Fender studs. At some point along the way I also replaced the stock block with a heavier brass one, maybe within the past 5 years which I mostly mention in case this was a factor, to save a little face ere.

So, at some point in the last couple years, I noticed the low E intonation was off. Like, off enough that I could audibly, clearly hear it. Play a 3rd fret G, 15th fret G, the 15t fret would sound perceptibly flat. I adjusted the intonation as much as I could, but finally had the saddle as far out as it could go and it still sounded sliiightly flat on the 15th, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why. I tried a fresh set of strings, backed off the pickups, tried some other stuff I’m probably forgetting, but I couldn’t QUITE get the guitar to play in tune on the lower strings in the higher registers.

Eventually, I figured since I really liked the Hipshot 510 on my Suhr Modern 6, I might as well just grab one of those to try to see if it was something up with the bridge. Not cheap, exactly, but short money to get a guitar I really love back into top playing shape.

I installed it last night, swapped the studs too since the inserts were the same diameter as the Fender ones (the Wilkinson ones for some reason weren’t) and it took no more than a few twists of the screwdriver to get it intonated perfectly. Open/12th, 3rd/15th, 5th/17th, I generally check all three and try to find as close compromise as possible.

I blame a childhood spent playing Nirvana, but it’s, like, luxurious how much sweeter-sounding the upper registers of this guitar are now, and I can do things like drone open strings against chord clusters higher up on the net an they ring out sweetly. It RULES.

I have no idea, still, what the problem was. Wear to the knife edges shifting the bridge juuuuust enough on the bass side? Different stud diameters? something wrong with that particular saddle? Something wrong with the brass block (though how that could be I have no idea)? I’m at a total loss. But, the guitar sounds awesome, and I’m stoked to not have to just try to play everything with a wide vibrato on the lower strings to get them to ring out well. :laughing:

Might sound a little better too - maybe a little more open and bell-like, possibly as a result of some of the other design changes but very likely the block, which is a heavy steel block vs the equally large brass one I’d been using in the Wilkinson for the last five or so years.


Well dang it, we NEED to see this thing… Photos?


Exactly!!! I clicked for pics, haha!!


:rofl: I’ll post some tonight, sorry about that! It’s the Strat you’ve seen in a few of my video posts, Inca Silver with a amber tinted maple neck and fretboard.

At the moment it has sort of matte silver Fender locking tuners on it, which used to be a match for the Gotoh Wilkinson. I should probably grab some silver ones - I’ve got the Gotoh 510 locking tuners on a few other guitars and they’re awesome, so I’ll hunt down a set of those I guess. That’d also allow me to take off the string trees, which is one of the very few remaining original parts of this guitar now. :laughing:


Ok, before I go straight to jail. :laughing:

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Let me know if either of those work!

EDIT - hmm, not really…
Strat Couch
Here’s that shot, embedded, and here’s the old bridge:
Strat bridge
The Gotoh is a much more “normal” looking bridge, but is seriously well made. And oyu can see how I had the bass saddles shifted as fr forward as they would go, and higher notes on the low strings were still sounding slightly but perceptibly flat. It was weird.

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Even with staggered tuners you may still need string trees. The break angle from the nut still might not be sharp enough with the staggered posts. If you are worried about catch on the tree there are many options to choose from.


Nice! Cool bridge - I have a “junker” strat that I think I will maybe have to see if I can get one of those!

Gotoh does make nice stuff but the 510 is almost as expensive as their Floyd units. honestly for a junker, there are other options not as expensive that will offer an “upgrade” to the current bridge. Really you want to look for a hardened steel base plate and saddles. The next thing is that you want to look at the size and material of the block. Opt for something dense like brass or steel and large but not so large to leave the trem unusable unless you want to keep it fixed. The use of either is subjective some stating steel is brighter, and Brass is warmer.

There are others out there that will fit the bill for almost half if this is for a junker.

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The main thing I like string trees for is killing sympathetic resonance behind the nut. Each of my strats have two

That would be one of reason you would want to do that even with staggered tuners. It’s one of the two overall problems with straight headstock designs.

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I mean, the nice thing about tuning pegs that don’t require string trees, is they become optional at that point. Yeah, they can help with/change sympathetic resonance, and in some situations that’s a plus side… but that’s more of a problem with high gain playing and this Strat has a sweet spot that falls between maybe noon and 2 o’clock on my Mark V in IV mode, which isn’t THAT high gain. And, it’s one less contact point for the strings on four of the six strings, so in theory tuning stability should be a little better (especially if I’;m already using a graphite nut).

So, it’s super easy to just take them off and try them without string trees. If I like it, great. If not, then it’s easy enough to reinstall them. :+1:

Been playing this guitar a ton lately - between leveling and crowning the frets on what was honestly kind of a rushed and sub-par refret from a few years ago (father/son team I’ve used in the past, does incredible work, but the father died a couple months after I dropped my guitar off, and a 6+ month backlog became a 2yr backlog pretty much overnight - I’m sure he was rushing just tyring to get caught up, but on the bright side it finally encouraged me to learn how to crown frets myself which honestly was easier than I expected it to be) and replacing this bridge, it’s like it’s a whole new guitar. It’s awesome.

Bumping this - new tuners installed, look great, and are more stable and a higher gear ratio than the ones they replace - I’m a happy camper. I did ultimately end up still using the string trees - I could probably do without, but the D and G in particular would be a fair amount higher away from the headstock. Maybe I’ll give it a shot some day but for now, whatever.

I absolutely love this guitar, and it’s not both more stable holding tune, and more evenly intonated across the neck, than it’s been in YEARS. Pretty exciting stuff.


Callaham used to make good stuff, not sure how they’re doing atm.

Cool upgrade Drew, I find string trees essential on the EB set, I like the volume with the added tension, besides feel.

About the older bridge’s intonation, on my MIM I’ve removed the springs on the G and low E strings, else I couldn’t get it to intonate, I’ve got the bridge floating for G to do go up an minor second or third I think, it’s been a while, I run a stupidly high action on that guitar. It’s a 6 point vintage so I think it’s just the action that needed that mod. I’ve even cut a spring in two but I don’t bother with that as much these days, it sits put even under heavy trem use, though I have to set the 6 screws with care.
[ edit: I just noticed you were on the wilkinson… yeah had to be the blade, though its odd that you ran out of rope there! ]

My MIM and MIJ are undergoing a bit of extensive surgery, refret, LSR nut etc, both 94’. Looking forward to getting them back, the MIM has an old callaham bridge, getting a new nitro finish on the neck and body, leaving the headstock alone for posterity. Looking forward to getting it back though it’s going to be a month or two due to the nitro.

Enjoy the new upgrades!

Talking about staggered locking tuners and how they don’t give you a proper break angle some times, I suggest going counterintuitive and put the shorter tuners on the lower strings, and for the GBE strings, this inexpensive piece of genius:


Yeah, honestly, I have NO idea what the problem was. but even at full range-of-adjustment, intonation was audibly off, and with the Gotoh, it’s flawless.

Oh god, that’s hideous. :rofl: It may work just fine, idunno, but I couldn’t look at that.

I’m still running the string trees - I’ve tried it without (easy enough to do, just one string at a time and retune as you go) and it didn’t really impact tuning stability, so I think the slight binding I’m experiencing is at the nut, not the tree. My Suhr has a similar stagger and straight headstock and no trees, and it works just fine, so I don’t think it’s strictly necessary - string tension feels a hair lighter, but on 10s on a 25.5" in standard that’s not a huge concern and for bending in the first few frets might even be a positive - but I haven’t really found myself caring enough to bother to take them off.

Guitar’s been amazing though - it’s always been one of my favorites, but it’s been the first one I reach for pretty much ever since, and since I’m on a big songwriting/demoing kick, well, the next album/EP/whatever is shaping up to be like 80%+ Strat. :rofl:

Hey! Don’t mess with my beloved Triple tree! :rofl:

:laughing: Whatever works, I guess!

Ok, so this is me speaking too soon. :rofl:

WFH day, so I took a few moments to pop each string off the string tree and tune back to pitch. I may leave it like this.

Yeah, I know, people like string trees because a stronger string break angle means more tension… but I’m playing a Strat with 10s in standard, so I’m not exactly hurting on that front. What I’m hearing is a more pronounced, less compressed attack, as well as slight but perceptively softer pressure required for bends. And, in particular, the high E sounds a little more explosive to me. I like 10s because of how they feel but always thought lighter strings had a better attack under gain; this sort of balances that a hair.

I haven’t physically removed the trees yet, but I have a feeling within a few days they’ll be gone. This is just one more marginal gain in making this old Strat feel that much more like my Suhr Modern.