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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Surf Musician »

Permalink Anyone Else Not Use Their Tremolo Arm On Their Strat?

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I've been playing acoustic guitars for 40+ years. Six months ago I bought a Strat. I'm having a great time learning surf and other instrumental tunes. I like to rest my palm/wrist on the floating tremolo just behind the bridge. It's a natural comfy place to pick the strings between the bridge and middle pickups. The problem is, that is near where the pop-in tremolo arm is attached. If I pop in the trem arm, then my new hand position doesn't feel right. Playing without the arm in place probably sounds sacrilegious to do so, since the trem effect is such a unique part of the surf sound. I can move the floating trem with my palm, but only slightly, and not to the effect that it was meant to sound. Anyone have any tips?

-John

"...enjoy every sandwich." -Warren Zevon

Fender American Stratocaster Pro II
Fender '65 Deluxe Reverb Reissue

jaguar or jazzmaster. Just kidding. I actually don’t use the vibrato on my strat. i have never liked the feel of that system. That said, my hand when I palm mute just kinda naturally falls so that my pinky goes between the volume knob and the vibrato bar. When I did use the vibrato, i’d just flick it out of the way a touch and it became muscle memory for my hand to go there.

It also leaves my pinky in the proper place for volume swells.

Last edited: Jan 12, 2022 00:35:41

I use it for major bends and note/chord accents. Recently I've been watching other videos of surf guitarist who use it on a regular basis. It's a tough technique that requires a lot of control and touch. Your hand has to float over the strings near the bridge, but not rest, then extend your pinky to the bar and waver slightly. You don't have to keep this position the whole song, just when you are ready to use the tremolo. It's a hard discipline; I'm still working on it.

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Dick Dale never used a tremolo. My guess is that his strat was set with the trem plate decked to the body and heavy spring tension to counter the huge strings. My suggestion is to decide what you want and adapt to it. Some will use trem with a decked plate some will set up a floating system. I prefer a float with higher spring tension and longer arm for easier bends.

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I set mine up for just a light amount of float. I typically use .012s these days and three springs. I tend to rest my hand lightly on the bridge, so it needs to be stable or I’ll push it sharp on accident every now and then. With a strat I still tend to have my pinky around the bar. With the vibrato being so direct, it doesn’t require much movement to get the light lyrical bends we often do in surf.

-Eric

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The Strat trem is a different animal. I have owned a couple of Strats in the past and like the trems, but it responds differently than the trem on Fender Offsets or a Bigsby.

With regard to your situation, it may be possible to alter your RH technique to accommodate the trem arm. When I flatpick, I don’t contact the top of the guitar, unless I am muting.

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Personally, the strat trem is my favourite trem style (probably because I started on a strat). Having said this, there are times when I barely use the trem, and other times when I rely heavily on it. Mine is set up to float, and is always on the guitar. My technique has adapted over the years so that I don't have an issue with the trem.

Rev

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Last edited: Jan 13, 2022 11:39:26

With regard to your situation, it may be possible to alter your RH technique to accommodate the trem arm. When I flatpick, I don’t contact the top of the guitar, unless I am muting.

I'll definitely need to change my right hand position if I want to play with the trem arm in place. I love everything about this guitar. So many good things to learn.

-John

"...enjoy every sandwich." -Warren Zevon

Fender American Stratocaster Pro II
Fender '65 Deluxe Reverb Reissue

I'm sure we can all agree the real evil/genius on a Strat is the position of the volume knob.
You either love it or hate it. No guessing which camp I'm in

image

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J_Durango wrote:

I'm sure we can all agree the real evil/genius on a Strat is the position of the volume knob.
You either love it or hate it. No guessing which camp I'm in

image

I don't know what I'm looking at but I could easily lose the volume control on my surf strat's. I never use it. Full on all the time.

The Kahuna Kings

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I recently took my arm off,, on a whim,, one night during practicing.

I don’t use it a lot, and it has never really been in the way.

But I was playing and bumped it. So I thought. I’m popping it out to see what will happen.
Ehhh. I didn’t notice any tonal difference.
And lik3 I said above. It has never been in the way to me.
So I popped it back in and things are just as it was.

Joelman wrote:

I recently took my trem arm off,, on a whim,, one night during practicing.

I don’t use it a lot, and it has never really been in the way.

But I was playing and bumped it. So I thought. I’m popping it out to see what will happen.
Ehhh. I didn’t notice any tonal difference.
And lik3 I said above. It has never been in the way to me.
So I popped it back in and things are just as it was.

Confused Joelman wrote:

Argh

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