Instructables

is it possible to make and install a whammy bar on my guitar?

if it matters(which i probably does), i have a peavey rockmaster (fender strat copy) that i want to put a whammy bar in. is it possible to make one or will i have to buy one?

A whammy bar is also known as a tremolo, and it consists of bridge on a spring-loaded saddle and a simple lever called a tremolo (aka whammy) bar.

It'd be best to buy one (from a music shop), because while simple... it is a precision device and it has to be very strong. I'm looking at the one attached to my guitar at the moment and I'm quite confident I could machine all the parts in my shop... but the materials would cost me much more than it would to just go buy the thing. Here's one: http://www.guitarpartsdepot.com/Strat_Style_Bridges-Guitar_Tremolo_Six_String_Modern_Style.html

Fitting it on the guitar can be a bit tricky and is best done by a professional. I say this because you may need to cut a new hole, with some precision, in order to make room for the mechanism.

If you're comfortable hacking up your axe and you find a tremolo that looks like it will be easy to fit do the following:

~De-tune and then de-string your guitar.
Don't just cut the strings, they're under tension and will hurt you. I tell you that not because I think you're stupid but because my friend lost an eye. It's best to do it slowly anyway, to let the guitar accept the change in stresses and avoid warping and cracks.

~Electric guitars usually have an adjustable bridge (with all those little "fingers"). Yours is no exception. You need to make a mark showing where they are and then remove your old fixed (aka hardtail) bridge.

~You then need to examine your Tremolo and the existing hole, and determine whether or not you need to use a router and make the hole bigger (probably). You'll also need to determine if you have enough wood in the right place for the new screw holes. Your new bridge must be centred on the neck, with the fingers the same distance away from the neck as the old ones. Also observe the location of any other internal parts that might get in your way.

~If your tremolo comes with a template, transfer it to your guitar. If not, make a new one keeping in mind that the tremolo needs room to move and that you don't want an open hole.

~Remove any parts that will get in the way of your router, and cover any electronics that dont. Now make a new hole, following the template carefully. Use a chisel if there are any sharp corners to be made, but most guitar parts are designed for holes with rounded corners.

~Drill new screw holes unless the old ones are in exactly the right place and happen to be exactly the right size.

~Mount the new tremolo using the screws and hardware provided. For most models the screws will not be tightened but left sticking out a little bit. This gives the bridge room to rock back and forth. Check the action now and make adjustments. It should be fairly firm and it should not knock loudly. Keep in mind that the strings will provide some additional pulling force so make it just a bit firmer than you'd like.

~Re-string, slowly. Do not tighten the strings rapidly. Tighten them about halfway, leave it for an hour. Come back, tighten a little bit more and leave for a half hour. Come back, tighten the rest of the way.

~Check the tremolo. Did the strings pull it forward too much? Note that a Strat-style tremolo should lay flat agaisnt the body until used. Were there any cracking or popping noises? Does the tremolo move properly?

~Be prepared to adjust the fingers on your bridge for action (height of the strings above the neck and body). You may also have to adjust intonation, which is a function of distance between both points that the string rests on (the "nut" on the neck and at the bridge on the body). The first one you can do yourself, the second one should be handed over to an experienced pro.

Ok. I know this isn't a hold-your-hand guide to doing what you want. In fact, I'm sure I left a lot of stuff out, and I actually tried to avoid explaining guitar theory in great detail. I just want to point out a couple of issues with the change:

1. Your guitar is now weaker due to the modification. If it was done right, it shouldn't be a problem. Electric guitars are usually built much stronger than they need to be (at least in my opinion).

2. A guitar that is fitted with a tremolo will not hold tuning as well as a guitar that has a Hardtail (fixed) bridge. Look under "Bridge" while reading the link below to hear more about the pros and cons.

For an explaination of guitar anatomy:
http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Guitar/Anatomy_of_a_Guitar
peach_fart (author)  DELETED_GuardianFox5 years ago
actually, i did a little research be fore posting, and there is a prt on some that locks your strings by the bride and on the headstock to prevent it from slipping out of tune. and thanks for all the info!
Yup, but the extra abuse of your strings will still cause them to stretch and weaken faster than a fixed bridge, and the spring in the tremolo will become progressivly weaker over time. A good tremolo is designed to reduce this effect as much as possible, but it's still a tradeoff to consider. Of course, I've never met anyone who was unhappy enough to make the switch in the other direction (from a tremolo to a fixed bridge). On the bright side, it makes breaking in a new set of strings a little faster. :D I really, really hope this project goes well for you. Best of luck in finding the right tremolo (you might consider removing your existing bridge and bringing the guitar to the music store when you shop) and have fun rocking out with it.
peach_fart (author) 4 years ago
well, i guess i havent needed any of this info for a while, because ive had a ibanez RG10 for a few months now.
IronManMC4 years ago
GuardianFox, excellent reply.  You said toward the end that a tremolo equipped guitar doesn't hold its tuning as well.  It's true, but there's a "fix".

I have perfect pitch and can tune my guitar by ear to within a cent or two when installing new strings, with no reference pitch.  I'm extremely fussy about tuning.

My old Fender Coronado has a tremelo tailpiece.  The bridge has round cylinders rather than knife-edged saddles, and the tremelo mounts on top of the tailpiece.  The strings go through a metal bar that looks a lot like a pedal steel chrome slide.  The trem bar is mounted to this, and "rocks" it to vary string tension.  It's similar in principle to a Bigsby.  (BTW, the Bigsby requires no routing, and this design might be easier for homebrewing.)

I wouldn't call it a "whammy".  It bends down only about 1-1/2 tones.  No Eddy Van Halen dive bombs with this tremelo.  Fortunately, there's not much call for these in jazz and blues.

There's a trick to tuning a trem equipped guitar.  Tune a string, hit the trem bar, retune, hit the trem bar, retune, hit the trem bar again.  By now, that string should be pretty stable.  Tune all strings thusly, then recheck your tuning.

While playing, your guitar may go out of tune.  If it does, hit the trem bar.  This will usually bring it right back in tune.

I use a guitar tuner (Boss TU121) with a D'arsonval/Weston meter movement (moving needle).  It's very accurate, and more flexible than a strobe.  I set it to A439, and use the marker just before center for more flatness.  We tune guitars with the strings "at rest".  When the guitar is played normally, it plays sharp because the average string excursion is greater, and increases effective string tension.  This is the right compromise for my guitar and style of play. 

I also play a racked diatonic harmonica.  I tune my harmonicas several cents sharp (and yes harmonicas can be tuned by removing metal from the reed).  I naturally "pull" them into tune with my resonant embouchure.  I set them up so I can bend all 20 reeds and play chromatically.

It seems that most (all??) trem equipped Strats come with a floating trem, a musical abomination that should carry a mandatory life sentence at a facility far away from me.  The first time I tried a Strat with a floating trem, I finally understood why Strat players like to smash and burn their instruments.  It makes them sound better.

Fortunately, there's a simple (and CHEAP) fix.  Block the tremelo, so it bends only downward in pitch, but not upward (if you need bidirectional whammy, do it right, with a slide).  I sank a couple of wood screws in back of mine, so the trem firmly rests against the screws.  What a HUGE difference this made.

Once you do these (tuning and blocking the trem), you won't need locking nuts, locking tuners, Floyd Roses, or any of that other junk that doesn't work.  If your tuners are junk (a lot of "stock" tuners are junk), you may need to replace them with good precision tuners, like Schallers.  But if you're contemplating building your own tremelo, you're probably either totally broke or terminally cheap (or like me, both), and the chances that those tuners will be replaced is about the same as Rush Limburger saying something (gasp!) nice about Obama.



apurvh5 years ago
Trying to do that you might spoil your guitar. I think there are some effects processor that make tremolo effects.
peach_fart (author)  apurvh5 years ago
I don't want tremolo distortion, I want a whammy bar because of all the cool sound effects you can do with them.
dab20001005 years ago
you could but it would be alot of work id suggest not doing that and just produce tremelo with youre finger
peach_fart (author)  dab20001005 years ago
I want a whammy bar to do cool sound effects, not vibrato.