Care and Maintenance of an Electric Guitar
I changed the height of the strings and can no longer tune my instrument
Guitars with rock tremolos sometimes exhibit a problem where they cannot be tuned if the string height has been modified. In this case, changing the string height has likely disrupted the tension balance when the instrument is in a "floating" state (the tension of the strings and the spring on the underside of the body are balanced).
When the balance is disrupted, the tension balance changes when tuning strings 1 through 5 even though string 6 has been tuned. This causes the pitch of the strings to change even though you just tuned them!
In this case, it is easier to first tune string 6 a certain degree, then tune the other strings in order starting from string 1 (which has the lowest tension). The trick here is to tune the other strings slightly low, tune string 1 slightly high, and then tune the other strings. It will be difficult to tune all the strings in one go, so you will need to tune strings 1 through 6 in order several times.
If the instrument still cannot be tuned, you will likely need to adjust the spring on the underside of the body. It is recommended that you have the instrument adjusted at a store.
On handling the strings with skill
Some guitars are equipped with what is called a rock tremolo unit. If the strings on an electric guitar equipped with a rock tremolo are replaced, the tremolo unit could lift up too much, creating a gap between the neck and strings.
As mentioned on the previous page, rock tremolos are set with the guitar in a "floating state" (the tension of the strings and the spring on the underside of the body are balanced). What this means is that the instrument will need to be returned to its original state when the strings are replaced.
There are two ways to avoid this:
- Instead of removing all strings at once, remove a string, install the new string, tune it, and then repeat for the rest of the strings.
- Place some object (such as a screwdriver wrapped in cloth) between the body and bridge to fix them in a balanced position, remove all the strings, and hen replace them.
Fixing an unbalanced rock tremolo
If the balance is disrupted and the strings are extremely high, first loosen the strings, then adjust the bridge to an appropriate angle (normally, parallel with the body). Then, insert a screwdriver or other object between the body and bridge and loosen the strings just a bit more. Finally, tune the instrument while paying close attention to the tension balance of the six strings.
If you have adjusted the spring on the underside of the body or the bolt supporting the bridge, you will not be able to return the tremolo to its original state using this method. In this case, you should have the instrument adjusted at a store.