Last week’s tip on guitar tremolo systems (see inSync 10/18/99) triggered the following question from an inSync reader.
“I want to eliminate that loose “jiggle” or slack that my vibrato arm has. I set up my vibrato arm bi-directionally and I use very subtle vibrato effects where I am pushing and pulling the arm only very slightly so that the slightest touch of the arm affects the strings. But it seems that most of the older Fender guitar vibrato arms have the problem of being “jiggly” or loose at the threaded hole they are screwed into, even with that small spring down the hole, unless they are way tightened down. I am wasting movement just to compensate for this slack and achieve even a slight vibrato effect. I don’t think this is caused by a worn out threaded hole because the entire bridge block is relatively new. Is there a way to eliminate that loose “jiggle” or slack and still be able to rotate the arm into a convenient grabbing position?”
This is a great question. I can’t imagine how many players out there must be frustrated by this, including yours truly. Take note inSync readers. It’s a rare occurrence, but your inSync editor was stumped with this one. Having used Fender style vibrato arms quite a bit over the years I usually became so frustrated with them I would replace them with a more sophisticated system. Not a bad alternative as there are many benefits to some systems, but it’s not an option if you want to retain the original look and feel of a vintage instrument (most retrofit vibrato arm systems require extensive routing to the body of the guitar). Without a better solution than that I decided to go back to the source of the original tip, John Robinson, one of our great Sweetwater Sales Engineers to see what his thoughts were.
“That Jiggly thing….I have yet another low-tech path for this particular malady: Ram the threaded end of the tremolo arm into a bar of soap, or rub soap around the threads. The soap helps fill in the gaps between the tremolo arm and the receptacle on the bridge. Another thing I have done when I haven’t been close to soap (yes kids, it can get downright scary on the road) is to break a balloon, stretch a piece of it across the receptacle, and screw the tremolo arm in, using the balloon as a gasket of sorts.”
Amazing. If I had only known this years ago my 1977 Strat would probably be worth more than $77 at this point (no, that is NOT an offer to sell it for $77).