Strings not dropping pitch at same rate with trem arm

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digitalzombie
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Strings not dropping pitch at same rate with trem arm

Post by digitalzombie » Tue Jun 23, 2020 4:53 pm

I've seen all sorts of "my guitar doesn't stay in tune when I use the trem arm" posts, but as far as I can tell those are more about returning to the normal pitch. What I'm saying is my guitars' strings don't drop the same amount in pitch when the tremolo arm is depressed the same amount.

The patients:
One mid-00's Classic Player Jaguar, 24-inch scale with GFS Roller Bridge. Tuned down one whole step. Custom string set (after using the string gauge calculator from Stringjoy) as follows:
1- 11
2- 15
3- 18p
4- 28
5- 38
6- 50

One J. Mascis Jazzmaster, 25.5-inch scale with GFS Roller Bridge. Tuned to drop-C, so one whole step, with 6th string two steps down.
1- 10
2- 13
3- 17
4- 26
5- 36
6- 54

I used the 2 string (A in this case) as a benchmark, and lowered the bar until it hit a half step down (G#), then checked the tuning on the other strings. Whatever my problem is, it's at least consistent as both guitars exhibit almost identical inconsistencies;

The 1st string only goes down about 1/4 step
2nd - 1/2 step (benchmark)
3rd - 3/4 step
4th - 1/2 step (only other string doing what I want it to do!)
5th - Greater than 1/2 step (Jaguar) and 3/4 step (JM)
6th - Almost whole step (Jag) and > whole step (JM)


So as you can see, the amounts the strings are bending in pitch with use of the trem arm are wildly inconsistent with each other (yet nearly identical between the two guitars), making chord playing with the arm worthless. I understand there are two glaring factors here, 1) a non-stock bridge, and 2) custom string sets. They may both be to blame. Does anyone what exactly could be causing this issue, and what I need to change to fix it?

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jorri
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Re: Strings not dropping pitch at same rate with trem arm

Post by jorri » Tue Jun 23, 2020 5:25 pm

Think this is perfectly normal.

Much like at the tuning pegs strings will require different amounts of turning.

And because the trem is pretty flatly moving all strings.

But often preffered for the 'chorusing' it can produced when gliding with the trem arm.

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Re: Strings not dropping pitch at same rate with trem arm

Post by andy_tchp » Tue Jun 23, 2020 6:03 pm

jorri wrote:
Tue Jun 23, 2020 5:25 pm
Think this is perfectly normal.

Much like at the tuning pegs strings will require different amounts of turning.

And because the trem is pretty flatly moving all strings.
Yep, agreed. It's just a mechanical shifting.

I don't think I've encountered a guitar vibrato where every string detunes consistently and linearly, let alone across every single string in unison. Come to think of it I think it'd sound pretty weird if it did.

I don't think it's possible.
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Re: Strings not dropping pitch at same rate with trem arm

Post by countertext » Tue Jun 23, 2020 6:54 pm

The TransTrem that was installed on Steinbergers back in the day was an attempt to achieve this idea. It kinda worked, but you had to use double-ball-end strings specifically designed for it.

As far as I know, no other vibrato tailpieces were really designed to do it, and certainly not in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

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Re: Strings not dropping pitch at same rate with trem arm

Post by timtam » Tue Jun 23, 2020 9:25 pm

As others have said, most trems are not designed to achieve consistent pitch changes across strings. eg you can read Leo's patent ..
https://patents.google.com/patent/US2972923A/en

Zollner analysed the individual string pitch changes with strat trems but not jazzmaster/jag trems (and he does tend to parrot the negative notions around the latter, more prevalent when he was writing) - see section 7.4.1 and 7.10.3 ...
https://www.gitec-forum-eng.de/2019/08/ ... s-on-line/

The pitch changes (length changes or 'strain') on a strat are a function of the different individual leverages afforded by the saddles rotating about the knife edge, and the string properties. On a JM or a Bigsby the absolute strains of each string are more similar, but the pitch change depends on %strain .. which differs (~4 times greater for low E vs high E).

There is a youtube video showing Carl Verheyen suggesting that he can adjust the strat trem's pitch changes by angling the strat trem claw, which only serves to demonstrate his complete misunderstanding of basic trem physics. ;)

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Re: Strings not dropping pitch at same rate with trem arm

Post by mbene085 » Tue Jun 23, 2020 9:41 pm

Yeah, I remember reading a research paper or something where someone set about designing a set of strings that would change pitch more evenly with vibrato use, but the short version is that it's just the way these things work with existing vibratos and existing guitar strings.

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Re: Strings not dropping pitch at same rate with trem arm

Post by digitalzombie » Wed Jun 24, 2020 8:35 am

So strange. I swear I've heard the "glide guitar" technique done without it sounding like a dissonant mess.

So, it's of the opinion of this body that what I'm witnessing is completely normal?

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Re: Strings not dropping pitch at same rate with trem arm

Post by mbene085 » Wed Jun 24, 2020 10:12 am

digitalzombie wrote:
Wed Jun 24, 2020 8:35 am
So strange. I swear I've heard the "glide guitar" technique done without it sounding like a dissonant mess.

So, it's of the opinion of this body that what I'm witnessing is completely normal?
Completely normal. Different vibratos respond a little differently, but chords never bend together in tune. If you've heard stuff that seemed to do it in tune, there are a few possibilities - it could have been just a note or two being detuned over a second guitar part, or it could have been a whammy pedal.

A lot of common vibrato techniques rely on quick bends or flutters, where there isn't enough time to notice the notes going out of tune relative to each other. Things like divebombs are often single notes, or are so extreme in their rate of pitch change that you'd never notice what's happening to the relative pitch of multiple notes.

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Re: Strings not dropping pitch at same rate with trem arm

Post by Sweetfinger » Wed Jun 24, 2020 1:46 pm

There have been a couple vibrato designs over the years that tried to even out the pitch drops, but as far as I know, the Steinberger Trans-Trem is the only thing that got close.
Any vibrato/trem tailpiece that has all the string anchors on a single piece of metal, in a line, cannot keep all the strings in relative tune as the unit is used. That's Jag, JM, Strat, Floyd Rose, Bigsby, Maestro, Mustang, almost everything.

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Re: Strings not dropping pitch at same rate with trem arm

Post by andy_tchp » Wed Jun 24, 2020 2:48 pm

mbene085 wrote:
Wed Jun 24, 2020 10:12 am
If you've heard stuff that seemed to do it in tune, there are a few possibilities - it could have been just a note or two being detuned over a second guitar part, or it could have been a whammy pedal.
Yep, this seems likely. Blonde Redhead do quite a bit of this.

Another possibility is the 'guitar' was actually a synth. 8)
"I don't know why we asked him to join the band 'cause the rest of us don't like country music all that much; we just like Graham Lee."
David McComb, 1987.

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Re: Strings not dropping pitch at same rate with trem arm

Post by Telliot » Wed Jun 24, 2020 3:54 pm

+1 on the Totally Normal front.
The cool thing about fretless is you can hit a note...and then renegotiate.

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Re: Strings not dropping pitch at same rate with trem arm

Post by antisymmetric » Thu Jun 25, 2020 3:23 am

^Agree with everyone else, it's totally as it should be.
I have a few old Japanese trems with the holes for the strings at staggered heights (distances from fulcrum) to try to achieve some kind of balance, and then I have this:
Image
My old Commodore (definitely pre-'66, because that's when Bunny Milne stopped building guitars). The row of screws across the top can push down on the individual ball ends to varying degrees, right up to the point of disabling the trem effect on any string. The closer to the fulcrum, the less travel, so less trem effect. It works- well enough that the guy who sold me the guitar told me the trem was useless. I discovered that it had been set up with the screws all maxed downwards. It could have used some more development- the ball ends don't follow the screws up if they're released- you have to push them up, but the concept is there. Individual adjustment for each string way back then (I'm guessing '63 or so).
It's cool to have, but I never use it, I like the natural dissonance of the various gauges of string responding in their own way. :-*
Watching the corners turn corners

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Re: Strings not dropping pitch at same rate with trem arm

Post by 601210 » Thu Jun 25, 2020 3:39 am

digitalzombie wrote:
Wed Jun 24, 2020 8:35 am
So strange. I swear I've heard the "glide guitar" technique done without it sounding like a dissonant mess.
I can't find the exact interview where he speaks about it, but I remember Kevin Shields describing tuning strings to the same pitch and having them go slightly out of tune with each other via the vibrato, so as you dip down you get that chorusing effect and when you go back up to pitch they return to unison.

He also mentions how, as long as you go back to pitch at the end of it, people tend to not catch on that it was totally out of tune.

The glide guitar technique is inherently playing with dissonance.

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