Effect of trem block material on tone

Discussion in 'Beginners/FAQ' started by vilk, Feb 7, 2019.

  1. vilk

    vilk Very Regular

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    Part 1:
    Is there generally any kind of consensus on whether blocking a floating trem will damper sustain? I mean, people upgrade their blocks all the time to get better sustain... but that block is floating between the strings and the springs, can vibrate well enough to keep on sustaining.

    How is that affected by putting in blocks? I never took physics. Do you suspect that blocking a floating trem would increase or decrease sustain?

    Part 2:
    What do you suppose would be the "best" way to block a trem, with regards to tone (over stability)?
    -They offer a lot of things you can screw into your guitar body and adjust, like just a little tiny grub screw pushing against the block.
    -I've heard to use business cards or playing cards. Though I don't understand why I feel inclined to believe so, but I have to imagine that this would damper the guitars tone in some way.
    -I'm currently using popsicle sticks wrapped in masking tape right now. It is not satisfactory. Constantly needs retuning. Maybe it's the pressure squishing the popsicle sticks together.
    -I've heard to use coins. Now this seems like a good idea. The pressure can't really compress them, so it should be more stable. Also, coins are made of metal, so by the same logic that getting a big brass block is good for sustain... maybe blocking with metal coins is less detrimental to sustain than say, business cards?
    -What about wood blocks? Guitars are made of wood, after all.

    Part 3:
    Is it better to have the blocks make as much contact with the trem block as possible, or as little as possible? I mean, the products that are designed for this sort of thing are often little tiny grub screws that barely make any surface contact. But then again, those products sorta have to be small in order to be installed between the springs. But say I were to cut some custom wood blocks ore something, would I want to make them as large as possible, or as small as possible?

    I'm sorry this is so confusing since both the blocks and the block are called blocks.
     
  2. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    If all the things that effect tone were a big, delicious pepperoni pizza, how you block the trem would be the sprinkling of oregano on the crust.

    Will there be an effect? Yeah. Is it going to make a noticeable change in your tone, not really unless there is a very specific set of circumstances and you're looking for it.

    I've blocked the trem on dozens of guitars. Could I reliably A/B it and pick it out of a recording, probably not.

    :2c:
     
  3. vilk

    vilk Very Regular

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    I'm actually happy to hear that. However, since I'm for sure gonna ditch the popsicle sticks, might as well go at it the right way? So if it really doesn't affect it that much then maybe coins will be best since they can't expand and contract as much as wood.
     
  4. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    For something so small, you'd be fine with wood. Just grab a piece of scrap wood from Home Depot or Lowes (where they poorly rough cut longer pieces for customers), it's usually free or almost free, and small saw (<$10) and some sandpaper.
     
  5. vilk

    vilk Very Regular

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    ...but I already have coins at home... and I don't have scrap wood or a saw...

    Are you tryna say that wood blocks are better than coins?? Hmm?????
     
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  6. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    I just think they're less ugly and more likely to stay put for a long time.
     
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  7. GuitarBizarre

    GuitarBizarre Listen to physics.

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    I think you're misunderstanding how some of this works. Yes, people change out sustain blocks.

    But you suggested that it's a good thing the block can still vibrate due to the arrangement of springs/strings. That's not why people change out blocks. The goal is for the block to vibrate LESS - that's why people usually change a zinc block to a brass one, or a brass one to a tungsten one - something heavier with more inertia.

    For a really extreme example, imagine you have a guitar string anchored to your ceiling, and on the end of that guitar string, just to pull it taut and down to the floor, you have a tuner on a bit of balsa wood. You pluck the string, and all that really happens is the bit of balsa wood with a tuner on it, starts swinging around and the string doesn't vibrate at all. That's because all of the energy you put into the system, immediately became a large swinging movement and none of it stayed in the string.

    Now imagine you take a 25lb weight and attach the tuner to that the same way. You'd see very little movement of the weight and the string would be pulled taut and vibrate along it's length.

    Now consider the same thing with a blocked tremolo - What you're doing is essentially taking the current mass of the bridge and block, then you're linking it solidly with the mass of the guitar body. As long as you do it in such a way that there can be no movement, you're going to get pretty much exactly the same result no matter what method you use. Your sustain will maybe increase, but it honestly won't be a night-and-day difference unless your guitar is a real featherweight instrument and you use very light strings.

    A block of maple cut to size is a good option - it's easy to make, tough enough to last a long time, and you can cut it to whatever shape you need. Coins will also work, but I'd use a stack of thick steel washers superglued together instead, because then you're not dealing with the etched designs sliding against each other, which is a major reason coins tend to fall out of guitars or move over time.
     
  8. prlgmnr

    prlgmnr ...that kind of idea

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    There you go, you can print that post out and fold it up and you're all set.
     
  9. GuitarBizarre

    GuitarBizarre Listen to physics.

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    That's his problem solved, yeah. Unfortunately I don't have a way to cure your evident fear of reading.
     
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  10. littlebadboy

    littlebadboy SS.org Regular

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    That's what I did on my ex with a floating bridge. I stacked enough pennies to fit on both sides of the block, glued them, and it did the job. Make sure to use pennies because the produce better tone. ;)

    I hate floating bridges. They're a pain.
     
  11. AirForbes1

    AirForbes1 SS.org Regular

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    I'd say that blocking a trem does improve things like tone and sustain, but as mentioned above, in the context of a recording or with a band, probably not that noticeable.

    On a guitar like a strat, guys will deck the trem because it's the easiest method but you also get the trem right up against the guitar body. I was looking around the Suhr forum and saw a post from Andy Wood where he said that he gets more tone and sustain by having his Modern set up like that (decked and dive only).

    The fewer things sucking away from the inertia of the strings is going to improve sustain, IMO. How noticeable or important is user dependant, I'd say.
     
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  12. prlgmnr

    prlgmnr ...that kind of idea

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    I only meant because of the density of information contained within, you don't have to see everything in a negative light.
     
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  13. wakjob

    wakjob SS.org Regular

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    Can't say that I've ever blocked a trem in the traditional form.

    I usually just add springs or tighten up the claw screws until that trem is sitting tightly down to the body.

    I imagine on a full floating trem you just have to.
     

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