Tuning issues when using tremolo - PRS SE custom 24

Chris50

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Aug 12, 2021
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32
Greetings,

I'm still trying to get my prs se custom 24 to stay in tune when I use the tremolo. I've owned the guitar for about 3 months now from new and have yet to get it to consistently stay in tune.

Upgrades so far have been A TUSQ graphite nut, grover locking tuners and an ESP arming adjuster.

The nut is not binding as far as I can tell. If I press behind the nut then the pitch returns perfectly to tune.

The guitar stays in tune when doing bends now that the ESP trem stabiliser is installed.

If I dive any more than a semi tone with the trem then the low E and G string go sharp by about 4 cents.

No amount of push or pull on the trem bar resets the string once its sharp. Even if I lift the low E string out of the nut slot under tension and put it back it doesn't return to the correct pitch. The only way to correct the pitch is to pull the string up near the bridge which resets the string to the correct pitch.

I watched the John Mann video and set up the bridge screws to 2.5mm using a hex key. The screws look level and the knife edges don't look worn, though I haven't removed it from the body to have a proper look yet.

The tremolo springs are a little noisy and 2 of them are a little dull in color. I've tried combinations of 3 and 4 springs to no avail.

I'm wondering whether the saddles are moving when I press down on the bar and then the action of pulling up on the strings with my fingers then resets the saddles. Or if the string ball ends are catching between the bridge plate and the block during a trem dive and me pulling up on the strings resets the ball ends. I've greased the saddles and the ball ends to no avail.

I'm struggling to see where the problem is on the bridge.

To be honest it's been a real pain and I'm having slight buyers remorse with this guitar. Still, it looks nice hung up on the wall though:)

So if anyone has any suggestions on how to problem solve this I'd be grateful.


Chris
 

Chris50

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Aug 12, 2021
Messages
32
Some photos of the bridge and spring cavity.

aHsmX3yyZb
https://flic.kr/s/aHsmX3yyZb
aHsmX3yyZb


There's a birds eye picture of the saddles and block holes. Is it me or do the saddles not line up with the block holes correctly?
 
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John Mann

olslowhand
Authorized PRS Dealer
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Apr 27, 2012
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1.) Get rid of the ESP thing a ma-giggie for starters...
2. ) Go thru this troubleshooting guide :

Troubleshooting tuning issues:

1. Is bridge installed correctly?

a. Watch video -

b. Saddle height should match fingerboard radius.

c. Saddles should be parallel to the bridge plate. Both height set screws should be the same height, NOT angled!

2. Is nut installed correctly?

a. Strings should pass thru the nut in a straight line.

b. Strings should not bind, pinch or stick in the string slot.

c. Do you hear “pinging” when tuning up to pitch? That is a clear sign that the string in pinched in the string slot.

d. If guitar is equipped with a vibrato (tremolo) bridge, the nut should be made of a material that self- lubricates.

3. Are tuners installed correctly?

a. Tuners should be mounted securely, with no looseness (free play or wiggle).

b. Are strings relatively new? “Dead” strings tend not to hold their tuning.

c. Always tune up to pitch (not down). The tuning gear must have pressure on the gears to hold tuning properly.

d. Are the strings properly wound on the tuner peg? The string should self-lock on itself to eliminate any slippage. How to do it - http://www.prsguitars.com/csc/tuners.html

e. If guitar is equipped with a vibrato (tremolo) bridge, locking tuners are a must.

4. Are frets dressed and level?

a. Excessive fret wear will cause a note to play out of tune.

5. Is truss rod properly adjusted?

6. Is guitar properly intonated?

7. Are pickups set too close to the strings?

a. Pickups that are set too close to the strings will cause the guitar to go out of tune, due to the magnetic pull of the pickup magnets.
 

Chris50

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Aug 12, 2021
Messages
32
Thanks John for replying in detail.

The only thing I cannot check accurately at the moment is making sure the saddles match the radius of the fingerboard. I'm currently doing that by guesswork at the moment and making sure there's an approximate radius curve in the saddle positions.

As mentioned in my first post I have a tusq nut that isn't binding plus locking tuners. I haven't glued the nut on yet as I was only recently shaping the nut to fit my guitar. It fits securely and doesn't move under full tension or slack tension during trem dives. But I will glue it on asap.

I've tested the tremolo stability using many different settings, truss rod relief, high/low action, 3 trem springs, 4 trem springs, bridge parallel to body, bridge slightly forward/backward.

The most stable I can get the tremolo on dives is with a parallel bridge with very little tension on the springs. I then micro adjust the claw to allow slightly less tension on the bass springs. Forget even pulling up on the trem bar slightly as this puts the guitar out of tune.

If I add even a touch more spring tension on the claw then the tremolo goes out of tune after dives. This is why I can't use the tremolo stabilizer, as you need to add spring tension to pull the trem block tight against the stabilizer.

By the way the reason for the stabilizer is stop the guitar going out of tune during heavy palm muting.

I noticed recently that one of the bridge screws has a slight imperfection on the groove where the knife edge sits. It was on the Low E side so I swapped it for the B string screw. I don't know if all the bridge screws have to have perfect grooves cut in them but I imagine the grooves where the knife edge sits have to be perfect. I'll try and take a picture of the damage screw at some point.

One thing that crossed my mind is that the truss rod is too weak to pull the strings flat again after they have been slackened during a tremolo dive and then tension added during release of the bar. If that makes sense? Though I haven't heard of this problem before and also only the Low E, D and G string are out of tune after trem diving. Also, I can adjust the truss rod both ways fine with 10s on.

Problem solving can be a real time killer. I could almost do with sticking a new bridge or bridge screws or new springs in to see if that's the problem . I'd hate to spend $$s on a new bridge to find out the problem was solved by a changing the springs :)
 

Chris50

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Aug 12, 2021
Messages
32
Installed new graphtech saddles and replaced the old springs. The tuning problem with tremolo use still remains. After installing locking tuners, a graphtech nut, new springs and new saddles I'm left thinking that the issue must lie with the string ball ends getting stuck between the steel block and bridge plate. For example, I tune the strings normally and then have to retune after any string bends. Once I've retuned and then bend the string again, it stays in tune for a while. It's almost like it's being locked into place in the bridge/block. Does anyone else with a floating bridge have to tune this way? Obviously as soon as I use the tremolo then certain strings return sharp.


New Saddles by Dave Smith, on Flickr

New heavy duty noiseless springs. I've tried different spring combinations and claw positions.

New springs by Dave Smith, on Flickr

Original saddles with view of bridge plate and ball ends. Would a new bridge fix the binding ball ends?

20211020_131748 by Dave Smith, on Flickr
 

sergiodeblanc

Don’t you ever cry again for the rest of your life
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Apr 26, 2012
Messages
25,300
PRS needs to re-tool their blocks. I dunno if PRS burnishes the string holes in their Maryland factory for S2 and CE guitars, as I hear a lot of owners defending their’s with trems (and I don’t own any S2’s or new CE’s).

But finally after years of trying to make the SE trem system work… I just gave up and replaced them all.
 

Chris50

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Aug 12, 2021
Messages
32
PRS needs to re-tool their blocks. I dunno if PRS burnishes the string holes in their Maryland factory for S2 and CE guitars, as I hear a lot of owners defending their’s with trems (and I don’t own any S2’s or new CE’s).

But finally after years of trying to make the SE trem system work… I just gave up and replaced them all.

Yes, I could do with trying a replacement block to see if that fixes the problem. Can I replace just the block or should I replace the bridge plate as well?
 

Alessandro

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Jul 30, 2018
Messages
71
I’ll be the guy to talk about expectations vs reality. And I have 2 se trem equipped guitars that perform better than any Floyd rose I’ve ever owned.

a tremolo is not designed for you to do a dive bomb and then check your tuning stability immediately after. That isn’t realistic and that’s not what musicians use their tools for. Normally when you do a lot of tremwork, and everything is working properly, you will come back a tad sharp. The idea behind the tremolo is that you will continue playing your lead phrases and when you do your bends and vibratos along the strings it will “pull” all strings back to perfect pitch.

Instead of doing a dive and immediately checking to be disappointed that things are sharp, try and experiment by doing a dive or pull or whatever and then playing some phrases that include bends on the guilty strings and then checking after that (my extensive research usually comes up with the G and B and low E strings most sharp )

Once I learned this and incorporated it into my playing style I can literally dive bomb and squeal on a Strat like dimebag all day long and then play some phrases and finish off with a beautifully in tune chord. Not that dime used a Strat, it’s just the most common instrument I see people “deck” out or frustration and I’ve literally never had a single issue since learning what I know now.

In essence it may not be the guitar that needs adjustments but it could be your playing style/expectations.

also when it comes to trem stabilizers I’ve tried everything under the sun and the hipshot tremsetter is by far and away the most effective tool for this and I have used it several times with perfect success. Great for players that want that bridge stability while also giving the option to pull up or down. Down side is it is pretty invasive and can hurt resale value. It has adjustments on it so you can set it “looser” if you like the little chord wiggles or “tighter” if you wanna chug and bend and have it stay stable.

My 2 cents..
 

Maertl513

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Nov 29, 2012
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765
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abroad
I had suffered tuning concerns with my hardtail PRS SE Mark Holcomb as of I changed the SE nut to the PRS core nut and the SE tuners to Schaller locking tuners. The nut was changed by my trader according my request prior shipment - I suppose that it was adjusted precisely.
It was planned for the tuners, too, but Schaller postponed the delivery for at least more than one month. Therefore I agreed on seperate shipment.
I installed the tuners by my own, but even by ordinary strumming the guitar went immediately out of tune.
I researched possible friction points for that result. 1st the Schaller tuners are of lower height than the SEs, different - more - pressure on the nut. 2nd the nut itself didn't fit to the new tuners.
I took the guitar to my trustful tech. He found out that the nut was not rasped sufficiently in the width, and of course not for the height in relation to the tuners.
He fixed the issues.

Lessons learned: Not everything which is depicted on YT or elsewhere as DYI hacks should be done by yourself. There are skilled and experienced guys available to trouble shooting those issues.
 

Pedro Mouzinho

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Jul 15, 2022
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I figured it out in regards to Chris problem, i had the exact same problem but then i came across an old video in witch Paul Reed Smith breafelly explained how to set up the tremolo in order to have stability both in bend as well as tremolo using at the same time. First you make sure that at least the single pivots screws in each end of the tremolo bridge are perfectly set in relation to one another, remember to take off springs and losen the strings, you would need some stack of cards assuming that the distance between the flat surface of the guitar is allready set with them, (then here comes the important part) do it in sequence: 1- strech the string 2-bring the arm all the way down 3-tune the guitar (do these 3 things a couple of times until the guitar is in tune) and then, at the very end, bring the arm all the way down and all the way up and fine tune it, use a strobe tuner or a good one, whatever you have but i needs to be a good tuner, and that´s it, the guitar will stay much better in tune, and if somehow a string goes slightly flat you just bring the arm all the way down and up and your in tune, i searched in here when i had the bending and tremolo problem, now my guitar only goes almost unperceptably flat and i can dive bomb it and bend notes with no major tuning issues, one last note, make sure you also have the bridge parallel with the strings, if even one of these steps i mentioned are not fulfilled, the guitar won´t stay in tune, as long as the pivots screws are carefully leveled, the bridge is parallel (with the strings) and you follow the tuning process i preveously mentioned, it will work out, please be carefull with the pivot screws it wouldn´t be worth if any of them snapped, i hope this comment helped you in some way. Go check out (1990 PRS Video) the one where Paul has the blue guitar, minute 25, cheers.

 
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Pedro Mouzinho

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Jul 15, 2022
Messages
3
Another thing, make sure that the middle 4 pivots screws on the saddle are not any depper than the ones on the sides. Personally i leveled my pivot screws very lighly with the arm atatchment against the stack of cards, after that remove the stack of cards otherwise you´ll get binding after tuning and using the arm bar. ( Allways remember to losen the strings and remove the springs, use the proper tools so you don´t dent any screws )

The stock strings sizes that come with the guitar are the most proper ones since the nut is cuted to fit that particular gauge, after all that entonate your guitar if needed.
 
Last edited:

tumad

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Joined
Sep 13, 2022
Messages
2
I’ll be the guy to talk about expectations vs reality. And I have 2 se trem equipped guitars that perform better than any Floyd rose I’ve ever owned.

a tremolo is not designed for you to do a dive bomb and then check your tuning stability immediately after. That isn’t realistic and that’s not what musicians use their tools for. Normally when you do a lot of tremwork, and everything is working properly, you will come back a tad sharp. The idea behind the tremolo is that you will continue playing your lead phrases and when you do your bends and vibratos along the strings it will “pull” all strings back to perfect pitch.

Instead of doing a dive and immediately checking to be disappointed that things are sharp, try and experiment by doing a dive or pull or whatever and then playing some phrases that include bends on the guilty strings and then checking after that (my extensive research usually comes up with the G and B and low E strings most sharp )

Once I learned this and incorporated it into my playing style I can literally dive bomb and squeal on a Strat like dimebag all day long and then play some phrases and finish off with a beautifully in tune chord. Not that dime used a Strat, it’s just the most common instrument I see people “deck” out or frustration and I’ve literally never had a single issue since learning what I know now.

In essence it may not be the guitar that needs adjustments but it could be your playing style/expectations.

also when it comes to trem stabilizers I’ve tried everything under the sun and the hipshot tremsetter is by far and away the most effective tool for this and I have used it several times with perfect success. Great for players that want that bridge stability while also giving the option to pull up or down. Down side is it is pretty invasive and can hurt resale value. It has adjustments on it so you can set it “looser” if you like the little chord wiggles or “tighter” if you wanna chug and bend and have it stay stable.

My 2 cents..
So in essence you are suggesting that this guitar needs a new playing style? That makes no sense to me personally
 

Alessandro

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Joined
Jul 30, 2018
Messages
71
So in essence you are suggesting that this guitar needs a new playing style? That makes no sense to me personally
That would probably be because you missed the point completely. It’s not the guitar. It’s the players expectations and approach. Adjust those and you’ll have better results.
 

Ryan Tapley

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Nov 8, 2020
Messages
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Location
Modesto California
Make sure that your E and G strings are not binding in the nut. I would fold up a piece of 600 grit sand paper and smooth them out. You can fold it over your string and use that as a guide to match the width on the E string. If you bend behind the nut and the string doesn't return in pitch its binding.
 
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