String Slippage and Bridge Buzz
We’ve already addressed shimming as one possible solution for slipping strings, but with import bridges or worn saddles, it may be necessary to file a deeper groove in them. Aftermarket bridges such as the Staytrem deal with this by utilizing a single, deep slot on each saddle, while the string channels of the two-saddle Mastery Bridge guarantee your strings won’t be going anywhere (Photo 6).
Another option is adding a Buzz Stop—an aftermarket part that bolts onto the vibrato plate and forces the strings down toward the body. This isn’t my favorite solution, because it not only shoves the strings into the back of the bridge, it also introduces another point of friction between the vibrato and bridge, and this can upset the feel and stability of the system.
The Fender offset vibrato is hands-down my favorite unit on the market. There’s nothing out there that feels quite like it. With a wider range of pitch than Bigsbys, but not quite as immediate as the Stratocaster trem, it’s my opinion that this is the most musical vibrato around.
The original bridge is meant to work in tandem with the vibrato, rocking back and forth as the arm is actuated (Photo 7). This confounds some players, but believe me, it’s supposed to be like that. The bridge should zero out, but if you’re using lighter string gauges you may find this somewhat unreliable. Wrapping the bridge posts with foil or electrical tape to stop the bridge from rocking is a common DIY mod (Photo 8). Of course, you could substitute a Mastery or Staytrem instead.
If you’ve never removed the vibrato, what’s going on under the plate may not be fancy, but it is effective. The strings anchor through the same plate as the collet for the arm and the spring, which has adjustable tension.