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canon_mutant

AL-355 MAESTRO TREMOLO AND TUNING

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Hey, been away for awhile . . .

 

Anyway, started playing my AL-355 again recently and actually "USING" the Maestro Tremolo and the guitar will not stay in tune if I use it. Since I've had issues with other tremolos unless the tuning keys were locked, I installed a set of Sperzels - yeah I know probably just decreased the value of my axe . . .

 

But, even with lockers, unless you merely use the tremolo purely for a "subtle" vibrato effect as opposed to actually bending a note or chord, the guitar goes out of tune.

 

Question: Is this just a characteristic limitation of these particular tremolos or could mine be defective in some manner?

 

I have never had on going problems with bends on Floyd or Wilkinson tremolos as long as my tuners were locked.

 

Thx.

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could be related to the strings binding up in the nut...maybe try lubricating the nut slots?

 

Thats just what I've done to mine with the ol' crushed pencil lead, along with giving the nut slots a final dressing now I know what strings I'm sticking with. It does seem much improved, still eventually goes out of tune slightly if repeatedly practicing the same passage of a tune over & over but generally much better all round.

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This is characteristic of the maestro tremolo. you can use it but not like a floyd rose.

On the AL-355 there are 2 points were the strings will bind.

One is at the nut and the other is at the bridge. You can lubricating the nut slots and the slots at the bridge to see if that helps.

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Hey' date=' been away for awhile . . .

 

Anyway, started playing my AL-355 again recently and actually "USING" the Maestro Tremolo and the guitar will not stay in tune if I use it. Since I've had issues with other tremolos unless the tuning keys were locked, I installed a set of Sperzels - yeah I know probably just decreased the value of my axe . . .

 

But, even with lockers, unless you merely use the tremolo purely for a "subtle" vibrato effect as opposed to actually bending a note or chord, the guitar goes out of tune.

 

Question: Is this just a characteristic limitation of these particular tremolos or could mine be defective in some manner?

 

I have never had on going problems with bends on Floyd or Wilkinson tremolos as long as my tuners were locked.

 

Thx.[/quote']

 

I had posted that my Al-355 is suprisingly great for holding its tune.

I can hammer it nicely and the G-string sometimes goes sharp .

For crazy divebombing you really need a floyd or kahler with a locking nut.

Yet my new PRS has locking tuners and I can beat that one as hard as my ('91)Jackson SL1/w mid boost.

The midboost is nice on the older jacksons , I am not sure why they no longer use them , but it really

takes care of the missing mids from the lost chunk of wood . I have not played any of the new ones

so maybe they changed something so the mid boost is no longer needed.

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Your guitar is not defective. There is a reason Alex never used the trem on his. The bridge is a big part of the problem. It's not at all designed to be used with a trem system. The string windings bind and the bridge itself flexes back and forth under string tension. You could try a bridge with roller saddles if you found one which fit, but it's still not the ideal guitar for the modern whammy player. Just flip the bar back around and forget about it! :^)

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Truthoffication is correct, you will never get great use of the maestro, but it is useful for subtle vibrato effects, that's all. You just have to be really subtle and not put enough travel on the arm to cause a string to shift at the nut or bridge. No amount of lube will help stay completely in tune if you use this system like a Floyd! I use the guitar as if it were a stoptail with the arm all the way back as Alex has his, and would never dare to touch the vibrato in a live situation. I have gotten some great vibrato out of it when recording, but in those cases you can retune and pickup where you left off if a string goes out of tune.

 

I do not mind this at all. So you may not be able to play songs on the AL-355 that require anything more than a subtle vibrato, but I think the Vibrola system plays a significant role in the tone and vibe of this guitar. I owned a stoptail ES-355 before this one, and it sounded great, but this one smokes it hands down. I thing the longer string length behind the bridge and the design of the Vibrola itself, not to mention the extra mass and weight of all that metal (including the arm, which is why I suspect Alex always left it on), adds unique vibe and tone to the guitar.

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I will post a picture of a 1990s article on Alex's 355 when I get home. Alex states in this article that this guitar used to go out of tune even if he looked at it. It is typical of the Maestro. That being said, if you put pencil graphite in the nut slots and either Nut sauce or Graphit-All in the Bridge saddle slots that will help a bit. But, you will not be able to use the Vibrola much more than subtle vibrato. If you use it sparingly, it does work very well. However, I would agree with Staxman, in that the place I would use that is in the studio, not live. If I have to use tremelo I will use one of my (now 2) guitars equipped with a Floyd. I play Wicked Game by Chris Isaak and there is subtle tremelo throughout the song, however that first bend on the B string would make a Maestro go out, but not a Floyd. That is just the nature of the beast. Best advice (as said earlier) tuck it behind the tailpiece and forget about it. Does that seem like a waste of a tremelo system? Maybe, but many owners of the ES355 TDSV swear that the whole tailpiece assembly adds to its unique tone. So, it does serve a purpose.

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I will post a picture of a 1990s article on Alex's 355 when I get home. Alex states in this article that this guitar used to go out of tune even if he looked at it. It is typical of the Maestro. That being said' date=' if you put pencil graphite in the nut slots and either Nut sauce or Graphit-All in the Bridge saddle slots that will help a bit. But, you will not be able to use the Vibrola much more than subtle vibrato. If you use it sparingly, it does work very well. However, I would agree with Staxman, in that the place I would use that is in the studio, not live. If I have to use tremelo I will use one of my (now 2) guitars equipped with a Floyd. I play Wicked Game by Chris Isaak and there is subtle tremelo throughout the song, however that first bend on the B string would make a Maestro go out, but not a Floyd. That is just the nature of the beast. Best advice (as said earlier) tuck it behind the tailpiece and forget about it. Does that seem like a waste of a tremelo system? Maybe, but many owners of the ES355 TDSV swear that the whole tailpiece assembly adds to its unique tone. So, it does serve a purpose.

[/quote']

 

Thx. Wondo, I do have pretty good luck with it staying in tune but as I said only using the Maestro as a subtle vibrato and there are times where that is nice although no doubt just improved and strengthened finger technique could probably serve the same purpose.

 

I've got a Wilkinson on my Carvin and a Flloyd on my Strat and use the hell out of them though. No Problems.

 

I've been playing AL-230 all evening tonight though - just love the wide range of tunes you can play with it. Went from some of my own Clean jazz stuff, to some of my own slightly dirty Blues stuff, to Joe Walsh James Gang stuff, to Rush [of course], to Boston, to VH, to Ozzy. My Carvin will actually do most of that really well except it's not nearly as wonderful clean, like the hollow bodies can be. The Strat is much less versatile but really nice for what I use it for although I can mess with that Varitone and get just pretty damn close to, for example, Mr. Gilmour's Shine on You Crazy Diamonds solo effort on this 355 too. Amazingly versatile.

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Funny, I probably should feel better knowing that Alex himself had tuning issues with the Maestro but I don't. It would seem that if he knew of the issue, that a Alex Spec'd ES-355 would have the issue resolved but I'm an engineer so what do you expect?

 

Oh well, being the best sounding axe I own, I think I can live with it, knowing it's limitations. It's just a tad frustrating to have a $3700 axe with technical limitations. I'm trying to think of any technical limitations with my $700 Carvin [1990 dollars] or $1100 Strat. The Strat was a limited edition $2499 for $1899 sale price I found on a $1099 clearance a couple years ago.

 

Thx, for posting the article Wondo.

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Update:

 

Though I've used the graphite as some have suggested and basicly turned the trem-rod around backwards and forgot about it but I am now having tuning problems just doing a lot of bending. I change strings regularly. So, is there a way to convert this axe to a hardbridge without permanently modifying it?

 

I put some Sperzels on it when I first got it because I had tuning problems and frankly had tuning problems with my Strat-Floyd and my Carvin-Wilkinson until I put Sperzels on them. Sperzels fixed those axes but not this one. It appears that wobbly bridge is the culprit.

 

thoughts or ideas?

 

Garth

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Update:

 

Though I've used the graphite as some have suggested and basicly turned the trem-rod around backwards and forgot about it but I am now having tuning problems just doing a lot of bending. I change strings regularly. So' date=' is there a way to convert this axe to a hardbridge without permanently modifying it?

 

I put some Sperzels on it when I first got it because I had tuning problems and frankly had tuning problems with my Strat-Floyd and my Carvin-Wilkinson until I put Sperzels on them. Sperzels fixed those axes but not this one. It appears that wobbly bridge is the culprit.

 

thoughts or ideas?

 

Garth[/quote']That is a bummer. Do you stretch your strings when you put them on? Getting as much stretch out of the strings and being sure they are wound as tight as possible on the pegs helps me a lot, although with the Sperezels maybe that's a non-issue. Never used Sperzels, are they like the locking pegs on PRS guitars? You might have a luthier check the grooves on the nut/bridge to be sure thay are filed as smooth as possible.

 

Just as a comparison, I have done no mods at all to AL-124 other than the replacement trem arm and using .009 to .042 Ernie Ball strings, and mine stays in tune quite well even when I use the trem very subtly. Now when I say "quite well", I do not mean that it stays in perfect tune all the time. I have never owned a guitar that stays in perfect tune endlessly, especially when you do a lot of bending or use the trem a lot. Not even a Floyd Rose style of locking trem stays perfect (although it sure beats other systems hands-down IMO). As you bend and whammy, the string itself will stretch out of tune, it's not always a slippage issue.

 

Even with the Sperzels, I would stretch the strings a lot when you change them and see if that helps.

 

Good Luck!

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Try lowering the pickups a bit. For some reason, these came from the factory with the pickups pretty high and if you lowered your action any since getting it you may also need to lower your pickups. When they are too close to the strings, they tend to pull the strings a bit sharp or flat. I had this problem and lowered the pickups and it is fine now. But, still use the graphite on nut and saddles.

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That is a bummer. Do you stretch your strings when you put them on?

 

This is common place. I have this routine where I practice scales with bends in them from top to bottom after I put on a new set of strings. It's good practice, good for maintaining finger strength, and good for stretching those new strings. I end up doing a lot of retuning during this process.

 

Problem is, the process never seems to end on this guitar. It's really starting to piss me off since it's such an expensive axe. When it's in tune though, it is easily my favorite and most versatile guitar.

 

I'll try lowering the pickups a bit Wondo. You are correct that they are quite high. I think it's that wobbly bridge though. I think if you go nuts on finger bends just like going nuts on the trem rod that bridge shifts positions just enough to go slightly out of tune.

 

If you guys wouldn't mind, would you try it? Play a solo you know that has a lot of bends in it. I play a lot of David Gilmour stuff and other similar long melodic solos. Well, I try anyway . . .:)

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I added a Lyre Trem. to my SG and couldn't get it stay in tune either; but if you use pencil graphite in the nut, or just use graphite nut and saddles, it should hold. Personally all I did was use the pencil and some Grovers, with a setup, my baby can handle a 3 fret bend no prob (Which is a big deal for these trems)

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I added a Lyre Trem. to my SG and couldn't get it stay in tune either; but if you use pencil graphite in the nut' date=' or just use graphite nut and saddles, it should hold. Personally all I did was use the pencil and some Grovers, with a setup, my baby can handle a 3 fret bend no prob (Which is a big deal for these trems)[/quote']

 

Thanks for the response. I have been listening carefully to that bridge area as I bend strings or use the trem and you literally get these BINK string slips on that bridge as you bend or trem. I think the graphite helps but that wobbly bridge is the problem, I'm just convinced of that. I've also noticed you can bend up on the trem rod and sometimes get the string or strings back in tune. You got a bridge that moves which either stretches or slackens the string, hence the axe goes out of tune. Problem is what to do about it? Can you convert this to a standard ES-355 fixed bridge or do they wobble too since they sit so far off the deck?

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Since Alex mentioned on the article Wondo pasted above that he converted to Schaller, I did some searching and ran across this [see link below]. Going to work through my local Luthier and Authorized Gibson Service Center to get one to try. Of course, I don't expect Gibson to ante up but if I can fix this guitar, I would like to keep it. Otherwise, my local GC told me they would RA this and get me something I can use even though Gibson so far is telling me it's just the nature of the beast. I think not. Let's hope this works cuz let's face it when this guitar is in tune it sounds amazing. And, you gotta like the way this guitar looks and plays too.

 

Wish me luck . . .

 

http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Bridges,_tailpieces/Electric_guitar,_Tune-o-matic_bridges/1/Schaller_Roller_Bridge/Pictures.html#details

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For Rush fans, there is concert on Pallida, a HD music/concert station at 0900 (AM) eastern standard time this morning. on directv it is station 332.

 

 

peace

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Since Alex mentioned on the article Wondo pasted above that he converted to Schaller' date=' I did some searching and ran across this [see link below']. Going to work through my local Luthier and Authorized Gibson Service Center to get one to try. Of course, I don't expect Gibson to ante up but if I can fix this guitar, I would like to keep it. Otherwise, my local GC told me they would RA this and get me something I can use even though Gibson so far is telling me it's just the nature of the beast. I think not. Let's hope this works cuz let's face it when this guitar is in tune it sounds amazing. And, you gotta like the way this guitar looks and plays too.

 

Wish me luck . . .

 

http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Bridges,_tailpieces/Electric_guitar,_Tune-o-matic_bridges/1/Schaller_Roller_Bridge/Pictures.html#details

 

The roller bridge may indeed solve some of your tuning issues. I had one on my Gretsch Nashville, and it held tune nicely when using the Bigsby. I ended up replacing the roller bridge with a Gibson tuneomatic because the rollers started rattling after about a year - the roller bridge was a stock Gretsch unit, so hopefully you don't have the same problem with the Schaller unit. As far as the Maestro, the one on my Lifeson is usable only for very light wiggles & accents, and I was hoping for more because I played a Gibson Firebird VII with the Maestro and it held tune with near Floyd Rose dive bombing bends - I wonder if the Firebird has a little more break angle on the strings going over the bridge? The straight-pull peghead on the FB may have helped as well.... Good luck, and let us know how the Schaller performs - I'll buy one if it works, and try any other non-invasive & reversible mods that may help. Thanks.

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AL-230 gets a reprieve . . .

 

Well, the Schaller won't work without modding the guitar so it's going back to Schaller. Too bad as I think the roller bridge on this particular setup would be superior. Didn't realize that the Schaller posts are only M5 and the ES-355 posts are like M10. You could replace the inserts or perhaps find or fabricate a converter but too much hassle.

 

Anyway, I took AL-230 to my local Luthier today and he spent better part of an hour on it. There were a number of issues . . . burrs in particular and the D string saddle notch needed some enlargening. Combined with a fresh setup when he was done . . . drum roll please . . . I can actually play this thing.

 

And that's wonderful because I was seriously ready to RA this and buy something I can actually use. Get this, he charged me for a set of strings. So, I stuck a $20 bill in his palm shaking hands as I was leaving. Gotta love this guitar when it's in tune! True tone monster.

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I am glad it is working for you. I took mine to my luthier as soon as I got it. But, I do that with all my guitars. It stays in tune very well. By the way, Alex did not put a Schaller on his 355. He put a Kahler on it, that is why it had to be restored.

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To be honest, I always liked the look of the bridge that is featured on your guitar, but since you seem to be having a problem with it, I'll be sure to avoid them. As for your problem with the bridge, try using a Schaller Roller Bridge. Personally, I would actually use the studs your have, buy a Schaller Roller and using a metal drill, (The bridges have holes that go about halfway through for the studs) and continue the holes through the bridge, gradually widening the holes to the exact stud size. That way your guitar will not be modified technically, the original studs will be intact & will fit snug against your bridge, and most importantly the guitar will function properly. An FYI, I have done this to my LP Classic, but I have Gibson Tune-o-matic studs with an ABR-1 bridge, which you know has smaller holes. I used a drill, and it is very secure and has NEVER caused damage to guitar. So my total suggestion would be to, use Grover tuners, use graphite, adjust the trussrod, get the bridge (If you choose to do so) and get a setup. That should cover every possible base. Have fun!!

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Not worth arguing over but the article you were kind enough to post earlier in this thread said "Schaller".

 

That aside, still playing it this evening and it's still staying in tune. :D

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I know its not worth arguing over, but I had pointed out in some earlier threads that Alex gets these names confused sometimes. He never did not replace the original bridge with a Schaller as far as I know. It was a Kahler tremelo system that he put on there. There was a terrific little video on Youtube that is no longer there where he does a quick interview during the R30 tour where he announces Gibson making his 355 signature model. He also talks about the prototype to the Axcess and says that he had Kahelers put on them. He had to be corrected by the interviewer who pointed out that they were Floyd Rose. The article is correct in everything he is saying about the 355 except the Schaller. On his 355 he had a Kahler put on it and then had Freddy Gabrsek restore it to the 355 we know and love.

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