Carl Verheyen: Whammy Bar Setup Secrets

A few years ago I had a gig playing in a band that mostly played the biker bar scene.  It was a really fun gig, but demanding at the same time.  We took no pauses between songs, usually wedging 15 to 18  songs into a set.  It really kept the atmosphere rocking and the party rolling, but also made guitar changes impossible.  I chose a Stratocaster style guitar with a humbucker in the bridge and a vintage style tremolo as my main axe for the gig.  It was able to cover the mix of classic rock, country, and blues without a hitch… until an unfortunate event happened.

One night, a rather burly biker offered me a shot of my choice if I could (I am slightly embarrassed to admit this)  play “Eruption.”  Well, I couldn’t turn down a shot (or a dude of such mountainous stature) and performed the deed.  Much to my surprise, I actually remembered the damn thing after not having played it for about 15 years.  Much to my dismay, it was so well received the rest of the band voted in favor of making it a part of our show.

As many guitarist know, “Eruption” has several massive, string flapping, whammy bar dive bombs.  My vintage style tremolo held up fine under normal use, but slamming the bar down pushed it beyond it’s usable limits making the tuning go ugly.  At first, I was going to leave out the parts that required whammy bar abuse, but that would be like a Happy Meal without the toy.   Buying a guitar with a locking tremolo for one solo was not logical, I didn’t have time to change guitars anyway.   Not knowing what to do, I did what most of us do when we have a perplexing situation.  I Googled it.

After reading a few websites that basically regurgitated the the same setup procedure put out by Fender, I came across this video.  Carl Verheyen’s suggestions have made my tremolo significantly more stable.  Even after several severe bar dips, my guitar usually stays in tune.

Now that my tremolo is much more stable, I never hesitate to use it.  It has made playing certain styles of music such as rockabilly and surf music much more enjoyable now that I can add those characteristic vibrato licks without the fear of going out of tune.  Best of all, it required no new parts or modifications, just a screwdriver and a little time.

2 Comments on “Carl Verheyen: Whammy Bar Setup Secrets”

  1. Hazor says:

    For years I looked at my first “real” guitar (an early version of the “Mexi -Made” Fender Strat ) as a complete waste of money and evidence of “emotional buying”/lack of informed consumer research. This guitar would routinely try my patients -even after several component changes (tuners,nut, saddles, bar, springs, pot, bridge pickup) – I was beginning to think that just to get this guitar to the “level” (which wasn’t too much to ask!!) I would prefer, was just a complete waste of time & money. The last issue that I had was tuning & desired use of the whammy bar (pulling UP,as well as pushing down). I finally stumbled on this video you mentioned. After 1 failed attempt (by a “guitar tech” , no less!) discouraged me from trying ever again, I decided to “just try it” myself. Low & behold, it only took me about 30 minutes, & I only went on my intuition. The one major addition that made the mod actually work, was bicycle oil on the saddles. nut grooves, and under the string tree for the B & E string.
    I am happy to say, that I now have a guitar that I keep in Eb, that stays in tune 95% of the time. This is HUGE! And trust me: I give the whammy bar hell! Occasionally I’ll need to “tweak” the claw screws in the back bc I never store my guitar in the case after playing, and I do not run central heating in my home -just space heaters. So, the neck does vary day to day – but as I said, it’s just a small tweak.
    I have finally developed a somewhat noteworthy “respect” for a guitar I considered a complete “bastard” for years. I ronically, Mexican made Strats nowdays are made to a fairly respected standard. What I find hilarious is the comments on the Verheyen video and another video on the same subject by “guitar techs” who just can’t seem to wrap their analytical head around the concept -obviously never having tried it, yet. I say it works, my experience is living proof!

  2. M@ says:

    Glad to hear your Strat is cooperating after applying the simple procedure Carl Verheyen demonstrates. Great tip on lubricating all of the friction points too.

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