Posted by: kubiakl | December 21, 2011

A Word On Saddle Heights

I am always tweaking my Stratocaster, looking for that little bit of improvement.  One of the things I’ve talked about adjusting before was action – I like it a little on the high side so I can dig in.  There are two ways to do this – you can raise the tremolo bridge via the two posts, or you can raise the individual string saddles.  Which one is best?

It’s pretty subjective but I had a hard time finding information on the subject when (through my own idiocy) I somehow messed it up.  Everyone will tell you what the Fender recommended string height is as measured from the frets but no one really talks about bridge and saddle height.

One reason it’s so subjective is that people like different tremolo setups.  Some like it to float so they can pull up to raise the pitch or push down to lower it.  Others like it blocked off at the back so they can do dive bombs and have it return to pitch quickly.  Then there’s people like me – I don’t use the tremolo at all.  Seriously, the bar has been sitting in my Strat case for years.  So I have four springs on the back with the claw screwed in pretty far to keep the tremolo block tight against the body.

If you are like me and use your Stratocaster as more of a hardtail, then what I’m about to say might help – saddle height makes a HUGE difference.

Up until two days ago I had the bridge raised and the saddles lowered.  I guess my thinking was that the lower the saddles were, the better the string vibration would transfer to the body.  I was mistaken.

After playing a friend’s new Squier Telecaster I noticed that even with the light strings it had a tight, percussive feel, exactly what I want out of a guitar.  I also noticed that his saddles were set pretty high.  This made me think – if a cheap Squier Tele with a screwed down top-loading bridge plate can feel this way, why can’t my Strat?

I screwed the bridge posts all the way down and raised the individual saddles up fairly high, starting with the low E and raising it until there was no buzzing when plucked hard.  Then repeated the process for the other strings.  After that I radiused them a little (my neck is pretty flat) and adjusted so that none of them sounded out of place.

Wow.

It plays incredibly now, and the sound is tight, punchy, and percussive.  It also helps transfer string vibration to the body – hit the right chord and the whole thing vibrates against you.  Here is a (bad) photo of what it looks like so you can get an idea of how high everything is raised:

These instructions aren’t meant for the people who like a loose, spongy, easy feel to their guitars.  It’s meant for those of us who like our guitars to sound full and twangy at the same time, with some bite and growl.  If you’ve been finding yourself unsatisfied with your Strat sound you should try it.

I did an am much happier.

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Responses

  1. hi! You might be interested to know that Chris Holmes of WASP tells the story that he played Eddie Van Halen’s guitar back in 1977, before Van Halen were signed, and he couldn’t play anything because the action was too high. It was part of Eddie’s sound.


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