Strat bridge floating/decked/blocked history?

Teledriver

Country Gent
Feb 12, 2011
1,050
Iowa City, IA
When were Stratocaster bridges 'discovered' to have these three variables as listed in this thread title? Did Leo Fender design it as-such??? I'm not as informed on Strats as I am on Telecasters. Did, for example, Buddy Holly have his Strats decked (I think so), and if so, was this how Leo Fender thought of that bridge set-up as being ideal, with the option to do whatever floated your boat?

Yeah, I know- this is a Gretsch forum! I'm not a member of Strat-Talk, and although a member of Squier-Talk I think this place is as good as any to ask such things.
 

Randy99CL

Country Gent
Gold Supporting Member
Feb 17, 2020
2,271
Albuquerque
Were players bending notes so much back in the '50s? That is something I don't like about the tremolo, when you force strings it all moves and puts the others out of tune.

I have no honest info on this topic but since the Strat was Leos' "improved" model incorporating feedback from players, I think he installed the trem as his latest invention, as an improvement and an added feature? The "synchronized tremolo" is still highlighted on the headstock on new Strats today.

Who knows who was the first to deck or block the trem? I would guess that Leo might have included a mechanical block or lock for those who wanted a hardtail if the idea occurred to him?

I appreciate how much faster it is to tune my hardtail guitars and rarely use any mechanical vibrato so will eventually block mine.
i wonder if anyone has been able to detect any difference in sustain with the trem floating, decked or blocked?

And this is a perfect spot to highlight Sophies' new video showing a Virtual Jeff Pro whammy. Pretty amazing.
 
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Seamus

Country Gent
Gold Supporting Member
Feb 25, 2011
1,142
New England
Were players bending notes so much back in the '50s? That is something I don't like about the tremolo, when you force strings it all moves and puts the others out of tune.

I have no honest info on this topic but since the Strat was Leos' "improved" model incorporating feedback from players, I think he installed the trem as his latest invention, as an improvement and an added feature? The "synchronized tremolo" is still highlighted on the headstock on new Strats today.

Who knows who was the first to deck or block the trem? I would guess that Leo might have included a mechanical block or lock for those who wanted a hardtail if the idea occurred to him?

I appreciate how much faster it is to tune my hardtail guitars and rarely use any mechanical vibrato so will eventually block mine.
i wonder if anyone has been able to detect any difference in sustain with the trem floating, decked or blocked?

And this is a perfect spot to highlight Sophies' new video showing a Virtual Jeff Pro whammy. Pretty amazing.



That's wild! Sounded like something gimmicky and limited, and then it turns out to be kind of crazily interesting. I mean, I'm not gonna get one any day soon, but I like the weird thinking that must have produced this!
 

GreTschocaster

Synchromatic
Gold Supporting Member
Feb 11, 2013
727
Canada
I believe Leo designed it to float. Tremolo and Hawaiian guitars were popular backing the day. Some preferred decking for tuning stability. Blocking was never Leo's intention. He has a string through body model if that was what you want.
 

Ricochet

Senior Gretsch-Talker
Gold Supporting Member
Nov 13, 2009
22,767
Monkey Island
The Strat hardtail bridge although rare was around from it's early beginnings right in '54. According to Music Radar it was March '55, which is not accurate(and suspiciously specific since Fender never released the records, if there are any). I'm speculating since the tremolo was a new gadget, Fender was unsure if it would catch on and just made both versions to see which one would "stick".

As you know with an unbalanced setup(spring tension vs string tension) the Strat trem will have the propensity to tilt forward and go in and out of tune. I'm assuming that's when people first realised if the bridge was tilted forward it allowed them to pull up on notes. First as a tuning correction, before turning it into an effect.

It's well documented Clapton(or rather his tech), blocked Blackie's tremolo with a piece of wood. I can't pinpoint the year he started doing this first, but Blackie made it's debut in '73.

Others like Floyd Rose made lemonade in '76 with his Locking bridge(no fine tuners yet) and the patronage of a young EVH. It was then when the terms floating and decked were coined because the pull up was used in a musical fashion, a feature rather than the flaw it was before.
 
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Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
26,707
Tucson
I believe Leo designed it to float. Tremolo and Hawaiian guitars were popular backing the day. Some preferred decking for tuning stability. Blocking was never Leo's intention. He has a string through body model if that was what you want.
I think you are right. When I had Strats, I would deck them, but if I had one today, I would let it float. The Strat trem‘ isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it’s a great design.
 

Teledriver

Country Gent
Feb 12, 2011
1,050
Iowa City, IA
Interesting stuff.
I went floating a few years ago and never looked back. A proper nut and great intonation and I have 99% zero tuning issues. As for the string bending (causing all the strings to bend) I personally don't care. It's there, and I hear it if I pay attention for it, but close enough for rock and roll in my book. It can add to what I'm trying to create, I guess (I like to use double-stops as well, for added emphasis for example).
I think I'll have to hunt around the internet and look for any closeups of early Strat players and see if I can find examples of how their trems are set up. Won't be an easy search however!
 

nickurso

Gretschified
Dec 24, 2012
11,899
New Orleans la.
According to “the birth of loud” book Leo designed his trem to compete with Paul Bigsby’s trem system. It also says that the strat headstock was a direct rip off of Paul Bigsby’s headstock design. Paul was mad because him and Leo were friends up to that point.
Not sure when the phrases were coined but I’m sure people have been blocking the trems since they first came out. I prefer the floating trem and just like a Bigsby they will stay in tune if set up properly
 

Teledriver

Country Gent
Feb 12, 2011
1,050
Iowa City, IA
I get that Leo's tremolo (his word, not mine, lol) was made to complete with a Bigsby, but if it was then why did Leo design 6 screws to hold it ? Only the 2 on the ends are really needed., so either he did 6 just to equal the number of strings, or it was meant to be "either/or". The fact the screws in the back to hold the 'claw' are intentionally adjustable is brilliant, IMHO. Yeah, I'm a fan of the design.

For the record, I know it is a "vibrato tailpiece". However, when referring to a Fender guitar I always refer to it as a "tremolo" as Leo Fender called it. Historically accurate that way.
 

Ricochet

Senior Gretsch-Talker
Gold Supporting Member
Nov 13, 2009
22,767
Monkey Island
why did Leo design 6 screws to hold it ? Only the 2 on the ends are really needed.,

True, but as we now know hindsight and all, 2 of those would eventually collaps under the tension of the strings, unless you use hardened steel and tripled the diameter. Which is what Floyd Rose did.

Within historical context, don’t forget there simply was nothing there except for Doc Kauffman’s Vibrola which was nothing but a glorified sideways operated wobbler.
 
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Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
26,707
Tucson
I get that Leo's tremolo (his word, not mine, lol) was made to complete with a Bigsby, but if it was then why did Leo design 6 screws to hold it ? Only the 2 on the ends are really needed., so either he did 6 just to equal the number of strings, or it was meant to be "either/or". The fact the screws in the back to hold the 'claw' are intentionally adjustable is brilliant, IMHO. Yeah, I'm a fan of the design.

For the record, I know it is a "vibrato tailpiece". However, when referring to a Fender guitar I always refer to it as a "tremolo" as Leo Fender called it. Historically accurate that way.
I see the Strat trem’ as unique. The Bigsby changed string tension and the strings passed over the bridge. The Strat design moved the tailpiece and the bridge as a single unit. As I see it, there were both advantages and disadvantages to this approach. It obviates any problems with strings binding on the bridge, but I have always found that the action of a Strat to be a little less proportional than that of the Bigsby. It’s not something which can’t be controlled, but, at least for me, the feel is a lot different. Some of this difference in feel may have been because I always decked my Strat trems.
 

Randy99CL

Country Gent
Gold Supporting Member
Feb 17, 2020
2,271
Albuquerque
I wonder if Leo didn't think that six screws would transfer the string vibration to the body better than two? More contact area?
And Leo was great for simplifying things, look how complicated the Bigsby is compared to the Strat tremolo. Mostly a block of steel with a plate and some bridge pieces.

As to Leo copying the Bigsby headstock... 34ca1f15445f14c7d4cf15f5b890c2f1.png
But I think it is Ugly! I don't like the big '70s Fender headstocks either, I like the slim ones that you get today.
 

radd

Friend of Fred
Platinum Member
Dec 27, 2017
6,118
Santa Cruz
I’ve had floating, 6 point and 2 point terms along with decked and blocked ones. I always decked mine. With 4 trem springs the bridge is not going anywhere and essentially is the same as decked. I noticed no tone difference between decked and blocked.

I will say, the two point trem is easier to float than the vintage 6 point trem. Just be careful not to damage the knife edge on the bridge.
 

blueruins

Friend of Fred
May 28, 2013
5,064
Savannah, GA
I wonder if Leo didn't think that six screws would transfer the string vibration to the body better than two? More contact area?
And Leo was great for simplifying things, look how complicated the Bigsby is compared to the Strat tremolo. Mostly a block of steel with a plate and some bridge pieces.

As to Leo copying the Bigsby headstock... View attachment 190236
But I think it is Ugly! I don't like the big '70s Fender headstocks either, I like the slim ones that you get today.
No doubt Leo was inspired by that headstock shape but Bigsby borrowed it as well from historic instruments.
Fender was already well established before the Stratocaster headstock came out.
Telecaster headstocks looked nothing like a Bigsby derivative.
 

Bertotti

Gretschified
Jul 20, 2017
10,176
South Dakota
All I know about Strats is I don’t use the wiggle stick, not even mounted, but having tried decking one Inhated it. For me I have to have the floating trem system even if I don’t use the wiggle stock. The floating trem just changes the feel and tone enough that I have to have it. Am I the only one that feels that way?
 

Ricochet

Senior Gretsch-Talker
Gold Supporting Member
Nov 13, 2009
22,767
Monkey Island
All I know about Strats is I don’t use the wiggle stick, not even mounted, but having tried decking one Inhated it. For me I have to have the floating trem system even if I don’t use the wiggle stock. The floating trem just changes the feel and tone enough that I have to have it. Am I the only one that feels that way?

The tone is much more lively and dynamic with a floater.
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
26,707
Tucson
All I know about Strats is I don’t use the wiggle stick, not even mounted, but having tried decking one Inhated it. For me I have to have the floating trem system even if I don’t use the wiggle stock. The floating trem just changes the feel and tone enough that I have to have it. Am I the only one that feels that way?
I think you may be onto something, there. As Rich says, I think it’s more lively.
 

Bertotti

Gretschified
Jul 20, 2017
10,176
South Dakota
The tone is much more lively and dynamic with a floater.

I think you may be onto something, there. As Rich says, I think it’s more lively.
Lively is a good way to put it. It is what I love about Strats that and single coils. Probably why I dislike PAF style or full sized HB pups. Also it’s probably why love the Filtertrons and other Gretsch single coils pups. It’s just the style of tone I like.
 


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