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Seemingly ages ago when my friend Kevan told me he was working on a way to essentially make it possible to turn your tremolo on and off, I thought it was really neat. Honestly, I didn't expect anything to come of it, but I was excited nonetheless. Then one day he told me he had a working version of it. Prototypes were starting to appear in the hands of my fellow guitarists. People I knew were starting to give praise to the device. I was getting more intrigued. The idea is so simple it almost makes you feel stupid for not coming up with it, yet it is very refined and nicely put together. In a way, I'm not really surprised that no one has done this before. I mean, it's just common place that if you want a trem you buy a guitar equipped with one; if you want a fixed bridge, you buy that kind of guitar. Expecting to have both is blasphemy.

Now that I got the cheesy part out of the way, I'll get down to business.

I really wanted to try the "Standard" version of the Tremol-No™ for my lone floating bridge guitar. I was once a big fan of the Floyd Rose® variations, but as time went on I started playing far more chords than whammy dives, and my whammy equipped guitars started to sit. I slowly sold most of them aside from one of the prizes of my collection, the Ibanez® JEM2KDNA. Mine being one of 300 made, containing a mans blood in the paint, I couldn't part with it. I don't play it much either, sadly. It's kind of embarrassing being I'm hardly a collector but I own a guitar that retailed at $5,000 that does nothing more than look pretty. I just can't get much use out of the trem. Strumming chords with a hard picking attack causes some strange overtones as strings go slightly out of tune. Doing bends of course makes life miserable for tuning as well. Don't even think about alternate tunings without spending a few hours trying to set the guitar back up. So I'm left with a guitar that would play really nice, if only it weren't for the cumbersome bridge. Don't get me wrong, I still like to play with the trem now and then, but for maybe 95% of my playing, it gets in the way. That's where I'm hoping Kevan comes in...

I received my Tremol-No™ and ripped the packaging open to find essentially 3 pieces. A new tremolo claw with a pole of sorts attached, a new "retainer" piece for the underside of the bridge with a shaft for the pole to be inserted to, and a pair of thumb screws. I figured I wouldn't even need the instructions and immediately tore apart my guitar. Installation took me about 15 minutes the first try including disassembly and tuning. Boy was I disappointed. This thing stunk. My trem felt like it was swimming in molasses and the guitar went out of tune every time I touched the bridge. So I called Kevan up and asked what was wrong. He went through and explained everything to me real nicely and I went and looked at the instructions afterwards to find out just how stupid I was. So I followed the instructions and did things over from scratch. My only mistake was I did not align things properly and that pole was causing friction inside the shaft. So doing things properly didn't take any extra time in the end. Still was a 15 minute job. There may be fine tuning needed for some, but by just sighting things up I was able to get good results.

Initial Impression:
After installing properly I first played around with my guitar with the trem "unlocked." I really couldn't tell anything had changed. I still had the same amount of flutter, I could still pull up just as far and dives took no more effort. I could still easily modulate pitch changes with the trem. If there is any kind of difference in tone or playability, it is so subtle that I could not notice. I'm usually famous for going out of my way to find things to complain about too, so I thought this would be the place where this device would fail. So far so good.

I then locked the thing up. Without using much force (think hand tightening a bolt on your car) the unit locks down pretty tight. You can still move the trem, but you have to really try to do it. If you picked your guitar up with the bar it would likely go out of tune. This is just what I'd say is an average tightness though, you can tighten further by spending an extra 2 seconds with the screws. I didn't think much of things at first. Chords sounded a little brighter at first, which was pretty obvious... but I just wasn't too excited about things. It was just a feeling of indifference. So I put the guitar down until I could let my feelings settle and come back to give it a better test.

Further Impressions:
The next day I spent much more time playing. Always in the locked position. I did a lot of double stop bends and things along those lines. It was quite nice how I could play open strings or chords and bend a single note without the rest going sour. Something I do fairly often for a neat effect. Then I started strumming hard like I would on a strat. Chords really started to sing out a lot more. It's not night and day, but there is a pretty noticeable improvement in the overall tone. The upper-midrange is a lot more pronounced now, even playing unplugged. Single note runs sound more compressed, a closer sound to the strats that I always play.

The real neat part was when I removed the lock screws from the nut of my guitar. Even more improvement in tone. Sustain moved up to the acceptable range (standard double-locking trem is unacceptable to me). Things got better from there when I went and messed with the tuning. Anything from a simple drop-D to any alternate tuning you want to think of. Just as simple as it would be with a true fixed-bridge. Pretty impressive.

So I'm not going to say that this is the greatest invention since tapped beer, but it is pretty cool. I can't say for sure, but I will probably keep my guitar in the locked position almost all of the time now. I will certainly be playing it more often now that it is more usable to me. If I build/buy another floating bridge guitar, I will be installing a Tremol-No™. Oh, and though I haven't tried it yet, I am pretty certain this will make string changes far easier and it should be a much more effective method of stabilizing the bridge than my trusty "dirty-sock-ol-no."

The text and images above are ©2005 Jay Ratkowski.
Used with written permission.
Thanks Jay!

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