Having worked alongside the likes of Deep Purple and Van Halen, Maddi Schieferstein is best known as the guitar technician for John Petrucci, guitarist for American prog metal band Dream Theater since 2004.
From hearing Manfred Mann playing ‘Blinded By The Light’ at the age of five, Schieferstein’s love of music has taken him around the world and given him extensive experience and knowledge in guitar modification and maintenance. In a new piece written for Ernie Ball, Schieferstein delivered his top tips for guitar care and maintenance when it comes to tremolo treatment and intonation.
“I see a lot of people talking about the floating tremolo bridge on the guitar leaning forward or pulling back after a string change," writes Schieferstein. "The first thing I would look at is if the same gauge of strings was used. If you put heavier strings on, the bridge will start to lean forward (the back of the bridge will be above the guitar top).
“If you have a guitar with the slots in the tremolo cavity cover, insert a #2 Phillips screwdriver and gently twist, until the screwdriver tip locks into the claw screw. If you don’t have the slots, you will need to remove the six small screws on the tremolo cavity plate and then remove the plate to expose the claw and screws. If your bridge is leaning forward, turn the screws clockwise so they go into the body. You only need to do small adjustments (1/4 to ½ turn). Retune the guitar (it should be sharp) and repeat until the bridge is level with the body.”
Another essential adjustment when changing string gauges is intonation, which is what allows the guitar to be in tune with itself.
"Step one is to see where the intonation is," writes Schieferstein. "Always do this with the guitar in playing position. I check this by tuning the guitar fully across all strings. Once that is done, I start with the Low E string and tune it. Then I hit the harmonic on the 12 th fret and adjust the tuning. Once tuned, I press the string down on the 12 th fret and see where the tuning is. It is important to use normal finger pressure when fretting the note at the 12th fret. If you push down too hard, you will cause the note to go sharp which will give you a false reading on the tuner.
“There are two ways the string could be: sharp or flat. If the string is sharp, it means it is too short and needs to be lengthened. Flat is the opposite and means the string is too long and needs to be shortened. I remember it like this: FLAT moves forward, SHARP moves back.
“So now you might be asking yourself: 'Where do I adjust?', If you look at the backside of the bridge, you will see six screws or in the case of the Majesty, six small holes along the backside. Most guitars use either a Phillips head screw for the intonation adjustment. The Majesty uses a 5/64″ allen wrench. Always detune the string a bit before making an adjustment. This will reduce the tension and friction of the string and saddle. Make small adjustments and retune every time. Keep repeating the process until you have it intonated.”
Ernie Ball are available in Australia through CMC Music.