Gear Tips & Advice: PRS SE Custom Trem

Gear Tips & Advice: As a very average player who has dabbled on and off for the last 15 years, I decided to finally knuckle down. Full of renewed enthusiasm, I purchased a PRS SE Custom 24 Trem model. It felt fantastic as soon as I picked it up; it plays and sounds great. One frustrating problem…

I can't keep the damn thing in tune! At first I put it down to the guitar being new (it's the first guitar I've bought new) but after a year it's still very temperamental. I usually play with Ernie Ball 0.010-gauge strings. Using the trem is a no-no and over enthusiastic string bends seem to cause the tuning to slip very quickly. I understand the trem will not be as stable as a Floyd Rose locking number but I would still like to be able to use it. Is there anything you that could recommend to help?
Ian Lennie, via e-mail

Guitarist replies: This sounds unusual, Ian - the PRS vibrato, even in Korean form, is probably the best non-locking vibrato out there and, for what it's worth, much easier to maintain and set up than a double-locking Floyd Rose type. So assuming there's nothing structurally at fault with the guitar and you're not pulling it out of tune with 'improving' (read dodgy) technique, it's all down to friction. First, does the vibrato move freely, and return to its home position? Yes? Move on. No? There's something causing friction there somewhere. Most commonly due to the fact the six screws on which the vibrato pivots have a notch in them. If the notches aren't aligned equally with the bridge plate, it can impede its free movement.

Is there slack in the tuners? If so, always tune up to a note to 'load' the tuner correctly so it doesn't slip. If you go past, detune and start again. In fact, we've replaced a couple of sets of those SE tuners for being on the slack side.

Once you've checked all that, try some Big Bends Nut Sauce or similar in the nut slots and also on the saddles to make sure nothing's sticking. If all of the above don't work, it needs a tech. See it as physics though - how to reduce friction - and you should be able to solve it.

Taken from the Q&A section of Guitarist issue 328, on sale 13 April 2010.