I bought this nut to replace the stock plastic one on a Squier standard strat. I guess on most strats the nut slot is curved, as you would guess from the shape of this nut; on the Squier the nut slot is flat, though. I got it to fit in the nut slot at the height I wanted after sanding it down some (carefully). Neck Nut Width and Nut Slot Spacing The real e1 to E6 string spread can be controlled not only through nut width, but also by slot spread in the nut. For example, 44.5 mm wide nut can have e1 to E6 distance between 35 and 37.5 mm. Graphtech - sizing guide and pre-slotted nuts (pdf).
Whether you've bought your Strat new or used, a setup will address some key issues: The nut's height and the width of its slots. You'll want the nut to be high enough to hold the strings just above the level of the first fret. Each slot should be wide enough to allow its string to move without being loose. The amount of relief in the neck.
Today we are going to go look at one of the most iconic guitars in history; the Fender Stratocaster.
We will go through the setup process and show you a couple variations on how they can be set up and the proper way to do it in each configuration.
The first step in the setup process is the initial evaluation of the instrument. You want to go through the guitar and find out as many possible problems beforehand so they can be properly fixed or addressed so you don’t waste any time going back to correct them later on.
The first thing you want to do is plug in the guitar and check out all of the electronics. This includes the pots, pickups, jack, and switch to make sure everything is working properly. This will alert you of any electronic issues the instrument has now that can be fixed when the old strings are cut off later on during the setup process.
The next thing to do is straighten out the neck if it is not fairly straight already. Doing this will help flush out any fret or nut issues that can be taken care of now before we go any further.
To straighten the neck you want to check how much relief there is first. You can use a straight edge ruler that lays across the top of most of the frets of the neck or a notched straight edge that rests against the fretboard. You want to lay the ruler down the middle of the neck between the D and G strings.
If there is too much relief, there will be a gap between the bottom of the ruler and the frets or fretboard near the middle of the neck.
You will then need to grab your truss rod tool and turn the truss rod nut clockwise until that gap is gone on the bottom edge of the ruler.
If the neck has a back bow, the ruler will rock back and forth at the ends because the neck is bowed up in the middle. You will want to adjust the truss rod nut counterclockwise until the ruler is resting flat and even across the frets and/or fretboard.
If you don’t have a straight edge or notched ruler, you can use a capo, a .005″ feeler gauge, and your hands to check the relief of your neck. Place the capo at the first fret. Then with the thumb of your right hand, fret the low E string down around the 17th fret.
Take the .005″ feeler gauge with your left hand and slide it between the bottom of the E string and the top of the 7th fret. You want this much relief in the neck. Adjust the truss rod until the feeler gauge fits between the bottom of the string and the fret.
Unfortunately, most truss rod adjustments on a Stratocaster’s neck are located at the heel. So in order to adjust the neck, you will need to take the neck out of the body to get to it.
The easiest way to do this is to capo the strings at the first fret, loosen strings at the tuner, take out neck screws, pull the neck out of the body slightly in order to adjust the neck. After adjusting the truss rod, clockwise to reduce relief and counter-clockwise to add relief, then reattach neck in the body with the screws and retune the strings in order to recheck the relief in the neck.
Now with the neck straight we can check if there are any fret issues. It is important to take care of any problems with the frets now so we can make sure that we can setup up the guitar as best we can without any buzzing or dead spots on the neck.
We will use the fret rocker tool to check all the frets on the neck and make sure there are no high frets. You also want to make sure that none of the frets are loose and popping up out of the fret slots. If there are loose and uneven frets then they would need to be reseated and glued down. Then a fret level and crowning would need to be done to them before moving on.
You can check out our fret level article that shows you step by step how to go about one. If you are not comfortable or have the right tools then please let a qualified luthier or repair shop do this for you.
This is also the best time to check the string heights at the nut and see if the nut needs to be replaced or shimmed. You want to check the nut slots to see if any are too low that strings might be resting or buzzing on the first fret when the neck relief was adjusted straight. If there are issues like this at the nut or you prefer a different material, then it will have to be taken out to be either replaced or shimmed.
Remove Old Strings and Clean Up
After the initial evaluation of the guitar is finished, and we didn’t run into any issues listed above, then we can continue by removing the old strings and giving the guitar a good cleanup.
It is a good idea to slacken the strings before you cut them off. This will help reduce any stress or potential damage to the headstock from the sudden loss of tension.
Now with the old strings off you want to clean up the guitar before we put the new strings on.
I like to polish up the frets and clean and oil the fretboard, if made of a hardwood other than maple, first. You can use 0000 steel wool or a 320 grit Klingspor pad to polish the frets and break up any dirt that might be on the fingerboard.
I also like to tighten up any loose screws or nuts at this point, especially on the tuning pegs which can cause tuning issues if they are not secure.
And make sure the strap pegs and neck screws are nice and secure.
After everything is secure and cleaned up we can throw on the new strings!
New Strings and Neck Adjustment
Ok, now with the guitar all cleaned up we can restring it with a fresh set of strings.
Traditional Strat bridges are strung through the back body and up through the block of the tremolo. There is a hole drilled out in the block for each string and pops up out of the baseplate on the top side of the bridge in the middle of the saddles.
Pull the string to the tuner. Then you want to cut off some of the end of the string in order to get it wound around the tuner posts correctly.
For the low E and A
Do this for the rest of the strings cutting about 3 & 1/2″ behind the tuner of the D and G strings. Don’t cut the B and high E, but just use the whole string to make sure you have the correct string break behind the nut for them since they are smaller in diameter than the wound ones.
Put on all the strings and tune up to pitch. Grab each string individually and pull it gently up and around in a small circular motion near the middle of the fretboard to “stretch” the string and make sure the wraps around the posts are tight and are not going to move or constrict later causing tuning issues.
Be sure to hold the strings behind the nut with your fretting hand to make sure they don’t pop out of the nut when you are stretching them.
Then retune the string to pitch. Do this a couple of times for each string.
With the new strings on and stretched, we can adjust the neck. We did this step already in the evaluation so most of the time the neck is already straight and ready to go, but if not, repeat the process we went through above until the neck is straight and there is a .005″ gap of relief between the bottom of the E strings and the top of the 7th fret.
With the neck straight we can adjust the height of the strings which is called the string action.
Adjusting the Saddles
Adjusting the string action on a Stratocaster is pretty straightforward. Using the proper screwdriver or
Using a ruler or a string action gauge card and holding the guitar in playing position, measure from the top of the 12th fret to the bottom of the string. This is how you get the string action measurement. A good place to start for the action on a Strat is 4/64″ on all the strings.
Depending on the guitar and playing style, the action can be adjusted slightly lower or higher from this starting point to get a comfortable action without buzzing.
String Action at Nut
A critical adjustment that is easily overlooked is the string height at the nut. A correctly adjusted nut can help improve playability and intonation on the first couple of frets especially for barred or open chords.
To measure the height of the strings at the nut, measure from the top of the first fret to the bottom of the string. We then will use the proper nut files for the string gauges used to cut each slot in the nut to the proper depth. It is best to start slow and a little higher to make sure you don’t go too low and cause the string to buzz on top of the first fret when played open.
It is also important to cut the nut slot in a slight downward angle. If the nut slot is flat, then the string will rattle and buzz when played open.
A good place to start is at the factory heights which are 1.5/64″ or .022″ for the Low E, A, D, and G strings, and 1/64″ or .018″ for the B and high E strings.
From here you can lower each slot until you feel each string is low and comfortable enough for your playing style. I wouldn’t go any lower than just above the 1/64″ mark for all the strings except the B and high E strings. These two strings can go down slightly further and still play and ring out normally, but proceed with caution.
After each slot is cut to the right height, clean up any dust or debris. Recheck the action and tuning. Then apply a nut sauce or lubricant to each slot to keep the strings moving freely and prevent any binding.
I also like to throw some lubricant on the areas of the E and B string that rests under the string tree to help prevent any dragging there and keep the string moving freely.
The final major adjustment is setting the intonation for each string.
The most common Strat bridge has 6 steel saddles with each one holding a string. They are threaded, with a spring
Using a strobe tuner is highly recommended in order to set the intonation as in tune as possible. Montreal casino french restaurant pennsylvania.
First, start by hitting the string open or the harmonic at the 12th fret. Lets say the low E for example and tune it to pitch.
Then fret the low E string at the 12th fret and play the note. If the saddle is in the correct position, the notes should be the same pitch.
If the fretted note is higher or sharper than the open or harmonic note then the saddle needs to be moved back. Use a small screwdriver to adjust the saddle. Retune the open note and check the fretted note again. Adjust until the 2 notes are the same.
If the fretted note is lower or flatter, then the saddle needs to move forward. Adjust the saddle and repeat the steps above until the notes are the same.
Repeat for all the strings until each strings saddle is in the correct position and proper intonation point.
After the intonation is set, apply some of that nut sauce or lubricant to each strings notch in the saddle to help reduce friction at this contact point for better tuning stability.
Pickup Height Adjustment
Pickup height adjustment is usually a pretty simple task on a Stratocaster. The pickups are attached to the pickguard by 2 height adjustment screws on either side of each pickup. These screws are used to change the height of the pickup higher or lower in relation to the strings to achieve the best tone.
You want to make sure that the pickups are evenly matched volume wise when you are adjusting them. Do this through your amp with the volume and tone all the way up and wide open. You want the notes to ring loud and clear without any distortion or warbling, which can happen if the pickups are too close to the strings.
Pickup height is measured by fretting the outer two E strings at the last fret and measuring from the top of the pole piece directly under that string to the bottom of the depressed string. You can .do this with an action gauge card, ruler in 64ths of an inch or mm, or feeler gauges.
And that wraps up our Fender Strat setup article. If you followed all these steps, your Strat should be playing and sounding better than it ever has!!!
This is a handy guide to setting up your Fender Stratocaster guitar. We will go through the most critical adjustments that affect the playability of your Stratocaster.
Before you start adjusting:
Be sure that you take a measurement of all settings before you adjust anything. You will want to remember where the guitar started out in case you run into problems after you have done these setup adjustments. I have a guitar that I setup exactly to the following adjustments and after it was adjusted I could not intonate the low-E string. So I had to move it back toward the starting point on the adjustments to get it to intonate properly. You can go to our Factory Setup Adjustments page to look at what the adjustments were from the factory on a sample American Deluxe Stratocaster. Also, leave your factory measurements in the comment section of that page for others to use. Let’s get started!
Tools you will need:
- Set of automotive feeler guages .002″-.025″ or .05 mm-1 mm
- Ruler with 1/32″ and 1/64″ increments or 0.5 mm increments
- Lubrication such as Big Bends Nut Sauce
- Phillips Screwdriver
- Allen wrench for truss rod
If you want the best performance out of your Stratocaster you must lubricate. This is where our Big Bends Nut Sauce comes into play. The most important areas to lubricate are the slots in the nut, the bridge pieces anywhere the string touches and the pivot points on the tremolo. Whenever I change strings I clean the nut slots, bridge and tremolo slots and the pivot points on the tremolo. Then I use just a small amount of lubrication in each area. This greatly increases tuning stability and makes the guitar smoother to play.
The two most common types of tremolo found on Stratocasters is the 6-screw Vintage tremolo and the Two-Point Knife Edge tremolo found on the American series of Stratocaster.
You will first want to adjust the front edge of the bridge so that it is level with the top of the pick guard. I don’t like to have the front edge flush to the body as I don’t like it to dig into the finish of my guitar. So I set the front edge level with the top of the pick guard. On the Two-Point tremolo simply adjust the pivot screws until the front of the bridge is level with the pick guard. To get a good view of this you can pull back on the tremolo until the bridge is flush with the body and then look at the front edge of the bridge.
Here’s a good performance enhancing tip for the 6-point Vintage synchronized tremolo. To level the front of the 6-screw tremolo pull the tremolo arm up until the back of the bridge is flush with the body. Then loosen all six screws at the front edge of the bridge plate until they measure 1/16″ (1.6mm) above the top of the bridge plate. Then tighten only the two outside screws back down until they’re flush with the top of the bridge plate. This will make the bridge pivot on the two outside screws while leaving the four inner screws in place for tremolo stability. It’s a way to simulate the action of the more expensive two-point tremolo.
After you have the front edge of the tremolo adjusted you want to adjust the back edge of the tremolo. To do this, remove the plate on the back of your guitar to access the tremolo springs. Then adjust the screws that secure the tremolo claw to the body tighter or looser to change the gap at the back of the tremolo. Fender recommends a 1/8″ (3.2 mm) gap between the body of the guitar and bottom of the bridge. You will have to adjust the spring tension with the screws on the spring claw, re-tune the guitar and then check the gap at the back of the bridge. It may take several adjustments and tunings to get the gap right. Remember, if you ever change string gauges you’ll have to perform this adjustment again.
Another good thing to remember is to lubricate the pivot points on the pivot screws at the front of the tremolo. Just use your Big Bends Nut Sauce for that.
Truss Rod Adjustment
Next you will want to adjust the truss rod. Most Stratocasters use a Bi-Flex truss rod which allows you correct neck curvature in either concave or convex positions. To check the adjustment make sure the guitar is tuned properly and then affix a capo behind the 1st fret of the guitar. Get out your feeler gauges. The adjustment specification is as follows:
Most Fenders use the 9.5″ to 12″ radius so you’ll be shooting for a .010″ (0.25 mm) gap. You’ll be using the “go”,”no-go” approach. So get our your .009″, .010″ and .011″ feeler gauges. With the capo set behind the 1st fret, hold down the low E-string at the last fret on the neck. Then slide each gauge between the top of the 8th fret and the bottom of the sixth string. The .009″ gauge and the .010″ gauge should slide through with no resistance while the .011″ gauge will slightly move the string. If you need to adjust the truss rod do it in 1/4 turns and then recheck the adjustment. Sometimes after you let the instrument sit overnight the adjustment will change slightly as the neck settles in. Remember to never force the truss rod! If you encounter excessive resistance during this adjustment your truss rod is maxed out. If this happens you’ll have to take your guitar to an authorized Fender Service Center. This adjustment will greatly increase the playability of your guitar.
String Height (also known as Action)
After you’ve adjusted your tremolo height and truss rod it’s time to adjust your Stratocaster string height. String height, or action, is highly customizable on the Fender Stratocaster. That’s good because almost every player needs a custom string height to suit their own personal playing style. I am very aggressive with my lower strings when I play rhythm so I like my low strings set at a higher action to get rid of unwanted buzzing. I also like to play very lightly and quickly when I solo so I like my higher strings as low as possible for increased speed. You can see the recommended Fender adjustment for string height in the table below. I would suggest using that as a starting point and then listen to the strings as you play the guitar unplugged. If you hear the strings buzzing and vibrating a lot, then simply raise the action on that string.
To check the string height first make sure your guitar is properly tuned. Then use your ruler to measure from the top of the fret to the bottom of the string at the 17th fret. Then, use the allen screws in the bridge saddles to adjust the height of the string. Make sure you adjust each side of the bridge saddle evenly so that it stays level with the bridge or tremolo plate. Then re-tune the guitar and listen to it while you play. Make any tweaks after you play it for a few minutes and listen for rattles or buzzing. Bass side strings are the E-A-D string and Treble side strings are the G-B-E strings. I like to adjust each string a little lower as I move from bass side to treble side so they get a little closer to the fret on each string. Fender string height specs are in the table below:
Now that your string height, truss rod and tremolo are all in adjustment it’s time to adjust your pickup height. If you have your pickups too close to the strings the magnetic pull will cause the strings to vibrate in an elliptical pattern instead of a circular pattern which results in problems with the guitars tone and loss of harmonics. You want your pickups close enough to have good output but not so close as to affect the vibration of the strings.
To perform the measurement simply take your ruler and measure the distance from the top of the pole piece to the bottom of the string on the first (high E) and sixth (Low E) strings of the guitar. After you make this adjustment you will see that the pickup will be angled closer to the 1st string and farther away from the 6th. There’s no need to measure the distance of each pole piece as the pole pieces are not individually adjustable.
In the table below you’ll find the Fender specs for pickup height adjustment but here’s a tip. I like to move the pickups quite far away from the strings and listen to how the string sounds through an amplifier with0ut any influence from the magnetic pull of the pickups. Then I like to raise the pickups until they are very close to the strings and listen to how the magnetic pull causes tonal changes and loss of sustain. Then I back the pickups off until I can hear that they are no longer influencing the vibration of the string. This way I know I’m getting the highest output without any magnetic influence on the string. Here’s the table with the Fender specifications for pickup height adjustment:
Lace Sensor pickups have little to no magnetic pull on the string. I would suggest putting them very close to the string but don’t let the string vibrate against them. I would also suggest pulling them away from the strings a little bit and listen to the difference in sound. You may like them a little farther away from the strings.
Stratocaster Nut Slot Height Set
First of all you may be asking, “what is intonation”? Intonation affects how well your guitar plays in tune along the entire length of the fretboard. Have you ever noticed that after you tune your guitar it still sounds off when you play chords or notes and the higher you go on the neck the worse it sounds? That’s because your intonation is not set correctly. In theory, the distance from the inside of the nut of the guitar to the middle of the 12th fretwire should measure the same distance as the middle of 12th fretwire to the bridge saddle. But, if you do this adjustment by measuring with a ruler it will still sound off. So, we have to adjust the intonation with a good tuner or you can simply use your ear if you have a good ear.
Stratocaster Nut Slot Height Dimensions
Before you adjust intonation make sure all your other adjustments are done. That means truss rod, string height (action), pickup height and tremolo height all have to completed before you do intonation. To adjust the intonation tune your strings to standard tuning. Then starting at the 6th string play the open string and the play the note an octave higher at the 12th fret. The pitch should be the same. Your ear, or tuner will tell you if the octave note is sharp or flat. If the note is sharp use a Phillips screwdriver and move the bridge saddle farther away from the nut or toward the back of the bridge plate. If the note is flat, move the bridge saddle closer to the nut or the front of the bridge plate. Adjust the bridge saddle to compensate for flatness or sharpness until the note at the 12th fret is in tune with the open string note. Do the same for all six strings and your guitar will be properly intonated.
Once you have completed all the above adjustments your Stratocaster should play very comfortably and stay in tune very well. Whenever you change strings I would check all the adjustments and adjust any that are out. If you do these adjustments with every string change your guitar will always play it’s best. Leave any questions or comments in the comment section below.