Forums > Personal > Tuning the Burns Brian May guitar

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Danne user not visiting Queenzone.com

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Posted: 24 Apr 08, 04:14 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Hi!

The construction of the tremolo mechanism on the Burns Brian May-guitar (and on the original aswell) makes it very hard to tune. When you fiddle with the tuning of one string you affect the others aswell. Of course it is doable (but it takes some time).

I wondered if there are any guitarists here with a Burns BHM, who have any tips when it comes to tuning it.

/Daniel

Music Man user not visiting Queenzone.com

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Posted: 24 Apr 08, 04:31 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I don't know if you can, as I don't own the guitar, but a common solution on other guitars with a knife-edge bridge is to adjust it so that it cannot go backwards into the body, by having it rest flatly on the body.

I really wouldn't use a tremolo on anything that isn't set up with a Floyd Rose (then again, I wouldn't bother setting up a Floyd Rose!), so this solution works fine for me, although it may be restrictive or undesirable for you. I do get the itch to pull out the whammy bar every now and then, but I just tell myself, "No," and it's all for the better.

Then again, I've no idea how the Brian May guitar works. I only wish I owned one.


Creativity can always cover for a lack of knowledge.
Danne user not visiting Queenzone.com

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Posted: 24 Apr 08, 08:26 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Thanks for your reply! I'm not that technical a guitar player, I just like to play :), but from my (somewhat limited) experience, the BM works in a different way than most other guitars I've tried.

It's not really using the whammy bar (I knew there was a flashier word than "tremolo arm"!) that causes the problem, it's the same issue even if you don't put it on, or use it. It's how the mechanism works which affects the tuning, not using the bar itself. I seem to recall that it's because Brian's guitar is designed to stay in tune, even after some heavy tremolo bar drops and stuff like that.

I've read about the difficulties in tuning this guitar, but I bet there are quicker ways than mine. :)

bobo the chimp user not visiting Queenzone.com
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Posted: 24 Apr 08, 08:30 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

No idea what's wrong with your one!
I've got a 2004 Burns, and the only major tuning problem I've ever had with it was caused by me being over-fiddly and tuning it sharp on stage.

I've heard it said that the zero-fret helps a lot with tuning problems caused by using the wami bar. I dunno if that's just bullshit, but I can only go by my own guitar - it's never given me tuning problems. Stays in, even after the biggest dive-bombs.


"Your not funny, your not a good musician, theres a difference between being funny and being an idiot, you obviously being the latter" - Dave R Fuller
David Jones user not visiting Queenzone.com
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Posted: 24 Apr 08, 14:14 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Its because you've got a floating tremelo. It takes an age to tune it up and then keep it tuned and a nightmare to retune. I've got two Burns guitars with them.

The BM stays in tune when you use the whammy bar because of the Grover locking tuners. My other Burns Marquee doesn't have these and promptly goes out of tune when using the bar.

You can take it to your trusted guitar shop though and ask them to "unfloat" it I guess, having it rest against the body as said previously by Music Man like standard trem units.

As for tuning it, I usually put all the stings on and then tune up each one slowly rather than tuning one at a time. My theory is that if you adjust the tension on all the strings by an roughly equal amount then the trem will adjust easier rather than tuning up one string and then tuning up the others one by one - if that makes sense! As your tuning it after a restring, you can see the floating unit tilt, the bottom will rise up away from the body and begin to float. Sorry I can't be more technical about it!


"Freddie would have loved it" - Brian May
Danne user not visiting Queenzone.com

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Posted: 25 Apr 08, 06:08 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Thanks David, you seem to understand my incoherent thinking. :)

Thanks for your tip on re-stringing, although it's ok for me if that takes a little time.

I was more thinking along the lines, if there's an effective way of finetuning it in the middle of a gig. Especially if you try to drop the low E string to a D, you have a small h*ll, trying to tune it back again, without keeping the others in the band waiting for too many minutes.

Bird5 user not visiting Queenzone.com

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Posted: 05 Aug 14, 04:32 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

On any "floating" tremolo setup, you need to adopt a convoluted tuning process to avoid detuning the other strings while you tune an individual string. As when setting up a Floyd Rose, the only way is to block the bridge to stop it moving, tune up all strings and release the blocking. You will find that the stings will all go sharp now due to sting tension being able to move the bridge. You then slacken the tension springs until one sting is back in tune (all of the others will be in tune too). Of course , you can tune without blocking but that takes a huge amount of skill / experience / luck and not something that you want to be doing on stage! Another problem with not blocking is that you will find that the bridge will usually end up higher or lower which in turn sends your action and intonation out. This type of tremolo unit is primarily designed to go down (bomb), not up as well. If you want to go both ways, you'll need a Floyd Rose or Kahler bridge. So in summary, set the height of the bridge unit so that in it's resting position it lies flat against the body, with enough spring tension to hold it there, tune up normally and learn to use to drop (including when you use it to tremolo).

Out of interest, have you ever heard Brian use the bar to raise string pitch? No. He drops the whammy and brings notes back UP to correct pitch or bends strings up the old fashioned way!

Dave

www.sparrowgt.co.uk

Bird5 user not visiting Queenzone.com

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Posted: 05 Aug 14, 04:32 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

On any "floating" tremolo setup, you need to adopt a convoluted tuning process to avoid detuning the other strings while you tune an individual string. As when setting up a Floyd Rose, the only way is to block the bridge to stop it moving, tune up all strings and release the blocking. You will find that the stings will all go sharp now due to sting tension being able to move the bridge. You then slacken the tension springs until one sting is back in tune (all of the others will be in tune too). Of course , you can tune without blocking but that takes a huge amount of skill / experience / luck and not something that you want to be doing on stage! Another problem with not blocking is that you will find that the bridge will usually end up higher or lower which in turn sends your action and intonation out. This type of tremolo unit is primarily designed to go down (bomb), not up as well. If you want to go both ways, you'll need a Floyd Rose or Kahler bridge. So in summary, set the height of the bridge unit so that in it's resting position it lies flat against the body, with enough spring tension to hold it there, tune up normally and learn to use to drop (including when you use it to tremolo).

Out of interest, have you ever heard Brian use the bar to raise string pitch? No. He drops the whammy and brings notes back UP to correct pitch or bends strings up the old fashioned way!

Dave

www.sparrowgt.co.uk

The Real Wizard user not visiting Queenzone.com
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Posted: 05 Aug 14, 04:51 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Great first post, Dave. Welcome to the madness that is this forum.


Suggestion to the topic starter, if they're still lurking - when changing strings on a guitar with floating tremolo, change them one at a time. If you take them all off it'll take ages to get it in tune again.



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thomasquinn 32989 user not visiting Queenzone.com
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Posted: 05 Aug 14, 04:56 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

IMHO, that's good practice for any guitar, acoustic and electric, regardless of model or make.


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The Real Wizard user not visiting Queenzone.com
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Posted: 05 Aug 14, 16:31 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Yeah, fair play. But the results aren't as blatantly obvious as it is with floating tremolo.


"The more generous you are with your music, the more it comes back to you." -- Dan Lampinski



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ludwigs user not visiting Queenzone.com
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Posted: 07 Aug 14, 08:52 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Bird5 wrote:

Out of interest, have you ever heard Brian use the bar to raise string pitch? No. He drops the whammy and brings notes back UP to correct pitch or bends strings up the old fashioned way!

Dave

www.sparrowgt.co.uk


I have played Bri's guitar and it DOES pull up. He has also used this a fair few times too...
One brief example (off top of my head) is his appearance on the Paul O Grady show. he clearly demonstrates pulling the string up (approx. 0:53 secs)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aLVC-bFsLc

So, it is a floating system.