Bill suggested that I include some of the more frequently asked questions concerning bass tremolos, so here are some of the more common ones I have been asked over the years. Remember that my answers are based only on my personal experience, and I certainly don't know everything. So if anyone has input about anything I've said here, fell free to post your own experiences. I want everyone here to share what they know for the good of our little community.
Will a bass trem affect my tuning?
As long as you set up your bass properly, no. I really give my Kahler a workout, and my bass often stays in tune better than a lot of guitars will. For a complete listing of what to do, see the thread entitled Keeping It In Tune.
Will a bass trem affect my sustain?
I have never noticed any adverse changes to my sustain with a trem, and many players report that it actually improves their sustain.
Can I install a bass trem myself?
That depends on your experience working with wood, and what tools you have access to. Also, Kahlers are much easier to install than Hipshots are. I have personally installed half a dozen Kahlers myself.
A luthier told me that I shouldn't install a bass trem since it will kill my tone, and that they are useless? Is any of this true?
As with sustain, I have never noticed any adverse changes in tone from having a bass trem installed. And usually when someone starts to talk down the notion of having a bass trem as being "useless", it usually stems from either ignorance, or some sort of "guitar things on bass" prejudice. Remember that it is your playing, and don't let someone else dictate to you what you can and cannot do with it. I usually ask such naysayers to show me the rule book, and that shuts them up pretty quickly. Also, keep in mind that if bass trems were so "useless", players such as Les Claypool, Victor Wooten, John Gallagher, and Dave LaRue wouldn't use them.
Can I make a bass stock again after I install a bass trem if I change my mind?
The best way to think of it is like a tattoo. Yes, you can reverse it, but it takes a lot of work, and you might not get it perfect again. Think of it more in terms of making absolutely certain you want to have one, and be ready to make the commitment. And some trems are easier to reverse the effects of than other. A surface-mounted Kahler can be recovered from fairly easily. A counter-sunk Kahler is a little harder to do, and a Hipshot is a lot more difficult. It involves a lot of wood filler, sanding, and painting. The best solution is just to be ready to keep the bass with the trem on it.
What should I get? Kahler? Hipshot? ABM? Bach Musik?
I think the best thing to do is test drive any trems you can first. I realize this might be a challenge, but it is possible with enough effort. Kahlers are typically easier to install, and will drop further. Hipshots are more work to install, but can be smoother to operate, are cheaper than Kahlers, and will float better. Also, ask anyone here about their experiences. We have players that use all different types of bass trems, and they would be glad to share what they know.
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