$10 fix for Fender Stratocaster tight string tension problem


I almost returned the Fender Stratocaster I just bought because of this. Fortunately, the fix was easy and cheap.

I just bought my new Fender Player Stratocaster. I haven't even owned it a month. But I noticed a problem.

The strings felt too tight when compared to my '89 Squier II Stratocaster. That guitar feels just right where the strings are nice and "slinky," but the Fender absolutely did not.

At that point I did what most Strat players do. Adjusted the string saddles, took out a tremolo spring from the back (you only need two, especially if you don't use the tremolo system,) adjusted neck relief, and so on.

None of this worked.

After that, I tried a different string brand.

That didn't work either.

What I was attempting to do was get the same slinky feel that my Squier has. I thought I covered everything.

I didn't. There was one thing I missed. The string guide (a.k.a. string tree.)

As it turns out, the Fender Player Stratocaster uses a string guide for the B and high-E strings that does not use a spacer and looks like this ordinarily:


When I compared this to my old Squier:


...I then knew the Squier had a spacer and the Fender did not. Yes, my Squier has two string guides instead of just one, but even so, both have spacers.

After discovering this, I detuned the B and high-E strings on the Fender, removed them from the string guide, then tuned back up to pitch to see if the guitar felt any better.

It did. Now I had that nice slinky feel I was looking for.

At this point I needed a spacer. I drove to Guitar Center and bought this (which by the way is also available on Amazon):


Nobody sells the spacers individually. You have to buy the whole string tree set. This means you spend 10 bucks for something that's literally worth about 25 cents.

Yes, I could have bought just the spacer for cheap at a hardware store, but I didn't want to deal with the issue of having a spacer set too high or too low. The one Fender makes is exactly correct for their headstock and nut, so I paid the ridiculous 10 bucks just to get that stupid thing.

This the end result:


The string guide is now raised, resulting in less string tension. Problem solved.

Why does a string guide spacer affect string tension so much?

Let's find out.

Published 2021 Sep 7