Hey everyone, i just picked up a Fender Stratocaster Contemporary MIJ 1985 with a System II tremolo and locking nut. I cant for the life of me figure out how to tune it. I've never worked with a system like this before. Whenever i tune a string up, all the other ones drop their pitch. Is there something im missing? Can someone guide me through the tuning process? (I apologize in advance if what im asking is stupid) Thank you!
 

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TConnelly

Strat-Talker
Gold Supporting Member
Mar 9, 2016
113
Sandy, Or.
There’s Nothing you’re missing per se. That is totally normal behavior for any floating tremolo or vibrato. Stratocaster, Jazzmaster, Bigsby or whatever.

It gets easier after you’ve done it a few, hundred, times. You kinda get a feel for it. If the strings are all flat to varying degrees just start by creeping up on it. Tune each string to pitch. Then start over and do it again. until they are all in tune. Of course always tuning up to pitch. Then later you can skip ahead a step or two by starting with tuning the low e for example maybe 5 cents sharp or so. Knowing that as you tune the rest up, that one will drop down. And so on. If they are all sharp, then I find it easier to tune them all to below pitch and bring them all up.

Fret not! Soon it will be as natural as breathing!

Cheers……………..Todd
 

Quikstyl

Strat-O-Master
Nov 10, 2018
655
Bay Area, CA
Hey everyone, i just picked up a Fender Stratocaster Contemporary MIJ 1985 with a System II tremolo and locking nut. I cant for the life of me figure out how to tune it. I've never worked with a system like this before. Whenever i tune a string up, all the other ones drop their pitch. Is there something im missing? Can someone guide me through the tuning process? (I apologize in advance if what im asking is stupid) Thank you!
Welcome!
The trick is to find the sweet spot. Get all the strings close, then check how the trem is sitting in relation to the body. Should be floating parallel to the deck. Start tuning all the strings, then check the trem for parallel position. If the trem is pulling up from the back of the trem, screw in the claw in the back cavity toward the body and that will bring the back of the trem down. If it's too for back against the body of the guitar unscrew the claw screws the opposite way to get it to float. If you just picked it up the trem could need adjusting from the back depending on string tension. You could get it close and have a tech at a local shop check it. Once it's dialed in it should be good to go. I used to borrow my cousin's Contemporary Strat back before I bought my '89 HM, so I went from one moderately complicated trm to a Floyd (I replaced the Kahler Spyder).
Youll like it once its dialed in.
Scan-200916-0004.jpg
 

Quikstyl

Strat-O-Master
Nov 10, 2018
655
Bay Area, CA
Hey everyone, i just picked up a Fender Stratocaster Contemporary MIJ 1985 with a System II tremolo and locking nut. I cant for the life of me figure out how to tune it. I've never worked with a system like this before. Whenever i tune a string up, all the other ones drop their pitch. Is there something im missing? Can someone guide me through the tuning process? (I apologize in advance if what im asking is stupid) Thank you!
That's a spring tensioned system and not the system III, correct?
 

Quikstyl

Strat-O-Master
Nov 10, 2018
655
Bay Area, CA
Hey everyone, i just picked up a Fender Stratocaster Contemporary MIJ 1985 with a System II tremolo and locking nut. I cant for the life of me figure out how to tune it. I've never worked with a system like this before. Whenever i tune a string up, all the other ones drop their pitch. Is there something im missing? Can someone guide me through the tuning process? (I apologize in advance if what im asking is stupid) Thank you!
You may have to ignore my whole long response to your question. I may have been thinking of the System I, which had tension springs in the body cavity. I don't think the system two had those. Flip the guitar over and see if there's a cover on the back. If it's all wood and no cover, my advice won't help.
 

3bolt79

Dr. Stratster
Oct 16, 2018
16,150
Oregon
Hey everyone, i just picked up a Fender Stratocaster Contemporary MIJ 1985 with a System II tremolo and locking nut. I cant for the life of me figure out how to tune it. I've never worked with a system like this before. Whenever i tune a string up, all the other ones drop their pitch. Is there something im missing? Can someone guide me through the tuning process? (I apologize in advance if what im asking is stupid) Thank you!
Wow, the locking nut is intact, appears to have all its parts. Beautiful guitar!
 

pkailas

Strat-Talk Member
Gold Supporting Member
Apr 21, 2021
61
Belmont, MI USA
The trick to tuning this type of tremolo is to begin by tuning each string sharp almost as much as they were flat. As you tune the other strings, those that were sharp will be lowered closer to the correct tuning. Eventually, you'll be in tune!
 

mwmeci

Strat-Talker
Sep 1, 2015
268
MINNESOTA
A locking nut but no fine tuners. When you lock down the nut all my guitars went slightly out of tune on some strings.
Then you use the fine tuners to tweak it. So if it goes out of tune you have to unlock the nut to re-tune?
What am I missing?
 

drp146

Strat-Stalker
Gold Supporting Member
Jun 8, 2020
590
Oklahoma
Welcome to the forum! Those are great guitars. I would download the manual from the link posted earlier and do all the adjusments to the tremolo that they show, and go from there.
 

Believer7713

The Pink Bunnyman Frankenstein
Silver Member
Dec 27, 2016
18,380
KC
A locking nut but no fine tuners. When you lock down the nut all my guitars went slightly out of tune on some strings.
Then you use the fine tuners to tweak it. So if it goes out of tune you have to unlock the nut to re-tune?
What am I missing?
That's how that one was designed. The idea with that one was that the locking nut clamps the string from the sides instead of the top and bottom. There was less chance for the strings to go sharp when clamping. Plus, the clamp was engaged when you flip the thumb lever so once set up you never need a tool to change unlock.

If you have a locking nut on a Floyd type that goes sharp every time you clamp the strings in place, then lower the retaining bar (or add one). It will lower the break angle through the nut to be in contact all the way across the nut and it will remove 99+% of the tuning issues when locking.
 


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