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Brass Vs Steel Tremolo Block: What’s the Difference and Which Is Better?

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If you’re curious about a brass vs steel tremolo block and how it affects your guitar, you’ve come to the right post!

I didn’t know much about this subject before researching it for my blog.

Here’s what I found out.

Tremolo Blocks: What Are They and How Do They Work?

Before we get further into this post, it’s important to explain precisely what tremolo blocks are. When we’re talking about them, it’s actually one part of the tremolo bridge system.

And, in particular, we’re talking about the classic Fender bridge design. Even Floyd Rose bridges technically fall into this category. The back construction is almost identical and they were designed around Fender’s bridges.

In any case, a tremolo block refers to the piece of metal on the backside of the bridge. It’s the part that you can see only when you flip the guitar over and remove the cover. It’s a solid block that’s rectangular. 

The strings also pass right through it. So it kind of acts as if your guitar has a string-through-body construction. But, most importantly, the tremolo block serves as an anchor point for tremolo springs.

Essentially, it holds the springs on one side. Meanwhile, the springs are also attached to the so-called claw. And the claw itself is attached firmly to the body. Therefore, you can understand why a tremolo block needs to be a sturdy, thick, metal block.

Brass Vs Steel Tremolo Block

Various different materials are used for tremolo blocks. In most cases, it’s steel. But brass is also sometimes used.

Since strings go through it, the tremolo block does impact the tone. Of course, it doesn’t impact it as much as using strings or pickups. But it has its purpose. Although steel is more common, brass is also sometimes used particularly in vintage-style Strats. 

So what’s the difference? Let’s explore this.

Steel Tremolo Blocks

Steel tremolo blocks are pretty common upgrades for Strat-style guitars. Compared to default stock tremolo blocks, they are solid chunks of metal. And they come with more weight.

Of course, with its unique physical properties, steel also has particular acoustic properties. In most cases, steel adds a bit of a brighter tone. The strings just vibrate in such a way that it adds more high-ends into the mix.

You may also notice that steel tremolo blocks provide prolonged sustain. Of course, not everyone has the same experience. Sustain is also affected by other guitar properties and features. However, it’s usually not that hard to hear these changes in your tone.

Steel tremolo blocks also feel different than stock ones. They are noticeably heavier and the action feels different. You might also want to check the tension after installing one.

Some luthiers recommend adding another spring to the tremolo. It may increase tension, but it may also feel more comfortable. That said, this is a personal preference.

Brass Tremolo Blocks

Although not as common, brass tremolo blocks have their use. And, of course, they also come with their specific properties.

First, brass is a bit thicker and heavier than steel. Though the difference is subtle, some can notice it.

Second, its features add a different twist to the tone. Brass brings a more mellow accent to your guitar’s sound. Brass is also known for smoothing the attack a little and making the output sound just a little bit darker.

Since brass blocks are slightly heavier, many recommend putting an additional spring on the block. Many report that having only two or even three springs with a brass block makes the action too mellow. With four springs, it can feel more comfortable to push the tremolo arm down.

How Do They Compare?

As I already mentioned above, not everyone will have the same experience with a particular type of tremolo block. However, there are some specifics to bear in mind with the use of different materials.

But, as you can see, the difference is rather simple. Many report that brass tremolo blocks make for a darker tone with greater sustain. Meanwhile, steel tremolo blocks can make for a brighter sound with more attack.

Of course, both options are likely an upgrade compared to stock tremolo blocks. It’s one of those simple upgrades that requires minimal investment for solid results.

It Takes More Than Just a Different Tremolo Block to Change Your Tone

But tremolo blocks, or sustain blocks as some call them, can’t do magic on their own. Your tone is a result of several different factors. Nonetheless, changing your tremolo block does help.

Aside from the tone, it also changes the feel of the tremolo action. For instance, having more weight can make the action smoother. As I mentioned, you might also want to add a spring to balance it out. But pushing it down with a heavier tremolo block usually feels better.

One more thing to bear in mind is that stock tremolo blocks have deeper access holes for ball-ends of strings. Honestly, this doesn’t make much sense as the block has almost no effect on the tone. With shallower holes, a longer portion of the strings keeps contact with the block. And, obviously, it affects the tone more compared to stock tremolos.   

Brass Vs Steel Tremolo Block: Conclusion

I hope this article has clarified the differences between these tremolo block materials!

And if you’re interested in reading some posts about other guitar materials, check out:

Lastly, feel free to message me in the comments below if you have questions about this or another guitar topic!

2 Responses

  1. I went with a steel block for a 2016 Squier Affinity. I’ve read that Brass is warmer tone, both here & other blogs. Either have to be better than the Zinc that is OEM. Brass may have been better with the SSS ceramic pickups. I did measure the depth of the block and it’s 35-36 mm for an Indonesian, so I definitely had to match that depth, the string & screw spacing. The width should fit fine too. I’m not Eddie Van Halen for tremolo dive bombs.

    The original Zinc tremolo block is actually in fantastic shape, which is what made an upgrade hard to pull the trigger on. I’ve seen photos of Zinc tremolo blocks that are Squier thin that have cracked and it makes me wonder what the heck was the abuse that made them come apart. So I will do the upgrade at my leisure. Perhaps when the Zinc block starts to give me trouble really. And then I have a spare on hand. I definitely want to play out the new set of strings before even considering the block swap. If it makes a Squier sound closer to a Fender MiM or lower priced Fender USA, that’s a win for what a Musiclilly Steel sells for online retail. If the Squier holds tune better or is easier to set up the tremolo, that’s another plus. I just look at the width of the Zinc block and figure it so narrow that it barely functions as anything more than a string ball end retainer. The ball ends have to be harder metal than the softer Zinc.

    1. Hi Jim,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! This is good info and will maybe help someone else thinking about a switch too.

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