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Fix your 1st gen strum bar
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BriGuy  
 




Joined: 04 Mar 2006
Posts: 1894
Location: Boston

PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, 2007 3:01 pm    Post subject: Fix your 1st gen strum bar Reply with quote

*For detailed pictures and descriptions on the different models of guitars and how to take your guitar apart see this thread.
*For links to countless other guitar modding projects see this thread.

I stumbled upon this awesome post that really describes a common problem with the Strat's strum bar mechanism and has a good looking fix and is complete with well described methods and a great labeled picture.
At the end of his post he does criticise the other "fixes" that have been described so far. I would definitely try this fix before sanding/shaving/bending anything inside.

http://www.quartertothree.com/game-talk/showthread.php?t=40188

Edit- Because I don't always trust links to other forums, I will quote the original post by Ben Sones (thank you)
Ben Sones wrote:

This post is a public service announcement. Last night, my Strat developed the dreaded "downstrum has stopped registering intermittently" problem that so many people seem to be having. Sometimes it worked fine, but other times (especially in fast-strumming rhythm sections) it would either not register some of the time, or double-strum. Upstrum (the real downstrum, for actual guitar players) still worked fine. It was bad enough that I was failing out of songs on which I can normally get four or five stars.

I read all the official forum posts in the RB tech forum (which propose a number of different remedies), and then decided to open up the case and have a look at the mechanism for myself. Unlike the GHIII guitar, you can open the back of the Strat without voiding your warranty (the Les Paul has a sticker over one of the screwholes that voids the warranty if you break it). So before RMAing it, why not have a look?

I'm glad that I did, because I was able to determine what the problem was, and I fixed it. My Strat downstrum now works 100%. I just went and played Maps on hard (my default calibration song), and scored 99%. Oh, and one other thing: if you hear a little rattling sound inside the Strat, that's normal. It's not a broken piece of innards kicking around in there, it's just the normal sound that the tilt sensor makes. I had the same thing, and thought something must have broken in there, but nothing was.

If your downstrum has stopped working, I'll bet you a dollar that you are experiencing exactly the same problem. Which means that you can fix it, too. It's not difficult, but it does require:

1. A very small (jeweller's) screwdriver. The screw that you will be adjusting is Phillips, but the slots are very thin and flat, so a flathead actually works better.

2. A regular phillips screwdriver. This is for the screws on the back of the guitar. They look small, but trust me, you'll want a good sized screwdriver to get the necessary torque. If you have a power screwdriver, that will reduice the amount of time required for this operation significantly (there are a lot of screws).

3. A set of tweezers. The type that comes in those little computer tool kits is ideal.

Procedure
1. Remove all the screws from the back of the Strat with the Phillips screwdriver. There are quite a few, and if you are not using a power screwdriver, this will be the most time-consuming step of the process. Take note of where the screws go: they come in three different lengths. The two short ones go in the two holes at the top (where the guitar body is cut out), the four long ones go in the four holes on the back of the neck, and the medium size ones go in the rest of the holes. On some guitars, there may also be two additional screws on the front of the guitar, behind the pick guard. If the back will not come off after you have removed all of the rear screws, then remove the pick guard from the front (yes, even more screws!), and check to see if you have these.

2. Carefully lift the back off. You are now looking at the back of the strummer mechanism. It looks like this:

It's a pretty simple mechanism. Basically, you have a microswitch that consists of two metal contacts sticking out of a square plastic housing ("tension screw housing") affixed to the body by a tiny screw ("tension screw"). A spacer between the contacts holds them apart in their resting state. When you strum, the plastic nub on the strum bar ("A") pushes the plastic nub affixed to the bottom contact and presses the contacts together. When you release, the contacts seperate. The plastic spacer between the contacts ensures that the bottom contact is under greater tension than the upper contact when the strum bar is pressed, making sure that when you release the strum bar, the bottom contact will snap away quickly. Note that there is a rubber pad affixed to the screw post that is above the top contact. This serves to dampen vibration when you press the strum bar (vibrating contacts can cause double-strumming). It is not, as some people on the official RB tech forums suggest, meant to push the top contact closer to the bottom one. In fact, ideally, the top contact should not even be touching the rubber pad in its resting state.

The problem
Here's what happens: the whole microswitch mechanism can rotate. The thing that prevents it from doing so is the tension screw that attaches the microswitch to the guitar body. If you are having problems getting downstrum to register consistently, chances are very good that the microswitch for downstrum has been rotated out of alignment slightly. It's possible that some of the guitars come with misaligned microswitches, or that the tension screw was not tightened sufficiently at the factory. It is also possible that even with a properly tightened screw, the microswitch gets pushed out of alignment over time through regular use.

Whatever the case, here is what a properly aligned microswitch SHOULD look like: The contacts should angle down towards the strum bar; they should not be parralel to it. The top contact will likely not be touching the rubber pad on the screwpost above it. The two plastic nubs (A and B) should be touching when the mechanism is in its rest state. If there is a small gap between them, then your microswitch has been knocked out of alignment.

The thing is, nub A is supposed to push on nub B when you strum, not hit it like a hammer. If there is a gap between the two nubs, then A is hitting B like a hammer when you strum. This will cause the lower contact to vibrate when you release the strum bar, which in turn will cause double-strums. Also, if the microswitch is rotated away from the strum bar, then you will have to press harder on the strum bar to make contact. This makes it much easier to miss notes, especially when you are strumming fast.

My microswitch was rotated away from the strum bar (I used the upstrum microswitch as a reference, since upstrum on my guitar was still working perfectly). The contacts were parallel to the strum bar, and there was a gap between plastic nubs A and B. The top contact was pressed against the rubber pad in its rest state. If your downstrum microswitch looks like this, then you have the same problem.

The fix
1. Using the very small jeweller's screwdriver, loosen (but don't remove) the tension screw that holds the microswitch in place. This will make the switch VERY loose. You'll be able to rotate/wiggle it freely.

2. With the tweezers in your left hand, grasp the tension screw housing. Rotate it counterclockwise (if you are fixing the downstrum microswitch) until the two plastic nubs are touching. Put some pressure on it--you want the plastic nubs to make good contact--but don't use so much pressure that the contacts are pressed together. Hold it in place.

3. With the jewellers screwdriver in your right hand (still holding the microswitch in position with the tweezers in your left), retighten the tension screw. Torque it down tightly (but not so much that you strip it out!).

4. That's it. Reassemble your guitar. It should now function properly.

Long-term prospects
It's not clear whether or not this problem will reoccur. If the misalignment was caused at the factory (perhaps the tension screw was never properly tightened, or perhaps the whole thing was just misaligned to begin with, when they tightened it), then this fix may be permanent. It could also be a design flaw, though--it is possible that normal play will slowly push the microswitch away from the strum bar over time, even if you have it tightened down properly. If that's the case, then a possible permanent fix would be to glue the thing in position with superglue. Then tighten the screw (to hold the microswitch in place while the glue cures), and give it plenty of time to cure before playing it again.

Personally, I'd rather avoid that sort of irreversible fix unless it's really necessary. If my strum bar gets flaky again, though...


Mythbusting
There are some suggestions on the official Rock Band forums for how to fix the strummer. Many of them are wrong, and a few suggest doing things that you should probably avoid. Such as:

1. Filing down the "raised bits" of the contacts with a metal file. Don't do this. Those raised bits are an important part of the microswitch.

2. Placing tape (or some other sort of spacer) between the outside contact and that screw post that has the little rubber pad stuck to it. Some people claim to have had luck doing this, but I think it's a bad idea. All this does is bend the outer contact closer to the inner one. This may make it easier to register strums, but if you have space between your plastic nubs, then I suspect that it will do nothing to prevent double-strums, and it may even exacerbate the problem.
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Last edited by BriGuy on Sat Jan 03, 2009 7:39 pm; edited 3 times in total
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Ldog12395  
 




Joined: 03 Sep 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, 2007 7:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

you know you're voiding your warranty right?
why dont you just use a GH guitar (if you have one) while you wait for your replacement.
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G-Rad  
 




Joined: 17 Jul 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, 2007 7:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you! My downstrum just kicked the bucket today in the middle of playing "Creep".
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BriGuy  
 




Joined: 04 Mar 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, 2007 8:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ldog12395 wrote:
you know you're voiding your warranty right?
why dont you just use a GH guitar (if you have one) while you wait for your replacement.

Doing this fix will not void your warranty unless you severely mess it up. All you are doing is unscrewing the body, and resetting the proper alignment of the tension screw housing. Even if it doesn't work, there shouldn't be any evidence of your tampering.
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Ldog12395  
 




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PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, 2007 8:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ya but on the rock band forums they said dont open the guitar and mess with it because it will probably void your warranty. but if this works i guess it doesnt matter.
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zombie1942  
 




Joined: 09 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, 2007 8:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

the purpose of this thread i think was to inform those who are willing... not to debate.

thanks for this... i've noticed mine missing strums here and there... ive got a replacement on the way, but one day my stuff will be out of waranty and this thread will help alot.
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BobDole  
 




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PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, 2007 10:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well my thread about fixing your strum bar basically just fixes another problem people are experiencing. This fix will help with the game registering two strums when you only strum once. My fix will make it so you don't have to push really hard on the strum bar to get a strum to register.
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Tomcove  
 




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PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, 2007 11:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Opening guitar = voiding warranty.

No signs of opening guitar = no voided warranty.
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JoshNeff  
 




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PostPosted: Wed Nov 28, 2007 1:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I took mine apart again today, and put on small stickers on the outside of the metal bars to raise the sensativity... and was looking at your solution-

For the life of me, I can't figure out how the screw does anything more then hold down the switch. I have pictures, and was wondering if I have a model between the version you do and the "trigger" model.

Or, maybe I just don't understand the fine details of the system, but i loosened the tensor screw up and it still played the same... is there any way, if anyone does this, to post close up before and after pictures to see exactly how the switch sits in there?
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BreakManX  
 




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PostPosted: Wed Nov 28, 2007 8:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

To the OP: Dude, you are my hero. I'ma try this out on my Strat at home; my strum bar recently starting crapping out on me (70% or so on 3's and 7's, not being my fault). Hopefully, this fixes the problem. Great guide; very well-written and easy to understand!
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Zoltar  
 




Joined: 23 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 30, 2007 4:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I went to play Enter Sandman today, and my downstrum totally stopped working. I'm bringing Rock Band to a friend's party tomorrow so requesting a new guitar wouldn't cut it, stumbled across this guide, tried it, and it works!
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nfamouswun  
 




Joined: 10 Nov 2007
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 30, 2007 7:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

rock band forum states "If you open your guitar casing to attempt to fix the peripheral yourselves you are voiding your warranty. This means if your attempts to repair fail and you return the guitar for a warranty replacement, or your fix succeeds but at a later date you need to use the warranty service, you may be charged for the cost of the instrument."

when we opened my friends guitar we saw a strip of light sensitive film/tape. if thats what it really is then thats the evidence of opening up the guitar.

btw... will moving the switch housings fix double strum issues?
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nfamouswun  
 




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PostPosted: Fri Nov 30, 2007 7:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

just reread post, and saw the answer to my double strum question. in regards to the light sensitive film tape thing, i could take a pic of it later and see what everyone else thinks about it.
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kadryna  
 




Joined: 05 May 2007
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2007 5:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

awesome, works like a charm
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BobDole  
 




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PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2007 6:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nfamouswun, please take a picture of that light sensitive film/tape because it wasn't in the guitar that I got on the 20th but I just returned Rock Band today and got a new one that seems much better. First off the drums are not white, but have a bluish kind of tint. Also, the guitar doesn't really have any double strum problems and you don't have to mash down the strum bar to get it to work. Did I get one of the new guitars thats been "fixed"? Because it works and seems like a newer model, I'm afraid to open it since there might be that tape like you said but theres no reason to open it anyway so its all good.
P.S. I returned Rock Band because the bass pedal snapped in half. I know it's going to happen again but I wanted to get one of the newer fixed guitars and the better drums (even though my old drums were fine) before I drilled a metal strip on my bass pedal and voided my warranty.
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