Why is Your Whammy Bar So Stiff? Common Causes

Whammy bars are great tools for guitarists to spice up their playing, creating great effects as well as infusing unique tonal flair to their tones. But, sometimes, they can make you experience unexpected challenges like stiffness. Stiff whammy bars are quite challenging to use, perplexing players and preventing them from using the bar to its full potential.

There might be many reasons for a stiff whammy bar, such as the too-big tremolo bar, too-tight placement of the whammy bar, too-tight tremolo arm screws, damaged tremolo arm, or lack of lubrication. Luckily, all of these problems are easy to solve.

Today, I will explain what might be the possible causes of a stiff whammy bar and how to fix the issue. So, let’s start!

Common Causes of a Stiff Whammy Bar

Too Tight Whammy Bar Placement or Screwing

The most common reason for a stiff whammy bar is that it is placed too tightly. Different tremolo systems use different screwing mechanisms to hold the whammy bar. And with the screwing mechanism, you can easily adjust the stiffness of the whammy bar.

For Fender-style bridges, you have to rotate the whammy bar to adjust its tightness. As it uses a screw system in the hole, rotating it more after placing it will lead to a more stiff whammy bar. Rotating it in the opposite direction will loosen it.

Floyd Rose bridges often come with a cap around the whammy bar, which is the female part of the screw around the tremolo arm socket on the bridge. Tightening this cap will lead to a stiff whammy bar. You can loosen it a bit to get rid of the stiffness. 

Also, some guitars have a tremolo arm screw on the back side of the bridge. By backside, I mean the side that faces the opposite direction of the neck. You can loosen the tremolo arm screw to make it looser.

Bigsby bridges are quite stiff by default. But you can loosen them a bit if you like by removing the strings, lifting the tremolo arm, and loosening the bolt will lead to a more floppy, whammy bar.

Lack of Lubrication

Another cause of a stiff whammy bar is a lack of lubrication. This might not be an issue with a new guitar, but if you are using your guitar for a while and if you do not clean it well, the dirt, dust, and grime collect up in the pivot points of the tremolo system. This will cause the whammy bar to go stiff and limit its movement. Using the bar without proper care can lead to stiffness issues.

Corrosion and rust can also become a problem for the tremolo armhole. Especially in humid places, the metal pieces of the guitar, like the bridge, can get rusty and corroded, which may lead to problems with the whammy bar stiffness as it changes the shape of the hole.

You have to take care of your guitar regularly, including the tremolo bar and the pivot points. Lubricating them with special guitar lubricants or oils can help you a lot. Lubricate the bridge contact points and pivot points evenly and gently to restore the smoothness of the whammy bar.

Too Big Whammy Bar For The Whammy Bar Hole

Finding a properly sized whammy bar for your guitar is crucial to have the desired tremolo arm stiffness. Having a too-big whammy bar for the whole will limit its movement and make it too stiff, while having a too-small one will make it move all the time, annoying you when playing.

While whammy bars come in different sizes and shapes, most of them have 5mm, 5.5mm, 6mm, 3/16″ (4.75mm), and 1/4″ (6.35mm) diameters. You can check your guitar’s manual and find the right size from Amazon, which offers a wide range of tremolo arms.

Damaged Whammy Bar

If your whammy is damaged and deformed for some reason, it may not fit the hole well, leading to stiffness. In this situation, you should get a new whammy bar instead of trying to fix the older one. 

How Stiff Should My Whammy Bar Be? 

As discussed in detail in the (Is a Whammy Bar Supposed To Be Loose?) article, the whammy bar tightness is more of a personal taste. Each guitarist has a different approach to the tremolo arm control and techniques. So, you will have to find the tightness that works for you.

As a general rule, most guitarists like the whammy bar stiff enough so that it does not move around freely all the time but not loose enough that it just flops around and creates tuning instabilities.


The whammy bar is a great tool for guitarists to spice up their playing and add new effects and approaches to their sound. However, sometimes, it is hard to find the sweet spot of stiffness to play around with the whammy bar. When they get too stiff for reasons like too tight placement or screwing, lack of lubrication, or wrong whammy bar size, they become a pain instead of help.

Luckily, fixing the whammy bar stiffness is not a big problem. After reading the article, you know regular maintenance and small adjustments will provide you with a great whammy bar experience.


I have been playing guitar since 2004. As long as I can remember I always had a huge passion for rock music and I extremely enjoy playing it. Helping people on their rock journey is what drives me to keep on playing. Read More About Me

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