Tremolo Setups: The Care and Feeding of Your Floyd Rose
The Floyd Rose tremolo is one the most popular locking tremolo designs in history, spawning multiple imitations and licensed copy versions. And with good reason – under proper conditions, unless the guitar’s neck somehow shifts (say, by you jumping off your drummer’s riser) it will not go out of tune. But some players find them extremely intimidating; if you’re unfamiliar with the methods of properly setting up and maintaining them, they can be! This guide will provide a few vital tips to help your locking trem perform reliably and correctly.
Set the angle of your (bridge) dangle
Check to see how your bridge is ‘pitched’ in relation to your guitar body. While some players prefer to flush-mount their tremolos to rest against the body of their guitars, some prefer to set theirs for a bit of upward (pitch-raising) play. Some players and guitar manufacturers recess their trems into the guitar body for lower action and/or radical pitch-raising capability.
The angle can be set as desired via loosening or tightening the tension-springs in the tremolo cavity. A looser setting allows the bridge to lean slightly towards the fretboard if viewed with the guitar laying horizontally, and allows you to bend notes sharp with the bar.
Be aware that doing this means your bridge will be more sensitive to pressure from your hand as well, and if you’re not careful you can raise the pitch by “digging in” too hard playing rhythm. Adjust your strumming hand technique accordingly.
Check your saddles
When stringing and re-stringing a Floyd-type bridge, always make sure the string enters the saddle in a straight line before clamping it down, and always check for leftover bits of your old strings in the saddle-clamp as well, especially if you’ve broken a string previously. Anything impeding a sold clamp on the string will allow it to shift in the saddle and cause tuning instability and/or breakage.
Carefully clip the ball-ends of the strings off, ensuring there’s no “flash” (leftover, compressed remnants) on the string end, this can also contribute to slippage. Also check for (and file down) any burrs in the saddle as this too can contribute to string breakage.
Wind ’em right
When you’re winding the string around the post of the tuning peg, maintain tension on the string with your other hand so the string winds in a uniform, non-overlapping wind. This is a good idea when stringing any instrument, but particularly important when using tremolo systems. The idea is not to leave any area where the string can slip, stretch, or become unstable. While some players use locking tuners with Floyds, some consider them overkill since the strings will be locked at the nut.
And most importantly…
STRETCH YOUR STRINGS BEFORE LOCKING:
This really can’t be stressed enough. If your strings are fully stretched prior to locking your tremolo down, you will spend less time fine-tuning, and have far greater tuning stability when the guitar is in use. Since the concept of the Floyd involves locking the strings at both the saddle and the nut, the less chance there is of anything within those boundaries slipping or stretching – the more rock-solid your tuning will be. There are several string-stretching devices available, but it can be easily accomplished with your thumb and index finger. Grip the string firmly and give it a healthy tug while running the entire length of the string from nut to saddle. Do this a few times per string, then re-tune and clamp. Repeat as necessary. Once completed, your tuning should be far more stable.
Following these few simple rules will make your locking tremolo perform like a champ, allowing your guitar to stay in tune even under the most abusive whammy-strangulation. For better string-to-string transfer it is highly recommended you use Seymour Duncan Trembucker pickups; their wider spacing lines up perfectly with Floyd Rose and Fender-style tremolo string spacings.
One final set-up tip: For even faster set-ups, many guitarists have had great results using tremolo-stoppers to cut down of tuning and bridge pitch-setting time. These devices lock the bridge into the desired position while re-stringing, eliminating the need for further tension-spring adjustment. They can be permanently engaged, or used only for set-ups and (heavy) tuning adjustments.
There are several versions of this concept, some involving replacing the tremolo-claw and/or one of the tension springs, as in the Tremol-NO and the Hipshot Tremsetter, or stand-alone blocks like the Floyd Upgrades Tremolo Stopper. If you’re a purist and not into these types of devices, a wedge of the proper width can be made of guitar picks, credit card stock, etc. to temporarily block the bridge. Another helpful hint, if you don’t like to block your tremolo, it is recommended you remove your guitar’s strings one-at-a-time during restrings. This will maintain spring tension, retaining the desired bridge-angle, and will reduce overall set-up time.