Tremolo Setups: The Care and Feeding of Your Floyd Rose

Posted on by Jay Hale

the bomber

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.

Koa Warmoth Strat

The Duncan TB-11 lines up perfectly with the Floyd Rose string-spacing.

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.

Trem stabliizer engaged

“Oh, no – I GOT you! You’re going nowhere!”

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.

Written on August 2, 2012, by Jay Hale

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Comments (9)

  • Jay Hale 7 years ago

    Looks like Floydupgrade with that brassclaw and bigger brassblock. I have done that along with noiseless springs to all my Ibanezes (Edge, LoPro Edge and Edge Pro trems ) and it made a great difference. / Esa Ahonen (leadguitarist and founder of Cryonic Temple, Swedish melodic Power Metal)

    • Jay Hale 7 years ago

      Hey man

      You mentioned “Noiseless springs”. Could you give me a bit more info? I had no clue they had anything like that, and I really need to make this modification, because both of my Ibanez guitars, have an odd sound that comes out of the trems internaly, and I think its coming from the springs. Its a clicking noise sort of.

       I lost my collection of 13 guitars in a house fire years ago (10 of which were Ibanez). I didnt have insurrance either, as I had just moved into the house. So since the fire, Ive only been able to get two new Ibanez. First my, Ibanez RG320 dx (around 2004 model), which I modified with a Seymour Duncan Invader and a Floyd Rose “special” replacement trem (much better than the Lic.Floyd Rose it came with). The second guitar is a Ibanez 3000 series Jcraft RG and it has a crazy ‘zero point’ return tremelo system. Im considering removing the “Zero point” spring device, as it inhibits alot of the cool tricks you can do with a ‘free floating’ Trem. For example, bar flutters dont work properly. And I use the Trem alot. Anyway any advice on the noiseless springs would be greatly appreciated.

      Byond

      ( aka “Genocide”- Lead guitar player, songwriter and founder of the Detroit USBlack Metal  “Dead Letter” 1995-current)

      • Jay Hale 7 years ago

         I’m using the Floyd Upgrades noiseless springs in my Koa Strat pictured in the article, and I find them useful if, like me, you don’t use a spring cavity cover. They reduce spring howl and belt-buckle scrape noises.

    • Jay Hale 7 years ago

       …It’s a 37mm Titanium Big Block, yes. 🙂

  • Jay Hale 7 years ago

    Cool post. Also check this nice stuff about “Floyd Rose” – Floyd Rose Techniques – Rock “Guitar Tricks” Floyd Rose Locking Tremolo

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wp-RyaA73GM

  • Jay Hale 7 years ago

    Good article, but i have owned tons of quality Floyd Roses and I have never had one that would stay exactly in tune. No matter the spring tension, the bridge angle, the nut or whether it was a new or old, Japanese, German or US FR, in my experience all of them “drift” slightly in tuning. I think “it will stay in tune” is unrealistic for me at least. Granted I abuse the heck out of it.

    • Jay Hale 7 years ago

      i havent had to even fine tune my dean ml in 3 months, and i play daily.

  • Jay Hale 7 years ago

    Nice overview. Thanks.
    I, however, read the artical in the hope that there might be mention of how to prevent string slippage at the NUT end. I’m new to Floyd Rose, but from the look of it, it’s not common.
    The obvious, immediate, response would be “you tightening them enough?” and the answer is “It’s tight enough to worry me about thread stripping!!”
    If anyone has any advice… Thanks!

    • Jay Hale 7 years ago

      Hi Leif,

      When strings slip at the locking nut, it’s because there isn’t enough clamping force on the strings to hold them in place against the pull of regular playing and tremolo use. In your case, it doesn’t sound like it’s an issue of not tightening the allen bolts enough, so it must be something else…

      Check the undersides of the 3 blocks as well as the surface of the nut under each block for unevenness. If the surfaces aren’t nice and flat, it can result in the strings only being “pinched” over too-small of a surface to grab the string and hold it tight.

      In most cases, you can take a little piece of sandpaper and rough up the undersides of the blocks to help them grip better, but sometimes they (or the whole nut assembly) need to be replaced.

      This issue usually comes up with “licensed” Floyd Rose bridges that are made from inferior materials. The metal used in some of those models is a bit softer, and the strings can create indentations in the parts over time.

      Good luck!

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