How to Setup a Floyd rose style tremolo
Author: Lachlan Bush Date Posted:19 November 2020
How to perform a complete setup on a Floyd rose, including changing your strings.
Floyd Rose tremolos are one of the most complicated bridge setups Available today. Floyd roses are what is known as a “Floating bridge”. What this means is that tension on the bridge is held by strings on the top and springs on the rear. These types of bridges are great for the ability to dive bomb etc. these were commonly used by Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, and Joe Satirani.
What tools do I need?
You need a screwdriver, 3mm, 2.5mm, and 4mm Allen keys, Wire cutters, Something (like a 9V battery) to wedge temporarily in the bridge, a tuner, a cloth, and a ruler
Materials: a new pair of strings
Optional: fretboard liquid such as lemon oil (Rosewood Fretboards only), and a string winder is highly recommended.
Okay, how do I do it?
Firstly, take the backing plate off.
Next, push down on the bar, and block the bridge. Ultimately, The goal here is to have the bridge perfectly flat with the body, as in this diagram. You want the Bridge to be perfectly flat with the body when this is installed.
Now that the bridge is blocked off, remove tension from the strings by unwinding the machine heads. Next, remove the Locking trees at the nut. Unwind all the strings. Please note, do not leave your guitar like this for extended periods, it can make the neck bend!
Remove the strings from the bridge by unscrewing the string locks with a 3mm Allen key. This is a really good time to clean your guitar using a microfibre cloth. Remove the truss rod cover next.
Now that the strings are removed and the bridge is blocked and the guitar is clean, wind the fine tuners to be in the centre of their travel, halfway between completely out and completely in.
Now it's time to re-string the guitar. This process is done slowly, string by string. Cut the ball end off, then feed it into the bridge and lock down the string with an Allen key. Pull the string up to the machine heads, and then measure about 5cm, or two machine heads worth of string past the machine head it needs to be installed into, and cut the string to that length.
Feed the string into the machine head, and tune that string roughly to pitch.
Repeat for all strings
Next, you need to adjust the string tree at the nut. The string angle at the nut needs to be totally flat against the nut, so that when you install the string locks they don't close any gaps, causing the tuning to change.
Once the gap has been removed, tune everything to perfect pitch. At this point, it's a good time to stretch your strings and retune, as per this guide here: How to Stretch your strings and keep your guitar in tune
If you find that the bridge is lifting up from the block as your tuning, screw down the Spring claw at the back of the guitar until the bridge is held firmly against the block again. Repeat all of the steps after installing the new strings until tuning is perfect.
Now, you need to remove the block and check the angle of the bridge. It will likely angle down, and the tuning will go sharp. To correct this, you just need to unscrew the spring claw until the bridge gets flat again. At this point, the tuning should be perfect.
Next, you need to Measure neck relief and adjust. How to do that can be found here: How to Adjust your Truss Rod (This is what you will need the 4mm Allen key for)
The next step is to set your action. Firstly, carefully Oil the bridge pivots a tiny amount. This will help with any friction experienced in the bridge. For the absolute lowest action possible, screw the bridge down on both sides until you experience fret buzz, and then raise up slightly. If your frets buzz a really small amount, on a Floyd Rose style guitar this is probably okay, as the buzz won't be reproduced in your signal, and a lot of people who play these sorts of guitars prefer lower action over a small amount of fret noise anyway. Make sure the guitar is always tuned before you check for fret buzz, as it will change when you modify the action.
Once the tuning and action are where you want them, the last step is setting your intonation, ensuring the open note is the exact same pitch as the 12th fret note on the same string. The best test is to tune one string exactly to pitch, and then check the tuning of that string, fretted at the 12th fret. On a perfectly intonated guitar, at the 12th fret there should be no change in pitch on the tuner. Be advised that most guitars will appear very very slightly out of perfect intonation, this is quite normal, just get it as close as you can to perfect.
Intonation is changed by adjusting the saddles forward and backwards. There is a small 2.5mm Allen head bolt underneath the string, which when loosened allows the saddle to move forward and backwards, changing the intonation. If the note at the 12th fret is flat (lower) than the open string, move the saddle towards the neck. If it's sharp (higher), move the saddle towards the bridge
Lastly, if one string has fret buzz, and the others are all okay, there are three ways to look at this problem. Firstly, the bridge may just be too low overall, and should just be raised until the buzzing is corrected. Secondly, if its only one string and the other strings all play perfectly, that string may have an issue. A likely cause is due to uneven frets, causing impact when played. Thirdly, if there is trouble with the bridge, it may be that the shim underneath the bridge is incorrect.
Floyd rose bridge saddle heights are adjusted manually, by way of shims. Floyd Rose recommends using items like aluminium tape underneath the bridge to modify the height on one string, however, if you bought the guitar with the bridge, it's really unlikely that you'll need to do this. shimming a Floyd rose is beyond the scope of this post, however, if you're interested you can read about it over at haze guitars, here.
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