The Floyd Rose Tremolo Systemby Stephen Lunn
Floyd Rose tremolo systems may be slightly daunting for guitarists who haven’t used one before. Indeed, players may buy a guitar fitted with the unique tremolo arm without knowing how different the set-up is. When you know how to carry out the basic maintenance though, such as changing a string and tuning the guitar, you’ll see the benefits of having a bridge that keeps itself in tune no matter how much or little it is used.
First thing you’ll need to do when tuning your guitar with a Floyd Rose Bridge is get the right tools. A standard kit of Allen or “Hex” Keys is what you need at hand here. You should have been given at least one when you bought the guitar but a kit of keys of
different sizes will be handy and will allow for
essential maintenance on many guitars.
Loosen up the lock nuts at the top of the neck with the correct Allen Key. This allows you to tune the strings as you would with a normal guitar, using the main machine heads on the headstock. There is a right way to do this, and it can seem a little complicated at first. This order, which should be followed no matter how many times you tune the strings, is as follows:
You’ll find, though, if you do this that you’ll never get the low E string quite right. For this reason, then, you should tune the first string a little sharp each time, to allow it to flatten out over the course of tuning the other strings (use an electric guitar tuner to make this easier). With new strings it may take as many as five times, but keep going in this order and it will fall into place.
If you’re putting on new strings then it’s probably a good idea to stretch them out a little first. This keeps them from getting stressed and going sharp during tuning. Also, set the fine tuners on the bridge of the guitar to the middle (if there is no mark on them just make sure they are screwed half way out). A nice tip for if these ever get a little unresponsive is to use a tiny bit of Vaseline to loosen them up. You should now be ready to tune your Floyd Rose-bridged guitar.
When the strings are in tune you can lock the nuts at the top of the neck back up again. Using the Allen Key, do this as far as a stage at which they can’t be turned with your fingers, but don’t over-tighten them. This will more than likely sharpen the strings just a little, so, one by one, you can use the fine tuners on the bridge to get the tuning just right again.
This is the major advantage to having a Floyd Rose tremolo system on your guitar; it offers finer tuning capabilities than most systems and certainly more accurate tuning than fixed-bridge guitars. You’ll find that when tuned, your guitar (even a Stratocaster, a guitar known for its loose tuning) will stay in tune much longer than a guitar with a normal bridge, whether it is often used or not.