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In the same way that many people use the brand name “Kleenex” to describe all types of facial tissue, the brand name “Floyd Rose” is often used to describe any type of fully floating tremolo system. Likewise, any brand of guitar outfitted with a fully floating trem is often referred to as a “Floyd Rose style guitar”.

For super, duper low action, and doing all of your Eddie Van Halen, whammy bar acrobatics, there is no real substitute for the Floyd. A healthy guitar with a properly set-up Floyd Rose is a true thing of beauty that allows you to do things musically that would otherwise be impossible with another type of bridge. However, if you didn’t know before you purchased your Floyd Rose style guitar, you most likely have discovered that although they can be an amazing tool, they can also be a huge pain in the behind. What follows are a few simple rules that can help you keep your Floyd set-up properly, and avoid some of the headaches inherent in Floyd ownership.

If you want to change tunings often to learn different styles of music or songs by different bands, and you only want to own one guitar, a Floyd Rose style guitar is probably NOT for you.

In order to play and stay in tune while dumping and pulling on the whammy bar, the fully-floating-trem depends on a perfect balance of tension between the guitar strings and the trem springs. During a professional set-up, the technician will establish this perfect balance based on the string gauge and tuning you choose. However once it has been set-up for a specific string gauge and tuning, it must remain in that tuning, with that same gauge of strings. Changing the tuning or string gauge changes the tension on the string side of the string/spring balance, which will require a new set-up to keep your Floyd playing in tune.

Changing your strings on a Floyd.

If you simply want to replace your old, dead strings with fresh ones, and tune your guitar right back up to the same tuning you had it in before, this can only be successfully accomplished if you replace your strings with the same string gauge you removed. If you have forgotten what gauge is on there, a technician will be able to measure your existing strings to help you buy the right set. It is a good idea to keep the string packaging in your case to help you remember what gauge you are using. If you ask your technician to replace your strings for you, you should expect to pay for a full set-up if you do not plan to use the same string gauge or tuning.

Always stretch ‘em before you lock up.

New strings have slack in them. Even if you are replacing your strings with the same gauge and using the same tuning, YOU WILL STILL HAVE TUNING PROBLEMS IF YOU DON’T STRETCH THE NEW STRINGS. Your string/spring tension balance MUST be established BEFORE you lock your nut. If you don’t stretch the new strings before you lock up, they will stretch as you play and disturb the balance of tension. Stretch the strings two or three times – tuning between each – then lock the nut and fine-tune.

A properly set-up Floyd Rose in the hands of a player who follows the above guidelines, can last a whole tour without ever needing to unlock the nut. Learning and understanding these rules can save you from feeling frustrated with your instrument and save you money in unnecessary repair costs.

This is one technician’s perspective.

[Photo: Jimm Lindsley of Sirens & Sailors Charvel]

What are your thoughts?