Did you know that Floyd Rose bridge is the most popular floating bridge on the market? How to set up a Floyd Rose is also one of the most difficult tremolos. It is also used on ALL brands such as Jacksons, ESP, Ibanez, and many more…
How to Set up a Floyd Rose? There are many ways of dividing steps of setting up a guitar with a Floyd Rose Tremolo, you will go through 7 steps as below:
- Removing the old strings
- Adjusting The Bridge
- Adjusting Truss Rod
- Adjusting The Right String Height
- Adjusting Pickup Height
- Setting Intonation
- Tightening the clamps
In this article, we will cover setting up a Floyd rose in more detail… so let us get started!
1. What is a FLOYD ROSE?
Before getting down to the step-by-step guide of the installation of a Floyd Rose bridge, we should understand some of the basics.
A o be called Floyd Rose Locking Tremolo) is a type of locking vibrato arm for a guitar. It was first invented in 1976 by Floyd D. Rose who was a member of a rock band at that time. Due to his skill and knowledge as a jeweler, he created a brass nut which locked the strings with 3 U-shaped clamps to keep his Strat in tune. Through many years, this tool is more and more popular among those who love the guitar.
2. How Does The Floyd Rose Operate?
A Floyd Rose will allow you to lock the strings in place at two points on your guitar: at the locking nut and at the bridge itself. The nut which uses 3 metal plates locking down 2 strings each and being tightened with an Allen key will stop the strings from sliding over the nut and going out of tune when using the whammy bar. In the meantime, the bridge features locking saddles into which the strings are inserted and it also features fine tuners, which allows the guitarists to tune the guitars if the strings flatten or sharpen from extensive tremolo use.
By incorporating a string locking system at both saddle ends and the nut, the Floyd Rose bridge can help you avoid the problem of tuning instability through large pitch changes that traditional vibrato systems often meet. Even though the Floyd Rose is considered to have the best design when compared with the others in the floating tremolo system, it still has some shortcomings that can make you frustrated and confused. The article today will provide you with detailed steps of correctly setting up a guitar with a Floyd Rose tremolo in an easy way.
3. What Tools do you Require?
To prepare for this setup process, you will need the tools below:
- A small Phillps head screwdriver for truss rod, spring access and pickup height adjustment
- A large Phillps head screwdriver used on the claw screws in the back of the body to adjust the spring tension
- Allen wrenches with different sizes:
- A 3 mm Allen wrench (to unlock the nut, string retainer screws and adjust action)
- A 2.5 mm Allen wrench (to allow you to adjust the Floyd Rose intonation)
- 1.5 mm and 2 mm Allen wrenches
- A truss rod wrench to measure adjustments
- Wire cutters to cut the ball end and excess parts
- A piece of polishing cloth
- A Chromatic Tuner
4. Removing the old strings from your Floyd Rose Bridge
First and foremost, you need to change the strings. This step is very vital for any guitar setup process because old strings will finally go dead and can even cause intonation issues. To start with the replacement of strings, you should locate a piece of polishing cloth (or microfiber cloth) under the tremolo a bit so as to protect the guitar’s body.
Loosen the locking nuts on the Neck
Nearly all Floyd rose bridges have locking nuts to prevent the strings from sliding on the nut when you are taking tremolo action, hence the first step in replacing the strings is removing the nut.
To do so, you will use a 2.5 mm Allen Wrench to loosen and remove the clamps on the locking nuts. Remember that you should change the strings one at a time since this action will help keep the tremolo floating appropriately, minimize any major change in tension on the guitar as well as save you from plenty of extra adjustments during the process.
Loosen the Locking on the Bridge
After removing the nuts and loosening the strings, you keep using the 2.5 mm Allen Wrench to unlock the trim lock and pull the string off the tuning posts. You can use another Allen Wrench to loosen the clamp on the string saddle and remove the string.
5. Adding new strings
Then you will cut the ball end with the wire cutter and thread the string through the machine head. After that, you will pull all the slack from the string before tightening the trim lock into place.
Before cutting the excess part off, you should tune to the desired pitch to make sure that all the strings are tuned appropriately. Remember that you should put the clamps back into place and be sure that they are lined up properly.
However, you should not rush to tighten the clamps yet because you will have to make a lot of adjustments in the next steps…
6. Adjusting The Bridge
In this step, you will take out the cloth under the tremolo first. Next, you take the whammy bar to bend the strings in both directions to make sure that the guitar’s bridge is moving freely. When the bridge is at a resting position, it should stay in the line parallel with the guitar’s body.
If it is parallel, there is nothing for you to do in this step and you just need to skip to the next step quickly. Conversely, if the bridge is not floating precisely, you should check again to detach the whammy bar as well as use a Phillips head screwdrivers to remove the back plate of the spring compartment.
If the tremolo is angled backwards towards the guitar’s body, you should use a Philips head screwdriver to turn the screws in an anticlockwise direction to loosen the springs and small increments. And if the bridge is angled towards the headstock, you should turn the screws in a clockwise direction to tighten the springs. After finishing the adjustments, you should retune your strings and check the tremolo’s new position. And this check may be repeated many times until you get the desired result. After all, you can locate the spring compartment cover back into place.
7. Adjusting the Truss Rod
A truss rod is a metal rod that reinforces your guitar’s neck. Since the strings are tuned up to pitch, they will place several hundred pounds of pressure on the neck. The truss rod will counteract such tension, stiffen your neck and allow the guitarists to adjust how little the neck bows. Truss rod adjustment is actually not a must. If your truss rod is already set properly, then you can skip this step. But if your neck is not straight, you will need to straighten it by adjusting the truss rod, otherwise it will badly affect your tuning stability and tone.
There are different ways to check the straightness of your neck, but we just only suggest the most common method often used by many guitar players. You should press down the strings at the first and at the last fret where the neck and the body meet and check the gap at the 9th fret. The spacing at that position should be between point 1 and point 3 mm about the thickness of a business card. Then you can adjust this by using a Phillips head screwdriver to remove the truss rod cover and insert a truss rod wrench into place. To make the headstock bend forward expanding the gap at the 9th fret, you will turn the truss rod to the left and to reduce the gap, you will turn the truss rod in the opposite direction. Remember that you should always adjust the neck gradually and be very careful in this step. Do not overtighten the truss rod, you will cause serious problems including warping the fretboard or twisting your neck.
8. Adjusting String Height
In this step, you will adjust the strings to the right height. Achieving the desired string height is very simple because all you need to do is just to raise or lower the bridge posts. Nearly all Floyd Rose bridges use an Allen wrench, but in some exceptional cases, some take a screwdriver as well. There is no absolute rule for a given string height since it varies according to different tastes of many guitar artists. Some like high action, while the others like it a bit lower down. And in this guide today, we recommend you with optimal string height of 1.7 mm for the top string and 1.5 mm for the bottom. There is a tip here for you to easily check it: you put a 1.5 mm Allen wrench between the 12th fret and the string leaving a gap with the top string and making it flush with the bottom.
To raise the action higher, you will take a 3 mm Allen wrench to turn the screw on the corresponding side of the bridge to the left (in an anti-clockwise direction). You should not turn this very much and just need to turn it in gradual increments. If you would like to lower the action, you just need to turn the screws to the right instead (in a clockwise direction).
With the above step of setting up a Floyd Rose taken, your guitar will go out of tune. Therefore, when you finish this step, you should retune the strings and measure the action one more time to make sure that you get exactly what you want before moving to the next step. Unless you do it, you will waste lots of time to track the reason and fix the problems if issues happen afterwards.
9. Adjusting Pickup Height
Like the string height, there are not any fixed rules for the pickup height because it depends on different preferences of many guitar players. A pickup reaching closer to the guitar’s strings will lead to two results: the output is increased and the sustain is decreased. And to make a balance between these two effects, we will set a distance of 2 mm for your guitar by putting a 2 mm Allen wrench on the top of the pickup and pressing down at the last fret.
10. Setting Intonation
Regardless of any kind of bridge setup you take, adjusting proper intonation is a must that you should always do. But why this step is so important? For simplicity’s sake, intonation demonstrates the accuracy in which all of the notes on the fretboard are represented. In other words, it is the pitch or tune of your guitar strings when you move up scale length or the fretboard. A poorly tuned guitar will be a nightmare because the sound created from such guitar will be very bad. Even though it is very difficult to perfectly intonate the guitar due to its equal temperament tuning, we should try our best to get a proper intonation as close to perfect as possible to get the most out of your guitar.
You will start this step by checking its tuning that the 12th fret. Particularly, you play a 12th-fret harmonic on the lowest string and tenderly play a fretted note on the 12th fret of that same string. Then you take a tuner to compare the dissimilarities between the notes. If the fretted note is sharper than the harmonic, the saddle needs to be moved closer to the bridge (away from the headstock). And if it is flatter than the harmonic, then the saddle needs to be moved closer to the nut (go towards the headstock). Some people will have difficulty in moving the saddle. The tip for easily working on the saddle is that you should loosen the strings in advance until the tension disappears. After that, you will use a 2.5mm Allen wrench to loosen the screw which is placed in front of the saddle so that the saddle moves in the desired direction. Then you take the string back on the saddle and tighten it back up to the correct pitch. You should recheck it at the 12th fret and keep applying this for every string until your guitar is correctly intonated.
11. Tightening The Clamps
This is the last step you need to do to complete this setup process. The strings will go just a tad bit sharp when you tighten the clamps on the locking nut. And you can use the fine tuners on the guitar’s bridge to get the perfect tuning for your guitar.
This guide today covers how to set up a guitar with a Floyd Rose. There are total 7 steps you need to take for a complete setup process including: String Replacement, Tremolo Adjustment, Truss Rod Adjustment, Adjusting String Action, Adjusting Pickup Height, Setting Intonation and Tightening The Clamps. The first time you execute this setup, it may take so much time you may end up confused and depressed. But please remember to remain calm and keep patient. You only need to take each step carefully and do not hurry and in time you will succeed!