Locking tremolos provide great tuning stability even under extreme tremolo use. However, they can be a source of frustration. Especially for those who don’t do their own set-up work. This tutorial shows you how to set-up a locking tremolo for stabilized, hassle free playing.
Traditional tremolos still have their place, but locking tremolos reign supreme for staying in tune. The only set-back is getting the system set-up in the first place, particularly in full floating mode. Follow along with this guide to learn how to string-up, set-up, and keep your locking tremolo playing the best that it can.
For this tutorial we’re using a Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo for our examples. Some say that the original Floyds are the best for tone due to the quality of the materials. There are a variety of locking tremolos available, both licensed Floyd Rose based models, and others.
Before going to the trouble and expense of swapping out a new tremolo, try your hand at setting the stock one up following this guide. You may find that the right set-up makes all the difference.
Additionally we have other articles that cover Guitar Set-Up. While many of the same principles apply, this article focuses on Locking Tremolo specifics. Learn more about
Setting String Height, Adjusting The Truss-Rod, and Intonation Adjustment, all part of the ModGuitar.com Ultimate Guitar Set-Up Guide. Here is a tutorial on
Installing a Fresh Set of Strings
on a guitar. Most of the same ideas apply, though there are some locking tremolo specifics this article covers. Steps taken when putting on a fresh set of strings go a long way in enabling the kind of tuning stability expected from a locking tremolo.
The main parts of the Floyd Rose style locking tremolo.
How to install strings on a Double-Locking Tremolo
Here is a quick refresher on installing strings on a Floyd Rose style Double-locking tremolo.
Note that there are some single-locking tremolos that do not require that the string’s ball end be clipped off before installation – check your instrument.
Use wire cutters to trim off the ball-end of the string.
Before installing new strings trim off the ball-ends. Using string clippers, cut the strings off an inch or two from the ball-end. The string manufacturing process puts stress on the area of the string closest to the ball-end. You want a good cleanly wound section of string ready for the locking saddle. Alternatively, you can also load your strings plain end first, with the ball-ends at the tuning pegs. However, this can leave more string than needed at the peg, resulting in overwinding.
Adjust the fine tuners on the tremolo base so that you can de tune the string a little, but mostly tune the strings up to pitch when they are locked. Enough to engage the spring clip underneath the locking bolts plus a bit more for de tuning (occasionally tightening the lock nut will raise the pitch slightly after tuning).
Above: Adjusting the fine tuners on the tremolo base.
Maintain proper orientation of the string lock insert.
In the illustration above we can see the proper orientation of the string lock insert with the alignment hole close to the bottom edge. A close-up shows the small hole the end of the string lock bolt fits into.
The string-end is inserted into the saddle between the string lock insert and the inside edge of the saddle. There is a small flat piece of sheet metal press-fitted into the underside of the saddle that acts as a depth stop for the inserted string.
Over time this insert may become loose and fall out. When this piece is missing (as it often is) make sure not to insert the string-end past the bottom of the saddle.
The cleanly cut string-end is inserted into the saddle approx. 3/16″ (4 mm). Then using a Hex wrench the string lock screw is tightened (clockwise) firmly.
After the string is locked into the saddle. The string is then passed over the lock nut within the grove, under the tension bar, and then into and around the tuning peg. Before winding the string up to full tension, you can put the string-lock insert back in place, screwed in, but left loose. Note that the curved underside of the lock-nut insert should follow the curve of the lock-nut base. The string should pass under the string tension bar, and be clear of the screws that mount the tension bar to the neck.
The string’s path over the locking nut. The locking nut insert has been removed over the 5th and 6th strings for visibility.