Locking Tremolo Set-Up Guide

Setting-Up The Floyd Rose For Floating Or Blocked Play.

Some players prefer to let the back edge of the Floyd tremolo rest on the face of the guitar, this prevents the tremolo from being pulled up to sharpen the pitch of the strings during play and the de-tuning that occurs when a string breaks. There is a difference in the tone of the guitar when the tremolo makes contact with the body of the guitar. This type of set-up is possible on guitars with a small neck angle, and wether or not there is a relief rout behind the tremolo (found on many modern guitars). See illustrations below.

Locking Tremolo Set-Up With High Neck Angle

Locking Tremolo Set-Up With Low Neck Angle

A high neck or low neck angle can be achieved by using a neck shim to alter the neck’s angle in the neck pocket. To reduce the neck angle, the shim is placed at the forward edge of the neck pocket (not shown).

A locking tremolo set-up for full-floating operation will have a smoother playing feel, closer to that of a traditional tremolo. The strings are affected by string bends (with the string being bent up in pitch de tuning the others), and subtle vibrato effects are possible.

A full-floating locking tremolo can be difficult to replace individual strings quickly. Particularly in live performance situations. Have a spare instrument on hand or face lengthy breaks in performance. Remember, all the strings will need to be retuned once the locking nut is loosened.

Using A Spacer To Set-Up The Floyd Rose For Full-Float.

The set-up of a locking tremolo for full-float is accomplished by using a spacer block to tune the strings against during set-up, and then carefully adjusting the tremolo springs to match.

For full-floating the tremolo has to be balanced. This is accomplished by carefully adjusting the spring tension. A spacer placed behind the trem-block will act as a stop during the initial set-up. You may be able to use a nine-volt battery as a spacer, a piece of wood, plastic, or other material

Ideally the tremolo base is parallel to the surface of the guitar body so that the string passes over the saddle at correct point.

Locking Tremolo Side View With Set-Up Spacer Block.

During floating tremolo set-up, a spacer block is used to adjust spring tension. This technique can be used to traditional tremolo set-up also.

Step-By-Step Floating Tremolo Spring adjustment

  • Loosen the spring claw adjustment screws until the string tension holds the spacer in place.
  • Make sure that the tremolo base plate is parallel to the face of the guitar. Too much or too little angle and the intonation will be off (or hard to set) and your strings will be prone to breaking.
  • Adjust the width of your spacer if you need to, to get the tremolo base plate parallel with the face of the guitar.
  • Tune the guitar to pitch (string tension should be holding the spacer block in place).
  • This is a good time to double check the string height.
  • Once the strings are tuned up to pitch, snap them to get the excess flex out of the peg head windings.
  • When the guitar is tuned and remains in tune after string snapping and retuning, tighten the spring claw screws just enough to take off the pressure holding the spacer block in place.
  • Re-check and adjust the tuning again. At this point your tremolo should be balanced against the string’s tension and only minor adjustments to the tuning will be needed. If you find that removing the block throws the tuning off by a large amount you may need to snap your strings some more to takeout additional flex.

Adjusting the height of tremolo with full string tension can dull the knife edges on the tremolo base and damage height adjustment bolts, perform this adjustment with the strings partially tuned up to pitch.

Tighten the String Lock Nut bolt after tuning.

Firmly tighten the locking nut bolts. Take note of the orientation of the lock nut inserts. They are curved on the bottom to match the curve on the top of the lock nut. Make sure to replace the correct lock-nut insert. There are specific Bass, Middle, and Treble inserts – wear on them can make them less reliable if switched around. With the locking nuts tightened, check your tuning again using the fine tuners for adjustment. Your Floyd should now be good for dive bombs and whammy bar fun with only occasional fine tuning.

Additional tips

  • If you run out of fine tuner adjustment, unlock that string’s locking nut, turn the fine tuner to the middle of it’s range. Re-tune the string, and then retighten the locking nut.
  • Over the life of a set of strings, you may need to occasionally recalibrate your fine tuners a few times. Do this by loosening the lock-nut screws, unscrewing the fine tuner screws, retuning, tightening the nut lock screws, and then fine tuning.
  • Replace strings one at a time once you have your tremolo set-up. Snap and retune until stable to avoid the set-up process again.

Conclusion

Setting up a locking tremolo is a balancing act. With some know-how locking tremolos offer better tuning stability than traditional tremolos. Locking tremolos can also be set-up for flull-floating making it possible to have the base of the tremolo rest on the face of the guitar for slightly different tone and a trade off between playing technique and additional tuning stability.

8 thoughts on “Locking Tremolo Set-Up Guide

  1. I just bought guitar with an original floyd rose, I was wondering what is meant by “snapping the strings”?

  2. I got buzzing problem, can you please help me out how to fix that. neck isn’t bend, buzzing is on 3rd string and bit second string on 1st fret.

  3. Buzzing on those frets usually means wear from playing. If the frets are grooved then try raising the bridge as a solution. The neck should have some bow, the truss rod may need a slight adjustment counter-clockwise 1/4 turn, and see if that helps.
    Beyond that, your neck may need fret leveling, or a re-fret.

  4. I’m using 9-42 gauge strings on my guitar. The body of the guitar is flat anf my bridge rest flat against it. The issue I have is that I either have to use 4 springs or if I use 3 springs I have to crank the spring claw really spteaching the springs. Both set ups make for a stiff arm action and I’d like a liter one. Any suggestions?

  5. I have a guitar with a Floyd Rose special and was about to replace it with an original because it will absolutely not stay in tune! I have took the whole thing apart and can’t find anything wrong. What are some problems with specials and is there any way to fix them and save me $200 for an original?

  6. Hi Kev, I suggest trying different springs. You may need to try purchasing them form different suppliers. The Stew Mac springs, I’ve bought in the past where pretty stiff. Three should do it for light strings. My old Kramer, it takes 4 of the stock springs (20+ years old) and they are still “springy”.

    When you initially set-up a Floyd, the balance point (i.e. the tilt of the trem) is established in the tutorial here by using a stop block, then carefully loosening the spring retainer once the strings are up to pitch and the slack has been ‘snapped’ out of them.

  7. I’m not familiar with Floyd Rose Special tremolos, myself. I have had some experience with a few varieties of licensed Floyd Rose tremolos. What I have found is that most of the licensed versions are made by casting the base plate, rather than machining. Some with hardened steel inserts at the two points where the bridge meets the height adjustment bolts.

    A few possibilities:

    Problem: The knife edges are worn or uneven, so that the tremolo isn’t returning to the same place after use.
    Possible causes: Adjusting the height under full string tension.
    Solution: File them to an even knife edge, and lubricate lightly with mineral oil (then wipe off, it doesn’t take much).

    Problem: The bolts that tighten the locking nut base plate to the neck are loose.
    Solution: Tighten them, firmly.

    Those are good places the start trouble shooting your tuning problem.

    Remember to always snap your strings after putting on a fresh set, and then tuning back up to pitch over and over, until the guitar stays in tune pretty well, then tightening the string lock nuts on the neck, and then making fine adjustments using the tremolos tuners.

    Hope tha helps
    -Editor

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