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Floyd Rose Setup Guide and Why You Might Be Doing It Wrong...

A lot of guitars come through our repair shop needing various adjustments and upgrades. One of the most common and rewarding installations we perform is setting up a Floyd Rose tremolo system (note: some guitar techs HATE Floyd Roses...).

We get it- the Floyd Rose can be intimidating due to its complexity, but with the right approach, it can significantly enhance a guitar's performance. Here's our detailed guide to installing and fine-tuning a Floyd Rose tremolo system, straight from the bench of our repair shop.

Tools and Materials You’ll Need:

  • Screwdrivers (Phillips and flathead)

  • Allen keys/wrench (hex keys)

  • String winder (optional)

  • String cutter

  • Tuner

  • New set of strings

  • Lubricant (optional, for knife-edge pivot points)

  • Floyd Rose tremolo setup tool (optional but useful)

  • Patience (or vodka).

Step 1: Remove the Old Strings

As always, the first step is always to remove the old strings. Loosen the tension using the tuning pegs and then cut the strings carefully to avoid any sharp ends from snapping back.

Step 2: Clean the Guitar

With the strings off, we might as well take the opportunity to thoroughly clean the fretboard and body. Dust and grime can accumulate in hard-to-reach places, so a good cleaning ensures optimal performance of the new tremolo system.

Step 3: Inspect the Knife-Edge Pivot Points

A crucial part of the Floyd Rose installation involves checking the knife-edge pivot points on the bridge. We make sure these are sharp and free of wear. If needed, we apply a small amount of lubricant to these points for smooth operation. If you are installing a used Floyd Rose system, it's always worth checking the pivot points. This is a key are, and one that can cause a lot of set up issues.

Step 4: Installing the Floyd Rose Bridge

  • Mount the Bridge: Position the Floyd Rose bridge on the guitar body. Ensure it aligns correctly with the posts.

  • Install the Posts: Screw the mounting posts into the body, ensuring they are at the correct height to allow the bridge to sit parallel to the guitar body once the strings are tuned.

Step 5: String Installation

Thread the new strings through the bridge saddles and lock them in place with the saddle lock screws. It's essential to ensure each string is securely fastened to prevent slippage during use.

Step 6: Adjust the Spring Tension

In our shop, we always emphasise the importance of balancing the bridge. The springs in the back cavity of the guitar must counteract the tension of the strings. Adjust the claw screws holding the springs until the bridge sits parallel to the guitar body.

Step 7: Set the Fine Tuners to Half-Height.

This insures that you have room for manouvre when you are fine tuning following Step 8.

Step 8: Tuning the Strings

Before locking the nut, we tune the strings to pitch using the tuning pegs. This initial tuning should be done gradually, as the floating bridge will want to move with the changing tension. It may take a few passes to get all the strings roughly in tune.

Floyd Rose recommend that once you have the guitar tuned to pitch, check the tuning on the low 'E'. If this is now flat, retune the strings staring again with the low 'E' but tune the A, D,G and B strings a little sharp, then tune the high E to pitch. If the low 'E' is sharp, use the same method but tune the A,D,G and B strings a little flat. Floyd Rose suggest the reasons for this are that you must tune the strings a little flat or sharp as everything time you change the tension of one string, the other strings change pitch in the opposite direction. You have to repeat this step until the strings are in the correct tunings.

One tip that I have used to good success is the idea of tuning the strings in a different order to how you may tune a standard guitar. This concept tunes the guitar in the following order:

G - D - B- A - High E - Low E.

This method is pretty good at getting the guitar in tune quicker, and one to try if you are struggling.

Step 9: Locking the Nut

Once the strings are tuned and the bridge is balanced, we lock the strings at the nut with the provided Allen wrench. It’s vital not to overtighten, as this can damage both the nut and the strings.

Step 10: Fine-Tuning

With the nut locked, use the fine tuners on the bridge to bring each string to precise pitch. These fine tuners are crucial for achieving exact tuning without unlocking the nut.

Step 11: Action and Intonation Adjustment

  • Action: Adjust the action by raising or lowering the bridge posts. We ensure the action is comfortable and free of fret buzz.

  • Intonation: Check the intonation by comparing the pitch of the 12th fret harmonic with the fretted note at the same position. If they don't match, adjust the saddle position. In our shop, we move the saddle forward to raise the pitch and backward to lower it.

Step 12: Stabilizing the Bridge

After installation, we test the stability of the bridge. If it moves excessively, we adjust the spring tension in the back cavity. Adding or removing springs, or adjusting the claw screws, helps achieve a stable bridge position.

Final Check and Play Test

Finally, we conduct a thorough play test. Using the tremolo arm, we check for tuning stability and ensure the bridge returns to its neutral position accurately. At Only Frets, we believe a perfectly set up Floyd Rose system should allow for dramatic pitch variations without compromising tuning stability.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Some of the common issues with Floyd Rose that we see during setups are:

  • Bridge Tilting Forward or Backward: This indicates improper spring tension. Adjust the claw screws to balance the bridge.

  • String Slippage: Ensure the strings are securely locked at the bridge and nut.

  • Tuning Instability: Check the knife-edge pivot points and ensure they are lubricated and free of wear. Also, ensure the nut is locked firmly without overtightening.

Installing and fine-tuning a Floyd Rose tremolo system can seem daunting, but with careful attention to detail, it’s entirely manageable. At Only Frets, our team of experienced luthiers sees first-hand the transformative effect a well-set-up Floyd Rose can have on a guitar's performance.

By following these steps, you can achieve a professional-level setup that enhances your playing experience, allowing you to dive, squeal, and bend notes with confidence and precision.

Only Frets is a luthier run guitar parts shop. We know how to improve your guitar. Visit for all your guitar parts needs!


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