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How to Setup and Intonate a Floyd Rose Locking Tremolo

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A Floyd Rose double-locking bridge is a very useful tool. Besides not having to constantly tune your guitar, they help achieve very low action much easier than some other bridges, stay in tune even with the most liberal of whammy use, and have the ability to shift your guitar up an entire octave as well as dive an entire octave. One thing that steers people away from these wondrously useful mechanisms is the perceived complexity of the device which when viewed as a whole can be very intimidating.

In this article I outline a simple, effective method of setting up a Floyd Rose from scratch in an effort to dispel the illusion and show you how relatively simple and rewarding this knowledge can be. Not only will you save tons of money, but you also have an opportunity to make some once you have it down well enough as shops normally charge $100+ for a Floyd setup.

Tools Needed: Popsicle sticks, small 2x4, jigsaw or thin handsaw, Philips screwdriver, allen wrenches, pliers (optional), guitar tuner, new strings

Step One: Block the Bridge

There are many after-market bridge blocks to choose from, yet most have their limitations and require modifications for which you have to drill holes. They do make life with a Floyd Rose that much easier, if you go this route, I recommend the Tremol-No unit as it is the most versatile while being the least invasive to install.

For this tutorial however, I will be sharing the method I used before obtaining such a luxury: Wood wedge

Before you install the wood wedge, you should put two popsicle sticks under the bridge on the string side to keep the bridge flush for measurements like so:

IMG-1846.jpg
Make your wood wedge:
 
  • Measure the distance in the cavity from the butt of the guitar to the bridge block when the bridge is flush, this is the height of your wedge
  • Measure the length of the bridge block, this is the length of your wedge.
  • Width of the wedge should be at least 3/8th of an inch
Once you have your wedge cut, slide it in place in the back cavity, your bridge will now be blocked and should look something like this:

blockfocus.png
You should focus on the area beneath the block, but you can also measure and cut a wedge for above the block as well if you would like. This is really only necessary if you plan on blocking your Floyd like this full-time.

Now that your bridge is blocked, you can remove the popsicle sticks under the bridge if you replace a string at a time. If removing all strings at once its best to keep in place so the bridge stays on its bolts. We are now ready to begin setup.

Step Two: Installing the strings

Now you are going to want to replace the strings on your guitar with your desired set of strings. Whether you do this string at a time or remove all at once is up to you; this tutorial assumes that if you are attempting to set up a Floyd Rose, you have at least set up a guitar without one more than once.

Once you have your new strings installed, tune them to your desired tuning, stretch them, tune again, stretch again. Repeat until the shift in tuning after stretching is minimal.

Now that the guitar is in tune, we are going to set the tremelo for even tension. Keep the nut locked for now.

Step Three: Setting Spring tension
  1. Now you will remove the block you installed in step one
  2. Once you have removed the block, you will notice a change in tuning
  3. With the guitar plugged into the tuner, you are now going to "tune" the guitar with the spring claw screws *remember to always keep the spring claw level with its opposite side
  4. Follows basic principles of physics, if the guitar has shifted up in tuning after unblocking, loosen the spring claw screws until it is back to your desired tuning, if it has shifted down, tighten.
  5. After you have the guitar in tune again, lock the strings at the bridge
Great! Now your string tension and spring tension are balanced for your tuning with your string sizes, but wait, if you didn't put the same gauge of strings as there were before, you will likely need to adjust the neck and intonation. Reinstall the block you cut in step one.

Step Four: Intonating the Floyd Rose

Intonating can be intimidating, and guitarists are notoriously lazy about their setups, but this is a very simple task that every guitarist should know how to do. With different guitars there are different mechanisms that handle intonation, but the principle across is the same: Adjust the strings length at the bridge so that the strings remain in tune across the length of the fretboard. The picture below the steps will serve to explain a few of the steps if needed:
 
  1. Pluck your low string while plugged into a tuner
  2. Now, hold it at the 12th fret and pluck again
  3. If the 12th fret note ends up a bit higher, you need to increase the string's length by moving the string saddle further from the headstock
  4. If the 12th fret notes ends up a bit lower, you need to decrease the string's length by moving the string saddle closer to the headstock
  5. Unlock the lock for that given string
  6. Loosen the string so it is slack
  7. To keep the saddle in place either grab the string lock screw with pliers or apply light pressure to the saddle (see image below)
  8. Unlock the intonation lock screw (see image below)
  9. Adjust your saddle based on your findings in Step 2 and the principles in steps 3 and 4
  10. Lock the intonation lock again
  11. Tune string
  12. Repeat steps 1-11 if necessary
  13. Repeat steps 1-12 for each string
floydunlock.pngNow that your guitar is intonated, simply lock the strings at the nut again, tune with the fine tuners at the bridge and you should be good to go. The only adjustment I haven't covered here is the adjustment of the bridge height and neck as this is a very intricate and touchy practice that would be best addressed in its own article.
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