Know Your Weapon
An Easy-To-Understand Guitar Maintenance Guide – #1
Welcome to the first topic in this series. Today we’re talking Floyd Rose. Love them or hate them, they are a part of rock history, and if you own one, you better know how to tame it or it will bite you, like it did me.
When I was 16 I saved up and bought my first REAL guitar – a brand new Jackson Stealth. Man I friggin’ LOVED that thing. It had a slick thin body, nice thick sounding pickups, a locking nut, and a Floyd Rose floating bridge. And when you’re a teenager in the music scene, that’s like getting a brand new car.
It was perfect. …until the night before a big show I was playing.
The strings needed changed for the first time, so without much thought I ripped out the old ones and went about putting on the usual hefty D’Addario 11’s that I had always used on my old fixed bridge guitar. That’s where it all went wrong. By the time I got a solid tune, the bridge had settled a good half-inch off the body.
This was before the internet didn’t suck, and none of my friends had any experience, so I was on my own to figure it out. I think I adjusted every screw and bolt on that guitar up until the moment I went on stage. I might have even messed with the truss rod (yikes!). The bridge was still so high when we played that I literally bled all over my guitar that night. Now, this was a metal show, so you’d think that would be the coolest thing. …No. Just…no.
Once I could finally use the tips of my fingers again, I sat down with the bridge for a few days and I said “bridge, you obviously don’t like me and I don’t like you right now. But we’re gonna get through this because we’re stuck with each other.” Haven’t had a problem since.
Now, there are a hundred different Floyd Rose tutorials online, and some of them are really great, but in my opinion they over-complicate the process and over explain. Really, you just need to understand why it works the way it does to set it up quickly and properly. Actually, that story is probably longer than the tutorial. Anyway, let’s get started.
You’ll need a 3mm hex wrench, a phillips head screwdriver or two (size-depending), and whiskey, straight up. If you’re under the legal drinking age, make it kool-aid…straight up.
Floyd’s Secret Sauce
The key to taming the Floyd Rose is insanely simple — BALANCE. The tension on the strings must match the tension from the bridge springs. 3 things affect the balance:
- String gauge
- Spring tension
It really is that simple. If you balance the string and spring tension, you’ve got yourself a properly floated bridge.
If Your Bridge Leans Upward
If your bridge leans too upward like the picture above, here’s what you do. Tune the guitar up to your normal tuning. Flip the guitar over and tighten BOTH spring adjustment screws about a full turn.
This will raise the tuning of the guitar, so tune the guitar back to normal. this naturally lowers the bridge a bit. Repeat the process until it levels out.
If Your Bridge Leans Downward
If the brige leans downward or you overshoot it, simply do the opposite – loosen BOTH screws about a turn and once again retune after each.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to retune after every adjustment. You will massively overshoot the tension if you just crank down the springs and don’t retune.
If you just can’t get the bridge to lower, you might need to add another spring in the back. Just make sure they are spread evenly.
If after balancing the bridge, the strings are far too high off the fretboard, you can use these two bolts to adjust string height.
There are of course advanced methods, gadgets, and tricks for these bridges to stabalize and even lock them down. My advice would be to avoid this stuff until you have mastered the basics. There are also additional adjustments and features of the Floyd Rose that I’ll get into at a later point.
The Final Product
If you stuck with me, your bridge should balance like the above pic. Believe it or not, that’s it. See, that wasn’t so bad, was it? I guess we’ll save our whiskey for intonation day. If this article helped you or if you have any questions/comments, feel free to drop a comment below.
Go buy a BAG of 3mm allen/hex wrenches on eBay and keep several in every case, bag, and drawer. I haven’t hunted for an allen wrench since I did this and I can’t believe I didn’t think to do this earlier. There’s a link to a few places you can get them in bulk below.