How To Set Up A Floyd Rose Bridge

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.

Backstory

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.

The Tools
Floyd Rose Tools

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
  • Tuning

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
Floyd Rose springs too loose

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.

Adjust Floyd Rose spring tension

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
Floyd Rose springs too tight

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.
Floyd Rose height adjustment

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
Floyd Rose perfect setup

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.

Bonus Tip

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.

Resources

Floyd Rose Parts
Hex/Allen wrench – Pack of 10

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2 Comments

  1. Tom November 8, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Great stuff man. Right on the spot.

    Maybe just an observation from my side; when changing strings, always do it string per string. Fix the bridge with an old credit card, change the string, tune and then go change the next string. Should work without the need of spring adjustments.

    When changing strings gauge … yap, the springs will have to tweak 😉

    Leave the fretboard cleaning (you have to take off all strings) for a special, a lot of spare time occasion 🙂

    Now, for the question. What’s the smartest, easiest way to do intonation on Floyd Rose? This one is painful, I must admit.

    • Chad November 8, 2014 at 12:23 pm

      I’ve actually never tried to do it string by string. I’ll give it a shot. Thanks for the tip!

      Man, this is a pain-point for me having 4 guitars with FR bridges. Move the saddles forward and back, carefully watching the tuning of the 12th fret…that’s all you can do. Even with that, you can’t always intonate perfectly. Sucks.

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