Floyd Rose Setup

Setting up your Floyd Rose type tremolo

When switching from normal tuning to half-step-down-tuning on a guitar with a double-locking tremolo-system (like Ibanez Edge or, most famously, a Floyd Rose), you will have to adjust some settings. Here is the step-by-step guide on how to set up your Floyd:

1. Unscrew the back-plate of your guitar so you have access to the spring cavity. The screws are tiny, so make sure you don’t lose them. A lot of players do not put the back-plate on their guitars, you might consider doing the same. Get some adhesive tape and attach the screws to the plate and put the whole package away.

adjust tremolo springs1 Floyd Rose Setup

Adjusting the tremolo springs

 

2. Take a peek at the two screws that go into the wood, and get a fitting screwdriver. Do not just use any old screwdriver that kind of fits, get one that fits very well. Here is why: first of all you can hurt yourself pretty badly trying to turn the screws (yes, it has happened to me more than once). Secondly, if you dull out the screws you’re in trouble.

 

3. Loosen the screws turning left. Make about one-and-a-half to two revolutions for now.
At the end of the whole process, as described below, the base of the tremolo must be about parallel to the guitar body. With your standard tuning the strings and springs balance out. Since we are going to tune the guitar down, there will be less string tension. That means that the tremolo springs will pull the tremolo out of balance. We anticipate that and therefore loosen the screws.

unlock saddle screws1 Floyd Rose Setup

Unlocking the saddle screws

 

4. Unlock the saddle-screws if you haven’t already done so. You will need a hex key to do this. Make sure the one you use fits snugly, or it will damage the screws. Simply unlock the screws by making about half a turn to the left with the hex key. That will be loose enough for tuning purposes Don’t overdo it, because the locking nut consists of several parts and can be a pain to put together again.

 

 

 

 

fine tuners1 150x150 Floyd Rose Setup

Fine tuners at about middle position

5. Adjust the fine-tuners to about middle position. There is no need to be too exact. Adjusting them like in the picture to the right will do. Again, this is only to have a good starting point for the next steps. If one of the fine-tuners was at an extreme position, make sure you counter that with the tuning head. For example, if the fine-tuner of the G-string was all the way out, then you have to tune your G-string down with the tuning machine. If the fine-tuner was all the way in, you would have to tune the G-string up a bit using the tuning head.

Often the low E-string will be turned all the way in. Since the E-string happens to have the strongest effect on the overall tuning of the guitar, you should definitely correct the pitch of this string with the tuning head. The thicker the string, the stronger it’s influence on the overall tuning.

There is, however, no need to completely tune up again just now, as we are going to wreck the tuning anyway. The idea is to simply do a rough setup so we can work from a defined starting point and don’t have total guitar-chaos before we even begin.

6. Now begins the dreadful loop of tuning down and adjusting, tuning down and adjusting, tuning down…

This will require some patience on your part. Starting from low to high, tune down half a step. No, wait!! The whole tremolo system balances the tension of the strings against the tension of the springs, remember? If you tune down a string half a step, this string will take less tension and the rest of the strings will have to take more tension. Therefore they go up in pitch. The thicker the string you are tuning down, the stronger this effect.
If you start to tune down a half step, by the time you reach the high e-string, the low E-string will be way to high again. So take that into account and tune the low E-string and the A-string down MORE than a half step. This saves you some iterations. OK, when the pitch is vaguely correct, we are ready for the next step of half step down tuning…

base plate level 300x157 Floyd Rose Setup

This looks pretty good!

 

7. Now, let’s take a look at your tremolo again. The base-plate of the tremolo should be parallel to the guitar body. The picture on the right demonstrates this. Depending on your guitar, the base-plate might be higher or lower than the one in the picture, but it always has to be parallel.

Don’t be fooled by the fact that you will see many guitars where the Floyd Rose is not parallel, this only means that there are a lot of guitars with a bad setup. Many guitarists seem to think this is a minor thing, but really not. There are plenty of good reasons to care about proper alignment of the baseplate: The tremolo will be less stable, and – depending on wether the tremolo bar is too high or too low – it will be harder or impossible to get a warble effect (= slapping the tremolo bar) or do a proper dive bomb. It will also move the point where the strings touch the tremolo and thereby effectively lengthen or shorten the scale-length. This means that the intonation of your guitar will be out of whack. It also influences the action of a guitar, because the tremolo describes a different radius at different angles.

 

base plate too low1 300x157 Floyd Rose Setup

The base-plate is too low

 

If the tremolo looks like someone is pulling the tremolo bar, then there is too much tension coming from the tremolo springs. Turn the guitar around, and make a little adjustment to the screws by turning them to the left, then tune up again.

 

 

 

base plate too high3 300x157 Floyd Rose Setup

Not enough spring-tension

 

If the tremolo looks like someone is pushing the tremolo bar down, then there is not enough tension coming from the tremolo springs. Adjust the screws by turning them to the right. You can also increase tension by by attaching the springs to a different spot as shown in the picture below.

 

 

tremolo springs angle Floyd Rose Setup

This works to increase tension

 

 

 

Repeat steps 6. and 7 until you get the desired result.

 

 

 

 

Tip: Never make more than half a revolution on the tremolo screws before tuning up again. Turn the screws a little, tune up, check the result, turn the screws a little, tune up…you get the idea. It is a lot more annoying to set up a Floyd Rose once the setup is completely messed up. So always keep the changes small and reversible.

Tip: If at all possible try to keep track of how many revolutions you made in total by counting how many revolutions you made in which direction, i.e. two left, then a half to the right, then a quarter to the left, makes 1.75 revolutions left in total. This will make it a lot easier when you want to go back to standard tuning. You would simply turn the screws 1.75 revolutions to the right and have a very good starting point.

As with many things in life, setting up a Floyd Rose or Edge tremolo is very much a matter of practice and persistence. I helps a lot to take your time, as you can easily ‘screw up’ (pun intended) your guitar. If at some point you find, that you have messed up the system completely, just bring it to a guitar tech and have him fix it.