Floyd Rose-style bridges are time consuming to restring due to their tension balanced, floating bridge system. The strings lock at the bridge and nut while the bridge floats by the balanced tension of the strings and tremolo springs.
Before starting, notice the position of the bridge. Many Floyd Rose style bridges are designed to remain parallel with the body of the guitar. When the strings have all been changed, the bridge should return to the same position as when you started. If it doesn’t, a further adjustment will be necessary (read about adjusting the bridge in Guitar Setups to learn more).
As soon as any string is tightened or loosened, it affects the tuning of the entire guitar, because the overall tension shifts slightly, affecting the floating bridge. When restringing, you can one of two things: you can block the bridge from moving with a round wooden dowel (from the hardware store), or similar. Place it under the bridge plate to keep it stable while you removed the strings. The right-sized dowel will keep the bridge plate parrellel to the guitar body and will make tuning a much quicker process. Alternatively, you can change the strings one-at-a-time.
1) Remove the string clamp from the locking nut
Use your 3mm hex wrench to loosen the low E and A string clamp and then unwind the low E string from the tuning post. If you have blocked the bridge, you can remove all the strings.
2) Remove the old string(s) from the bridge
Use your 3mm wrench to loosen the string lock at the bridge and remove the string.
Changing any string gauge or tuning will require a full setup to rebalance the bridge tension.
3) “Reset” the fine-tuner(s)
When the string(s) is removed, adjust the fine-tuner at the bridge by backing it all the way out (counter-clockwise). When it has reached its end, then tighten it again (clockwise) a 1-2 full turns- Most often, this will allow enough adjustment when needed.
4) Install the new string(s)
Floyd Rose and similar style tremolos often require you to cut the ball end off of the string before clamping the string into the saddle. Once the string has been inserted and clamped (*do not over-tighten or it will strip!), feed the other end of the string into the appropriate nut slot, following through to the tuning post. Wrap the string around the tuning post and tune to pitch, as described below.
1) Start by inserting the string into the tuner. Pull it through until you have between 2 and 2½ inches of slack past the tuner (on Fender-Style guitars, that distance is equal to pulling it past two tuners).
2) Keep the string pinched in your left hand and pull it back towards the string post to hold the amount of slack.
3) Put a kink in the string at a right angle from the inside, and an opposite kink on the outside like a reversed ‘Z.’
4) Wind the slack underneath the kink, feeding the string downwards. Gently keep some tension on the backside of the string while winding up.
5) Tune-up to pitch and trim the excess. Three windings per string are sufficient on wound strings. Treble strings may have more.
Repeat this for each string, balancing the bridge each time and re-checking each string tuning as you work. By the time you’ve put on all six strings, the bridge should be level with the strings in-tune. Keep in mind that further adjustment is often necessary, which we cover in Guitar Setups.
Guitars with a locking nut may also have a string retainer bar behind the nut. The purpose of the bar is to direct the string angle downwards, behind the nut. If the pitch of the string(s) goes sharp after the nut clamps are tightened, adjust the bar lower by tightening the two screws.
5) Stretch the string(s)
Once the strings are installed and properly tuned to pitch, stretch them thoroughly to properly “seat” them. This will minimize slippage and tuning issues- as well as resetting your bridge. With a Floyd Rose, properly stretching the strings is not optional. Once they are stretched thoroughly, the bridge will accurately return to pitch after use.
To do so, grab the strings and gently pull up on it up and down the neck, retune and repeat. Once the string stops loosing pitch, stretching is complete- move on to the next.
Assuming no further bridge adjustments are needed, after the strings are tuned and stretched- it’s time to clamp the strings in the lock nut (again, do not over tighten these!).
Sometimes, the pitch will change after locking the string clamps. While in the playing position, retune the string with the fine-tuner. Tightening (clockwise) will raise the pitch, and loosening (counter-clockwise) will lower the pitch.
If you find that you have run out of thread and the string is not at pitch, you will need to start the tuning process all over again… unlock the string clamps at the nut and, reset the fine-tuners to a neutral position. Read the next section for a step-by-step process from the Floyd Rose Support Dept.
Tuning Floyd Rose Equipped Guitars
Since many people have difficulty tuning their Floyd Rose equipped guitar, I’ve included this section directly from the Floyd Rose Service Dept.
“Tuning your Floyd Rose bridge is certainly a tricky business when the bridge is floating. This is because the total tension of the strings must balance the total tension of the tremolo springs with the base plate of the bridge parallel to the face of the guitar- with the strings tuned to the desired pitch. So, follow these steps, and it will start to make sense.”
Step 1: Loosen the three string clamps at the nut
Step 2: Set the fine tuner screws on the bridge to the middle of their adjustment range.
Step 3: Tune the strings to your desired pitch (this can be drop tuning, open tuning, or standard pitch, the procedure is the same for any tuning) with an electronic tuner starting with the low ‘E’ (#6 string).
Step 4: When you have finished tuning all of the strings, check the tuning on the low ‘E’ again. If the low ‘E’ is now flat, re-tune the strings starting again with the low ‘E’ but this time tune the E, A, D, G, and B strings a little bit sharp, then the high ‘E’ (#1 string) to pitch. If the low ‘E’ is sharp, re-tune as just described only tuning the first five strings a little flat. You must tune the strings a little sharp or flat to get to your tuning because every time you change the tension (or pitch) of one string, the other strings change pitch in the opposite direction.
Step 5: Repeat step 4 (remembering to stretch the strings simultaneously) until all the strings are at the desired pitch.
Step 6: When the strings are at the desired pitch, check to see if the bridge base plate is sitting parallel with the top surface of the guitar. If the base plate is tilted forward away from the body, you must tighten the tremolo springs’ tension by turning the spring claw screws clockwise and repeat step 4. If the base plate is tilted back toward the body, you must loosen the tremolo springs’ tension by turning the spring claw screws counter-clockwise and repeat step 4.
Step 7: When the bridge is sitting parallel to the face of the guitar, and the strings are tuned to the desired pitch, re-clamp the three nut clamps and re-tune (if necessary) once again using only the fine tuners.
Step 8: When tuning is complete, any changes in action will slightly change the tuning. If the fine tuners run out of range, you must repeat steps 1 through 7.