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A Quick Help Guide to Setting up your Floyd Rose Tremolo
So, you finally decided to change those old nasty strings. But the reason the strings are nasty is because you're not sure how to work on the tremolo. First things first, relax. Setting up your tremolo is simple if you learn the principles involved. To level the tremolo to the body, adjust the spring tension. To adjust the string height (action), adjust the tremolo studs. And adjust the intonation by moving the saddle backward or forward.
You'll need the following tools: 3 millimeter Allen wrench, 2 millimeter Allen wrench, phillips head screwdriver, wire cutters, a toothbrush and two wedges (I use a #2 pencil wrapped in electrical tape and a 9 volt wrapped in electrical tape). (photo) Some models use other size wrenches so be sure to use the proper sized wrench to eliminate stripping the heads out.
Unlock the locknut and remove the clamps and screws. Use the tremolo arm to raise the tremolo and place the wedge (battery) in between the tremolo and the tremolo recess cavity to hold the tremolo while you're working. (Note: There are some products today that are made specifically for this task.) Remove the tremolo arm, as it will not be needed for a while. The tremolo should be at an angle, but not dramatically (about 15 to 25 degrees) and the strings should be a bit looser. (photo) Detune the strings enough so they don't "ring out". Now loosen the string lock screws in the rear of the tremolo and remove the strings. (photo) Next, "fingertighten" the string lock screws so the string lock blocks don't disappear while you are working.
Now is the time to do some maintenance so get out an old toothbrush to clean out the funk. Get that stuff's that been growing on your guitar while you've been playing. Use a stiff toothbrush to clean the tremolo. (photo) If you have household type oil, use it to lubricate the tremolo screws. The stuff that's growing on the fretboard needs to be cleaned as well. (photo) For that I use my Dremel with the scrub-brush tool set on 2500rpm. If you don't have a Dremel, use a strong toothbrush with a bit of fretboard cleaner, but don't scrape it off as you can scratch the fretboard and the fret. After the fretboard has been cleaned you should condition it to keep it from drying out which would let it shrink and crack. (photo) Your local dealer should have fretboard oil available. If there is no oil available, you can use baby oil, but only in a pinch. Wipe the oil on and let it set for a minute then wipe it dry.
You're ready to put it back together so get out the new strings and cut the ball end off just above the wrapping. (photo) The extra winding will affect the intonation. After you've cut the ball ends off, loosen the string lock screws and lock the string into the saddle. Be careful not to over tighten the screw as this will strip the screw and possibly break the saddle.(photo) Insert the strings into the machine heads (tuners) and bring them up to partial pitch. Replace the wedge (battery) with the wedge (pencil). (photo) Place the wedge (pencil) between the tremolo and the tremolo cavity being sure to keep the tremolo angled with the body of the guitar. (photo) Tune the strings to pitch. The strings will continue to stretch for a bit so you will have to repeatedly check the pitch.
If the tremolo has started to pull up from the body, (photo) detune the strings about a step and replace the wedge. (photo) Turn the guitar over and remove the tremolo cavity cover. The two screws adjust the spring tension and that adjusts the string tension. (photo) Simple. Tighten the screws evenly depending on the degree the tremolo has pulled up. (If you're using .008 or .009 gauge strings, use 2 to 3 springs. If you're using heavier strings, use more springs. (Experiment until you get the right feel for how you play) Turn the guitar over and retune with the wedge in place, if the strings are in tune and the wedge is still snug, simply turn the guitar over and loosen the two screws a bit. Check the wedge, it should slip out easily. The tremolo should still remain flush with the body and the strings should be in relative tune. If not, repeat the process. Adjust the fine tuners so that you have equal distance of travel and replace the locknut clamps and screws. The locknut clamps have arches on them; these arches should run parallel with the strings.
Stretch the strings out using your thumb and forefinger in a pinching motion over the twelfth fret area. Repeat this three to four times but no too hard as you can break the strings and stretch them too far and affect the intonation. (photo) Unlock the locknut and retune the strings to pitch. Now you're ready to adjust the string height (action). (photo) Using the proper wrench, adjust the tremolo studs depending on the action you want. (photo) Keep in mind that the lower you go, the more tone and sustain you lose and the more fret buzz you get. So experiment until you find the right feel.
Here's a trick I use for the dropped D tuning. Before I lock the locknut, I tune the fine tuner all the way to the baseplate and retune the string to E. Then I just detune the fine tuner and it's a workingman's D tuner. (photo)