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To Floyd or not to Floyd: That is The Question
Written by Tank

Musical instrument Guitar Light String instrument String instrument accessory

Now many young starters on the electric guitar ask me about what to get as their first real guitar and amp and one of the most often asked questions is if they should get one with a Floyd or not.

Disclaimer: For simplicity I will call any double locking tremolo a Floyd that derives from the original Floyd Rose Design, like Edge, Edge Pro, Schaller Double Locking etc.

Now they ask of course because most of my guitars have one. Actually all my guitars have one except the Les Paul, which I rarely play.

Well here is the plain and simple truth (please read on before flaming):

There is no other trem system (at least none of which I tried) that will keep your tuning as good as a Floyd, period.

There is a downside of course. You Floyd has to be adjusted right, has to be a quality product and not a cheap rip off and you need to take care of it. Now can a young beginner do so? Well the initial adjustment probably not. But you can have a Pro do the initial setup. It is then very easy, if instructed right, to upkeep that setup. Very few adjustments are needed if you keep it in constant shape. If you do so, you are rewarded with the most stable tuning available.

Of course there is a second side to the story:

Other non-locking trems can have pretty good stability too. The upkeet and setup though, are almost as intense if not more, than with a Floyd. My favorite non-locking trem guitar was my Patrick Eggle Custom 24, it had an awesome setup with locking tuners and a Wilkinson style tremolo and grafite saddle. The setup was no easy task and to keep that puppy in tuning is not as easy as it looks. Again you have to take good care of it or it will let you down.

Now am I better off with a fixed bridge?

Simple answer: No. While many people tend to beleave that a fixed bridge is much more simple to upkeep, it is not. Tuning stability will again largely depend on the quality of your bridge, tuners and your setup. I have had Les Pauls that were horrible and lost tuning after a few bendings. So again buy something at least with know quality, locking tuners do help also on a fixed system and have a Pro setup your guitar.

The string change horror:

Now changing strings on a floyd guitar sometimes drives tears of horror in the eyes of battle hardened stage guitarists. So here is the most simple system I think I got the basics from Rich (www.ibanezrules.com):

Change each string seperate starting with the high E

  • Unlock the Saddle
  • Detune with head tuner
  • Unlock the string from the bridge
  • Move finetuner to middle position
  • Put the string through the head tuner so that ball end is on the head
  • Put the string through the saddle down towards the bridge
  • Cut the string just behind the finetuner
  • Put the string into the bridge and lock it
  • Tune the string and DO NOT LOCK SADDLE YET

The tuning and stretching workout after you changed all strings

  • Again start at high E string!
  • I take the string at about 12th fret and play bendings and take the string and pull it away from the fretboard
  • Tune with head tuner (remember your saddle is not locked yet) and repeat step 1
  • Keep doing this until there is no more detuning with that string
  • Start with the next string (Remember the thicker the string the longer it will take, the thinner the string the more likely you break a string. No worries just have a few extra high Es ready)
  • When you have finished lock the saddle now
  • Tune with finetuners
  • Play a few tunes with bendings all over the fretboard and finetune now and then

Now some people will say: Hey that is a lengthy procedure! For starters yes, but the most time intensive part is the string stretching itself as you have to stretch is until it does not detune anymore. This however is the part you should do regardless of your trem type and even on fixed bridges or your strings will detune every song you play. The rest of the string change actually is quite a fast procedure and does not take much longer than on any other guitar.

Back to the question now:

Should I get a Floyd or not?

Well I think it is best to familiarize yourself with the tools you need early on. Of course you have to decide if trem abuse is something you will do. But if you tend to this discipline and like a very stable tuned system, I would recommend you get in touch with a Floyd early on. It is not as hard as many will tell you and soon you will have no trouble at all with it.

But whether you get a Floyd or not: You will need to have a good setup guitar and you will have to take care of your guitar and it will take care of you on stage.
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