The Floating Bridge

If there’s anything more troublesome and nuisance ridden in the world of guitars than the floating bridge, I have yet to find it.For those of you unaware of what a floating bridge, as you might be living in the land of Fender Synchro trems or Fixed bridges, it’s the mechanism on the bridge that uses string tension to hold it up, with spring tension to pull it back. And in order for it to work properly, you need to reach a perfect equilibrium between the springs in the back of the guitar, and the guitar strings on the front of the guitar to get the “Floating” action. What this does, is it gives you both upwards and downwards motion on the tremolo bar instead of downward on the Fender strat-style tremolo.
The Edge Pros, Floyd Roses, Kahlers and all of the others. Sure they are great if you’re into divebombing and whammy coloration of your notes, but for the sheer trouble they cause, I find them terrible.

Setting up: Floating bridges are the worst to set up. For the floyd roses, you have to cut the ball ends off of the string and clamp them into the bridge. Ibanez at least had the right idea with the Edge Pro which allows you to leave the ball on, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a floating bridge. Still, you need tools to tighten the clamps at the bridge on all floating bridges. If you own a guitar with a floating bridge, you will ALWAYS need tools when changing strings.

Tuning: You’ve got your new nickel-steel janglies on your guitar, and now comes the process of getting that bridge to be at a perfect equilibrium with the rest of the guitar. The bridge has to be level, and all of the strings have to be in tune. Through the tedious process of tightening the spring claw, tuning over and over again, you may finally reach the point where you can call it tuned, but it will take awhile. Sure, you can change them one at a time, leaving the rest on, but the others are being replaced because they are dirty, and therefore not the same as clean strings. They’re soaked in sweat, corrosion what have you, and have a different effect on the floating bridge.

Alternate Tunings: Don’t even think about it. If you’re commited to floating bridges, get a different guitar for every tuning. If you tune one string down, another goes up. Tune a string up, the others go down.

Solutions: There are products out there like the Trem Setter, the tremol-no and some others, but the best one is to avoid the thing altogether. I get that you like the freedom of a whammy bar, but please, think of the tuning!

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40 Comments

Filed under floyd rose, guitar, guitar rant, tremolos, Whammy Bar

40 responses to “The Floating Bridge

  1. Although the only other trem I’ve had was so long ago I’ve forgotten it, so don’t really have anything to compare, I’m with you completely on this. One of the first things I did when I recently got a new guitar was block the trem.

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  5. inthecircuit

    I just bought a gretsch 5120. And brother…the floating bridge on this thing is killer.

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  7. E-boy

    why don’t you stop being a noob.

  8. brandon

    I agree you should stop being a noob. Once you get it set up you will save time between string changes by never having to retune it.

  9. Adam

    Floating bridges are not for the amateur guitar players, it may take a few mins longer to put the strings on but overall your guitar will not d-tune and you can whammy the **** out of your guitar and it would be in perfect tune as long as the setup is rgt lol if you want to put ur guitar in a different tuning than what ive heard was that you were suppose to adjust the height of your bridge, just know what your doing lol

  10. Daniel

    you say to get a different guitar for every tuning. well i find that silly. i have a floating brigde and it is really easy for me to tune it. maybe its just how its in there or idk but yeah your right it does tune the other strings as well. but i figured how to do it.

    • Brian

      You’re absolutely right, bro. It’s all about figuring it out.

    • Joshua Wagner

      Well obviously the Floyd Rose can be used for any tuning. It just isn’t practical to switch tunings on stage in the middle of a set. Hence, get a different guitar for every tuning. Anyone who has played live and uses a floyd rose knows that you can’t hold the crowd hostage while retuning your guitar and if you do play live with a floyd rose then you better have a back up guitar in case you break a string because it is at least a 5 minute process to put a new one on. I’m just saying.

  11. I figured out that I could pull these little metal shims? out of my old rose bridge, insert the ball ends of the strings and tighten the thingers against the ends. Now I love my floating bridge.

  12. Floating Bridges? I am an Archtop lover and I always thought that the first floating bridges were on archtops. Idon’t know what kind of floating bridges you guys are talking about but the kind I have on my guitars are no trouble compared to yours. If any one out there wants any advice on Archtop floating bridges you can contact me at richard@archtopguitarsandbooks.com I will be willing to help you understand the benifits and ease of use.

  13. I have a Gretsch 6120 with a floating bar bridge while I love The floating bridge, My only complaint is can only really adjust the intonation on my E strings and hope that the rest are close enough. I don’t have the ability to adjust each string individually (something I will be fixing soon) I would recommend a floating bridge to anyone, you just have to get used to them. I find that changing all six strings one at a time at the same time is an awesome way to get around the whole bridge falling over thing as well as tuning issues. Verdict? Bit more hassle but so so worth it :)

  14. 01indianbob

    Problems with the floating bridge? Have you been able to come up with any solutions? I’ve had a 5120 for some time now, and it is of course my favorite box…(have have 4 Epiphones). I just really have a tough time with the bridge on this Gretsch.

  15. matt

    or you could just get a hybrid system that can lock to work like a fixed bridge so you lock the bridge, tune it, and then unlock it and it will be in tune

  16. Notanoob

    You guys are discussing two different items that are both referred to as “floating”. One of fenders first bridge designs was called a “floating” bridge because it was mounted above the guitar body, therefore, floating. This design did not have a tremolo or vibrato feature. Many stringed instruments use this design ie. violins and arch top hollow or semi-hollow bodied instruments like a Gretch. The “floating” bridge referred to in this post is the “Floyd Rose” style of tremolo bridge system which has been nicknamed “floating”. This type of bridge should be called buried in my opinion because most designs require a major amount of material removal from the body of the guitar and the mechanisms that cause it to work are “buried” inside the guitar body. I have, however, designed a true “floating tremolo” bridge system that mounts above the guitar body and solves every complaint of the original blog. I am sending in my patent application this month an will shock the guitar world with my simple cost effective way to revolutionize the guitar industry.

    • Harry

      Hi – I am in London, UK – but would be interested on any more info you can provide – thanks! I’m interested in building an experimental guitar, and open to possibilities for the bridge, but maximum sustain is really the priority.
      Thanks,
      Harry

      • Notanoob

        Please call me in Las Vegas. 702-460-3018

      • Hi Harry,
        I would be very happy to speak to you if it’s about archtops bridges you are interested in.
        My understanding of floating bridges relates only to archtops as that is my specialty.
        However I can’t see any reason why they can not be used on other guitars. They were however made for the purpose of extreme height adjustment on an archtop to assist in re adjusting the intonation after making such a large adjustment in height. The history of the archtop guitar and it’s floating bridge on my site will help you undersatand all the reasons for this design. I am very interested in your project as I have a guitar workshop and enjoy solving problems from time to time.
        Speak soon.
        Richard from archtopuitars.com.au Australia.

    • Thanks. You cleared up my confusion–I have a Gretsch G5122 with a Bigsby, and while I still prefer professionals to restring it, I could relate to very little of what the author of this post was referencing. I looked up “Floyd Rose” and realized immediately that I’ve played a cheap guitar with one of these (a Godin) and found it very frustrating.

      • I get lots of enquries from guitar repairers and owners of Gretch’s with Bigsby’s and most of them are about replacing the floating Bridge with a Roller floating bridge to ensure that intonation is still good after using the Bigsby. As I have said before, the only floating brideges I am familar with relate to archtops and I love them for their practically and flexibility on an archtop. Anyone who would like any advice or assistance with them on this site can contact me at: richard@archtopguitarsandbooks.com

  17. Notanoob

    Correction, the Fender bridge I mentioned above was a tremolo system. It should be added to the latter category of systems like the floyd rose. The former category is of the fixed bridge variety. A third category should be mentioned which is the roller style or “Bigsby” tremolo system. I reiterate, the author of this post was most likely isolating the “FR” type.
    p.s. now you can call me a noob too.

  18. Cardin

    Okaaayy, I’m so not buying a floating bridge guitar next time. When I bought mine I was still new to electric guitars so yeah. I was thinking of using my electric as an acoustic type, but I guess the non-standard tunings I’ll have to rely on my Classical guitar for now. ‘cos I totally suck at tuning the Floyd Rose, it takes a heck lot of effort to make sure it doesn’t buzz on the fretboard.

    • Notanoob

      Yes, to really do it right you have to set the height and intonation with every tuning. Even from standard to standard with new strings, slight adjustments will need to be made due to string the elasticity of the strings. These guys who are posting about how they’ve “figured it out” are obviously not studio or stage musicians and they are willing to tolerate the subtle flaws in action, intonation and sustainability that you get from a guitar that isn’t set up right. Which is fine, not every musician is a perfectionist and most of the people they play for probably don’t hear the difference. However, for those of us who take these things into consideration, would never get on stage with a single guitar that has a Floyd Rose set up. It’s just plain unprofessional.

      • Robert

        i know exactly how to tune my floating bridge perfectly without any professional help..ive had it for two days and its awesome as fuck…tune low E first then high E…after they are close(they dont have to be perfect yet)tune the A string and B string..go back to the E strings and make sure theyre still good…mine has little string locks at the top of the neck,so i would then tighten up the two covering E A and B E…now go to D string and the G string lol once theyre tuned it shouldnt have thrown off the other strings by much..tighten down the final clamp and use the fine tuning screws on the bridge…its what i did,hasnt come out of tune yet..

  19. Brian

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  20. Frank Whitney

    Floating bridge problems ?.Way back in the mid 60′s I built a series of stratocaster copies, naturally each one was better than the previous one as my knowledge, experience and collection of special tools increased. In all of them I used a floating bridge a la Leo Fender, however instead of the six screws the front edge of the bridge plate was a hardened knife edge which was held in position by a strip of hardened steel mounted in the body with a “V” groove milled into it. This arrangement held tuning very accurately. The secret to tuning stability is to reduce the overall mechanical hysterysis of the system, ie a high leverage ratio of the springs over the strings and a not so high ratio of the tremelo arm over the springs.
    Franko ( PE South Africa )

  21. Matt Ataide

    I’ve just restrung my strat, it has a floating bridge but apparently I changed the strings wrong and now the bridge is pulled all the way out and I can’t press my tremolo bar down any more.. only up; how do I fix this?? please reply I need this guitar ready for a gig in like 3 weeks.. appreciate it.!

    • Hi Matt. The kind of floating bridge that I am familar with is the real traditional ones that are on an archtop guitar. However I have a strat and the bridge and trem set up is familar to me. Here is my guess! The strings that you have just restrung your strat with should be lights as the whole set up of a standard strat is for light guage strings 9/48′s? I have seen your problem (If i am interperating it correctly) before , where a guy put heavy flat wound 12/52′s or heavier on his strat at it produced the same effect to his bridge set up as well as almost pulling his neck off.
      Please let me know if I am correct?
      Richard
      richard@archtopguitarsandbooks.com

    • Josh

      Matt,
      Next time make sure to replace one string at a time while leaving the other 5 in place and tuned. To fix your problem you will need to do the following.
      1. Loosen the all of the strings a little at a time until the bridge is floating parallel to the guitar.
      2. Remove the back plate on your guitar to access the spring tension cavity inside.
      3. Place a block between the guitar body and the bottom portion of the bridge (opposite where the springs are mounted). This will prevent the bridge from rising up when you retune the strings.
      4. Tune the guitar.
      5. Remove the block (the bridge will pull up again and the guitar will go out of tune) and then tighten the springs until the bridge is parallel with the guitar again.
      6. At this point the guitar should be close to tune and the bridge should be floating in a neutral position. Now you just need to set the intonation and fine tune.
      If you need assistance with setting the intonation or are unable to get your bridge back to neutral position using this technique feel free to contact me at sonicanomalymusic at yahoo dot com.
      Unfortunately you are in a worse case scenario and have the most difficult task imaginable with a floating bridge. There are youtube lessons and other documentation on line that I recommend using before you attempt this again. Also Richard’s comment about using a light gauge string is accurate. Once you find a string set up that works for you, never change the gauge or you will have to set up your bridge all over again. Also steer clear of highly elastic strings like Ernie Ball Super Slinky’s on a floating bridge since they stretch to much and you will have to constantly adjust your spring tension.
      Josh

      • I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to this thread on floating bridges. it is this kind of support many guitarist need with this problem. It can be very scary the first time one is confrontid with this situation. Even very experienced guitarist who have been playing other styles of guitars for many years can find themselves confronted with this problem when having to deal with a bridge they are not familar with.
        Now…Traditonally a floating bridge was made of wood so one could be forgiven for given istructiond like this: Loosen the strings, remove the bridge, throw it in a bucket of water and if it rolls over and sinks it’s not a real floating bridge.
        Deh…. Please don’t take me too seriously guys even though I am Italian.
        Thanks again guys for coming to our rescue.
        Richard Autenzio

  22. jeff

    the only tremolo i have trouble with is the flatmount ones like khalers and fenders other that there is no problem with them

  23. Ryan

    I have an edge-II floating bridge. The trick to tuning the thing is starting from you low E to your High E and repeating it until the strings and springs find their ‘zone’. Low e -> E in that order. You wont have to retune for months after you stretch the strings…

  24. rand

    Hey we just developed a cool cleaning tool that can slide under the floating bridge and clean dust and grime without having to remove it. http://www.musicnomadcare.com/nomadtool.html

  25. Jay

    Tune your Floyd/Khaler starting with 6th E and then 1st E then B,A,G, &D. Repeat till you have them all set. I your bridge is pulling forward and you want it flat- you may need to tighten spring claw screws in -1/8″ or add a spring. If you want a OG strat bridge to ride forward- bend your bridge forward as you tune. As long as the spring tension is’nt to extreme it should “float”. Cheers!

  26. Joe B

    I didnt read all the replies, but it didnt seem like anyone mentioned my biggest two oeeves about locking tremelos, Floyds or whatever. First, the micro-tuners are always either turned all the way in or out. strings stretch, and bodies and necks move withtemperature, humidity, playing, age, etc. The “tune it once and it stays tuned for a long time” claiim is not true. Guitars move. Wood moves. Strings or springs stretch. Etc. it seems like the micro -tuners are always runninng out of play. Especially on the unwound G string. Its theheaviest unwound, and gets bent quite a bit. It stretches a lot. I am always adjusting the micro tuner on that string. Then its play runs out and I have to drag out an allen wrench to open up the nut to allow me to reset. Drives me nuts.

    Second annoyance, and its related, is the need to use your pick hand to adjust the micro tuners. Like most players, I find it is easier to tune using a pick. The sharp attack of a pck lets the note ring. Its easier to hear, and electronic tuners work quicker when a pick is used. I have been playing for a very long time, over 45 years. I have gotten very good at palming a pick, but its still annoying to move back and forth with your pick hand as you make finite adjustments on your guitars. I am with the OP, the limited benefit you get from floating trems isnt worth the hassle. Thats why most players outgrow them. As soon as dive bombs and warbles get old, so do Floyds… Guys who are absoslute masters of great sounding guitar noises, for example the greatest player alive IMHO, Jeff Beck, uses a 6screw fixed trem. He sets it so he can pull up slightly – maybe a quarter tone. And he uses it very very well.

    JB

  27. Capt. Mark Howell (ret)

    I have G5422-12 and a G5120 and have had no problems whatsoever. Both of them sound just as sweet as a virgins honeypot. Capt. Sharky

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