How to Set Intonation on a Floyd Rose Tremolo Bridge

Written by simon foden Google
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How to Set Intonation on a Floyd Rose Tremolo Bridge
Steve Vai's signature-model Ibanez guitar comes fitted with a Floyd Rose tremolo. (David Livingston/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images)

The intonation of a guitar influences the pitch-accuracy of the fretted notes. The portion of the string that vibrates, between the saddle and the nut, is called the "vibration length." If this isn't exactly the right length, the intonation will be off kilter and fretted notes will be slightly out of tune. Floyd Rose tremolo bridges, while benefiting from superior tuning stability, are as prone to off-kilter intonation as regular bridges. Fortunately you can adjust the intonation of each string without upsetting the delicate balance of spring and string tension on the guitar.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Nut-lock hex key (supplied with guitar)
  • 2.5-mm hex key
  • Guitar tuner
  • Instrument cable

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  1. 1

    Remove the nut-lock with the supplied hex key. This is an integral part of the Floyd Rose locking tremolo system as it puts a stop on the string, but to correctly tune the strings, you need to remove it. The nut-lock has three nuts, one per two strings. Turn the hex key counterclockwise, and lift the nut away from the neck. Set it aside in a safe place.

  2. 2

    Plug the guitar into a digital tuner and tune the strings. Tighten the tuning machines to correct flat notes and loosen the tuning machines to correct sharp notes.

  3. 3

    Play the bottom E string at fret 12 and check the tuning of that note. It should be exactly the same as the correctly tuned open string. If it is not exactly the same, the intonation needs adjustment.

  4. 4

    Fit a 2.5-mm hex key into the intonation adjustment nut behind the saddle block on the Floyd Rose bridge. If you can't find it, follow the string with your finger toward the bridge. The saddle is where the string is clamped in place; the intonation adjustment nut is directly behind the saddle. There is one nut for each string. It moves the saddle forward or backward to adjust the vibration length of the string.

  5. 5

    Adjust the vibration length of the string. If the string has sharp intonation, increase the vibration length of the string by tightening the nut. Loosen the nut to decrease the vibration length of the string to correct flat intonation. Turn the hex key clockwise to tighten and counterclockwise to loosen. Turn no more than one quarter of a revolution.

  6. 6

    Check the fret 12 tuning accuracy to determine accuracy of intonation. Make further, small adjustments with the hex key if necessary.

  7. 7

    Tune the guitar again. The intonation adjustment will cause the guitar to go slightly out of tune. Retuning the guitar won't influence the previous adjustment to the intonation. Repeat this process for each string. Note, some strings may have flat intonation and others may have sharp intonation.

  8. 8

    Reattach the nut-lock once all strings are correctly intonated and tuned.

Tips and warnings

  • Keep your guitar away from radiators. The change in heat can cause the wood to warp, putting tension on the strings and influencing the intonation.

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