A floating bridge is any bridge that isn't fixed in place against the body of the guitar. The Floyd Rose bridge is a prominent example of a floating bridge, notable for it's double-locking system that increases tuning stability. Unlike fixed, or "hardtail" bridges, floating bridges are held in place with a series of springs and pivots. Because of its complex configuration, a floating bridge is sensitive to minor changes in string tension. Humidity and careless handling can cause the bridge to slip or tilt. Fortunately, you can fix your bridge with some basic tools.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Things you need
- Measuring tape
- 2.5-mm hex key
- Phillips screwdriver
Use a 2.5mm hex key to loosen the nut locks at the top of the fretboard.
Tune the guitar in the normal manner. Tighten the strings to correct flat notes and loosen them to correct sharp notes. Because the angle of the bridge is influenced by string tension, the strings must be correctly tuned before you fix the faceplate angle. The faceplate must be parallel to the body of the guitar, otherwise the scope of the tremolo arm will be limited. Fasten the nut lock.
Unscrew the protective cover on the rear of the guitar. This exposes the tremolo cavity, where you'll see an array of strings, typically three but sometimes as many as five and the bottom of the inertia block. The inertia block serves as the pivot point. The springs apply tension that compensates for string tension; they pull the inertia block back to its correct position once the tremolo arm has been released.
Measure the distance between the bottom edge of the faceplate and the body of the guitar, at each end of the faceplate. This determines which way the plate is tilting.
Turn the guitar over and tighten the screws on the spring mounting plate on the corresponding side of the bridge. This pulls the faceplate down, closer to the body. On a new floating bridge, there's approximately 1 inch of screw length not inside the cavity wall, to give sufficient scope for tension adjustment.
Measure again. If the same side still has greater clearance, tighten the same spring again. If it's lower, loosen the spring. Continue adjusting until both sides are the same distance from the body.
Determine the string action before adjusting bridge height. The action refers to the clearance between strings and fretboard. Too high and the guitar is difficult to play. Too low and the strings buzz. To determine the action, play each fret on each string. If there is a buzz anywhere, the action is too low. If the clearance increases the closer to the body you get, the action is too high.
Place the guitar face up, neck pointing left.
Fit a 2.5mm hex key to the nut on the lower side of the bridge.
Tighten the nut to raise the bridge so it sits level. Alternatively, loosen the nut on the higher side to lower the bridge, depending on the string action.
Tips and warnings
- If you break a string, push the tremolo arm down and wedge a sponge or pair of socks under the faceplate. This supports it and prevents the decreased tension from the broken string from affecting the delicate balance between string and spring tension.
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