How Do I Restring a Floyd Rose?
In the next part of this article, we are going to look at how to restring a Floyd Rose. Luckily for most Ibanez owners, this next part is relevant to your tremolos too! Double-locking tremolo systems have their many advantages, however this isn’t exactly one of them. The process becomes easier after a few times, but restringing a Floyd is more technical than it is for a traditional tune-o-matic or fixed bridge. There are different ways of doing this, but we’ve detailed our preferred method below:
1. What You’ll Need
First off, get yourself a fresh pack of strings! We’re going to assume that you’re replacing the strings with a set of the same gauge(s), but if not, then there’s no need to worry. We’ll get to that later…
Start things off by grabbing a couple of allen wrenches. Most Floyd Rose-equipped guitars would have included these when you made your purchase, with the right sizes provided for your tremolo. If not, you can easily purchase a set of allen wrenches at your local DIY shop. They are necessary to loosen certain components, allowing you to release the old strings.
Make sure you also have a string winder handy, as this will speed up the process significantly. Wire cutters will be needed to cut off the string(s) excess, including the ball ends of each replacement string. You may also need a Phillips-style screwdriver to remove the back-plate from your guitar, so that you can make adjustments to the tremolo springs and their tension. This may not be necessary, unless you’re changing to heavier/lighter gauge strings.
If you’re missing any of the tools specified above, make sure to check out our Tools & Maintenance range.
2. Removing the Old Strings
Start off by removing the locking nut plates. Make sure you put them somewhere safe in the meantime, as they’re easy to lose! This will take pressure off the strings, meaning that they are free to unwind and remove.
This is important: remove and replace one string at a time.
Why? Doing this will ensure that the bridge retains the same tension after you’ve finished restringing (provided the string gauges are the same).
Use your string winder (or fingers if you don’t have one) to start unwinding the low E string at the tuning peg until it’s lost tension. Carefully pull the string out of the peg and don’t stab your fingers with the end of the old string, it hurts!
Next, use an allen wrench to loosen the corresponding saddle at the bridge end. Make sure to also do this carefully, as there is a small metal block that keeps the string tightened – which may fall out. You do not want to lose one of these either!
If you have a floating (or routed) tremolo system, you may notice that the bridge will have dipped back. This is fine, as tension from the removed string is lost and therefore the springs are working more effectively without it. Now, you should be able to pull the string out entirely. Wind up the string into a neat coil, and dispose of safely.
3a. Fitting a New String
This should be fairly easy. Basically, do almost the complete opposite of the previous step!
Take out the replacement string from the new pack. Unwrap the string, and use a pair of wire cutters to snip off the ball end, including the section where it is tightly twisted.
You can now insert the string into the saddle at the bridge, and tighten it using the correct-sized allen wrench. Do not over-tighten!
Now that the new string is secured at the bridge, you can insert the other end of the string into the tuning post hole, ensuring that it’s placed correctly over the nut slot. Make sure that there is some slack, so that the string will wrap nicely around the post a couple of times. Wind the string up to the pitch it needs to be, so that the tension is kept balanced like before.
If you’re using the same string gauges as your previous set, the bridge should sit parallel to the surface of the guitar body. This is easier to notice with a floating bridge system, however if you have a non-routed guitar, you can check by gently pressing down on the bar and feeling whether the response is the same as before.
3b. If you’re changing to a new String Gauge
If you are changing to a thicker set of strings or a lighter gauge, things will look different. A heavier string set will generate more tension, therefore causing more strain on the springs that counter-balance the Floyd Rose. If you don’t make any adjustments, then the bridge will appear to lean forward towards the guitar.
This is something you absolutely want to avoid, as the action (string height from the fretboard) and intonation (the tuning balance across the fretboard) will be badly affected. This could make your instrument almost unplayable – so listen up!
If you’re changing string gauge, then you will need to open up the back of your guitar to get to the springs. Grab your screwdriver, and tighten the claw that holds the springs to the inside of the guitar body. Make a quarter-turn at a time – check – and turn until the bridge is level again.
4. It’s All About Repetition
Once you’ve changed the first string, repeat the same steps for the rest of them. You might find the process will become more fiddly with the 3 higher strings, however the same method will work. Although slightly more patience may be required!
Once you’ve changed every string, tune up to pitch and double-check that the bridge is balanced. Like with any string change, “break” (not literally) the new strings in by playing them for a while and gently stretching them. The strings are at their most tense when they’re new, so once they’ve been played in, tune up and fit the locking nut plates back on and tighten them. Job done!
5. Nearing the Finish Line
The most important thing now is to not go anywhere near the headstock tuners! If you try and tune from there then nothing will happen, and you’ll probably end up snapping your string.
This is why fine tuners are on the bridge, so that you can adjust the tuning without unlocking anything at either side. What a great invention, right?
If You’re a Visual Learner
Here at Andertons Music Co, we understand that some people will prefer to see the process rather than be told how to do it. That’s why we’ve included this informative video from ESP Guitars to help you out: