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Having used Bigsby and Strat trem (hate that misnomer!) systems for the last 60 odd yrs, I'm now re-furbishing a guitar with a Floyd Rose. Trying to find how it's supposed to be superior - it's built on the back of the quite successful Strat design. However, all three are 'floating', in that they rely on the balance between string tension and spring tension, albeit Bigsby used a different tack.

Can't for the life of me see how the FR, more complex, has advantages over the others; in fact, strings will still go out of tune should one string break, even with a locking nut, or am I missing something. And FR is hardly quick to change strings in comparison to the others. (I have a couple of Bigsby type - one with posts for the string ends, one with holes for the strings, so I know which I prefer for string changes!)

Question - what advantages/disadvantages do each have over the others? And - are there any other designs available?

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  • Have you done any research before posting the question?
    – ojs
    Nov 7, 2023 at 15:18
  • @ojs - if using two of them for that length of time isn't enough, what is. I feel I'm missing something with FR though.
    – Tim
    Nov 7, 2023 at 15:32
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    @Tim It will not help tuning stability in the event of a string breaking. If you're looking for tuning stability in the event of a string breaking, look elsewhere. That is not one of the advantages of the Floyd Rose system. That is the simple answer for how you don't understand how it helps with string breaks. It doesn't. Do you still have a question about what advantages the FR system does have? Nov 7, 2023 at 16:15
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    I broke a string once… 1977, I think it was;)
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 7, 2023 at 17:36
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    Perhaps adding a guitar or electric-guitar related tag would be good here, since other unrelated instruments also have tremolo systems.
    – supercat
    Nov 7, 2023 at 17:39

1 Answer 1

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The only advantage inherent in the Floyd Rose system itself is that it is "double locking". This simply means the string is locked at the bridge and the nut.

With non-locking tremolo systems, the string has to pass over or through potential pinch points both at the bridge and at the nut. String-through the body bridges can have 2 or more string bends at the bridge end, and most guitars without angled headstocks have string trees between the nut and tuning machines.

The impact of all of these points of contact is that strings can have friction at one or more of those points, which means the tension on one site of the friction point can be higher or lower than the other side. When a non-locking vibrato tailpiece is used, the tension on the sounding length of the string can be dramatically changed up or down, and the string can be pulled more to one side or the other at one or more points of friction. Once the tailpiece is returned to the neutral position, the strings can be displaced slightly and their tension on the sounding length can be off, which means they are now out of tune.

One popular strategy to prevent this is to reduce the friction at as many of those points as possible. This is the business that Graph Tech is in. They made their name by manufacturing self-lubricating nuts, bridge saddles, and string trees, that combined with locking tuners were marketed to prevent vibrato bridge use from throwing the strings out of tune.

The Floyd Rose solution is to prevent the string from moving at all across these friction points by locking the string in place at both ends of the sounding length. This means the locking nut keeps the string fixed at the nut end and the locking saddles in the bridge keep the string fixed at the bridge end. This means the sounding lengths of all strings are kept the same - the strings will not slip across the nut, string trees, or bridge, because they are locked in place. When you dive bomb with a Floyd Rose and then return to rest position, the strings will have the same sounding length and tension as before the dive bomb.

In case it's not clear, the primary disadvantage of the Floyd Rose system is that tuning up the guitar and changing the strings is more tedious and time-consuming. There are fine tuners at the bridge that work for tuning adjustments before in response to changing weather, but when you really need to fix the tuning of a string, you have to unlock all the strings at the nut, do all the tuning like normal, then lock the strings down again and fix minor tuning issues caused by the locking.

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  • The OP also asked about "floating" systems, so it might help to mention that on some systems the lever-controlled part of the system has a spring that opposes string tension hard enough to push it against an end stop, while on others the spring can't impart enough force to reach the end stop. If the spring reaches the end stop, the position will be controlled by the end stop regardless of spring tension. If the spring isn't strong enough to reach the end stop, how far it gets will depend upon spring tension.
    – supercat
    Nov 7, 2023 at 17:52
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    @supercat Floating vs not is not a factor in Floyd Rose vs other systems. Floyds can float or not (depending on routing) just like other systems can float or not. Nov 7, 2023 at 18:19
  • The question expressly says "all three are floating", so I think addressing any confusion on that issue might be reasonable.
    – supercat
    Nov 7, 2023 at 18:46
  • @supercat What’s the confusion that you’re suggesting I address? The only thing that I’m confused by is your first comment on my answer. Nov 7, 2023 at 22:33
  • Can you add something about different Floyd Rose models? Readers may not realize that there are several different variations with different prices, places of manufacture, material, and I guess quality. And then there's Ibanez who offer their own independently developed alternatives. I think these are different in how well the strings stay in tune in dive bombs, and how long the parts last, even though in principle they're all double locking. AFAIK, it's not enough if the name Floyd Rose is mentioned somewhere, the mileage may vary in a disappointing way. Nov 7, 2023 at 23:19

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