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I have a FR floating tremolo on my old Washburn MG-42 - full locking neck bolts although I'm told it's not an official FR but 3rd-party model.

I have no real experience using the whammy bar on any electric guitar and it always makes me nervous that something could go BANG... but particularly on a FR I understand one should be able to go 2-3 semitones in either direction (maybe more).

Can one be rough with the tremolo - is it something that can break or cause damage if you are not careful or is engineered so that you can really "go for it" without fear?

I'm asking generally but answers focusing on specific types of tremolo/guitar/whatever are welcome if appropriate.

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You can go down until the strings are totally relaxed without any problem. Going up is quite tough on the strings, so it's up to you how much "risk" you're ready to take. Usually such systems are indeed set up such that you can go up by something between a whole tone step and a major third (on the high strings). So what you can break are your strings (by going up too much and too often), otherwise you can't break much if there's nothing wrong with the system and its setup. If you play live you should have a backup guitar ready anyway, anything else would be totally reckless, even if you don't have a FR system.

  • thats how Steve Vai got the "lion roaring" sound on "Kittens got claws" (a Whitesnake album whose name I forget) – bigbadmouse Sep 5 at 7:35
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Seriously, go nuts with it. This is how players like Eddie Van Halen got their sound. You might break a string here and there, but look into string brands that are made for this kind of treatment.

You can do really cool things with this, too. Once I broke a string, so I just took the entire whammy bar, put it all the way down, and put it under all of the strings, and then rotated it front and back to change pitch while I played. That was a fun solo!

Do follow Matt's advice and bring a backup guitar to shows.

  • OK - strings are not a big worry, my nervousness is that I might rip the entire bridge off or something dramatic - I'm used to treating guitars delicately :) – Mr. Boy Mar 20 '15 at 19:26
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    This won't happen unless the system is defective. You might benefit from taking off the panel on the back of the guitar and looking at how the springs work. Watch the system work from that angle while you use the tremolo bar. You'll see how it's installed, and might feel more comfortable with how it all works. – Mark Mar 20 '15 at 20:02
  • I had the guitar serviced by a luthier after I got it and he re-floated the thing... so I'd guess barring something intrinsically worn out it will be fine :) – Mr. Boy Mar 20 '15 at 20:07
  • Yeah you should be ok. Do check out the stuff beneath the back panel, and if everything looks normal (nothing looks like it's falling apart or is detached), you can go forward with no worries. – Mark Mar 20 '15 at 20:09
  • What you are specifically looking for in back is the number of springs that are installed. There should be three springs going straight up and down. Four springs or five springs? You run the risk of breaking off the bar in the bridge. Floyd Rose trems typically have thicker bars than strats & strat copies, and probably won't be an issue for you even with four springs. 3 springs is still the best, however, for strings 11 gauge or lighter. – Jay Skyler May 31 '15 at 8:04
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I tend to believe in the Steve Vai/Dimebag Darrell school of thought on this one - you can pick the guitar up by the whammy bar and shake it hard.

The tension the strings and springs put on the trem holds it very securely.

Go for it.

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Floyds will survive a nuclear holocaust. Don't believe me? Look really closely at the guitar being played in "Max Max: Fury Road". It's a FR (without the bar). It's the AK-47 of tremolos; dead simple in design.

Now, all hyperbole aside, I've used a FR-licensed trem for 26 years, and I've never had one break. I'll dive until the strings go completely slack and the knife-edges pop out of their posts, and then I let go of the bar and they pop right back in and it's perfectly in tune. Then, I'll pull up on the bar until the clamping bolts bottom-out in the cavity, and then let go, and it's perfectly in tune.

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