I want to know differences between a floating and a non-floating tremolo bridge, with reference to floyd rose and Fender 6-point vintage tremolo. Is vintage tremolo a floating tremolo? Can it raise as well as dive in pitch? I have heard that they can only dive in pitch and can be tuned like hardtail?


Both vintage and Floyd Rose vibrato systems can be used in either floating or fixed configuration. This is simply determined by the tension on the springs:

  • If the springs are just tight enough to balance the string tension, the bridge will equilibrate in a position that leaves, as you say, room in both directions, i.e. you can then use the whammy to bend up notes, in addition to down. In floating mode, any slight change in tension of either the strings or strings will immediately cause a pitch change. In particular, if you bend up one string (in the normal fretboard way) then all other strings will go down a bit, and if one string breaks the whole guitar will go completely out of tune, even if it's a Floyd Rose.
  • If the springs are so tight that they overpower the string tension, the bridge will rest pressed against the guitar's top, i.e. in “maximum up” position. This means you can't whammy up anymore, and also that a significant “bias force” is required before any down-effect is achieved. Slight tension changes will generally not affect the tuning.

So, all four combinations are possible:

  • Vintage in floating mode. Most useful for the orginally intended application of these systems: to add slight vibrato to long notes and chords.
  • Vintage in locked mode. Common amongst Strat players who don't use the whammy much at all, except perhaps for some frantic song endings.
  • Floyd in floating mode. This is the “power user” option, if you use the whammy all the time in both subtle and extreme ways.
  • Floyd in locked mode. For guitarists who don't need slight vibrato (that can be done with the left hand anyway) but like the occasional deep dive, and won't risk the guitar getting out of tune.
  • 1
    It will always be a mystery to me what bit Leo Fender and made him swap the well-establish meaning of the terms tremolo and vibrato. – leftaroundabout May 13 '17 at 12:57

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