Floyd Rose is the organization that licenses, distributes and manufactures the Floyd Rose Locking Tremolo invented by Floyd D. Rose. It also manufactures guitars using the system. Floyd Rose owns the patents on the design, and licenses these patents to several original equipment manufacturers.
The Floyd Rose system consists of:
- A lock at the nut of the guitar, which prevents the tuning heads from being used and holds the strings taut
- A "floating bridge", where the other ends of the strings are also vise-locked, hence, "double-locking"
The locking system helps to keep the strings in tune while the strings are slackened to a degree which was not achieved with older tremolo systems, such as those found on Fender Stratocaster, allowing dive bombs, a rapid lowering of the pitch of a note. Since the tuning heads are ineffectual with the lock in place, the Floyd Rose bridge has heads for fine tuning; the guitar is tuned before the lock is put on, then fine tuned afterwards. Each guitar incorporated with a Floyd Rose tremolo system has springs put in the back of the hardware which create balanced forces with the strings, thus keeping the tremolo into a "floating" state.
Floyd D. Rose, an accomplished machinist working on jewel inlays, moved from Durango, Colorado to Reno, Nevada in 1964. He was also an amateur guitarist, playing in local bands. Rose's influences included Ritchie Blackmore and Jimi Hendrix, so, he favored aggressive playing style with lots of tremolo bar action. In late 1970s, his dissatisfaction with regular Fender tremolo bridges made him apply his engineering skills to design a new type of tremolo bridge. First prototypes were installed on his own Gibson Les Paul guitar.
Renting necessary equipment, Rose made several other prototypes and showed one of them to Randy Hansen. Hansen was very impressed with stability of guitar tuning. Slowly, popularity of new Floyd Rose tremolo started to grow. Rose received more and more orders for his invention: soon he bought his own manufacturing equipment and started commercial production in his basement. Guitar Player magazine published a review of the new bridge and even more guitarists become interested. On January 3, 1977, Rose filed his first US patent application, which was issued almost 3 years later, on October 23, 1979.
Also, around that time, Rose made the acquaintance of emerging guitar virtuoso Eddie Van Halen, who also liked the design of new tremolo and was an early endorser and promoter for it. In 1978-1980, Floyd Rose become a tremolo of choice for such guitarists as Brad Gillis and Steve Vai.
In 1981-1982, Rose cemented an agreement with Kramer Guitars, whereby Kramer became the exclusive distributor of Floyd Rose Locking Tremolos, even those that were not attached to guitars. The agreement stipulated a royalty paid out to Rose for every unit sold. Kramer saw a great potential in the new double-locking tremolo, and with the endorsement of Eddie Van Halen playing a guitar with the Floyd Rose Locking Tremolo, they dropped the earlier Rockinger Tremolo in favor of the new Floyd Rose Locking Tremolo between June 1982 and January 1983.
In 1982, Rose and Kramer engineers came up with first major improvement to the original bridge: a set of fine tuners that allowed tuning the guitar without unlocking the top lock. Fine tuner enhancement quickly became a standard for all Floyd Rose tremolos and by late 1982, Kramer was using them on majority of its tremolo-enabled guitars.
Kramer market was growing due to huge marketing demand for superstrats with Floyd Rose, and in late 1984, other tremolo options (such as ESP Flicker and Fender-like tremolo) were dropped from Kramer's list and Floyd Rose became a solitary tremolo of choice.
Further development continued, and in 1989 Rose presented new low-profile version named "Floyd Rose Pro" that was developed for ProAxe guitars and a few of the Hundred Series models at Kramer.
However, heavy metal and superstrat popularity was rapidly declining, and Kramer eventually defaulted on the agreement, which resulted in a lawsuit between the two parties.
Later, distribution of the Floyd Rose Original was left to Floyd Rose (Fender was the exclusive distributor of Floyd Rose products from 1991 to 2005) whereas the patented designs were licensed to other manufacturers to use.
Position I illustrates the normal position of an ideally tuned Floyd Rose bridge. The bridge (green) balances on a pivot point, being pulled counter-clockwise by the strings' (red) tension and clockwise by one or several (usually up to five) springs (light blue). Controlled by special tuning screws (sky blue), these two forces are balanced such that the bridge's surface is parallel to the guitar body (olive). The strings are locked tightly with a special mechanism at the nut (also green, as it is a part of the Floyd Rose bridge) as well as at the bridge, hence "double-locking".
Position II illustrates the position of the bridge when the tremolo arm is pushed down towards the guitar body. The bridge rotates around a pivot point counter-clockwise and the tension in each string decreases, lowering the pitch of each string. The sound of any notes being played becomes flat.
Position III illustrates the position of the bridge when the tremolo arm is pulled up away from the guitar body. The bridge rotates clockwise, tension in the strings increases, the pitch of the sound increases and so notes sound sharper than normal.
- All strings are affected simultaneously, as contrasted with the B-Bender, where only one string is affected. Due to the different tensions of each string, the degree of pitch shift will vary from string to string, so the tremolo arm is commonly used on single strings or 2-3 adjacent strings.
- If the tremolo arm is pushed down, action increases and usually become less comfortable to play due to the lowered tension.
- If the tremolo arm is pulled up, action decreases and strings may hit the frets on the fretboard, making unwanted sounds. Also, excess tension applied to strings makes them more fragile and increases the chance of string breakage.
Models and varieties
- Floyd Rose Original is the oldest model still in production. Since 1977, production models bearing this name are mostly the same as the first model, with only minor changes. Note that the name "Floyd Rose Original" is used to differentiate this system from "Floyd Rose Licensed". The first Original Floyds were double locking but did not have fine tuners, requiring the nut to be opened any time minute string intonation changes needed to be made.
- Floyd Rose II is a lower end version of the Original Floyd used mostly on import and mid-range instruments. Originally, Floyd IIs were single locking, locking only at the nut. Later versions were made double locking, but used weaker materials than the Original Floyd Rose, making them less dependable.
- Floyd Rose Licensed are made by other manufacturers that have purchased a license from Floyd Rose. These model generally follow the designs of the Floyd Rose Original, but tend to deviate slightly from the original for the manufacturing process to be more cost-efficient. Most licensed companies use the same design that makes their parts inter-changeable between any two licensed tremolos, but not the Floyd Rose Original. The bridges of such systems are clearly engraved "Licensed under Floyd Rose Patents" and Floyd Rose does not offer any customer support for them. Construction quality of Floyd Rose Licensed tremolos may be compromised due to the cost-efficient techniques, but the reliability of licensed models that match the price of originals are usually high, whereas cheaper variations are often of lower quality as they would have used cheaper manufacturing processes. Two well-known manufacturers of Floyd Rose Licensed tremolos are Schaller and Gotoh.
- Yamaha Finger Clamp is a variety of Floyd Rose that have built in levers, and thus when tuning, no allen keys are needed.
- Floyd Rose Derived In order to reduce licensing cost from Floyd Rose, some manufacturers further improve their double locking trems that, despite being double locking, are no longer considered a licensed product, but are distinct relative derived from it.
- Ibanez Edge is Ibanez's Floyd Rose variant. There are 5 versions including a pro version; use knife edges. Starting with Edge III and Edge Pro, these are considered as mere derivative, and are not licensed from Floyd Rose.
- Ibanez Zero Resistance is another of Ibanez's Floyd Rose variant. It uses a ball-bearing mechanic instead of knife-edge as the joint, which gives the tremolo more consistency after use, and a stop-bar to help the guitar stay in tune, even with heavy abuse of the tremolo or string break.
- Ibanez Fixed Edge. While it still uses the locking nut and locking bridge, it was mounted on top of the body, and was used not as a tremolo system, but to provide even more tuning stability on a hardtailed guitar (they can go out of tune during bending, with fingers)
- Fender Deluxe Locking Tremolo. A specially designed system that was made by Fender Musical Instruments Corporation in conjunction with Floyd Rose himself, utilizing locking tuners, a modified Fender 2-point synchronized tremolo with locking bridge saddles and a special low-friction LSR Roller Nut which allows strings to slide during tremolo use. This is a double locking system, except the other locking point is at the tuner instead of nut. Its main advantage is the unneeded requirement to perform any major alteration on a solid-body electric guitar, due notably to its similarity (in size and feel) to a normal Fender 2-point tremolo system.
- Floyd Rose 7-String is a redesign of Floyd Rose Original for 7-string guitars. The design and working principles are otherwise the same.
- Floyd Rose Pro is a low-profile version of Floyd Rose Original. The bridge and arm design is changed in such a way that the guitarist's hand will be generally closer to the strings while holding the tremolo arm. The bridge has a narrower string spacing (0.400 inches or 10.16 mm in this design versus 0.420 inches or 10.66 mm of the Floyd Rose Original). Fine tuners are slightly angled for more comfortable play.
- Floyd Rose SpeedLoader Tremolo is a redesign introduced around 2003 that combines Floyd Rose Original with the SpeedLoader system to produce a new design that overcame many disadvantages of the original Floyd Rose Locking Tremolo design, but required special strings.
Floyd Rose tremolos are known for their excellent serviceability: the mechanism is well-documented and spare parts can be purchased directly from manufacturer or via dealers. Usually, Floyd Rose device (as Floyd Rose Pro Tremolo on the image) consists of these parts:
- Saddle — A metal box the string is locked into. There is one saddle for each string, hence six for the standard 6-string guitars, and seven for 7-string guitars. Each saddle contains a long screw that fixes the string holder block inside it. An Allen wrench is required to loosen or tighten these.
- String Holder Block or Saddle Block — A cube-shaped metal block that presses the string end into the saddle wall thus locking it tight.
- Intonation Screws — Screws that hold saddles on the base plate; when loose, the saddles can be moved forward and backward, effectively changing intonation of a string and producing the vibrato effect. An Allen wrench is required to loosen or tighten these.
- Fine Tuners — Screws that are used to fine-tune strings instead of the machine heads which cannot be used after the nut has locked the strings at the neck. It can be rotated with bare hands.
- Tremolo Arm — The most visible part of mechanism, a handle that can be used to change played notes pitch up and down during play.
- Nut — A string clamp, installed as the "zero fret" at the neck. It has screws and braces called "locks" to clamp on the strings that run through it. An Allen wrench is required to loosen or tighten the nut.
- String Retainer — A metal bar installed at headstock to retain strings that go to the machine heads.
- Springs — Springs that pull the bridge clockwise around the pivot point. They are installed into a cavity that is usually accessible from behind the guitar body and is hidden under plastic cover. There are usually 3 springs. However, to change the resistance of arm to more comfortable one, some guitarists may use anything from 1 to 5 springs.
- Spring Claw Hook — A connector between the guitar body and springs. It has special "claws" to attach the springs to. This part is usually mounted to the guitar body using loose long screws that can also be used to change the tension of springs and thus re-balance the whole tremolo system.
- Allen wrenches — Three sizes are usually supplied with the tremolo. The smallest is used for intonation screws; the mid-sized wrench is used for fixing screws on saddle blocks and the largest is for nut screws. Floyd Rose Licensed systems usually supplies and uses only two sizes of wrenches as their variation uses the same size for the screws on the saddle blocks and nut.
To remove a string, one must first unlock it at the nut with an allen wrench, loosen the string, unlock it at the bridge with an allen wrench, and then remove the string. To install a new string, you must either cut the ball end off or run the string backwards down the guitar, leaving the ball end at the tuning gear, then reverse the process of removing a string.
If the locking nut isn't loosened first, the string will break if the tuning peg is tightened just slightly. A break such as this would occur between the locking nut and the tuning peg. However, the string will still be unbroken between the locking nut and the bridge, as the locking nut will hold it in place. Guitarists who are used to non-Floyd Rose guitars have a habit of breaking strings this way when they forget to loosen the locking nuts first to retune their instrument.
Some models, such as Yamaha's Floyd Rose license, include build-in cranks that operate the clamps, and thus need fewer allen keys, while others, such as Fender's Deluxe Locking Tremolo, is basically "normal" floating tremolo and tuners, but each with locking mechanism, and incorporate friction free (roller base) nuts.
With the newer Edge Pros on certain Ibanez guitars, such as the JEM and JS and RG series, it is not necessary to cut the ball ends. They are equipped with a top sliding string block that you loosen with an allen key to allow insertion of the string from the top. This improves string life and tuning and speed of string change.
The use of the Floyd Rose Locking Tremolo was popularized by Eddie Van Halen
. Many modern electric guitar players, such as Metallica
's Kirk Hammett
, Allan Holdsworth
, Shawn Lane
, Joe Satriani
, Steve Vai
and Brad Gillis
make heavy use of the device.
Many guitarists use these system to create new sounds that were not practical to achieve with traditional tremolo systems:
- Joe Satriani uses his whammy bar to raise the pitch of a pinch harmonic, usually on the open G string, in order to do his signature "Satch Scream". He also lowers the whammy bar while sliding up on a string in order to do his "Lizard Down the Throat" technique.
- Dimebag Darrell, formerly of Pantera, and Damageplan, made use of the bar for his signature "Dime squeals". This requires a flick on the open G,B, or E string while the bar is being pulled towards the body, then a natural harmonic over the 1-12 frets and a rapid pull away from the body for a high-pitched squeal.
- Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave uses the whammy bar in conjunction with his pickup toggle switch and Digitech Whammy pedal to create sounds reminiscent of hip hop.
- Karl Logan of Manowar is known for simulating sounds of bike engine burn-in — this "guitar versus bike" duelling effect is particularly used on Return of the Warlord track of 1995, although the effect is probably better known from Todd Rundgren's playing on the 1977 Meatloaf song "Bat out of Hell"
- Herman Li and Sam Totman of DragonForce use the system to create video game-esque noises.
Floyd Rose holds a number of patents on floating bridge design:
- — bridge mechanism patent;
- — first fine tuners and saddle patent;
- — second fine tuners and saddle patent;
- — spring and claw mechanism;
- — early patent for a tremstopper device;
- — patent for Floyd Rose Pro, low-profile version;