The Floyd Rose Locking Tremolo System is a smartly designed piece of gear. Some guitarists might even tell you it is one of the most important inventions in the history of the electric guitar. But like any work of genius it has its detractors as well.
Advantages of a Floyd Rose Tremolo
There is only one advantage to the Floyd Rose System: It works. It works really, really well. Set up correctly, a guitar with a Floyd can take a huge amount of abuse without going out of tune. Pull notes sharp as far as you can, or mash the tremolo arm against the guitar body, and the strings will still come back to pitch.
Of course it has limits, and after a while you will have to retune your guitar, but more than any other tremolo system the Floyd remains rock solid.
So what does this mean to you? It means if you are into styles of music that tend to incorporate a lot of guitar tricks and whammy bar work, this is your best bet. Shredders and metal guitarists especially will appreciate how this bridge stands up to the abuse they can dish out.
That said, We’ve seen players in more subdued forms of music such as blues and jazz use double-locking tremolos as well. They don’t need anything more than simple vibrato, but the extra insurance when it comes to tuning stability is worth it.
Bottom line: If you intend to use the tremolo bridge a great deal in your style of play, you should seriously consider a guitar with a Floyd Rose.
Disadvantages of a Floyd Rose Tremolo
So if these things are so great, why aren’t they standard issue on all guitars? As it turns out, there are some negatives here as well.
Basically, because double-locking tremolos are more complex than other bridges they require a little more attention. You can’t take your guitar to the shop every time something needs to be adjusted. You are going to need to learn to solve problems yourself. Once you get the hang of it they aren’t hard to maintain, but there is definitely more work involved than with a more traditional bridge or tremolo system.
A few key issues:
Changing strings is more involved, and some tweaks and adjustments to the whole system likely will be necessary each time.
The locking nut means you can’t change your tuning as easily. You need to unlock the strings first, and then possibly adjust the entire bridge system, depending on how severely you intend to alter you tuning.
Sustain is sometimes an issue with guitars equipped with a Floyd, especially compared to a fixed bridge.
Your strings are highly interdependent with a Floyd Rose. This is true of all guitars to some extent because of string vs neck tension, but it is amplified here. That means if you break a string in mid-song your tuning goes out of whack.
Setups are more complicated. You should learn to do it yourself, but taking your guitars to a tech for a tune-up once a year isn’t a bad idea either.
Do You Need a Floyd Rose?
To figure out whether or not you need a guitar equipped with a Floyd Rose Tremolo System you need to decide whether the benefits outweigh the hassles. Does the ability to perform massive dive bombs and wild guitar tricks, or does simply the peace of mind knowing you instrument will stay in tune, outweigh the time and patience required to keep the bridge in good working order? For many players the answer is a resounding Yes!
Maybe wild whammy bar work is an important part of the kind of music you are into, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow the crowd. In fact, for beginners we usually recommend sticking with a hard-tail bridge. Learning guitar is hard enough without having to figure out why a tremolo bridge isn’t cooperating.
It’s also important to mention that there are other bridges out there that have built on the double-locking design. Ibanez, for example, has some excellent hardware on their guitars these days, made by them exclusively for their instruments.
For us, an authentic Floyd Rose is the way to go, but some excellent guitar companies incorporate licensed models on their guitars as well. If you choose to go the licensed route do your research and make sure you are getting quality gear.