To Dive-Bomb Or Not to Dive-Bomb?
By: Kevin ManieriGeorge's Music
To use a Floyd Rose-equipped guitar, or not? That is the question in this months edition of the Guitar Club eNewsletter. A Floyd Rose Locking Tremolo, or any variant or other brand of locking tremolo, is a special set of hardware on a guitar. Simply put, a locking tremolo system securely clamps a guitars strings at both ends, resulting in increased tuning stability and the ability to use the tremolo arm heavily without putting the strings out of tune. Lets dig into why some players love a Floyd Rose-equipped guitar and others may not.Locking Tremolo Basics
The first locking tremolo system was invented by former jeweler Floyd D. Rose in 1976 as a way to keep his Stratocaster-style guitars in tune even after using the tremolo bar frequently. Early adopters of his handmade pieces included Eddie Van Halen, Neal Schon, and Steve Vai. Aftermarket tremolo systems can still be purchased and installed, but many guitars are available today that come with a Floyd Rose system stock.Since the strings are physically locked in place at the nut, the tuning pegs on the headstock are actually not used after the guitar is initially tuned and set up (more on that later). The strings should stay in tune for quite a long time, and when they do need to be adjusted sharp or flat, small tuners at the bass of the bridge are turned instead. These fine-tuners have only a limited range of motion.Why Play a Floyd Rose?
Why NOT Play a Floyd Rose?
- Stay in tune for extended periods of time, even with heavy tremolo use or aggressive picking techniques
- Can create unique sounds not possible with a standard bridge:
- Dive-bomb pushing the tremolo bar all the way to the fretboard then releasing, producing a rapid drop sound by dropping the pitch
- Squeal playing a natural harmonic and raising the pitch by pulling the tremolo bar, producing an extreme high note
- Ride the whammy bar to play notes in-between the standard notes of a guitar (i.e., the quarter-tone between B and C)
- Using these techniques and more, an experienced player can create sounds popularized by Van Halen, Pantera, Metallica, Slayer, Judas Priest, and many others
- Can be set up to allow changes up and down in pitch, or only down
The Rest Is Up to You!
- Inexperienced players may find them frustrating to tune at first
- Re-stringing can take considerably more time
- The ball is cut off of each string
- The bridge must be properly balanced in proportion to the guitar body
- Tuning is done with the regular tuning pegs, then again with the fine-tuners
- Breaking a string can throw the guitar completely out of tune, and it will take more time to replace than on a standard-bridge guitar
- Changing tunings is nearly impossible without other equipment forced to pick a tuning and stick with it
- Changing string gauges (or tunings) will affect the balance of the bridge the guitar should have a professional setup anytime one of these changes is made
- Restrings and setups will cost more than with a traditional guitar
If youre drawn to locking-tremolo guitars in any way, I highly suggest trying one out at any Georges Music store. Many of them are designed with rock and metal players in mind, but keep in mind that rules are meant to be broken sit down with one and play anything you like on it. Try to get a feel for the tuning system, as well as some of the techniques that can be done with the tremolo arm. Think about how often you change tunings or string gauges; consider the styles of music you often play. Also, will this be your first guitar, or part of a larger collection? Consider all of these things, and remember: If it sound good, it IS good. (Duke Ellington)