How to setup your guitar with a floating bridge

After playing the same notes at the open and middle frets of my guitar and realizing they didn’t stay in tune, I knew I needed to give my guitar some tender loving care. For context, I have a Jackson Soloist XL outfitted with a floating bridge and tremol-no system. I didn’t want to pay to get my guitar setup, so I did some research and figured out these were intonation issues. I summarized what I did in case anyone else wants to get their guitar in nice working order again. Leave your comments (especially if you’re a guitar tech!).

Before you start, you’ll need…

  • New strings
  • Wire cutters
  • Phillips/flat head screwdrivers
  • Truss rod wrench or socket - Find truss info for your guitar here
  • Allen wrench set
  • Tuner

The Process

  1. Change your strings - Check out this article if you’re not sure how to change the strings on a floating bridge system.

  2. Adjust the Bridge - Access your spring tensioning screws, usually located in a cavity on the back of the guitar body. The goal here is to have the bridge be parallel with your guitar’s body. If it’s angled backwards, turn the tensioning screws counterclockwise to loosen them. If it’s angled towards the head of the guitar, turn the screws clockwise to tighten them. After finishing, retune your strings and check the bridge position again. Fine tune until parallel.

  1. Check your Truss - Check the straightness of your neck by looking down the neck from the headstock. You can also check by pressing down a string at the 1st fret and noting the gap between the strings and the top of the 9th fret. Do this again on the same string, but instead of the 1st fret, press down on the last fret and compare both string heights at the 9th fret. The recommended spacing should be ~ 0.1 to 0.3 mm. If it is outside this range, remove the truss rod cover and grab your truss rod tools. To expand the gap at the 9th fret, turn the truss rod to the left. To reduce the gap, turn the truss rod to the right. Adjust the truss gradually and don’t overtighten.

truss adjustment

  1. Adjust the string height - This is personal preference. To raise your strings, use an Allen wrench to turn the screw on the sides of the bridge counterclockwise. To lower the strings, turn the screws clockwise. Re-tune and measure the string height again to make sure the height is where you want it and you’re not getting any fret buzz.

  2. Adjust pickup height (optional) - Pick a string and press down on the last fret to get a reference height.
    Adjust the height of your pickup using the tool specific to the pickup housing screws. I have both Phillips and flathead screws adjustable from the side of the pickups.

  3. Set intonation - Take a tuner and tune your guitar to the tuning you are trying to achieve. For each string, compare an open note with the 12th fret of the same string using your tuner. If the fretted note is sharper than the open note, move the saddle away from the headstock. If it’s flatter than the open note, move the saddle towards the headstock. You may need to loosen the strings until the tension disappears if you’re having trouble moving the saddle. Use an Allen wrench to loosen the saddle screw so that you can move it in the direction you need. Tighten it back up and tune your string back up to pitch. Keep applying this technique for each string until your guitar is correctly intonated.

  4. Tighten the locking nuts - Finally, the last step! Lock the nuts at the headstock and use the fine tuners on the guitar’s bridge to get the perfect tuning.

That’s it. Hope the succinctness of this post is helpful. Appreciate the authors and articles below that helped me fix my issue, learn something new, and save a little money in the process.

Credit:
How to Restring a Floating Bridge (Floyd Rose) (with Pictures) (wikihow.com)
HOW To Set Up Floyd Rose Tremolo? - Guitar Skills Planet
Ultimate Guide To Intonation - what it is and how to adjust - Killer Guitar Rigs

I officially have to do this to my Ibanez RG550 which I am retooling into my ultimate shred guitar. Tone Zone and Air Norton, maple neck back on, and going to string gauge 8’s. Yup, 8’s, super light compared to what I normally play! I’m going to attempt to do the setup by myself!

Which reminds me, I should post about my guitar projects…

You’ll have to let me know how you like the 8’s. I’m working with Ernie Ball 10’s at the moment, but I ended up with them rather than selecting them specifically. For me, the key here was setting the saddles to adjust intonation. That isn’t something I have thought about in the past.

I do have to say though that these tremolo systems are kinda finnicky and you can often end up re-tuning your guitar about a million times.

Always a pain! Whether you are setting up or just putting on new strings!

I’m currently doing this with the Ibanez. The neck and truss rod is whack, but I was able to reduce the buzz significantly, change to 9’s from 10’s, and get the bridge springs to a point that in tune the bridge is flat. I used this post! I’m going to have to combine it with Byron’s to work on the neck now.

And then I’ll do it all over again, because I want 8’s on that supershredder.

When I did this I didn’t have any tools to measure relief on the neck so had to go from sight, which is not ideal. I think next time I’ll try using this post as well.

Totally, I actually brought it to Byron’s house the other night and he checked it out we did some measuring. I’ve got some work to do this weekend! Waiting on the neck to sort itself out currently.