If you’ve recently bought your first guitar equipped with a Floyd Rose, you might find yourself wondering how to change the strings, especially if you’ve only ever owned guitars with standard tuning machines.
Some people will even block off their Floyd to avoid changing strings.
While the various gears, clamps, and springs on locking systems can seem a little intimidating, it’s surprisingly easy to restring these guitars, in fact, even easier than those with standard tuners in most cases.
In this KillerGuitarRigs Guide you’ll learn how to swap out your snapped, or old and dead strings for fresh ones on your guitar equipped with a Floyd Rose.
How Often Should You Restring Your Guitar?
Guitars are certainly not a one-time expense, like a car or even a home, there are ongoing maintenance and upkeep costs associated – strings included. Over time, an accumulation of dirt, dead skin, oils, and all kinds of other gunk will collect on the strings, especially in the grooves of your wound strings.
The net effect of dirt on your strings is a loss of tone, corrosion, and ultimately snapped strings. But the question is, how long do strings last before they are “dead”? Truthfully, it depends on the strings, how often you play, and how often you clean your guitar.
Unless you’re playing coated strings (which can last upwards of 6 months), 3 months is the maximum that the average player should keep the same set of strings on their guitar (if they last that long!).
Now, if you play for multiple hours every day, you’ll need to change them even more frequently. If you play this often, chances are you’ll recognize when they aren’t sounding good anymore, but as a rule of thumb, stick to swapping them every 2 months.
If you’re planning to record, I’d also recommend a fresh set of strings before going into the studio to ensure your guitar sounds its best. The same goes for live performances – especially if you don’t have a backup guitar, a fresh set will help to prevent untimely broken strings mid-set.
Work in a Clear Space
To make sure your restringing goes smoothly, you should set up your guitar on a clear workbench, table, or failing all else, your bed. The less clutter around, the lower the chances of you dropping and damaging something, or even scratching your guitar’s finish.
If you have a dedicated workbench, it’s a good idea to add a layer of old carpet to the top to prevent any damage to the back of your guitar. If you’re using a table, or a bench that you don’t want to add carpet too, lay a towel down before putting your guitar on it.
Make sure you then support the neck of your guitar. This will stop it from moving around while you’re working on it, reducing the risk of serious damage like snapped necks.
Place a AA Battery Between the Bridge and the Wood of the Guitar
This is an old trick that a lot of players use to speed up the installation process.
One of the things that takes the longest when installing strings on a Floyd Rose bridge is matching the string tension with the spring tension of the bridge.
By placing a battery between the back of the bridge and the wood of the guitar, you will keep the bridge as close to tension as possible while loading up the strings.
Remove the Old Strings
With a Floyd Rose it’s always best to change strings one at a time. If all the strings are taken out at once, it can make it really difficult to rebalance the bridge when you get to install the new ones.
First, take a 3mm allen wrench and remove the locking nut. To keep things methodical, start with the low E and work through to the high E.
Slacken the string you’re working on, then use a pair or string cutters to snip the string close to the nut.
Unwrap the string from the tuning posts.
Push down on the tremolo arm, then take your allen wrench and loosen the string lock at the bridge. Be careful to avoid scratching the finish on the body while turning the wrench.
Once the bridge lock is loose, the string should easily pull out. Remove it and discard it along with the other end that you cut free earlier.
Install Your New Strings
Be sure to keep the new strings in their individual packets until you’re ready to put them on the guitar. This will prevent accidental installation in the wrong place and will help to prevent damage to them while you’re working on another string.
If you’ve never strung a Floyd Rose before, this next step may be surprising, but you’ll need to take your string cutters and snip off the ball end.
Feed the cut end of the string through the hole in the saddle, then hand tighten the bridge lock before tightening the rest of the way with the allen wrench. Be careful not to overtighten, otherwise you might end up stripping the screw head.
Wind The New Strings
Take the loose end of the string and place it through the hole in the tuning post. Because the locking nut takes the tension you can actually wrap a lot more of the string excess around the posts than you would on a non-locking guitar.
Because the strings have the ball ends cut off, if they snap at the bridge end (as Floyd Rose equipped strings tend to do), you’re able to unwrap some excess from the tuning post and feed the remaining string back into the bridge.
Once you’ve got the string wrapped, tune it to pitch, and trim off any excess. Once it’s at pitch it needs to be stretched. Push and pull the string, adding a good amount of tension – start at the bottom of the neck and work up to the nut. Retune, and stretch again, before retuning one more time.
Repeat the above steps for the remaining strings, one by one. Once all strings are to pitch, remove the AA battery from behind the trem to even out the guitar’s tension.
Take the guitar off your bench, table, or bed, and hold it in the playing position. Turn the fine-tuning screws on the saddle to adjust pitch until it’s perfect. Tightening these screws by turning clockwise raises the pitch and loosening by turning counter clockwise lowers the pitch.
Once all strings are stretched, at pitch, and fine-tuned, you will need to close the locking nut and secure it with the 3mm wrench.
Final Thoughts on Restringing a Guitar With A Floyd Rose Bridge
Restringing a guitar with a Floyd Rose does have a few more steps than a regular guitar, but the steps are all straight forward enough that a novice can still do it with ease. As with anything, take your time, and avoid scratching your guitar!