If you are playing the guitar for any amount of time, you have probably changed more than a few strings. Changing guitar strings is not rocket science and is often self-explanatory. However, if you have a guitar with a Floyd Rose bridge and a tremolo system with a lock-down nut, then you will notice that the procedure is somewhat different and may seem like a daunting task. While it will not be a breeze, it can go smoothly. I want to guide you through the process of changing strings on a Floyd Rose guitar and give you some tips on how to become as quick and efficient with it as you are with a traditional bridge.
This task will go much smoother if you have the right tools. You should’ve got some of them with your guitar. But even if you don’t have them, buying them is not a big investment. These are the tools you need:
- A pair of needle-nose pliers.
- some wire cutters (if your needle-nose does not have that capability).
- A set of Allen wrenches (also called hex wrenches) for loosening the Floyd Rose hardware.
- A guitar string winder. This is a handy optional tool, though this tool is not essential to the process.
Now, let’s get started!
1. Remove the Strings from the Floyd Rose Bridge
You probably know that the first step in restringing a Floyd Rose guitar will be to remove the strings. Start with the sixth (i.e. top) string. First, because the Floyd Rose locks down the string at the bridge, we need to loosen the string at the bridge. Start by loosening the screw that locks the string down. It is located on the back side of the bridge and runs parallel with the strings. You will need an Allen wrench to accomplish this. Use your Allen wrench and turn the screw counter-clockwise a few turns until you notice that the string is loosened from the bridge. You should be able to tell when it has happened.
2. Loosen the Lock Down Nut
Next, you will need to free the string from the lock-down nut. It’s located at the top end of the neck just before the headstock. You can see that the locking nut is made up of three retainers that each hold down two strings. The first retainer holds down the top two strings. This is the one you will need to loosen in order to remove the top string. Take your Allen wrench again (note: it may not be the same size as the one you used for the bridge screw) and stick it into the top of the top retainer and loosen it by turning it counter-clockwise a few times. It is not necessary to completely remove the retainer. After a few turns, the string will become loose. Now you will be able to remove it once you have loosened the tuning key on the headstock.
3. Pull the String Out
Loosen the tuning key. Once you have done so, you should be able to grab the “ball” at the bridge end of the string and pull it out through the bridge. At this point, you may have to snip the curled end of the string which had been wrapped around the tuner peg. Once you extracted it, it is time to insert the new string. Remove the appropriate string from the package and unwind it (they are usually wrapped up in some manner). Take the plain, non-ball end of the string and insert it into the back of the bridge. As soon as it “pops out”, pull it through from the other side (just like the previous string had been). Pull it all the way through until the ball at the other end catches and it will not go any further.
Some Floyd Rose bridges actually clamp down on the string eliminating the need for the ball. If this is the case then simply clip, with your pliers, the ball off of the new string. Then insert that end of the string down into the top of the Floyd Rose bridge. You may have to loosen the locking screw even more. Insert it as far as it will go into the saddle of the bridge. Then tighten the lock screw down with your Allen wrench.
4. Tighten the Locking Nut and Wind the New String
Run the string up the neck and through the retainer. Don’t tighten down this retainer on the locking nut until you have replaced the next string. Remember that each retainer holds two strings. Thread the new string through the appropriate saddle of the first retainer. Then, stick the end through the hole in the tuning peg. You will need to leave some slack at this point so as to have plenty to wrap around the peg. Only about 1/2 inch to 1 inch of slack is necessary since you only will want to have the string go around the peg about twice. Too much excess wound around the peg can cause slippage and de-tuning of the strings.
After you have put the string through the tuning peg hole, bend the string, close to the peg, at a ninety-degree angle. This will keep the string from slipping out of the peg as you wind it. If you have a string winder, take it (or use your fingers) and turn the tuning key counterclockwise for the tops strings or clockwise for the bottom strings. If your guitar headstock is such that all of the keys are on the top, then turn them all counterclockwise. After the string has been tightened so that all of the slack is gone, you can then cut any excess string that is left hanging with the needle-nose pliers.
5. Finishing up
Now you know how to change strings on a Floyd Rose bridge. After you have replaced the next string down then you can use your Allen wrench to tighten down the top retainer of the lock down nut. The procedure is the same for every single string.
Just follow the same steps for each and after about half an hour or so you will have a set of brand new strings. You will find that restringing a Floyd Rose guitar is difficult at first, but it will get easier and quicker each time you do it.
Now it’s time for your next challenge: Tuning your Floyd Rose is also a bit challenging at first, but I have a nice little trick that can save you a lot of time and frustration. I hope this helps you understand your guitar and how to care for it and good luck!