At some point in their careers, guitar players of all levels will find ways to replace or convert their Floyd Rose to hardtail. Even though having a tremolo bar system can be a thrilling prospect for most guitarists, not all axemen prefer having one. Especially if the type of music that they play doesn’t require such an additional feature that could only affect their guitar’s performance.
When the Floyd Rose Lock Tremolo system was patented in 1979, a new era of wild guitar playing emerged in the succeeding decade. With this new and more exciting version of the old, conservative vibrato, fresh creative possibilities suddenly emerged among a slew of technically-adept guitarists such as Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai and the entire hair-metal contingent.
The Floyd Rose came at a time when music fans thought that the guitar was losing to synthesizers in terms of popularity. Instead of fading into obscurity, the guitar became one of the landmarks of 80s music as it consolidated further its status as a true symbol of rock and roll.
Considered by guitar magazine Guitar World as one of the “10 Most Earth Shaking Guitar Innovations,” the upgraded vibrato system allowed guitar players to make their instruments wail or even neigh like a horse. Moreover, guitarists can also emulate the sound of a dropping bomb, by utilizing the “dive bomb” technique, which requires you to swiftly lower the pitch by pushing down the tremolo bar.
After tons of arena-level rock hits, the usage of the tremolo eventually became a self-indulgent affair. As a result, the next wave of guitar players and music fans started to deviate towards rock music variants that didn’t focus much on excessive guitar shredding. The popularity of the Floyd Rose waned a little when the spotlight was focused on punk and alternative rock, but the tremolo has already cemented itself as one of the electrifying ingredients of guitar playing.
Advantages of a Floyd Rose
Having a Floyd Rose on your guitar will grant you a lot of options for creative experimentation. The tremolo is not only designed for technical guitar stuff and loud rock music, you can also use it for more subtle, laid-back styles of music such as country, gospel and soul.
Another advantage of the Floyd Rose is its double-locking system that ensures that your guitar stays in tune even after extreme pitch changes.
Disadvantages of a Floyd Rose
Impromptu tuning is more difficult
The locking system on a Floyd Rose needs to be loosened up first before you can use your guitar’s tuning machine. Switching to a drop tuning can also affect spring tension and the whole system in general.
Since the bridge is not firmly fixed due to the presence of the tremolo strings, it’s hard to achieve a level of sustain that you can only enjoy with a solidly installed bridge. This is one of the main reasons why guitarists want to replace their Floyd Rose with a hardtail bridge.
String breakages can affect a guitar’s tuning
A Floyd Rose setup relies a lot on the present tension of your tuned strings, along with the floating tremolo’s springs. The pressure between the strings and the springs maintains the balance within the Floyd Rose system and a single string breakage can impact your instrument’s tuning.
Changing strings takes more time
Since removing even just one string can change the tuning of your guitar. With all the additional adjustments needed, it will take you more time to bring things back to normal. Having a backup guitar in these kinds of situations can ensure that your show will go on smoothly with minimal hassles.
What is a hardtail bridge?
A hardtail guitar bridge makes use of hardware that secures the strings either at or behind the bridge. It is also attached firmly to the top of the guitar and provides more stability than a Floyd Rose.
How to turn a Floyd Rose into a hardtail?
Aside from the fact that installing an entirely new bridge system in your guitar can be costly and time consuming, you are also better off seeking the help of a professional luthier. This process is not exactly a walk in the park and will require the expertise of a guitar builder. Fortunately, there are easy remedies for this problem.
Whether you’ve simply outgrown your former playing style or just bought a second hand guitar that has a Floyd Rose but don’t want to utilize it, here is how you can easily convert your Floyd Rose into a hardtail:
Prepare your tools and other necessities
Here are the things that you will need for this procedure:
- Allen wrench
- Wood blocks
- All-purpose adhesive
- Bath Towel
Loosen the locking nuts
Rest the neck near the nut on a folded towel to protect it from any pressure, also allowing you to work on it at a proper angle.
The next step would be to loosen the locking nuts with an allen wrench. The locking system won’t be needed after converting or replacing your Floyd Rose with a hardtail, so you can remove it completely later on.
Remove the strings
Removing the strings will reduce tension and will also allow you to work on your guitar more conveniently.
Take off the rear cavity cover
Using the screwdriver, carefully remove the rear cavity cover to expose the tremolo springs.
Measure the space between tremolo block and the cavity’s base
Get your ruler and measure the space between your guitar’s tremolo block and the cavity’s base. You will need the measurements for your wooden block, so keep your numbers as accurate as possible.
Loosen up the screws of the tremolo springs
Adjust the tension of the springs to give it some slack and open up space for the wooden block.
Prepare and install the wooden block
Cutting a wooden block may require some machines to do the work easier. If you don’t have such tools, seek the help of a woodwork shop. A small hand saw for wood will also work well, but be sure to take utmost care to avoid injuries. You will also need to sand the wooden block with fine grit before installing.
Some guitarists have suggested using 3 blocks of mini jenga (a pocket-sized version of the popular game) and they fit really well.
Insert the wooden block(s) into the gap between the tremolo block and the cavity. Tighten up the tremolo and apply a little bit of all-purpose adhesive on the sides to keep the blocks in place. Put back the strings, tune your guitar and do some test runs.
By carefully following these steps, you won’t need to entirely replace your Floyd Rose with a hardtail bridge, you can turn it into one in no time.