Article by Declan Lamour-Boyle
Working in a guitar shop you tend to hear common phrases passed around, such as ‘it doesn’t have a Floyd rose yeah?’ or ‘I’d buy it straight away if it didn’t have the Floyd’. As a huge fan of double-locking trem systems, these comments, while disparaging, make perfect sense. Double-locking trems are not easy to work with if you do not have the expertise to maintain them. However, I believe they are the best trem systems out there. They have exceptional feel, usability and stability. If you are not a fan of trem systems in general, perhaps a double-locking trem is not for you. However, if you want to unleash your inner Joe Satriani or Steve Vai, I recommend you read on.
1. Tuning Stability
The double-locking tremolo was invented by guitarist and jeweller Floyd Rose back in the 70s. Guitarists had started to incorporate more advanced and aggressive styles utilising the tremolo, including Jimi Hendrix and the soon to be guitar hero, Eddie Van Halen. One issue with the standard trem is friction. When you manipulate a string by bending or using the bar, the string moves in high friction points located at the nut and the bridge. On a standard trem, the string is more likely to shift position in these places, causing the strings to go out of tune. Floyd Rose improved these points by incorporating a locking nut and saddles.
By doing this, the string hardly moves in these two friction points. That is how someone like Steve Vai can virtually attack his guitar but always maintain perfect tuning. If whammy bar theatrics are not your thing, you can still use the bar for more subtle vibrato yet always maintain tune.
Joe Satriani ‘Surfing with the Alien’
2. The ability to experiment
Since the creation of the Floyd Rose, guitarists have continued to raise the bar, incorporating new tricks and sounds in their playing. EVH started the trend of dive bombs, Brad Gillis utilised harmonics with pitch raises and Joe Satriani incorporated an almost vocal like technique, using the bar to create slurs between the notes. In 1987 a new take on the Floyd Rose was introduced, the recessed locking trem. This is done by carving out a section underneath the trem unit. By doing this, players could now both descend and ascend the pitch. This was first available on Steve Vai’s signature guitar with Ibanez, the Jem. Watch any clip of Vai on YouTube, they are the closest thing to a double-locking trem advertisement out there.
I thoroughly recommend checking out players such as Steve Vai, Brad Gillis and Michael Lee Firkins to see how a double-locking trem can be used for more than just dive bombing all day. If you’re stuck in a rut with your guitar playing, maybe a Floyd could help!
Steve Vai ‘Blue Powder’
3. The feel
A double-locking trem can change depending on your preferences. You have the option to either go a top mounted trem (found on all EVH models) if you prefer to only descend pitch, or a recessed trem, giving you the ability to pull up or down (found on numerous Jackson and Ibanez models). No matter what you go for, the trem will give you excellent feel, whether that be responding to minimal touch or staying put unless you pull the bar with mean intent.
Reb Beach ‘Cutting Loose’
If all this sounds like you, maybe a Floyd Rose equipped guitar should be next on your list. At Cranbourne Music we have plenty of options to cure this itch. A particularly cool new offering from Fender is the re-release of the HM Strat, first introduced in 1988 to cater for the popularity of Heavy Metal.
If flashy retro colours are not your thing, more understated options can be found from Jackson or Schecter. The C-6 models by Schecter have particularly nice earthy finishes available. Whatever style suits you, making a double-locking trem equipped guitar might be the thing for you. Why I wouldn’t recommend a Floyd Rose to a beginner guitarist or someone who doesn’t like working on their guitars, for the seasoned professional and your bedroom warriors, it might ignite that spark you’re looking for in a guitar. So next time, instead of rejecting a guitar with a Floyd Rose, think about the possibilities, it may just be the thing you’re looking for.