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If you’ve got a guitar with a floating Floyd Rose™ (or similar) bridge that’s set up and balanced correctly, but returns a little sharp or flat after heavy pull-ups or dive-bombs, here’s an easy DIY procedure you can do to to improve its return-to-pitch.
We’re going to lubricate your tremolo’s knife edges. “Knife edges” are what we call the two pivot points of your tremolo that rest against the main height-adjustment studs:
And here’s the kicker: you don’t have to remove your tremolo nor even remove your guitar strings to do this procedure.
Well, you can completely remove your tremolo, but what a pain eh? Instead, I’ll show you how to do this procedure with the tremolo on your guitar, strings on, and tuned up to pitch. It’s surprisingly simple and once you understand the procedure you’ll be able to do it in about 5 minutes.
You don’t necessarily need these exact items or brands, but they’re what I actually use whenever I do this procedure. They’re products that I know work well. You’re free to use something else, but if you do please research and be sure you’re using the right stuff.
So let’s get to it.
This is an extremely easy procedure that takes just a few minutes. It’ll seem a bit involved and drawn-out here because I’m trying to “teach”… literally laying everything out and explaining it step-by-step. However, once you understand the basic premise here you can skip a lot of the formalities and knock this out in about 5 minutes or less. A guitar tech doing this procedure during a live show can do it in a few seconds.
Go Forth and Enjoy Better Tuning Stability
There you have it!
If your tremolo is properly set up and balanced and your knife edges aren’t totally destroyed from years of abuse, this little lube job should greatly improve your tremolo’s return-to-pitch whenever you get crazy with the whammy bar. If your tremolo is very old and/or worn, your mileage may vary. This isn’t a silver bullet, but even on severely worn knife edges it should at least help improve your tuning stability.
Also note that, even with this super-slick DuPont teflon lubricant, the procedure will need to be repeated at regular intervals. How long it’ll last, I can’t say. It depends on how old your knife edges are and how heavily you use your tremolo. I’m a heavy (think Vai-style) tremolo user, and I re-apply this teflon lubricant about once a year.
Final Thoughts and Advice
As I’ve alluded to a couple times in this article, this procedure assumes you already understand how to properly set up and balance your floating tremolo, and just need to improve its return-to-pitch. This post isn’t a “how to set up your Floyd” post, nor does it attempt to cover other issues that might be causing tuning instability. That’s a whole other blog post that I plan to write some day soon.
Tremolo still returning sharp or flat?
I hear complaints from guitarists who’ve never used or owned a guitar with a floater–who don’t understand that the expressive freedom you gain with a fully floating tremolo comes with some small tradeoffs. One such tradeoff is tuning stability.
It’s important that those of you with floating tremolos have realistic expectations.
Most of the guitars I’ve owned throughout my life have had fully floating Floyd-style bridges. Only a few of them, as measured with a strobe tuner during play, has ever consistently returned exactly to pitch after a heavy dive bomb. They usually get pretty close–enough that the average human can’t hear a difference, but 100% perfect return-to-pitch is the exception, not the rule.
Now let’s talk about pull-ups, which are a different story. Floating tremolos will almost always return a bit sharp after a heavy pull-up. I can’t explain why, but no floating trem that I’ve ever played or owned has had exact return-to-pitch after a heavy pull-up. So, I use some stealthy little tricks to re-zero the trem during a solo anytime I do a heavy pull-up.
Other Lubricants Work Too
Though I love and highly recommend the DuPont Teflon lubricant, it’s not the only lubricant that’ll work for this procedure, so feel free to shop around for something else if you’d like, but keep a few guidelines in mind:
- Use a “dry” lubricant, not a grease. Greasy lubricants work, but will attract dust, skin, hair, and other unmentionables into those pivot points.
- Look for a “PTFE” lubricant.
- Avoid sprays. They come out of the bottle with way too much force and will end up all over the tremolo and the guitar. You don’t want that. Try to keep the application confined just to the tight space of the pivot point.
- Do not use standard WD-40. WD-40 is not a lubricant, and it’ll accelerate wear-and-tear on your knife edges. However, the WD-40 company does make a good PTFE lubricant, but it’s in a spray can that’ll blast lubricant all over the place.
- Rumor has it that Joe Satriani’s guitar tech uses ChapStick on his knife edges. Hard to argue with that, but even though it may work I avoid it because ChapStick is greasy, and I feel it’ll attract dust and crap into those pivot points.
Do you have a floating tremolo? If so, how’s the tuning stability? Does it return sharp or flat when you do a heavy dive-bomb or pull-up? Tell me all about it in the “Leave a Reply” section down below!