Ok Kids, this one is a cinch, but because I’m a detail freak I’m going to explain why it is so easy. For those with ADHD scroll straight to The Solution.
You are a tech/muso/bandmate etc and are dealing with setting the intonation on floyd rose for the first time. Here’s the deal: the mighty Rose is a great tool that isn’t as hard to set up as rumoured. There are some things that actually make it easier to be consistent than other types of tremolo systems.
Firstly, some theory
Remember last post we talked about the “back angle” of the string over the saddle? Greater back angle = greater tension? Wunderbar! Cool, so here is the main thing to remember about the Floyd Rose system and all licensed copies, such as the Ibanez Edge, etc: the saddle break angle is set at the factory. Awesome! This means you change the action height from the pivot post directly, the strings are cut and put directly into the block, so there is no change in back-angle when you lower or raise the action.
The reason this is so great is that you can “rough in” the slope of the angle that the saddles make to set intonation and you will be right 95% of the time, regardless of wether you are using 9s, 10s, 11s, or 13s tuned down to B – the relative tension between the strings remains very consistent, so in effect you merely “move” this pattern backwards for higher tension sets and ‘forwards’ for lower.
What is this angle? It is a similar angle that most Gibson Tune-o-matics exhibit on their saddles. Just google Satch, Ibanez-era John Petrucci or any other Floyd-toting dude and you will see just how consistent this angle on their bridges. Now, if you are dealing with the Buzz Feiten Tuning System or other “sweetened” offset intonation as per Peterson tuners, then the angle for the Low EAD and GBE is slightly flatter. Google more recent pics of Steve Vai’s rig and you will see it.
Here is how to set it: Get the top E string in tune. It will need very little compensation and will be almost the exact scale length. Then rough in the ‘pattern’ of the saddles from there. Do it by eye and in no time you will get this right almost every time. Now strap the guitar on. Check the tuning, being very mindful of your player’s choice of pick and attack – replicate this as close as possible. Unless one string is grossly out, try and move them all to be close before fine tuning – the floyd is a very sensitive creature.
Get the G string to intonate sharp. Yes – SHARP!!!!! How sharp? Quite a bit – when the G string is tuned open – and flat a few cents, then the E noted at the 7th fret should be dead-center perfect. This makes a huge difference to the overall effect of your intonation all over the board. This happens for lots of reasons relating to the string’s core size, its inability to vibrate along the whole string, and the fact it is in so many damn power chord shapes :)
There are lots of little tips for dealing with Floyds but i reckon most guys know them all already. I am blabbing on (ADHD and caffeine/crack addicted – shoot me beeeeatch) and wish to keep it relevant and useful.
There are brands such as DR Strings which have a smaller core-wire-to-wrap ratio – these tend to display lower tension characteristics. Ernie Ball brands are a higher core to wrap ratio – the inverse is true. Most others I have used seem to be in-between. Bascically, once you are set, try and stick to one brand for consistent set up and intonation.
Hope this helps,
Joseph ‘Soxy’ Price has Toured as a guitar tech with Soundgarden, Sugar Ray and Nina, and repaired/built guitars for Ian Moss, Brett Kingman, Phil Cebrano, Pete Robinson, Glenn Proudfoot, Joe Camilleri and many others.