Floating tremolo vs non-floating

Floating tremolo vs non-floating

The tremolo system is a fundamental component in many electric guitars, providing players with the ability to manipulate pitch and create expressive and dynamic sounds. When exploring tremolo systems, two main types emerge: floating tremolo and non-floating tremolo. Each has its advantages and drawbacks, and understanding these differences is crucial for guitarists seeking the perfect tool to suit their playing style and musical preferences.

  1. What is a Tremolo System?

Before diving into the comparison, let’s briefly discuss what a tremolo system is and its primary function. The tremolo, often referred to as a “whammy bar” or “vibrato arm,” is a movable bridge system found on some electric guitars. It allows players to change the pitch of the strings by altering the tension applied to them, resulting in vibrato or bending effects.

  1. The Floating Tremolo

A floating tremolo, also known as a double-locking tremolo, is a type of tremolo system that offers increased pitch range and added stability. One of the most popular examples of a floating tremolo is the Floyd Rose system. Here are its key characteristics:

a. Increased Pitch Range: The floating tremolo allows both upward and downward pitch bending, providing guitarists with extended tonal possibilities. This feature is especially popular in genres like rock and metal, where dive bombs and extreme pitch shifts are commonly used.

b. Locking Nut: A floating tremolo system utilizes a locking nut near the guitar’s headstock, which clamps down on the strings. This locking mechanism prevents the strings from slipping out of tune during aggressive tremolo use, maintaining tuning stability even with heavy tremolo bar manipulation.

c. Fine-Tuning Adjustments: Most floating tremolo systems have fine-tuners on the bridge, allowing precise adjustments to individual string tensions. This is particularly useful when small tuning tweaks are required while playing.

  1. The Non-Floating Tremolo

The non-floating tremolo, also known as a “vintage-style” or “synchronized” tremolo, operates differently from the floating tremolo. Instead of floating freely, the bridge is balanced to rest flush against the guitar body. The most iconic example of a non-floating tremolo is the Fender Stratocaster’s vintage tremolo system. Let’s look at its main characteristics:

a. Limited Pitch Range: Unlike the floating tremolo, the non-floating tremolo typically allows only downward pitch bending. While this restricts some expressive techniques, it creates a smoother, more subtle vibrato effect, favored in blues, jazz, and other genres.

b. Vintage Aesthetics: The non-floating tremolo is often associated with classic guitar designs, such as the Stratocaster. Its characteristic appearance appeals to players seeking a vintage vibe.

c. Easy Setup and Adjustments: Non-floating tremolos are generally easier to set up and restring compared to floating systems. They require less maintenance and allow guitarists to change tunings more conveniently.

  1. Choosing the Right Tremolo System

Selecting the ideal tremolo system depends on individual preferences and playing style. Here are some considerations:

a. Floating Tremolo: If you’re into dive bombs, extensive pitch manipulation, or playing rock and metal styles, a floating tremolo like the Floyd Rose might be your best bet. Just keep in mind that it requires more setup and maintenance.

b. Non-Floating Tremolo: For those who prefer smoother, subtle vibrato effects and vintage aesthetics, a non-floating tremolo, like the one found on a Stratocaster, might be the perfect choice. It’s also great for players who value ease of use and setup.


In the ongoing debate of floating tremolo vs. non-floating tremolo, there’s no clear winner. Both systems offer unique benefits and cater to different playing styles. Aspiring guitarists should carefully assess their musical preferences and the features they desire before making a decision. Regardless of the choice, mastering the tremolo system will undoubtedly add a new dimension to a guitarist’s playing, enhancing their musical expression and creativity.

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