Tremolo Bars, Vibrolas, Wigglesticks & Whammy Bars

What is a Tremolo Bar?

A tremolo arm, tremolo bar, is a commonly used term for a Vibrato arm on a guitar (sometimes called a whammy bar). Eddie Van Halen calls it a wiggle stick, It consists of a lever attached to the bridge and/or the tailpiece of an electric guitar or archtop guitar to enable the player to quickly vary the tension and sometimes the length of the strings temporarily, changing the pitch to create a vibrato, portamento or pitch bend effect.

Instruments without this device are called hard-tail. The term vibrola is also used by some guitar makers to describe their particular tremolo arm designs.

The tremolo arm began as a mechanical device for more easily producing the vibrato effects that blues and jazz guitarists had long produced on arch top guitars by manipulating the tailpiece with their picking hand. However, it has also made many sounds possible that could not be produced by the old technique, such as the 1980s-era shred guitar "dive bombing" effect.

Since the regular appearance of mechanical tremolo arms in the 1950s, they have been used by many guitarists, ranging from the gentle inflections of Chet Atkins to the exaggerated twang effects of early rocker Duane Eddy to the buoyant effects of surf music aficionados like The Ventures and Dick Dale to art rock innovator Frank Zappa.

In the 1960s and '70s, vibrato arms were used for more pronounced effects by the psychedelic guitarist Jimi Hendrix , Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour and Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page. In the 1980s, shred guitar virtuosi such as Edward Van Halen , Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, and metal guitarists ranging from Brian May to thrashers like Kirk Hammett used the "whammy bar" in a range of metal-influenced styles. The pitch-bending effects, whether subtle inflections or exaggerated effects, have become an important part of many styles of electric guitar.

Despite their common names, these devices cannot produce tremolo in the normal sense of the word, but can be used to produce vibrato, while the vibrato units used by electric guitarists generally produce a tremolo effect, rather than vibrato.


Bigsby Tremolo

Fender Floating Tremolo

Fender Standard

Floyd Rose Licensed

Gibson Lyre Vibrola

Hipshot Tremolos

Ibanez Tremolos

Kahler Tremolos

Mosrite Vibramute & Moseley Tremolo

Pearlcaster Tremolo

PRS Original One Piece Model

Rickenbacker Kaufmann System

Rockinger Tremolos

Steinberger Tremolos

Trem King

Wilkinson Tremolo

Bearing pivot tremolo designed for transposing of strings and chords in tune.   This is the only Steinberger bridge ever that offered a transposing feature.  I used to really like this bridge back when it came out. However I am now much more in favor of a hardtail on any headless guitar.

Bearing pivot trem similar to TransTrem, but without a transposing feature. Think of it as a non-transposing TransTrem. Nice quality but very hard to locate and can be unduly expensive because of it

R-Trem or Ambi Trem
Traditional knife edge trem. A completely different design from Trans and S-Trems, it also allows for more fixed bridge like operation when locked. This Trem

Modified knife edge R-Trem design which included a knife edge nut. It was made specifically for the GS headed guitars. This design eliminated the need for a clamping nut ala Floyd Rose.

Jam Trem
Ned's most 'recent' trem design was a more basic knife edge design with a better system for locking the bridge. Very few were made and they were installed only on the GS headstock guitars.  Rumor is that most of these went overseas to Australia and the Far East. Ned claims this is the best design for those who complain that trems kill sustain, as it comes closest to providing 'fixed bridge' results when locked.

Whereas the Trans and S-Trems have a bearing and shaft unit that provides the pivot point, a knife edge trem consists of a bar or points that fit into slot on each side. Most guitar trems are knife edge in nature and this is the oldest and most proven design.  The pressure of the strings keeps the "knife" in the slot. The key benefit is that there are no moving parts. Ned says this is actually a better overall design for tremolos. However, it can't be used for a transposing situation - the bridge is too 'loose' to operate properly  Knife edge trems are not foolproof, as the pivots can wear/loosen/misalign causing usage problems. 
It's also interesting to note that ball bearings (as used in the S and TT) are designed for true rotational (circular) movement and not the very small linear (back- and-forth) motion on the S-Trem and TT.  From a pure engineering standpoint they are the wrong component to use in a tremolo.  With normal playing Trans and S-Trem bearings should to be replaced every couple of years, as the constant movement of the bearings in relatively small path causes excessive wear. They can be fixed easily simply by moving them a little so they wear at a different point.
But these facts don't diminish from the sheer genius of Ned's radical approach and design.


Floyd Rose is the organization that licenses, distributes and manufactures the Floyd Rose Locking Tremolo invented by Floyd D. Rose. Floyd Rose owns the patents on the design, and licenses these patents to several original equipment manufacturers.

The Floyd Rose system consists of:
A lock at the nut of the guitar, which prevents the tuning heads from being used and holds the strings taut
A "floating bridge", where the other ends of the strings are also vise-locked, hence, "double-locking"
The locking system helps to keep the strings in tune while the strings are slackened to a degree which was not achieved with older tremolo systems, such as those found on Fender Stratocaster, allowing dive bombs, a rapid lowering of the pitch of a note. Since the tuning heads are ineffectual with the lock in place, the Floyd Rose bridge has heads for fine tuning; the guitar is tuned before the lock is put on, then fine tuned afterwards. Each guitar incorporated with a Floyd Rose tremolo system has springs put in the back of the hardware which create balanced forces with the strings, thus keeping the tremolo in a "floating" state.

Floyd D. Rose, an accomplished machinist working on jewel inlays, moved from Durango, Colorado to Reno, Nevada in 1964. He was also an amateur guitarist, playing in local bands like Q5. Rose's influences included Ritchie Blackmore and Jimi Hendrix, so he favored an aggressive playing style with lots of use of the tremolo bar. In late 1970s, his dissatisfaction with regular Fender tremolo bridges led him to apply his engineering skills to design a new type of tremolo bridge.
The first prototypes were installed on his own guitar.

Renting the necessary equipment, Rose made several other prototypes and showed one of them to Randy Hansen. Hansen was very impressed with the stability of guitar tuning made possible by this new bridge. Slowly, popularity of the new Floyd Rose tremolo started to grow. Rose received an increasing number of orders for his invention: soon he bought his own manufacturing equipment and started commercial production in his basement. Guitar Player magazine published a review of the new bridge and even more guitarists become interested. On January 3, 1977, Rose filed his first US patent application, which was issued almost 3 years later on October 23, 1979.

Around that time, Rose made the acquaintance of emerging guitar virtuoso Eddie Van Halen, who also liked the design of the new tremolo and was an early endorser and promoter for it. Between 1978 and 1980, the Floyd Rose became the tremolo of choice for such guitarists as Brad Gillis and Steve Vai.

Around 1982, Rose cemented an agreement with Kramer Guitars, whereby Kramer became the exclusive distributor of Floyd Rose Locking Tremolos, even those that were not yet attached to guitars.  The agreement stipulated that Rose would be paid a royalty for every unit sold. Kramer saw great potential in the new double-locking tremolo, and following the endorsement of Eddie Van Halen, they dropped the earlier Rockinger Tremolo in favor of the new Floyd Rose Locking Tremolo between June 1982 and January 1983.

In 1982, Rose and Kramer engineers came up with the first major improvement to the original bridge: a set of fine tuners that allowed tuning of the guitar without unlocking the top lock. The enhancement quickly became the standard for all Floyd Rose tremolos, and by late 1982 Kramer was using them on majority of its tremolo-enabled guitars.
A rising popularity of heavy metal music gave birth to a guitar design called "the superstrat" a common name given to guitars that resemble Fender Stratocaster design with several important modifications. A floating point tremolo, such as Floyd Rose, has become an essential feature in superstrats. Kramer quickly became a major player on superstrat market its share was rapidly growing due to huge demand for superstrats with Floyd Rose tremolos, and in late 1984, other tremolo options (such as ESP Flicker and Fender-like tremolo) were dropped from Kramer's list and Floyd Rose became a solitary tremolo of choice.

Further development continued. After development by Gary Kahler of the world-famous Kahler tremolo following a law suit between Kahler and Rose/Kramer, Rose presented in 1989 a new low-profile version named "Floyd Rose Pro" that was developed for ProAxe guitars and a few of the Hundred Series models at Kramer. 

However, heavy metal and superstrat popularity was rapidly declining, and Kramer eventually defaulted on the agreement, which resulted in a lawsuit between the two parties.
In January 1991, Fender announced that they would be the new exclusive distributor of Floyd Rose products. While Fender used Floyd Rose-licensed tremolo systems previously, this move allowed Fender to offer a few models with the original Floyd Rose tremolo, such as Richie Sambora Signature Strat in 1991, Floyd Rose Classic Stratocaster in 1992 and Set-Neck Floyd Rose Strat in 1993. Floyd Rose collaborated with Fender to design a Fender Deluxe Locking Tremolo, introduced in 1991 on the Strat Plus Deluxe, the USA Contemporary Stratocaster and the Strat Ultra. Fender used the Floyd Rose-designed locking tremolo system on certain humbucker-equipped American Deluxe and Showmaster models until 2007.

In 2005, distribution of the Floyd Rose Original reverted to Floyd Rose whereas the patented designs were licensed to other manufacturers to use.


The basic principles of the action of a double-locking floating bridge are shown. Its proportions are exaggerated to demonstrate the effect.
Position I illustrates the normal position of an ideally tuned Floyd Rose bridge. The bridge (green) balances on a pivot point, being pulled counter-clockwise by the strings' (red) tension and clockwise by one or several (usually up to five) springs (light blue). Controlled by special tuning screws (sky blue), these two forces are balanced such that the bridge's surface is parallel to the guitar body (olive). The strings are locked tightly with a special mechanism at the nut (also green, as it is a part of the Floyd Rose system) as well as at the bridge, hence "double-locking".
Position II illustrates the position of the bridge when the tremolo arm is pushed down towards the guitar body. The bridge rotates around a pivot point counter-clockwise and the tension in each string decreases, lowering the pitch of each string. The sound of any notes being played becomes flat.
Position III illustrates the position of the bridge when the tremolo arm is pulled up away from the guitar body. The bridge rotates clockwise, tension in the strings increases, the pitch of the sound increases and so notes sound sharper than normal.
Note that when using the tremolo string action is affected, and this can cause the strings to unintentionally touch the frets and create unwanted sounds on instruments set up with extremely low action and heavily recessed tremolo installations.

You can achieve a very wide range of pitch changes, both up and down.
You can create many dramatic sound effects such as dive bombs and reverse dive bombs, wild artificial harmonics, flutter, engine's roar, etc.
Due to the double-locking design, tuning remains stable after even extensive playing, bending and use of the tremolo. Under normal circumstances, correction of tuning during a performance is not required. Floyd Rose's tuning stability is the primary factor for its worldwide popularity.
String breakage is reduced substantially because (1) the strings are fully locked inside the bridge saddles without the windings and ball ends; (2) the strings don't rub against any friction point; and (3) the strings are fully set on a straight line - without passing through any angle on the bridge.
If a string breaks, you can reuse it by unwinding some of it and reinserting/locking it inside the saddle (but see below).
Sustain is increased because the internal block - also called sustain block - resonates longer than a guitar's wood.

A string breakage changes the tension on the floating bridge, causing the remaining strings to go out of tune. When performing live, and depending in the song, this requires great technical skill to correct while playing (by keeping the tremolo arm depressed) and usually limits the guitarist severely until he has the time to change to a replacement instrument or quickly reinsert the string. This generally makes having at least one reserve guitar necessary for playing live.
Tuning a Floyd Rose equipped instrument takes a bit longer than tuning a fixed bridge one, because the floating design makes fine-tuning of each string necessary after the normal pitch tuning is complete.
Because of the moving parts, wear and tear might make repair or replacement necessary after certain years of use, depending on playing style.
When bending a string, the rest of the strings go slightly out of tune. This is particularly a problem when doing double stop style two string bends.
The Floyd Rose SpeedLoader, released in 2003, addresses some disadvantages of the original design, at the expense of requiring specially-made strings. Other tremolo designs, such as the Kahler, attempt to correct some of the disadvantages while maintaining a similar sound range, yet has some disadvantages of its own.
 Models and varieties

Floyd Rose Pro

Licensed Ibanez Floyd Rose variant

Floyd Rose SpeedLoader
Floyd Rose Original is the oldest model still in production. Since 1977, production models bearing this name are mostly the same as the first model, with only minor changes. Note that the name "Floyd Rose Original" is used to differentiate this system from "Floyd Rose Licensed". The first Original Floyds were double locking but did not have fine tuners, requiring the nut to be unclamped any time minute string tuning changes needed to be made.
Floyd Rose II is a lower end version of the Original Floyd used mostly on import and mid-range instruments. Originally, Floyd IIs were single locking, locking only at the nut. Later versions were made double locking, but used weaker materials than the Original Floyd Rose, making them less dependable.
Floyd Rose Licensed are made by other manufacturers that have purchased a license from Floyd Rose. These model generally follow the designs of the Floyd Rose Original, but tend to deviate slightly from the original for the manufacturing process to be more cost-efficient. Most licensed companies use the same design that makes their parts inter-changeable between any two licensed tremolos, but not the Floyd Rose Original. The bridges of such systems are clearly engraved "Licensed under Floyd Rose Patents" and Floyd Rose does not offer any customer support for them. Construction quality of Floyd Rose Licensed tremolos range from being sub-par to excellent generally reflected by the price of the product purchased after market or the guitar it is constructed into. Two well-known manufacturers of Floyd Rose Licensed tremolos are Schaller and Gotoh.
Yamaha Finger Clamp is a variety of Floyd Rose that have built in levers, and thus when tuning, no allen keys are needed.
Floyd Rose Derived In order to reduce licensing cost from Floyd Rose, some manufacturers further improve their double locking trems that, despite being double locking, are no longer considered a licensed product, but are distinct relatives derived from it.
Ibanez Edge is Ibanez's Floyd Rose variant. There are 6 versions: Edge, LoPro Edge, EdgePro, EdgePro-II, Edge-III, EdgeZero.
Ibanez Zero Resistance is another of Ibanez's Floyd Rose variant. It uses a ball-bearing mechanic instead of knife-edge as the joint, which gives the tremolo more consistency after use, and a stop-bar to help the guitar stay in tune, even with heavy abuse of the tremolo or string break.
Ibanez Fixed Edge. While it still uses the locking nut and locking bridge, it was mounted on top of the body, and was used not as a tremolo system, but to provide even more tuning stability on a hard tailed guitar (they can go out of tune during bending, with fingers)
Fender Deluxe Locking Tremolo. A specially designed system that was made by Fender Musical Instruments Corporation in 1991 in conjunction with Floyd Rose himself, utilizing locking tuners, a modified Fender 2-point synchronized tremolo with locking bridge saddles and a special low-friction LSR Roller Nut which allows strings to slide during tremolo use. This is a double locking system, except the other locking point is at the tuner instead of nut. Its main advantage is the unneeded requirement to perform any major alteration on a solid-body electric guitar, due notably to its similarity (in size and feel) to a normal Fender 2-point tremolo system. Fender discontinued this product in 2007.
Floyd Rose 7-String is a redesign of Floyd Rose Original for 7-string guitars. The design and working principles are otherwise the same.
Floyd Rose Pro is a low-profile version of Floyd Rose Original. The bridge and arm design is changed in such a way that the guitarist's hand will be generally closer to the strings while holding the tremolo arm. The bridge has a narrower string spacing (0.400 inches or 10.16 mm in this design versus 0.420 inches or 10.66 mm of the Floyd Rose Original). Fine tuners are slightly angled for more comfortable play.
Floyd Rose SpeedLoader Tremolo (see pic) is a redesign introduced around 2003 that combines Floyd Rose Original with the SpeedLoader system to produce a new design that overcame many disadvantages of the original Floyd Rose Locking Tremolo design, but required special strings.

Floyd Rose Pro: disassembled, parts numbered

Floyd Rose tremolos are known for their excellent serviceability: the mechanism is well-documented and spare parts can be purchased directly from manufacturer or via dealers. Usually, Floyd Rose device consists of these parts:
1. Saddle A metal box the string is locked into. There is one saddle for each string, hence six for the standard 6-string guitars, and seven for 7-string guitars. Each saddle contains a long screw that fixes the string holder block inside it. An Allen wrench is required to loosen or tighten these.
2. String Holder Block or Saddle Block A cube-shaped metal block that presses the string end into the saddle wall thus locking it tight.
3. Intonation Screws Screws that hold saddles on the base plate; when loose, the saddles can be moved forward and backward, effectively changing intonation of a string. An Allen wrench is required to loosen or tighten these.
4. Fine Tuners Screws that are used to fine-tune strings instead of the machine heads which cannot be used after the nut has locked the strings at the neck. It can be rotated with bare hands.
5. Tremolo Arm The most visible part of mechanism, a handle that can be used to change played notes pitch up and down during play.
6. Nut A string clamp, installed as the "zero fret" at the neck. It has screws and braces called "locks" to clamp on the strings that run through it. An Allen wrench is required to loosen or tighten the nut.
7. String Retainer A metal bar installed at headstock to retain strings that go to the machine heads.
8. Springs Springs that pull the bridge downward around the pivot point, balancing the string tension. They are installed into a cavity that is usually accessible from behind the guitar body and is hidden under plastic cover. There are usually 3 springs. However, to change the resistance of arm to more comfortable one, some guitarists may use anything from 1 to 5 springs.
9. Spring Claw Hook A connector between the guitar body and springs. It has special "claws" to attach the springs to. This part is usually mounted to the guitar body using long screws that can be adjusted to change the tension of springs and thus re-balance the whole tremolo system.
10. Allen wrenches Three sizes are usually supplied with the tremolo. The smallest is used for intonation screws; the mid-sized wrench is used for fixing screws on saddle blocks and the largest is for nut screws. Floyd Rose Licensed systems usually supplies and uses only two sizes of wrenches as their variation uses the same size for the screws on the saddle blocks and nut. However, on some models only need the first two, as the bridge and nut screws are the same size.
 Setting up
To remove a string, one must first unlock it at the nut with an allen wrench, loosen the string, unlock it at the bridge with an allen wrench, and then remove the string. To install a new string, you must cut the ball end off, then reverse the process of removing a string, or you must insert the string backwards with the ball end against the tuning peg.
If the locking nut isn't loosened first, the string will break if the tuning peg is tightened just slightly. A break such as this would occur between the locking nut and the tuning peg. However, the string will still be unbroken between the locking nut and the bridge, as the locking nut will hold it in place. Guitarists who are used to non-Floyd Rose guitars have a habit of breaking strings this way when they forget to loosen the locking nuts first to retune their instrument.
Some models, such as Yamaha's Floyd Rose license, include build-in cranks that operate the clamps, and thus need fewer allen keys, while others, such as Fender's Deluxe Locking Tremolo, is basically "normal" floating tremolo and tuners, but each with locking mechanism, and incorporate friction free (roller base) nuts.
With the newer Edge Pros on certain Ibanez guitars, such as the JEM and JS and RG series, it is not necessary to cut the ball ends. They are equipped with a top sliding string block that you loosen with an allen key to allow insertion of the string from the top. This improves string life and tuning and speed of string change. However, to attain high pull-ups, you must solder the string windings to prevent strings from breaking at the ball end.
Ibanez players are fiercely loyal to the edge series Ibanez Floyd Licensed trems. The metal used by Ibanez for even their most expensive top of the line units is substandard compared to an original Floyd. The evidence is plain to see, the metal used by the Ibanez trems actually seems to melt away under the sweat from the guitarists hand. This corrodes the saddles horribly and makes adjustment much harder, not to mention the metal actually looks like it rotted away.
The Original Floyd Rose Tremolo is without a doubt The Best Way To Go !!!!!   When Floyds patent expired he lowered the prices to stave off competition from eating his lunch. So there is little excuse at this time to not use a Floyd.
When The Floyd Rose Tremolo first became popular In The early 80's they could cost up to 500.00 installed. Today installation is no big deal and the cost is minimal.

Popular use
The Floyd Rose tremolo rose to popularity in the early 1980s. Many popular artists quickly adopted the device, making it difficult to measure how much each individual artist contributed to that popularity. Most sources consider Eddie Van Halen to be a pioneer of Floyd Rose usage. Other players frequently cited to be influential in the area of Floyd Rose usage are Steve Vai, Joe Satriani , Kirk Hammett, Brad Gillis. Tom Morello, Allan Holdsworth, Nuno Bettencourt and Frank Zappa.
Many guitarists use this system to create new sounds that were not practical to achieve with traditional tremolo systems:
Joe Satriani uses his whammy bar to raise the pitch of a pinch harmonic, usually on the open G string, in order to do his signature "Satch Scream".
"Dimebag" Darrel Abbott of heavy metal legends Pantera was known for using the whammy bar to release the tension on the strings and flick the g string and catch the string in a spot that creates a natural harmonic and play with the bar to raise and lower the pitch ex. in the end of "Cemetery Gates" This has become known as the 'Dimesqueal'
Karl Logan of Manowar is known for simulating sounds of motorcycle engine burn-in this "guitar versus bike" dueling effect is particularly used on Return of the Warlord track of 1996, although the effect is probably better known from Todd Rundgren's playing on the 1977 Meat Loaf song "Bat out of Hell" or even Mick Mars of Motley Crue's intro into "Kickstart My Heart"
Herman Li and Sam Totman of DragonForce use the system to create video game-esque noises.





The Floyd Rose SpeedLoader, Kahler

Floyd Rose Pro

Licensed Ibanez Floyd Rose variant

Floyd Rose SpeedLoader



    • Ibanez Edge is Ibanez's Floyd Rose variant. There are 6 versions: Edge, LoPro Edge, EdgePro, EdgePro-II, Edge-III, EdgeZero.
    • Ibanez Zero Resistance is another of Ibanez's Floyd Rose variant. It uses a ball-bearing mechanic instead of knife-edge as the joint, which gives the tremolo more consistency after use, and a stop-bar to help the guitar stay in tune, even with heavy abuse of the tremolo or string break.
    • Ibanez Fixed Edge. While it still uses the locking nut and locking bridge, it was mounted on top of the body, and was used not as a tremolo system, but to provide even more tuning stability on a hardtailed guitar (they can go out of tune during bending, with fingers)


  • Floyd Rose SpeedLoader Tremolo is a redesign introduced around 2003 that combines Floyd Rose Original with the SpeedLoader system to produce a new design that overcame many disadvantages of the original Floyd Rose Locking Tremolo design, but required special strings.


Kaufmann Rickenbacker Vibrola

One of the first mechanical tremolo/vibrato units (although not hand-operated) was the Kauffman Vibrato as used on Rickenbacker Vibrola Spanish guitars. They were not operated by hand, but rather moved with an electrical mechanism. It was developed by Doc Kauffman to simulate the pitch manipulation available with steel guitars. A hand operated unit, the Vibrola was also patented by Kaufmann in 1935 and distributed as an option with Rickenbacker's Electro Spanish guitars.
A later unit was created and used on Rickenbacker's Capri line of guitars in the '50's, such as John Lennon's '58 325. It was a side-to-side action vibrato unit (rather than the up-down action of later units) that was notorious for throwing the guitar out of tune, hence John's replacing it with a Bigsby B5. It was later replaced by the Ac'cent Vibrola, which used no coiled springs to change tension, giving it less chance to throw the guitar out of tune.

The Rickenbacker system is antiquated and favored only by the vintage crowd.