First is the standard or vintage floating system. This is also known as a Fender style trem although now just about every guitar maker uses them. This trem is fitted in the body through a hole cut out of the body which connects to a chamber on the back of the body. The trem is attached to the body with about 6 screws along the front edge and with 3 to 5 springs on the back of the body that hook to a claw anchored in the body. The springs provide tension to counter act the tension of the guitar strings. The trem bar can be pushed down into the body while playing to drop the pitch of the note being played.
A variance of this system is a 2 bolt knife edge system. It uses 2 raised bolts to hold the trem to the body instead of the 6 screws. This allows the trem bar to be pushed down into the body to drop the pitch or pulled back to raise the pitch. These trems sit flush on the body of the guitar.
The next trem is the Floyd Rose style trem. There are many variances of this design but they all work on the same principle. These trems anchor on the back of the guitar the same way with springs, but they require a larger cut on the front of the body to accommodate fine tuners built into the trem. They allow the pitch to be raised and lowered and the fine tuners allow quick and easy adjustment of tuning since it is recommended that a locking nut be placed at the top of the fretboard to help keep tune.
The Bigsby style trem is another trem system used on archtop and hollow body guitars. The system bolts to the top of the guitar so there is no need for cut outs in the body. The strings lock into a bridge pole which is connected to a spring loaded bar. When the bar is pushed, it rotates the bridge pole which changes the pitch. These can change pitch either up or down.
These are the most popular styles of non-fixed tremolos. There are a few other designs as well. Peavey and ESP have guitars that feature a Kahler X-trem, This trem requires a sqare hole cut into the front of the guitar but needs no holes in the back. It uses a torsion spring system rather than a stretched coil spring which makes it smoother to operate.
Tremolos, like any other part of a guitar, wear out over time and need to be rebuilt or replaced. Springs wear out and posts become notched, leading to the guitar not staying in tune. Abuse of the trem will also lead to premature wear, so beginners should be careful.
Jim’s Music has guitars that feature all of the above trems and many more. Stop in today and see what feels good to you. We can even upgrade or install a trem on most guitars.