Everything You Need to Know About Floating Bridge Guitars

by Brett Quattrucci on April 10, 2023

How a Floating Bridge Works

A floating guitar bridge is a type of bridge that allows the player to change the pitch of the strings by moving the bridge up and down, resulting in increased or decreased string tension. Unlike a fixed bridge, which is attached to the body of the guitar, a floating bridge is not anchored to the guitar and can move up and down along with the strings. This creates a vibrato effect, which can add expression and nuance to a guitarist’s sound.

There are a variety of floating guitar bridge designs, but they all function using mechanisms which balance the string tension. Think of a floating bridge like a seesaw, or a balancing scale. On one side sits the string tension, on the other side sits an opposing force, usually springs. 

The springs pull the bridge towards the body of the guitar, while the strings pull it away from the body. The bridge is mounted on two pivot points, which allow it to tilt up and down. When the player pushes or pulls the whammy bar, the bridge moves accordingly, changing the tension and pitch of the strings.


Different Types of Floating Bridges

The most common floating bridges use a knife-edge system that allows the bridge to pivot on two sharp edges which balance the force of the strings and the springs mounted on the back of the body. 

How a tremolo works
Knife edge floating bridge design


Wilkinson and Floyd Rose use a knife-edge system that allows the bridge to pivot on two sharp edges, balancing the string tension with the springs mounted to the back of the guitar. The Nova Headless Tremolo uses this traditional spring mechanism but replaces the knife edge and posts with a bearing and cam system for a smoother, and more consistent tremolo action.

Nova Guitar Parts Headless Tremolo

Nova Guitar Parts Headless Tremolo


A popular design on classic instruments, especially hollow bodies, is the Bigsby tremolo, which uses a spring-loaded arm attached to a metal bar. The strings are inserted through the bar and wrapped over the top. The arm rotates the bar, changing the string tension.

How a bigsby bridge works

Bigsby floating bridge


Pros and Cons of a Floating Bridge

The advantage of a floating bridge is that it allows the player to create vibrato effects and pitch bends with ease. It also enables the player to perform dive bombs, flutters, squeals, and other expressive techniques. 

However, a floating bridge also has some drawbacks. It can be difficult to set up and maintain, as it requires precise adjustments and tuning stability. It can also cause tuning problems if the strings break or if the player changes string gauges or tunings. Additionally, some players may find a floating bridge too sensitive or unstable for their playing style.


A floating guitar bridge is not for everyone, but it can be a great option for players who want to add more expression and versatility to their playing. Some of the all-time greatest heroes such as Eddie Van Halen and Stevie Ray Vaugh used floating bridges to develop their legendary sounds. For modern whammy bar inspiration, we recommend checking out Plini and Nick Johnston.

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Author Bio

Brett, the owner and founder of Ploutone, is a modern guitarist on a mission to create a sustainable future and build a thriving community through the power of music. Brett founded Ploutone to celebrate independent artists and foster connections among guitarists worldwide. With a vision of spreading positivity and promoting sustainability, Brett hopes to inspire others to push the boundaries of their instruments and contribute to a better world.