Changing to higher gauged strings & adjusting a floating guitar bridge

I’ve always used a set of 0.09mm electric guitar strings. Found them easier to play and bend. But lately, I found the lighter strings sounding too thin. Plus, I’ve stop harbouring any pretenses that lighter gauge strings would make me the guitar-shredder virtuoso, LOL.

I have a floating bridge, and changing to a set of higher gauge strings isn’t as straight-forward. You need to perform additional adjustments to the springs that connect to the floating bridge.

Apparently it’ll cost about $180 to $200 to have a professional change it (and a friend told me horror stories of how some “professionals” turned out to be amateurs).

I figured I might as well try learning how to do it. I had some idea how to do it. Besides, I wasn’t aiming for that good a sound and I might learn something in the process.

First, I removed the old strings and gave the guitar a wipe down and polish.
Changing string guage & adjusting a floating guitar bridge

Next was to remove the access cover, to get to the springs that controlled the tension of the floating bridge.
Changing string guage & adjusting a floating guitar bridge

Then I put on the new set of strings (this was a higher gauge; 0.10mm for the first string). The floating bridge no longer “floats”, since the strings have no tension.
Changing string guage & adjusting a floating guitar bridge

After I tightened the strings (standard E tuning), it was clear that the tension is way too high. The bridge is raised to a level that far too high to play the guitar properly.
Changing string guage & adjusting a floating guitar bridge

After this point, it was just pure “learn as I go”; a process of adjustments and experimenting. After twiddling for a bit, I realised I had to increase the tension of the floating bridge springs, so that it will bring down the bridge.
Changing string guage & adjusting a floating guitar bridge

True enough, the bridge was lowered.
Changing string guage & adjusting a floating guitar bridge

I continued to make adjustments to the bridge springs, and the string tension. The tricky bit about tuning a floating bridge is that any adjustment to a string tension affects the rest of the strings. So it was a process of repeatedly adjusting the tension, checking the tuning, re-adjusting and re-checking the tuning… eventually, you’ll get there.

Right now, there’s a slight buzz when I play the sixth string at the 12th fret. I was told I’d have to adjust the truss rod (a metal bar that reinforces the guitar neck) but I wasn’t brave enough to try that yet[update: truss rod adjustment was less painful than I thought!]. I’ll let it go, until the buzz irritates me to further action!

OK, my guitar is still in one piece. And it’s playable. And the bridge works fine.

Total time taken to change the strings and adjust the bridge: Two hours.

Saved myself $100 plus dollars.

Not bad for a first attempt.

And the higher gauge strings sound real sweet.

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12 thoughts on “Changing to higher gauged strings & adjusting a floating guitar bridge

  1. Thanks so much for posting this, I’ve been having the same raised bridge problem. Now I know what to fix. Cheers, mate!

  2. Thank you Ivan
    this have been a tremendous help to me
    since I was all over the net trying to find a way to fix the problem myself, yours was a thorough and an efficient approach

    thanks a million

  3. Hi, thanks for the great info, I have bought my first floating bridge Cort X-6 great guitar. If you will can you explain the ajustment just in front of the fine tuners it is 6 small allen bolts that will slide forword or backwards looking at your first pic, it is the bolts on the neck side of the golden part of the string lback locks. Great to be able to restring your own guitar. Hasie

    • Hello Hasie, I think you’re referring to the saddle intonation tuners (well, I call them that). I looked it up and learned that they are used to adjust the overall length of the string, for intonation. Here’s a YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEZzELeOclw) that explains why and how to tune/ check the intonation. Intonation here means that check the tuning for (1) the open note and (2) when you press the 12th fret, the tuning ought to be the same. If it’s “sharp”, you adjust the saddle so that it releases more string. I found the video very instructive. Hope this helps.

  4. Ivan, dat ws a great deal of help.i appreciated it a lot.i hv an x cort 11 n hvnt chngd my strings due to problms of reseting it.the thng bout sounding of the open strng n da 12 fret,my 2nd strng is behaving dat way. Does it mean dat i hv to loose my strngs?do sugest.

    • Hmm, I can’t give you qualified advice. If it were my guitar, i.e. l’m not afraid to experiment on it, I would try adjusting the action (lowering or raising the strings. Or adjusting the truss rod as a last resort. If that doesn’t help, it could be the saddle or neck rest and that requires a qualified luthier.

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