The bridge is an essential part of the guitar that keeps the strings aligned. It transmits the vibration they produce while the instrument is playing. This is how the sound we hear is created. In this article, you will find out the difference between electric and acoustic guitar bridges, what parts the bridge has and what are the guitar bridge types.
The difference between an acoustic and an electric guitar bridgeThe guitar bridge is different for acoustic and electric guitars. Here are those differences:
Acoustic Guitar Bridge:
- transmits the vibration of the strings to the soundboard
- supports the string saddle
- holds the strings in place with bridge pins
- the classical guitars have a block bridge that the strings pass through and are tied to keep them in place
- is glued to the guitar’s body
- it can be made from different materials, most commonly wood, plastic, and bone
Electric Guitar Bridge:
- transmits the vibration of the strings to the pickups
- It is a piece of metal
- is attached to the guitar with screws
- some electric guitars have a tremolo system that allows you to change the pitch of the strings
Why is the guitar bridge so important?Besides keeping the strings aligned and giving them vibration, the guitar bridge has other important functions. Here they are:
It affects the intonationBy adjusting the bridge, you can raise or lower your guitar’s intonation. Some problems like dead frets or fret buzz can be fixed the same way.
It affects the sustainWhen you lower the bridge, the strings will have better contact with the body of the guitar. This way, the vibrations will be transferred more effectively, making the sound fuller and richer. This is defined as fretboard action.
It affects the toneThe bridge and its parts are made of different materials. Each material resonates differently, and this affects the tone. The difference isn’t huge, but it’s especially noticeable if you’re an experienced musician with a well-trained ear.
It affects the playabilityThe bridge controls the guitar action, from where the pitch of the strings is adjusted. And this affects the playability and overall feel of the instrument.
What are the parts of the guitar bridge?The bridge parts are different depending on the type of guitar. We’ve made a complete list of all the parts that the guitar bridge has. Here it is:
Bridge TailpieceBridge Tailpiece is a metal unit located just behind the bridge. Its purpose is to hold the strings to the guitar. It has to be very strong to withstand the tension and keep the instrument in tune.
Bridge PlateBridge Plate is a flat piece of wood located inside the guitar under the bridge. Its job is to support the top and resist the tension from the strings whose ball ends are placed in it.
SaddleA bridge saddle is a piece of plastic or bone attached to the bridge. It means lifting the strings to your desired heights and transferring the vibration through the bridge. In other words, the bridge saddle adjusts the action – the distance between the strings and the fingerboard.
Bridge PinsBridge Pins, also called Bridge Pegs, are used to attach the strings to the bridge. The string’s ball end is placed in the hole in the bridge, and then a bridge pin is installed over it to secure it.
Tie BlockTie Block is part of the classical guitar bridge where the strings are looped, twisted, and tied. The guitar’s tone is affected by the angle at which the strings are broken over the saddle. The larger this angle is, the more consistent the tone.
Bridge/Tremolo SpringsThe Tremolo Springs are attached to the bridge sustain block on one side and the spring claw on the other. They hold the bridge or tailpiece in balance for the instrument to play naturally and allow them to return to that balanced position after the vibrato system has been used to raise or lower the pitch of the strings.
Tremolo/Whammy BarA Whammy Bar, often called a Tremolo arm, Tremolo bar, or Wang bar, is a handle attached to a bridge or tailpiece. It allows the guitarist to change the tension in the strings to create a vibrato, portamento, or pitch bend effect by changing the pitch.
Fine TunersFine tuners are part of the bridge found on most electric guitars. They are specially designed for easier tuning of steel strings. Fine tuners are located on the bridge and are used to adjust the tension of the strings.
What are the types of guitar bridges?Now that you know what a guitar bridge is, it’s time to look at different types of guitar bridges. They fall into two main categories: Fixed Bridges and Tremolo Bridges.
Fixed BridgesFixed Bridges are bolted to the guitar’s body and hold the strings firmly on the saddle.
Tune-O-Matic BridgeThe Tune-O-Matic Bridge is mounted to the guitar with two screw posts that allow adjustment of the action height. The saddle can also be adjusted with a small screw to change the intonation.
- Their biggest advantage is the ability to precisely tune the intonation of each string
- It is easy to use
- Gives stability and resilience to the tuning
- It can be converted into a floating bridge
- Designed for fretboards with a radius of 12′ or less
- They have a universal adjustable height
Guitars with Tune-O-Matic Bridge
- Les Paul Modern
- 60th Anniversary 1959 Les Paul Standard
- 1957 Les Paul Junior Reissue
Wrap-around BridgeWith the Wrap around Bridge, the saddle and bridge are combined in one piece. The strings are passed through the bridge away from the guitar and wrapped back over the top towards the neck.
- Easy to use
- Compact design
- No fine-tuning possible
- It can’t be converted into a floating bridge
Guitars with Wraparound bridge
- Les Paul Junior with wrap-Around bridge
- PRS Guitar With wrap-Around bridge
- Duesenberg senior with wrap around bridge
Hardtail BridgeWith a Hardtail Bridge, the bridge is one piece with the tail. It is securely attached to the guitar with two metal screws. This type of bridge has six individual saddles that can be adjusted.
- Holds tuning very well
- Easy to set-up
- Easy to use
- Easy to restring
- Suitable for beginners
- It cannot be changed to a floating bridge
- It can’t give a tremolo effect
Guitars with Hardtail Bridge
- PRS SE Hollowbody II Electric Guitar
- Fender FSR American Ultra Telecaster
- Squier FSR Classic Vibe ’60s
- Gibson USA Les Paul Standard ’60s
- Epiphone B.B. King Signature “Lucille” Semi-Hollow Electric Guitar
Tremolo BridgesTremolo Bridges allows you to create different effects while playing guitar. That can happen by changing the tension and pitch of the strings.
Synchronized Tremolo BridgeThe Synchronized Tremolo Bridge is among the most common tremolos systems. They set the motion for both the bridge and the tail. The strings are transferred to the bridge through the tailpiece block.
- Good sound range
- Possibility of change in an extensive range of pitch
- Easy raising and lowering of string height
- Ability to change intonation
Guitars with Synchronized Tremolo Bridge
- Player Stratocaster
- Classic Series ’60s Stratocaster
- American Performer Stratocaster
- Albert Hammond Jr Stratocaster
- Eric Johnson Signature Stratocaster® Thinline
Floyd Rose Tremolo BridgeThe Floyd Rose Tremolo Bridge holds the strings in their correct position on the headstock using locking nuts.
- Tremolo springs allow smooth movement of the bridge
- The locking system gives stability to the tuning
- The complex system makes it difficult to adjust or change the strings
- There are more parts for maintenance
Guitars with Floyd Rose Tremolo Bridge
- Kramer Guitars Assault 220 FR
- Ibanez Steve Vai Signature JEMJR
- Schecter Banshee GT-6 FR
- Jackson MJ Series Dinky DKR
- Caparison Guitars Horus-M3
Bigsby Tremolo BridgeThe Bigsby Tremolo Bridge stretches and contracts the strings to make the guitar sound different and add different sound effects. It has a spring-loaded arm and two bars.
- Elegant look
- Produces fine vibrato
- Suitable for retro styles and surf rock tones
- Don’t hold tuning
- Difficult to change strings
- Not suitable for rock and heavy metal
Guitars with Bigsby Tremolo Bridge
- A Keefburst-style Les Paul with Bigsby
- The Gretsch Triple Jet
- Les Paul Black Beauty
- Gretsch G6120RHH Reverend Horton Heat Signature 6120
Other Tremolo Roller Bridges
StetsbarThe Stetsbar Tremolo System allows installing a bridge system without permanently changing the guitar. It turns a tune-o-matic bridge system into a tremolo bridge system.
Duesenberg Les TremThe Duesenberg Les Trem, like the Stetsbar, doesn’t require permanent changes to the guitar’s body. It is compact, easy to install, and uses a tune-o-matic bridge and stop-tailpiece.
When should you replace the guitar bridge?There are many factors that can damage the guitar bridge. For example, it wears out over time, the humidity and high temperature affect the entire guitar, and there is always the possibility of an accident with the bridge when the instrument is bumped or dropped. If it is warped, has large cracks, or is completely broken, replacing the bridge with a new one is best. But if the bridge only falls off, it can easily be fixed.
How to maintain a guitar bridge?In order to perform its functions properly and last for a longer time, the guitar needs proper maintenance.
- Protect your guitar from excessive humidity or too dry air
- Keep your guitars away from high or cold temperatures
- Clean the bridge with a lint-free cloth
- Inspect the bridge frequently for damages and whether it needs repair. Here you can find useful tips on how to repair your guitar bridge.