Types Of Guitar Bridges Explained

When it comes to playing guitar, the bridge is an essential component that affects the instrument’s sound and playability. With so many types of guitar bridge options, it can be overwhelming to choose one.

Here, I’ll explore the various types of guitar bridges, including fixed bridges, tremolo bridges, and floating bridges. I’ll discuss different types of guitar bridges that impact your playing style and sound. 

Whether you’re a beginner guitarist looking to upgrade your instrument or a seasoned player interested in experimenting with different bridge options, this guide will help you make an informed decision. So, let’s dive in and discover the world of guitar bridges.

types-of-guitar-bridges

What Is The Bridge On A Guitar?

Guitar bridges anchor your strings to the body of your instrument. The strings are guided over the pickups or acoustic guitar soundhole, across the neck, and towards the headstock by this component. No guitar would be the same without its core parts, but the bridge is critical to its sound.

You can adjust intonation and action (in conjunction with your nut and truss rod) by adjusting your guitar’s bridge, which is crucial to its setup. When changing your guitar bridge saddles, make sure that you take into consideration the string spacing for your instrument.

Types of guitar bridges

Fixed bridges

There are several types of fixed and hard-tail bridges on guitars, so let’s start by discussing a few of the most popular ones.

Fender

Many Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters come with fixed bridges. A fixed bridge cannot move on the guitar’s body and is called a fixed bridge. Six adjustable saddles support each guitar string on a single metal plate.

They are easy to adjust, which makes them great. Turn the screws to raise or lower the string’s action with a screwdriver. A professional setup is unnecessary and optional since you can control your guitar’s intonation.

However, some Telecasters have three saddles instead of six on their hard-tailed bridge. Metal plate mounts often include pickups as well. In general, they’re an excellent option for newbies, as they keep in tune well, can be restrung easily, and can easily be adjusted for intonation and action with just a twist of a screw.

Tune-O-Matic

Gibson designed the TOM bridge consisting of a stop bar tailpiece and a metal bridge. The action of the string can be raised or lowered by twisting two posts at either end of the bridge.

Unlike the Fender saddle above, the TOM mechanism allows for more refined adjustments than the six-string type. According to the classic Gibson Les Paul, the stop bar keeps the strings in tune.

However, hybrid ‘string-through’ TOMs, particularly from Schecter guitar manufacturers, are gaining popularity for their increased sustain. Strings run directly through the bridge saddles from the guitar’s body to the bridge saddles without a stop bar tailpiece. For beginners who want to play rock music, the TOMs provide plenty of sustain and are easy to adjust.

Tremolo bridges

Tremolos were initially devised in the 1920s as a floating bridge. Fender’s Stratocaster took over popularity in the fifties after the Bigsby Bridge became commercially successful.

Many people needed clarification on Fender’s use of the term ‘ Tremolo,’ which refers to a volume change rather than a change in pitch. This confusion is exacerbated by the fact that you use the ‘whammy bar’ to control the Tremolo.

A synchronized tremolo bridge has six saddles that can be adjusted for each string, just like a fixed tremolo. However, the main difference is that a whammy bar can be pressed to produce vibrato effects. The following are some of the best tremolo designs.

Fender

Integrated bridge and tailpiece make the synchronized tremolo system possible. The top metal plate has a pivot edge that adjusts the string tension. With six individually adjustable saddles, the bridge is made of sturdy metal. The significant difference between the Fender fixed and tremolo designs is that springs inside the body hold the strings in tension.

The pitch bend range is relatively small compared to other tremolo systems (see below). However, since the tailpiece moves along with the bridge, the Fender system is stable and tunes the strings. For more information on tremolo bridges, here’s a decent guide.

Floyd Rose Style Tremolo

Initially designed for thrash metal shredding in the 1980s, the Floyd Rose Tremolo is still a favorite among heavy metal musicians. Floyd Rose and Fender use the same fundamental design to produce the vibrato effect: a set of springs holds the strings under tension, and a pivot point moves the bridge to change the pitch.

However, the Floyd Rose features some structural improvements that improve string longevity. The strings are placed by locking nuts while thumbscrews adjust the saddles.

Furthermore, the Floyd Rose provides a smoother run across the saddles, which reduces friction between the strings and the saddles. When the bridge increases or decreases the string tension, this prevents wear and tear.

By doing so, you can perform large whammy bar pitch bends, such as dive bombs and reverse dive bombs, without knocking out your tuning. As a downside, Floyd Roses requires tweaking to get the spring tension, fine tuners, and Ibanez.

The ‘Edge’ tremolo bridge is one of Ibanez’s brand-specific tremolo bridges. It features a double-locking system and a pivot fulcrum. There are Edge bridges built into Ibanez RG and S series guitars.

A significant difference between the Edge and the Floyd Rose is that the Edge’s knife edges can be replaced quickly, and the string saddles are smaller and smoother. It’s interesting to note that Ibanez has also increased the overall mass of the bridge to give it even more sustenance. Furthermore, lost-wax casting enhances harmonics.

Zero Resistance tremolo is another popular Ibanez design. Like the Edge model, a stop rod and ball bearings adjust the string tension. A ball-bearing connection allows the bridge to tilt smoothly up and down to avoid tuning issues. The Zero Resistance design also features extra springs, so the Tremolo resets more precisely than the Floyd Rose and locks nuts right.

Kahler

Kahler makes tremolo bridges that change string tension via a cam system rather than a fulcrum. Metal guitarists like Slayer’s Kerry King used these devices in the 1980s.

One downside is that guitars with rounded tops, like the Gibson Les Paul (or its many copies), cannot support them. For creative bassists, Kahler also offers a bass guitar tremolo system.

Wilkinson

It’s an upgraded two-point, knife-edge Fender tremolo bridge that’s easier to adjust than the Floyd Rose.

The Wilkinson bridge features locking tuners and quality springs but could be more stable than the Floyd Rose. Specifically, strings tend to fall out of tune more quickly, so re-tuning is required after each song.

However, the saddles allow it to sustain longer and transfer tone.

Bigsby

Typically, Bigsby bridges are used on hollow or semi-hollow guitars, like Gretsch, with vintage tremolo designs. A set of pins secures the strings by hooking them around a metal bar within the bridge.

Vibrato bars here are more significant than those found on Floyd Rose and Fender models, but bridges don’t bend the strings’ pitch much. Because of this, the Bigsby is best suited to country and folk guitarists, as it cannot produce the vast dive bombs of extreme metal.

What are Guitar Bridges Made of?

Depending on the type of guitar. Metal is usually used for electric guitar bridges. Various materials, including wood, plastic, and bone, can be used to make acoustic guitar bridges.

An acoustic guitar bridge has three main components: the bridge, the bridge saddles, and the bridge pins. In a classical nylon guitar, the bridge and saddles are attached by strings rather than bridge pins.

Most of these parts are made of wood. The bridge itself needs to be made of dense timber to transmit the sound. Most saddles are made from bone, and bridge pins are made from wood or plastic – but beware, plastic pins are prone to breaking.

Why is a Guitar Bridge Important?

Guitar bridges affect tone, playability, and sound. The bridge cannot exist without it.

Action

Intonation

Bridge saddles are adjusted to set intonation.

Alignment

The bridge and nut ensure string alignment.

Tremolo

An electric guitar bridge may have a tremolo system for changing the pitch of the strings.

What electric guitar bridge is best?

Guitar bridges have pros and cons, and there are better ones. Some people will argue that a specific type is the best bridge built based on their preferences.

However, you can say that a particular form of the same design is better than another at the “micro” level. 

Compared with a Licensed Floyd Rose, a Schaller Floyd Rose is made from better and stronger materials, so it stays in tune. Besides being the original, it is also the best.

It is helpful to know that, but I will show you more about guitar bridges at the “macro” level so you can understand them better and possibly decide which kind you prefer.

What type of bridge does a Strat have?

A Stratocaster is a famous electric guitar introduced in 1954. Using the vibrato arm, the guitarist can alter the pitch of the strings using the Stratocaster’s tremolo bridge. Floating tremolo bridges are mounted on springs, and a stop bar tailpiece is also mounted on springs to prevent the bridge from moving too far.

The Stratocaster’s tremolo bridge provides good tuning stability and allows for various techniques, including vibrato and pitch bending. With heavy vibrato, the Stratocaster’s tremolo bridge can make keeping the strings in tune challenging.

Does the Guitar Bridge Affect Tone?

A guitar’s bridge can affect its tone. The materials used to make bridges and their parts resonate differently, resulting in different tones.

You may only notice the difference if you’re an audiophile or tone obsessive. You can distinguish different types of bridges based on their tones, depending on their hardware and materials.

Does the Bridge Affect Playability?

The bridge directly adjusts the action of the strings (the height from the fretboard), so the bridge significantly impacts playability. There are also some types of bridges that some people prefer more than others for comfort. When planting, for instance, some bridges can feel uncomfortable or awkward.

Final Words On Types of Guitar Bridges

The type of guitar bridge you choose can significantly impact your playing experience and the sound of your instrument. Each type offers unique advantages and characteristics, from the classic fixed bridge to the versatile tremolo bridge. 

A good understanding of the different types of guitar bridges is helpful whether you are a beginner or an experienced guitarist. So, explore options, consider your playing style and preferences, and select a guitar bridge that suits your needs.

FAQs

What is the best style of bridge?

The most vital type of bridge is a truss bridge. A truss is a triangle-shaped structure whose parts are connected. Truss bridges are constructed using straight steel bars.

Do guitar bridges make a difference?

A guitar’s sound changes when the bridge material is changed to non-magnetic, such as brass or stainless steel. Some think the sound has improved – and others believe it has degraded. The situation is right and wrong. Personal preference is all that matters.

What is a guitar saddle?

Saddles are bone or plastic pieces attached to the bridge that lift the strings and transfer vibration through the bridge to the soundboard. A saddle’s height affects the distance between your strings and the fingerboard, called “action.”

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