There are numerous different types of electric guitar bridge, but what are the differences between them?
The electric guitar bridge has evolved massively over the decades, in line with playing styles, tastes and technical improvements. Now, there are numerous different types of bridge, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
To help demystify some of the varieties available, here’s a mini guide…
The Les Paul was one of the first solid-body electric guitars when it appeared in 1952. The earliest Gold Top models were equipped with a trapeze bridge.
The bridge was designed by Les Paul in the ’40s, and first appeared on the ES-295. When the Gold Top appeared, it was included as standard.
Essentially, the bridge is a solid steel bar, which rests on top of two posts. These had two feet that rested on the guitar top. Two Thumbwheels allowed height adjustment, and the whole unit was anchored to the guitar butt, by the strap button, with a long tailpiece.
However, there were miscalculations when the Gold Top was produced, meaning that the strings had to be loaded underneath the bridge. This made muting strings tricky. this was particular to those early Les Pauls, however.
One of the drawbacks of this bridge is that it is not particularly well anchored- knocks for the side can occasionally cause tuning problems. But, if you want the true vintage experience, well, this is the bridge, I guess…
Telecaster 3-Saddle Bridge
When Leo Fender set about producing his solid-body guitars, he approached it as an engineer. As such, they were designed to be easily mass produced, and easily maintained.
When he produced his first guitar, the Fender Esquire (which gained a pickup and evolved into the Telecaster eventually), its bridge was a great example of this. The design was made from stamped steel that sits around the pickup, with three steel barrel saddles. Simple, eh?
However, adjusting the height of these is via two allen key screws on the saddle itself. This is a little bit fiddly, particularly as each seats two strings. Plus, when adjusting intonation via the screw at the back, you’re adjusting two strings at a time- not ideal…
Modern Tele and Stratocaster models (other than vintage inspired models) tend to have a slightly more convenient arrangement of six individual saddles, however (see below), with a string-thru-body design.
When Gibson came to develop the Les Paul Custom in 1954, it decided to update the bridge. This clever piece of design compensates for the fact that thick strings do not resonate well over particular lengths by providing the means to adjust each saddle individually.
The Tune-o-matic comprises two adjustable posts that are screwed into the top of the guitar. A steel bar sits between these, with six adjustable, grooved steel saddles. Thus, intonation for each string can be tweaked individually.
The strings can be anchored via a thru-body design, or via a stopbar screwed behind.
This bridge is such an effective piece of design that Gibson uses it on its premium models today, virtually unchanged.
There are, of course, many other variations of electric guitar bridge. Those above are some of the most common and enduring designs, however.
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