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Gear Wisdom: Guide To The Fixed Electric Guitar Bridge

Gear Wisdom: Guide To The Fixed Electric Guitar Bridge

There are numerous 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 bridge types to choose from, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

To help demystify some of the varieties available, here’s a mini guide…

1. Trapeze Bridge/Tailpiece

Epiphone Casino Electric Guitar - Trapeze Electric Guitar Bridge

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, which was designed by Les Paul in the 1940s and first appeared on the ES-295. When the Gold Top appeared on the scene it was included as standard.

Essentially, the bridge is a solid steel bar, which rests on top of two posts. These have two feet that rest on the guitar top. A pair of thumbwheels allow height adjustment. In the case of the trapeze, the whole unit anchors to the guitar butt via a strap button with a long tailpiece.

However, there were miscalculations when the Gold Top was manufactured, which meant that strings had to be loaded from underneath the bridge – making muting strings rather tricky when playing. One of the drawbacks of this bridge is that it isn’t as well anchored as others, and accidental knocks to the side can (occasionally) cause tuning problems. But, if you want the true vintage experience, well, this is the bridge for you.

Thankfully, this peculiarity was particular to those early Les Pauls and modern renditions of the trapeze bridge and tailpiece such as that on the Epiphone Casino (pictured above) and the Epiphone Joe Pass (pictured below).

Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor II Pro Electric Guitar - Trapeze Electric Guitar Bridge

2. Tune-O-Matic bridge

Gibson Les Paul Standard 60s Electric Guitar - Tune-o-Matic Electric Guitar Bridge And Stopbar Tailpiece

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 thicker 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. The Tune-O-Matic is such an effective piece of design that Gibson uses it on its premium models today, virtually unchanged.

3. Telecaster 3-Saddle Bridge

Fender Classic Player Baja Telecaster Electric Guitar - 3-Saddle Electric Guitar Bridge

When Leo Fender set about producing his solid-body guitars, he approached it as an engineer rather than a guitarist. As such, they were designed to be easily mass produced and easily maintained. Fender’s first effort was the Fender Esquire, which would go on to gain a pickup and evolve into the Telecaster. The Esquire bridge was testament to his easily mass produced and easily maintained ethos, with a design that was made from stamped steel sitting around the pickup, held in place with three steel barrel saddles. Simple, eh?

However, adjusting the height of these is done via two Allen key screws on the saddle itself, which can be a little bit fiddly – particularly as each one seats two strings. Plus, when adjusting intonation via the screw at the back, you’re adjusting two strings at a time (not ideal).

Modern Teles and Strats (other than vintage-inspired models) tend to have a slightly more convenient arrangement of six individual saddles with a more reasonable string-thru-body design.

Handy Video Tutorial

Of course, there are many iterations of electric guitar bridge out there. However, those we’ve detailed above are some of the most common and enduring designs that you’ll stumble across.

Those absolute legends at D’Addario put together a handy video tutorial on How to Restring a Hardtail Electric Guitar.

Get in touch

Check out our full range of electric guitars on the Dawsons Music website. Alternatively, head to your nearest Dawsons Music store where our instore specialists will be more than happy to help you out.

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About The Author

Jon

Jon is a multi-instrumentalist with a passion for inspiring others to get involved in making music. After spending many years playing venues here, there and - pretty much - everywhere, he joined the Dawsons' Music Web Team before progressing into his current role managing the Dawsons Blog.