367 words · 2 min

Bridges And Tailpieces

No, we’re not at pickups yet, sorry! This is the “Fox rants about cost cutting” section, strap in.

The bridge is the part of the guitar that supports the strings and transmits their vibration through to the body.

Bridges have one or more saddles that the strings “break” over which determine the intonation and action height of the instrument.

The strings are anchored at one end by the tailpiece, which may be a separate part or integrated into the bridge itself.

Bridges are one of the most mysterious parts of an electric guitar or bass. Seriously! You’ll be able to find literally every take on bridges and their impact on tone online.

“High-mass bridges resonate better”

“Lighter bridges don’t color tone as much/have faster attack”

“Brass saddles have the fastest attack”

“Brass saddles have a slow attack, only graphite or bone saddles can get you real good tone”

“Roller saddles don’t transfer vibrations effectively”

“The vintage Telecaster two-strings-per-saddle approach leads to much better tone”

I… don’t think it matters. Surely if it really mattered we’d have reached some kind of consensus over the last 70 years.

Still, every few years someone will claim to have reinvented the bridge and fixed some inherent flaw that’s present in every other bridge design… and then immediately fade into obscurity because there’s not really much reason to switch from the existing good bridge designs other than novelty.

Having said that, I do hold some strong opinions about bridges. I’m a material nerd, so I like brass and aluminium; I trust brass and aluminium. I like beefy bridges with lots of adjustment options — a significant part of why I’m such a fan of Sandberg basses is that their bridges even have adjustable string spacing!

The upgrade options depend heavily on the style of bridge or tailpiece that’s already on your instrument, and each of the various different types has its pros, cons, quirks, and secrets.

I will go in detail about all the common styles of bridges and tailpieces I’ve had experience with over the course of the next few chapters.